A while ago, I was reading an article that went on about how parenting has become a solo act and how the idea of ‘it takes a village’ no longer exists in today’s culture. The article went on to say that in the business that is North American parenting culture, we, parents, can no longer make the deep connections necessary to establish our villages and therefore have to navigate through the journey of parenting alone. Our only source of ‘connection’, the article stated, now comes via technology in the most probable form of our smart phones and therefore the true meaning of ‘it take a village’ has been lost forever.
It was an interesting read, yet I could not disagree more.
As with many things throughout our lifetimes, things, issues, people, evolve, take different shapes, but at their core, the concepts remain the same. We may not have a literal or physical village anymore, thanks to modern advancements in housing, and electricity, but the concept of the village remains.
Take, for example, the first time mom. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of local ‘mommy groups’ she could join, not to mention the overwhelming amounts of online support groups she could reach out to. When Big was first born, I was a mess and just happened to be reading one of Tracy Hogg’s Baby Whisperer books. A quick google search pointed me towards an online Baby Whispering community where I immediately connected with a group of moms who had babies of the same age. We would log in daily and share all of our fears, our successes, our worries, our lives! It was amazing and this online community quickly became a part of my village. Today, nine years later, we still use the internet to keep our village alive.
Of course, since we’re social beings, and y’all know that if I don’t talk, well, I’d probably explode, I needed to expand my in-person village when I became a new mom. Parenting is hard, and can be lonely. A quick trip to my local community centre and I was registered for a new parents class. There we were, twenty or so new moms, awkwardly handling our new babies, making new friendships that will last a lifetime. We connected with more new moms via online community parenting groups and our village expanded. Sure, some of us have returned to work by now, some of us are still at home with our kids, some have moved, and life has taken over, but the village remains.
And the village isn’t just a mommy concept, dads are also creating their own villages and supporting each other. My friend Chris, over at Canadian Dad is a great example of how dads are helping maintain the village concept alive for dads and for all parents.
I’ve been fortunate enough to have been born into a village-believing family. My parents and my sister are my original village. My sister and I have been raised to always, always, always support each other. Vince and I don’t parent alone. This immediate village is always around to support not only us, but our children. The boys get to see and experience first-hand how a village functions.
And I’m not alone, my personal story of village support is not unique. Friends, acquaintances, internet-only friends fill my timelines on different social media platforms. All of them creating and keeping the village concept alive. And me, having the privilege of being a small part of their village.
So maybe our lives are busy, and our kids’ programming requires spreadsheets and database management degrees, but when the day comes to an end and you need support with the serious things that fill our lives like illness, job loss, divorce , or when somewhere in the middle of that day you really need the name of that author that wrote that book about that guy, or when your friend needs an American Girl Doll two days before Christmas and you offer to help her search the ends of the earth to find one, your smart phone will quickly connect you to your village. And your village will put everything aside for just one minute, and they’ll reach out to their village, and you’ll get your much needed support with the serious issues, and you’ll get a much needed laugh about that author’s name, and your friend will get her doll, and then life will resume until another SOS flashes on your timeline, and the village will spring into action again.
Our gadgets and the internet have not, in my opinion and experience, abolished the idea of the parenting village, but have rather made it more accessible to all of us. If you feel alone, unsupported, scared or have good news to share, you now have more options in how you share your story. Some people say that technology has robbed us of the connecting and emotional piece of human relationships, yet I can assure you that the tears of joy that rolled down my face when my Baby Whisperer village member posted the photo of her new baby girl were real, very real indeed.
As we gear up to celebrate Christmas, I’m inspired by the original little village that came together to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Mary and Joseph, the three wise men and some local shepherds. This group of people formed a little village and showed support to the new parents. Of course, there’s more to that story but the imagery and feel of village support is there.
So at this magical and most amazing time of year, may you and the members of your village, be blessed with love, support, joy and most importantly each other. I thank you for being a valued member of my village and I thank you for allowing me to be a part of yours.
Merry Christmas to you all.