We have probably all heard the phrase:
‘It takes a village to raise a child.’
I think there is a lot of truth in that; but probably for most of us it is a romantic idea that is just not reality. In fact, a lot of the time the opposite seems to be true: having children can actually seem to create loneliness. For many of us, we don’t have family living close by to lend a hand; some of us don’t even have a partner on the scene to help. Life can get busy, and it seems that it is so full, but still so…Lonely.
My mother talks fondly of the little community we had in our street growing up. All these young mums having coffee together, looking out for each other, mingling with one another, playing tennis; she talks about having generations, including young teenagers, to babysit and more mature parents to lend support and advise. Sounds pretty close to a village to me. But when I look at my own situation, it seems to be nothing like this.
For me, that sort of village in my street is something I would love for my family. The trouble is that it just seems so hard to attain. I walk down the street and I see trampolines and swing-sets and I assume there must be other young families in my street, but I never actually see them. I would love to be able to stop and say hello while they are outside playing (I am not really the door knocking type), but I never seem to get the opportunity. Then again, you need to be around the street for long enough to actually run into them.
Probably the biggest difference between my mum at that age and myself, is that she was at home far more than I am. The simple fact that I, along with those other mothers in the street, work jobs, means that we are never around at the same time. And even when I do have time at home with my kids, it’s often spent indoors. I know this isn’t ideal, but our modern homes really cater to that. Bigger homes, smaller yards. But what about the rare time when, despite the obstacles, I meet my neighbour. What then?
Herein lies the final challenge: building a (meaningful) relationship. Apart from the practical obstacles above, I’m just not in a season where I have the desire to be building social networks. There are plenty of days where I just don’t feel like the best version of myself and the last thing I want to do is to be connecting with others. Days where I’m exhausted, sleep deprived, trying to be the best mum I can be without losing myself in it–my energy is in surviving, not socialising. But let’s say I do manage to overcome that, or I am having one of those good days, who’s to say that I will even connect with another mum? Just because we have one common interest in raising children doesn’t mean we will magically get along. The fact is, you may not actually Like me!
I say this as someone who is fairly happy to meet new people, so I can only imagine how much harder it would be to add in a personality that isn’t one for initiating human interaction. Added to your difficulty is the fact that we live in a culture which is not conducive to local community. Unlike the African communities from where this proverb is derived, we in our western culture experience increased stress, overwhelming pressure, and guilt. We are more connected than ever to more people, yet potentially more lonely than ever, as we try to juggle this parenting role and feeling isolated and unsupported as we do so.
When putting together this website, it was my intention to make it as easy as possible for families like mine in the Blue Mountains to find the resources and support groups that are available in the area. Some of you might feel you need to find/build your own village. I would never underestimate how difficult it is to get out the door- that struggle is Real! But even just a simple outing without social intentions might create a new connection. A trip up to the local child-friendly coffee shop where the friendly barista knows your coffee order when you’ve been there a few times. Or maybe a trip to the park, where you intentionally greet another parent, or at the very least, respond to the ‘hello’ in their eye contact.
I’m not sure where you’re up to and how consuming the loneliness may be for you right now, but I know I would love to meet you if I ran into you at the park. Logistical obstacles aside (namely, baby brain), I would really want to learn your name. Sometimes it requires some intention and effort on my part, but I think it’s worth it when we find even one wonderful friend to do the journey with. I hope you can find that–wherever you are. You deserve that. We deserve that.