We’ve all heard and used the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.” We have all probably joked about the lack of said village, too. The thing is, though, that even if we do not live in really close-knit villages or a culture that embraces community over individualism, we have to figure this out, and soon.
There was a time when I felt like I was living in the “village.” We had one child, and he was 13 months. My husband, our son, and I went to Zambia to visit close friends, and to this day we still reminisce about it as an experience like no other. While we were there, staying with our friends in the capital city, Lusaka, and traveling a bit to other spots as well, it felt like we were part of a village that was our family. All the grownups helped take care of the children. It was seamless — not staged, not forced, but just right.
We do this together. As a village. As the village all the women deserve to have. We are the village. Who’s in?
Step 1. What do moms want in a village?
It turns out there’s not a 100% consensus here, based on the bit of crowdsourcing I’ve done throughout the years. So I will preface this step with a couple of disclaimers:
- Some women do not think they need a “village,” or they feel that whatever setup they have with their spouse and perhaps a best friend or parents is enough. This is perfectly fine. This article may not be for those women, but it could be, should their circumstances change.
- Some women, particularly those with one very young baby, have not yet arrived at a place in their motherhood where this elusive “village” feels like a need. This is also fine. But we will welcome those women with open arms when/if the time comes.
What I have gathered is that most women who currently have a longing for this “village” are looking for very similar things.
One mama who shared her thoughts on this put it quite nicely: “I think a healthy mom is a balanced mom… I would love to meet a mom who would take my kids for three hours on a Saturday afternoon, and I would so happily return the favor. No guilt, no judgment. I just want to be healthy and strong and mentally there 100% for my kids, and as a single mama that means a little me time just once a month or so.”
Another mom described her ideal village as a “strong, tightly knit neighborhood. One where kids can ride their bikes/scooters around, and you know your neighbors are keeping eyes out for all neighborhood kids. Where children are empowered to walk over to a neighbor’s house and ask if kids can come out to play.”
I’ve heard from moms who had an experience growing up in another country that they would love to be able to replicate here in the U.S. now that they are raising their own family. A beautiful village of family members living close by and helping out with the children so the mothers can take time to care for themselves and their needs.
I have heard from others who feel lucky to have what they need in the mom friends formed during new mom or lactation support groups early on, who now meet on a regular basis and who watch each other’s kids for date nights or work, whenever one of them needs it.
Others joke with close friends about moving into a compound together so they can all take care of one another, always be together, and have built-in child care. Sounds dreamy!
The possibilities are endless, it seems, right? But one thing is for sure. There’s a feeling of something lacking, there’s maybe some guilt, and I would venture to say even a bit of shame hiding somewhere deep not allowing us to figure out a way to create our own village. Of course, in many circumstances there are external factors we cannot control. But I think that if we put our heads (and hearts) together, we can find a way to make things better — more village-y!
Step 2. How can we provide this to one another with what we have?
It might be easier than we think. But we may need to start with a commitment to ourselves to work on pushing the guilt aside (we deserve to be OK) and tell our ego to back off, because it is absolutely imperative that we be comfortable asking for help.
Then, perhaps we start building our own village by actually BEING someone else’s village. When we feel capable or a bit out of the woods, be there for fellow mamas who are not. This isn’t about offering to help and then sitting back and waiting for a call. Show up. Bring the food. Ask her to pick a date on the calendar to take some time for herself and then be at her house that day so she can go. Or have her drop her kids off to you when she goes. Do it for your single mom friends, and do it for your married friends. Do it for that new mom who moved to your neighborhood or that one you have chatted with at the school drop off who could turn into a friend.
Whatever you would like to have your village look like or feel like, try to offer that to others. Normalize these kinds of mom-to-mom interactions, and I can almost guarantee you will start seeing a ripple effect.
We need one another — whether we are ready to admit it or not. We are not meant to do this alone. And I don’t mean if you have a spouse or your parents live nearby that makes it all fine and dandy because you are not alone. No. Motherhood, especially in the first years, can be extremely lonely, even if you are surrounded by people. But fellow mothers who have each other’s backs, who can sit in a circle and share the ups and downs, and who can be there for one another to take a break? That is what can make the biggest and best impact.
Step 3. So what now?
Well, now we implement. We take action. We make a commitment to create the motherhood reality we want to see in the world. We build villages. We become the village. Are you in? You must be if you’ve read this far!
I want to challenge you, for the next 30 days, to commit to #BETHEVILLAGE in any way you can for one other mom or for a few moms. It does not have to be anything major — simply help another mom feel less alone, more supported, and perhaps motivated to be the village for someone else. Head to Facebook or Instagram and share your commitment when you’re ready to take on the challenge — and use the hashtag #bethevillage when you do!