Yes, raising children is hard. And that’s why every parent needs a village. Here’s what I’ve learned about why and how to build your own village. This is part 1 of a 2-part post.
There’s a trend in social media spaces to share, expound, joke, and commiserate on the difficulties of parenting. “Parenting is hard” and “It’s not easy being a mom” are monikers often declared these days. But why?
Don’t get me wrong, it’s absolutely true. I don’t think anyone who has raised children would deny that often times it is incredibly challenging. I also recognize that our society is in the process of emerging and rebuilding from generations of hidden trauma and shame in so many areas, including parenting. So there’s certainly an element of relief and solidarity in this communal authenticity.
Even with all this being the case, I still believe that parenting doesn’t have to be so hard. I don’t believe it’s always been this way or that this is the case in all societies across the globe. And after reading Hunt, Gather, Parent by Michaeleen Doucleff (stay tuned for the review), I’m convinced of this more now than ever.
So, how can we move on from talking about the pain to identifying and addressing the root cause? With all our parenting information and studies and experts, what are we missing? I’d say we are suffering from our lack of villages. What I mean by that is having regular access to grandmas & grandpas, aunties, uncles, cousins – the full range of relationships and ages – in our lives. It takes all of those to raise a thriving adult!
Why Every Parent Needs a Village
Since becoming a mother, it’s become increasingly clear to me that humans were not meant to go through life independently. We were meant to enjoy our time on this earth together in a community. There’s a reason for the cliché “It takes a village to raise a child,” because it is literal truth. But how many of us would say that we truly have a village?
In the same way that we can’t expect our partner to be our sole support, friend, and confidant, our kids cannot get their full needs met from one or two individuals alone. There, I said it. We simply can’t give our kids our constant attention, physically or emotionally. And though we may be distanced (whether by our own choosing or not) from the people who would make up a natural village, we can and should be building our own chosen villages. Neighbors, friends, bus stop moms, and teachers can all become the grannies, aunties and cousins that make up your chosen village.
Regardless of whether you are a two parent household, are parenting solo, or co-parenting, you need a village to help carry the parenting load. Here’s why:
- Village members can relieve some of the physical burden. In addition to helping with your kids, they may pitch in with things like chores, errands or meals
- Members provide extra spaces of safety and belonging, giving relief from emotional burdens for you and your children
- They offer additional strengths and perspectives in areas where you may struggle, relieving you from the mental burden of trying to be all things at all times
- Your village will become a community of people who know you, your kids, and your situation. And they can offer social and relational support for your entire family
What is a Chosen Village?
Just like villages throughout time, a chosen village can take many forms and is unique to the people in it. Each of the situations below could be examples of a chosen village:
- A multi-generational household or other communal living arrangement
- Regular access to grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins who live nearby
- A home with a nanny or au pair
- Proximity to trusted neighbors, friends, or babysitters who are willing to look after your children
I’ll admit, each of these require a certain amount privilege that many may not have. And further still, access to these relationships don’t necessarily make a functional village. But using the resources you have and working towards this makes a world of difference.
So, What Makes a Functional Village?
A functional village is a group of people that provide physical, emotional, mental, and social support to one another. Like I said, every chosen village will look a little different, but here’s what I aim for in my own village:
- Multiple generations that interact with each other
- Shared belief that every member contributes value (from the oldest, down to the youngest)
- Shared values among members
- Trust and authenticity
These are just a few ideas, but I invite you to think about what would provide the greatest relief in your situation.
What would you add to the list? What are your thoughts or questions about chosen villages? Let me know in the comments below.
And check out Part 2 of Every Parent Needs a Village, where I’ll share my tips for nurturing your own chosen village.