“It takes a village to raise a child” is a well known proverb, but what does it really mean? And where do we find this ‘village’ they talk about in today’s busy, modern society? Let’s talk about why having a village is so important..
What is a village?
In traditional cultures, the support provided by others in the community, tribe, or ‘village’ is a key part of how they survive and thrive! In Western society, most of us don’t have that same level of support. We are more likely to be living independently on our own (with just our immediate family) and tend to do things without a lot of assistance from others.
We are more likely to jump online to ask Google a question, than to seek out the knowledge of ‘tribal elders’ or others that may be able to guide us on our way with some words of wisdom. Today, the ‘village’ is elusive for most of us. Our neighbours are often strangers, many of us live far away from our families, and our friends are often too busy at work or with their own young families to help.
Why do we need a village?
We are seemingly more connected, yet more isolated than we have ever been before. Let me explain. With today’s technology, we are able to easily connect with people all over the world, all with just the tap of our fingers. Yet we are all so busy ‘connecting’ online, that our face-to-face relationships are suffering. Don’t get me wrong, I think that the internet and social media is amazing in many ways, but what I don’t like is that it is taking away from one of our basic human needs, face- to-face interaction.
Social media makes it way too easy to construct an online image of a certain life, which can be far from reality. This can then place additional pressures on people to live up to the perceived lives of others (which are often far from realistic). This can then make us feel inadequate in our own lives. The impact of this is never more so than when we are feeling vulnerable, which is often how we feel at times in new motherhood.
Nothing will ever be able to replace the way having a heartfelt connection with another person makes us feel. I won’t ever forget how much better things seemed when I was a new Mum and I got together with a group of other Mums, just being able to talk, be vulnerable and relate to others going through similar experiences. This basic human interaction can make the world of difference, not feeling alone, it’s a big one!
As Mother’s, there has never been more pressure placed on us to do it all than there is right now. We have more freedom and choices than ever before, yet the weight of responsibility that we carry is huge. We are expected to juggle successful careers, raise happy children, cook and keep the house tidy, keep fit, have a loving relationship with our partner.. I could go on! We are also raised to be strong and independent (which is fantastic), but we aren’t raised surrounded by the ‘villages’ or communities that can help carry this load.
Now, you could very well thinking “but I do have support from my friends and family?” What I’m talking about needing to find this village. I’ll give you some examples of this type of support:
- In the first 40 days after giving birth, Chinese women do what is called their “Golden Month”. During this time they are alleviated of their usual activities and allowed to rest and recover from pregnancy and birth. They are kept warm, nourished and cared for by the women in their extended family. This includes being cooked for and having all other household chores taken care of – for forty whole days!
- In preparation for new fatherhood, Dads-to-be in traditional cultures are guided by the elder men of the tribe to give them insights and skills to help them along their way.
- In traditional cultures, women of the ‘village’ will help with the care of each other’s children and they make use of their different skills to benefit each other. Think about how great that would be if you could swap out a service with your trusted neighbour i.e. you can look after the kids for a few hours while I do some cooking, or you’ve just had a baby so you can rest and recover while your older child is cared for etc.
- Women in traditional cultures will share their wisdom with new Mamas and help to guide them as they find their way in new motherhood. They are always around so that the new Mama never has to feel isolated or alone, something that can be a real struggle for many of us. Just the simple act of a friend coming to visit, making me a cup of tea and for me not to be alone and anxious with a new baby was one of the most important gifts of care and support for me as a new Mum.
In our society, the adjustment to our new role as a Mother can bring a mix of emotions. Whilst we might feel excited about becoming a Mum, it can also bring up fears, anxieties and make us question our identity as our role changes. Where will I fit now? What will I talk about? Will I fall behind in my career? How will I cope with the day to day of caring for a baby?
In traditional cultures, impending motherhood is celebrated and women are revered as they ‘step up’ into their new role. It’s quite the opposite for us, a lot of the time leaving a successful career or becoming pregnant and moving into the world of motherhood is perceived as a ‘step down’ in our social status.
Our “I can do this” attitude that serves us so well in many other aspects of our life can really block us from reaching out for help when we need it.
Did you know that 1 in 7 new Mums, and 1 in 10 new Dads are diagnosed with Postpartum Depression or Anxiety? Cultures with traditional practices in place to support the transition into new parenthood have the lowest rates of these diagnoses.
How do you find your village?
With some planning ahead, you can put out your ‘call for support’ in the lead up to having your baby so that people you know and that care about you can respond with offers of help. These support networks may not be readily available anymore, but it is possible to create your own.
Create a postpartum plan. This is a good starting point, setting up some support for new parenthood. Think about who you have around you that would be willing and able to really help out. Here are some examples:
- Have you got family around that can and are willing to help out (think cooking, housework, errands, looking after you)?
- Do you have trusted caregivers that can support you e.g GP, counsellor, doula etc?
- Can you find a Mother’s Group to join once your baby is born?
- Are you going to do some birth and parenting classes, if so where (can you meet some other like-minded parents to be)?
- Are there and prenatal or postnatal activities/exercise groups you can join?
- Is there a local ABA (Australian Breastfeeding Association) you can join?
- What support services are there in your local area for postpartum?
- Can you look at outsourcing some of your tasks for the early days postpartum e.g. hire a cleaner, get someone to help out with dog walking etc.
- Are there some online forums that you can connect with other like-minded women (ones in your particular area are great too)?
- What are the contact numbers for people that can help you if you feel like you aren’t coping?
These are just a few things to think about that can help you begin to create your modern day ‘village’. You can also email me for a copy of my postpartum planner here.
By creating a village you will reduce your chances of feeling isolated, alone, overwhelmed or anxious. You will have a support network there to turn to when you need it and you will benefit from the wisdom and experience of other’s that have traveled the path before you and the reassurance in knowing those that are journeying it alongside you.
If you’d like to learn more about ancient traditions that you can implement to support you and how you can avoid feeling overwhelmed or anxious with a new baby, come along to my FOURTH TRIMESTER WORKSHOP FOR PREGNANT COUPLES.