The loss of the child-rearing ‘village’ affects us all
It takes a village to raise a child. That’s the saying. So why has the village been allowed to move away? It’s certainly not a mistake. Removing the ‘village’ removes the support given to new parents, which helps to keep subsequent pregnancies at a minimum due to how ‘hard’ some perceive raising a child to be. Which, if done alone, it is.
In this case, the village refers to the way of life inherent to relatively small, relatively contained multigenerational communities. Communities within which individuals know one another well, share the joys, burdens, and sorrows of everyday life, nurture one another in times of need, mind the wellbeing of each other’s ever-roaming children and increasingly-dependent elderly, and feel fed by their clearly essential contribution to the group that securely holds them.
Though the expression “It takes a village to raise a child” has become cliché, the impact of our village-less realities is anything but insignificant. It’s wreaking havoc on our quality of life in countless ways.
In the absence of the village…
- Enormous pressure is put on parents as we try to make up for what entire communities used to provide.
- Our priorities become distorted and unclear as we attempt to meet so many conflicting needs at once.
- We feel less safe and more anxious without the known boundaries, expectations and support of a well-known group of people with whom to grow.
- We’re forced to create our tribes during seasons of our life when we have the least time and energy to do so.
- We tend to hold tight to our ideals and parenting paradigms, even when doing so divides us, in an attempt to feel safer and less overwhelmed by so many ways and options.
- Our children’s natural way of being is compromised, as most neighborhoods and communities no longer contain packs of roaming children with whom to explore, create, and nurture their curiosity.
- We run around like crazy trying to make up for the interaction, stimulation and learning opportunities that were once within walking distance.
- We forget what “normal” looks and feels like, which leaves us feeling as if we’re not doing enough, or enough of the “right” things.
- Depression and anxiety skyrocket, particularly during seasons of our lives when we instinctively know we need more support than ever but don’t have the energy to find it.
- We feel disempowered by the many responsibilities and pressures we’re trying so hard to keep up with.
- We spend money we don’t have on things we don’t need in an attempt to fill the voids we feel.
- We rely heavily on social media for a sense of connection, which often leads us to feel even more isolated and inadequate.
- We feel lonely and unseen, even when we’re surrounded by people.
- Our partnerships are heavily burdened by the needs that used to be spread among communities, and our expectations of loved ones increase to unrealistic levels.
- We feel frequently judged and misunderstood.
- We feel guilty for just about everything: not wanting or having time to be our children’s primary playmates, not working enough, working too much, allowing too much screen time in order to keep up with our million perceived responsibilities, etc.
- Joy, lightness and fun feel hard to access.
- We think we’re supposed to be independent, and feel ashamed of our need for others.
- We make decisions that don’t reflect our values but our deeply unmet needs.
Perhaps most tragically of all, the absence of the village is distorting many mothers’ sense of self. It’s causing us to feel that our inadequacies are to blame for our struggles, which further perpetuates the feeling that we must do even more to make up for them.
It’s a trap. A self-perpetuating cycle. A distorted reality that derives its strength from the oppressive mindsets and media propaganda that exists despite our freedoms.
Since the beginning of time (and until very recently), mothers have beared life’s burdens together. We scrubbed our clothes in the streams while laughing at splashing toddlers and mourning the latest loss of love or life. We wove, sewed, picked, tidied, or mended while swapping stories and minding our aging grandmothers. We tended one another’s wounds (both physical and emotional), relied on one another for strength when times were tough, and sought counsel from our community’s wise, experienced, and cherished elders.
Village life inherently fostered a sense of safety, inclusivity, purpose, acceptance, and importance. These essential elements of thriving were built in.
Now? We’re being forced to create all of that for ourselves within a society that has physically and energetically restructured itself around a whole new set of priorities. It’s a profits before people model, which threatens the wellbeing of nearly everything we mothers are wired to protect.
We’re supposed to be crying, celebrating, falling down, and rising together.
We’re supposed to have grandmothers and aunts and neighbors and cousins sharing the everyday moments, guiding us, and helping us see the sacredness in the insanity.
We’re supposed to be nurtured for months postpartum, cared for when we’re sick, held while we mourn, and supported during challenging transitions.
And our children are supposed to cradled and allowed to grow within the social structures WE deem best for them.
Find yourself, then find your people. Or do it the other way around. Just don’t settle. Don’t ever settle for a way of life created by those who don’t cherish the future your babies deserve.
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