Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Children of the Village

There is this old saying, we know you've heard it:

"It takes a village to raise a child."

So, if that's the case...WHERE THE HELL IS THE VILLAGE?! Women and families have been left on little islands by the development of our society, separated from the villages we were meant to be living and bringing our families up in. Women and children are suffering because of it. So many of the baby/child training techniques from sleep to discipline are shaped by the fact that women do not have enough support, they have no village, and thus no relief from the riggors of raising secure, well rounded children. They don't have a village of women they trust with their children so they can take a nap whenever to catch up after that rotten night of teething, or women who trust them to do the same. They don't have the benefit of being surrounded by other mothers parenting from instincts to reassure them that their joys and their frustrations are the same across the board.

As women, what we do have is plenty of articles, books, and other moms telling us that our instincts will ruin our babies. Allowing them to nurse/feed on demand, picking them up when they cry, cuddling them all day because it feels good, responding to their needs in the night and around the clock as we were meant to will all spoil our little humans. Does it really? Because research has shown that babies who cry less in their first six months cry less in their second six months. Interesting right? So if we follow our urge, our instinct in being mothers, it generally produces good results.

Here's the catch...filling an infant's needs is demanding work...it's hard. Nature did not intend it this way. In fact western culture is about the only culture that does this the hard way...isolates women, prevents them from healing and bonding, and gives them tools to detach from their babies, encourages them to go against their instincts, and puts huge pressure on them to get back to normal and be perfect. We were meant to raise our children IN COMMUNITY with others. The adults in the village took responsibility for supporting each other, caring for each other and their children, even their families. It is a wonderful system, you know you can count on these people because they are simply family for you. A well cared for mother can better care for her baby, and a well cared for baby is, by and large, a happy baby.

Dr. Karp cites in his book, Happiest Baby on the Block, that many cultures outside of the Western world don't have "colic." Babies are held and cuddled all day every day by their mothers, other mothers, women in the community...their need for attachment and closeness is met every minute of every day. They feel safe, secure...and their mothers? What about their mothers? Their mothers are not burnt out. They aren't burnt out because sole responsibility for life and baby is not placed only on them...it falls to the village and the village has many many hands.

What's my point? Build a village...both virtual and in person. Seek out mothers who share your parenting goals overall, who are dedicated friends; women who you can count on. Build strong relationships with women you can trust to not look at you cross-eyed when you've had a bad night and you tell her "I just wanted to toss him out the window." Your friend should totally get that..."yea...I have had those nights. Let's have coffee in our pajamas...I'll buy this time." See...I miss this. All our co-bloggers here used to be that village for me. I found in the first six months following our move that I just didn't know how to parent the western way anymore...I was still giving it my all, doing the things I always thought were right...but something was off. My village was empty. So speaking from the perspective of a mother who has experienced parenting the western way, the village way, then the village way without the village...I'm telling you...build your village. it's so much easier to be the parent you want to be if you have your village. Your children will be like siblings, they will grow and learn together and will learn a fast respect for other adults as trustworthy authority figures. The village is a wonderful place to raise children!

But where can you start? Well I, for one, love to start with the internet.

Find your local LLL chapter. I know that sometimes LLL doesn't sit with all moms because they think LLL is a bunch of birkenstock wearing hippies with 7 year old nurslings tagging along everywhere they go...but it's not, and you may find you like it if you attend a few meetings, get to know your leaders, and start connecting with other mothers in the group. I know for me, it's been very rewarding!

Even if you don't consider yourself an Attachment Parent (I think I mention every time I use this term how much I hate the phrase "Attachment Parenting" but it bears repeating. I hate that phrase/label/term) you will find much support through Attachment Parenting International...members of this organization come in all shapes and sizes and your local chapter is likely to connect you with more moms just like you.

Again, even if you do not consider yourself a "Hollistic Mom" check out the Hollistic Mom's Network...I feel like on this topic in particular...the more you know, the more you grow. I've come to really appreciate a more hollistic lifestyle, personally. This is another arena where the members come in many shapes and sizes...you are bound to connect with someone who is right on your wavelength and with people who may be further to one end of the spectrum or the other than you are who are quality members of your village!

Find a postpartum doula! A postpartum doula is not just for women who are struggling with breastfeeding. She is there to nurture and mother you. She can help with cleaning, provide you with resources, play with big brother or sister while you rest with your new baby...she is a vital person to have in a culture that keeps us separated from the village mentality. 

In closing...go out...build your village. You do not have to have all the same ideals but it's so valuable to have mom friends who share your commitment to children, who care about your children, and who will hold you up to be the best mom you can be. We're all better together than we are alone.


  1. Thank you for posting this. As a SAHM, I often feel 'alone' with my children. I have a hard time finding moms I can relate to. It's reassuring that others yearn for what I think of as a 'tribal' environment for raising children.

  2. Agreed on all points. You have to seek out your village, and it's crucial to do so. I've been fortunate to live and raise my children in a very (very, very) small town, where people still look out for each other and help raise each other's children. But most people aren't that lucky, and in a couple of months we are moving to a bigger city and won't be either. Keep us updated on how you build your village... I will be doing the same myself soon.

  3. I fully agree.

    I like to think that I have a village, but it doesn't reach as far as it needs to. Even those of us who embrace the ideal of having a tribe can't make it reach beyond their modern lives full of modern obligations. Who has time to sit around and be there for someone when they have to drop off their eldest at soccer camp, drive the baby to preschool, run to the grocery store, pick everyone up, make dinner, and go to meetings in the evening? The desire to create a village needs to be matched with making the time for it, and that is the harder hurdle to cross. So I encourage people to not only FIND YOUR VILLAGE but ACTUALLY DO THE VILLAGE THING. :)