In a previous post (Parenting is Hard: Why Every Parent Needs a Village) I share how I’ve learned the value of having a chosen village and why I believe everyone raising children should have a village of their own. Part 2 focuses on how to build a chosen village that offers support, nurturing and encouragement for you and your family.
“Can you even begin to imagine what life would be like for women if they didn’t have the crushing responsibility to provide most of their children’s emotional and physical nurturing? What it would be like if we knew that our society would care for our child if [needed]?”
This is a quote from a book called Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, by Dr. Christiane Northrup. She goes on to say (and this one nearly made me cry):
No one, male or female, should have to be a prisoner in their own home caring for young children for hours each day without meeting their own adult needs for rest, conversation, time alone, and creative pursuits.
I’ve definitely experienced that sense before – feeling trapped in a hamster wheel of cleaning, cooking, diapers, more cleaning… It can be overwhelming and discouraging, especially since we can basically assume that our society won’t care for our children. In our western culture – where individualism is king – most of us don’t live with family beyond the “core unit”. Even for those with relatives nearby, support may be more than a 30 – 60 -minute drive away, at best. So what do you do when you’re feeling that crushing weight but don’t have a the support of a natural village available to you? You build your own chosen village!
What is a Chosen Village?
When I refer to a chosen village, I’m talking about your friends, co-workers, and connections. It’s the people in your life who know, support and spend time with you and your family. Your chosen village can even be made up of the people who literally live with or near you, as is the case for many people around the world. Those you’ve trusted with your intimate moments, your vulnerability, honesty, and authentic self, and who have drawn near to you in their own authenticity. The beauty of being able to create your own village is you can ensure that each member is in alignment with your best interests and values.
My family moved to a new neighborhood last year and we are gradually beginning to meet our neighbors and build relationships. I now have people nearby who recognize my children and help keep an eye on them. Those neighbors are extensions of my village.
By now, you may be ready to build your village. So how do you begin?
Build Your Village Step 1: Imagine.
Close your eyes and imagine what your life looks like with an abundance of support. Where are you? In your home? Outdoors? In someone else’s home? At a community gathering? What are the people around you doing? What are your children doing? You have permission to go complete fantasy mode right now. Whether or not the details of your vision are possible is irrelevant. That’s what makes it your ideal village. Spend some time recognizing how you feel as you’re imagining. Do you feel relaxed and at peace? Relief from pressure? Supported?
Now think about what would bring those feelings to your day-to-day. What kind of support do you wish you had right now?
- Someone to hold your crying baby for a few minutes so you can take a shower
- Other children who can play with your kiddos while you finish a project, write emails, or take a nap
- A helping hand to assist with laundry or meals
- Someone simply to talk to about non-kid things
Imagine all the things that someone could do that would make you sigh with relief. Go ahead and make that list!
Build Your Village Step 2: Consider Who You Know
Next, mentally walk through a typical day and think about the various people you come in contact with.
- Who do you have a relationship with? (Friends, family, coworkers)
- Who knows you, your kids, your family? (Teachers, neighbors, parents at the park or bus stop)
- Who do you appreciate being around? (Your best friend, that one parent who just gets you)
- Who do you feel comfortable being yourself around?
- Who shares your values in the areas you care about most?
Build Your Village Step 3: Narrow Down
By now you’ve got a range of individuals in your head, but not all of them are people you want to build your village with. So how do you identify those who would be good for your family.
Look back to your ideal support tasks. Which individuals would you be willing to ask to do one or more of those things? Who do you already know would say yes? Put a star next to those names.
Then, and this is important, circle the names of those who you would be willing to offer that kind of support to. Because while, yes, we are talking about building your village, in a functional village the members support each other.
Those starred and circled names are the people in your life who are great candidates to be in your village!
An interesting thing to note is that the best way to draw in people who share your values is by being willing to demonstrate those principles and values yourself. If you are willing to be it for others, you’ll see it reflected back to you.
Remember to leave room for your villagers identify themselves. Be open to those who are willing to offer their time and find ways that you feel comfortable allowing them in. You may be surprised who shows up for you.
Now you may have come up with a sizable support list, or perhaps no one at all comes to mind. Whatever the case, I would be honored if you would consider me a member of your village. Even if only in the virtual sense. Please know that you can reach out to me any time and I will offer support and encouragement in whatever way I can. <3
Bonus: Ideas to Build Your Village
And here – just for fun – are a few small, but actionable ideas to help you build your chosen village.
- Get to know your neighbors
- Wave or smile at others
- Spend time in your front stoop/yard
- Visit your local library
- Go for walks in your neighborhood
- Ask for help when needed
- Go to the neighborhood park
- Organize a block party
- Ask to borrow small things
What would you add to this list?
I’d love to hear from you. Do these steps for how to build your village sound like things you could/would do? Drop me a line in the comments and let me know your thoughts.
P.S. I would love to have you in our Virtual Village, where you’ll receive special nuggets and encouragement from me, as well as free eBooks and more, directly in your inbox! Click here for more info.