There’s a saying that you’ve no doubt heard a thousand times; ‘It takes a village to raise a child’. Most of us hear this and automatically think that the village is there to benefit the child. But it has application for parents as well. If you’ve considered this in the past, then you may be wondering who the village is for, and where your village is.
In our culture (the US, specifically), we’ve lost the wisdom in this maxim. We’re so wrapped up in our own lives and pursuits that without sustained effort, many of us have little time to visit our relatives, much less worry about an entire village. As we’ve become more focused on our little nuclear families, we’ve lost the knowledge of how to both build and sustain that village.
When we say ‘village’, what comes to mind? Most of us think of a small, close-knit community. Maybe this community is made up of relatives; perhaps it’s an intentional community of like-minded people who’ve come together for a common goal. In either case, it’s clear that the members of that community belong there. Each individual member is committed to the common goals, and benefits from being involved in it.
Much of the same is true about your village. As a parent, we have ‘villages’ around us as well, made up of the same types of people – family and friends, and the communities around you that you intentionally involve yourself in through the internet, playgroups, hobby groups, mommy groups, church groups, exercise groups and the like. For most of us, especially if we’ve lived in the same area for a while, it’s easy to access some of those groups. Small towns (or medium-sized towns that feel like small towns), like Beaumont, tend to be somewhat church-centered, and so for many women as new mothers, a MOPS group, or other mom-focused group is often the first step into the ‘mommy village’. We find older moms who’ve been there, done that, we find moms who seem to have everything together and make motherhood look like a breeze, and we find kindred souls who know our particular struggles intimately – and we start making ‘mommy friends’.
Mommy friends are different from your ‘regular’ friends. These are women who band together for commiseration. You may find what my small circle of intimates call ‘platonic life partners’ – BFFs for life, and that’s a wonderful thing – but it’s much more likely that you will meet women who are in your life for a season. These women serve a specific purpose in your life – to support and nurture you as a mother. As your children get older, you will find that you fulfill that role for younger mothers.
The shift from being the supported to being the supporter is amazing. When you’re a new mother, seeing those women around you who seem to have it all together is both awe-inspiring and enviable. There’s always the mom who embodies everything we want to be as a mother, and that can be really intimidating. Forming a relationship with her lets you in on the secret: She has just as much trouble as you have. That’s the big secret, isn’t it? We’re all struggling – and yet talking about it is taboo.
So here’s what I’ve learned, both from being the mom who needed the village, and being a mom who helps maintain one:
- Reach out. our culture likes to isolate new moms. As interdependent creatures, we need to be around other moms. Get out there! Look up playgroups, storytimes, or local eateries with a playland to meet other moms. Don’t underestimate the value of ‘mommy groups’. They’re popular for a reason!
- Get help. If you have depression, anxiety, social issues or PPD, a fellow mother might be your first sympathetic ear. So many moms struggle with these issues, and they can help you. There is hope. You are not alone.
- Share your joys – and your hardships. Motherhood is fraught with doubt and unrealistic ideals. Being honest with yourself and your village about your successes and failures helps us all to keep them in perspective. It helps us grow and learn new or better ways to accomplish what we set out to do with our kids.
- Don’t leave the village just because your kids are older. New mothers need the wisdom that more experienced moms can share. Listen to the newer moms in your circle and be there for them when they need you.
- Mom’s Night Out. Don’t underestimate the importance of nurturing yourself! Whether it’s date night with your partner, or a girls night out, or Mom’s Night Out with the local playgroup, nurture yourself. Recharge so that you can nurture your children.