When my sons were young, one of my friends had two children about the same age. One evening a week I would watch her children while she and her husband each had work commitments. Our families were close and I appreciated that we had similar ideas about parenting and life in general. One evening there was a bit of a miscommunication and no one showed up to pick up the children even though it had become quite late. I was concerned only that something had gone wrong, but otherwise went about the usual nighttime routine. Once both parents got home they realized their communication mishap as neither had the children. They quickly called and came to retrieve their children. The next day I received a local florist delivery of a plant with a card that simply read, “It takes a village…”
The quote, “It takes a village to raise a child,” is attributed to an African proverb according to this article, and ever since receiving that plant with the card, I’ve thought about that often. I was lucky while raising my sons to have my grandparents nearby. My boys are 18 months apart and the oldest is autistic. To say I had my hands full when they were preschoolers, is an understatement, but my grandparents were always there to help out. Whether it was to put them on the bus when I left home early for class to finish my undergrad degree, or another set of eyes and hands while running errands. I also appreciate that my sons were able to have a close relationship with their great-grandparents and they have those memories.
I also recognize that having family help out, and family that you’re comfortable having involved, is not typical today. Our current culture in North America does not support that African proverb. In earlier generations our family likely lived in the same town and our neighbors were probably people we had known almost as long as our family. Every which way we turned, there was support for family life, raising children, and help during crises.
A friend, who gave me permission to write this, recently shared on facebook about being a stay-at-home mom who has the responsibilities of caring for her family while her husband works a very long six day week outside of the home. The post was not complaining about her responsibilities, but the thought that according to society she also needed to find time and resources for “self-care.” Many responses to her post had to do with self-care and having her husband chip in, but this wasn’t the basis of her post. I took a stab at it and thought there was something else missing, a community of like-minded families that are nearby and can step in when a family needs additional support, or just someone to listen. My hunch wasn’t random, she and I met through that sort of group many years ago when I facilitated the group. And her experience is one that I see with some of my clients; they only vaguely know their neighbors, they’re not comfortable with family, but they desperately need connection with others who understand. I’m currently reading Hormone Intelligence, by Aviva Romm, MD, and she talks about hormonal changes and their purposes, one of which is to prompt connecting with other women who will be supportive during childbirth and raising our children. We are naturally wired to raise our children with a village!
As the new year starts, are you needing support with a group of like-minded individuals? I would encourage you to look for it, whatever that group looks like, whether it’s moms with young children, parents of autistic kids, or a group of adults with similar interests and/or concerns. If you need help finding that group, please reach out and I will do my best to find something for you.