I’m writing you today because I can no longer contain the ache in my gut and fire in my heart over an injustice that you and I are bearing the brunt of.
Though this injustice is affecting everyone — men, women, and children alike — mothers not only feel its burden more than most, but we also feel disproportionately responsible for alleviating its pervasive and deeply damaging symptoms, which is adding hugely to the weight of the world we’re already wired to carry.
The injustice is this:
It takes a village, but there are no villages for the majority of us.
By village I don’t simply mean “a group of houses and associated buildings, larger than a hamlet and smaller than a town, situated in a rural area.” I’m referring to the way of life inherent to relatively small, relatively contained multigenerational communities. Communities within which individuals know one another well, share the joys, burdens, and sorrows of everyday life, nurture one another in times of need, mind the wellbeing of each other’s ever-roaming children and increasingly-dependent elderly, and feel fed by their clearly essential contribution to the group that securely holds them.
I’m talking about the most natural environment for children to grow up within.
I’m talking about a way of life we are biologically wired for, but that is nearly impossible to find in developed nations.
I’m talking about the primary unmet need driving the frustration that most every village-less mother is feeling.
Though the expression “It takes a village to raise a child” has become cliché, the impact of our village-less realities is anything but insignificant. It’s wreaking havoc on our quality of life in countless ways.
In the absence of the village…
Perhaps most tragically of all, the absence of the village is distorting many mothers’ sense of self. It’s causing us to feel that our inadequacies are to blame for our struggles, which further perpetuates the feeling that we must do even more to make up for them.
It’s a trap. A self-perpetuating cycle. A distorted reality that derives its strength from the oppressive mindsets still in place despite our relative freedoms.
Here’s a new mindset to try on for size:
Mothers’ inadequacy is the least of our problems. We may feel inadequate, but that’s because we’re on the front lines of so many problems (i.e. failing social structures, toxic cultural norms and narratives, etc.), which means we’re among the hardest hit (of course, mothers of color and those with other marginalized identities are hit hardest of all while navigating multiple “front lines” of oppression). Across the board, mothers are wired to absorb the impact of dysfunctional, toxic systems so that our children might be less impacted.
That makes us heroines, not failures.
No, we’re not oppressed in the same ways that we used to be (nor in the ways other women still are around the world), but make no mistake about it:
In the absence of the village, we’re disadvantaged like never before. We may have more freedoms than our foremothers, but our burden remains disproportionately, oppressively heavy.
Since the beginning of time (and until very recently), mothers have borne life’s burdens together. We scrubbed our clothes in the streams while laughing at splashing toddlers and mourning the latest loss of love or life. We wove, sewed, picked, tidied, or mended while swapping stories and minding our aging grandmothers. We tended one another’s wounds (both physical and emotional), relied on one another for strength when times were tough, and sought counsel from our community’s wise, experienced, and cherished elders.
Village life inherently fostered a sense of safety, inclusivity, purpose, acceptance, and importance. These essential elements of thriving were built in.
Now? We’re being forced to create all of that for ourselves within a society that has physically and energetically restructured itself around a whole new set of priorities. It’s a profits before people model, which threatens the wellbeing of nearly everything we mothers are wired to protect.
Though I’m optimistic and hopeful by nature, this dilemma has left me discouraged many times over the years. How does an entire nation of mothers shift a storyline this massive while individually and collectively weakened by the absence of the very thing we so desperately need?
Major cultural shifts in prioritization, structure, and power are clearly in order (and I do believe they’re happening, however chaotically). In the meantime, each of us has a choice to make:
We can buy into, make peace with, and conform to the way things are, or exercise the freedoms our foremothers and fathers won for us and commit to doing our unique and essential part in creating change, starting within us and working our way out.
You and I aren’t likely to experience what it’s like to raise children in an actual village, but that’s okay. That’s not what this generation is about. This generation is about waking up to who we really are and what we really want, and resetting society’s sails accordingly.
Playing your part in the re-villaging of our culture starts with being wholly, unapologetically, courageously YOU. Here are a few tangible steps you can take whenever you’re ready:
I’ve tasted village life:
My soul was fed deeply during those time periods. Every time I get a taste of what we’re missing, I become strengthened and hopeful again. THAT is the energy needed to create change. THAT is what the powers that be don’t want us to feel.
I have no idea what the future holds, but I do know this:
We’re supposed to be crying, celebrating, falling down, and rising together.
We’re supposed to have grandmothers and aunts and neighbors and cousins sharing the everyday moments, guiding us, and helping us see the sacredness amidst the mundane.
We’re supposed to be nurtured for months postpartum, cared for when we’re sick, held while we mourn, and supported during challenging transitions.
And our children are supposed to cradled and allowed to grow within the social structures WE deem best for them.
Find yourself, then find your people. Or do it the other way around. Just don’t settle. Don’t ever settle for a way of life created by those who don’t honor your soul and cherish your babies.
Change-making right alongside you,
“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.” ~ Arundhati Roy
**This post has been updated to reflect my growing understanding of the disparate impact of broken systems and cultural dysfunction on mothers of color. I am committed to continuing to examine the ways in which I have centered whiteness in my analysis of motherhood and sincerely apologize for the micro-aggressions my ignorance and white privilege has no doubt caused.
I have an exciting new revillaging course about to launch in March that’s self-paced and intended to support mothers in creating the rich communities and life-giving connections they crave and deserve! Enter your details below to be the first to hear about it and sign-up!
*Photo credit goes to the crazy-talented, bright-shining soul, Jote Khalsa.
Thank you for this wonderful summary of the challenges we face. For putting a name on it! I started my blog just under two weeks ago to share my own challenges, and reach out to struggling moms. I can’t wait to read more from you!
Thank you, Nikki, both for your kind words, and for your part in connecting the mamas! It matters so much.
As I was writing my FB comments, it occurred to me that I have not given myself permission for help. Believing I must do it all myself. Not wanting to feel a burden to others. Not wanting to be perceived as needy, dependent or unfit. God! What a weight these thoughts have placed on my shoulders. Thank you, Beth, for bringing them to my awareness. Only in the light of awareness do we have the ability to make a different choice. Thank you for shining your light so I could see myself anew. Blessings Sister! Namaste.
I almost cried reading this! Thank you for writing and expressing all that I’ve felt as a mom and never been able to say eloquently.
Thank you so much.
I talk about a component of this in my blogpost: http://mamaletsgo.blogspot.com/2013/04/truth-is-i-dont-live-in-africa.html
and then I follow that later with a post about how my choice to put my child in a school (montessori) early so that I had help raising him the way I wanted him to be raised, was less about outsourcing my parenting, and more about trying to create a village. http://mamaletsgo.blogspot.com/2013/05/the-new-village.html
It’s so frustrating when new parents are not given this primer (with their birth classes or from OB/GYNs, midwives, doulas, etc.) Create the village before you have to, but if you don’t make sure to create it immediately after the child is born. Keep up the great work!
Thank you, Becca. I completely agree that we need much more encouragement to build our support networks in preparation for having children. Thank you for doing your part!
What a beautiful article! I feel so encouraged! I have chosen 1 year after I became a mother (8 years ago) to open up, express my soul and be available to “be part of a village”. Not only for my own needs but because I recognized all the other silent needs and struggles.
It is hard to “be a village” and to “create a village” when there really is no real equivalent of a village in our society. But it is so satisfying to find a circle of people that can appreciate to share a connection of the vulnerability of motherhood. And it even makes up for the time that the true expressing of your soul is frowned upon, misunderstood or roll-eyed at.
Wonderful article, thanks so much for putting this is words that can be shared!
Thank you, Natalie! I agree that tribe building is both extremely hard and extremely satisfying, in the end. It really is so much about opening up to a whole new way of being and expressing ourselves, isn’t it?
I am feeling this so much right now. I am tapped out and really lacking in support. Right now is when I need that community of women around me to hold me up, but I feel bad for asking for that support when I know all my friends are struggling too. We are not supposed to parent in this isolated way – it is too much to ask of people.
I completely agree, Jessica. It IS too much to ask of people to parent in isolation. Many blessings to you as you find your people. Keep at it. Others need you as much as you need them.
I’m completely rebuilding my and my children’s lives after seven months of fighting to get us away from not just my narcissist abusive ex husband but also my narcissitic abuser mother. They’re is an unbelievable amount of people who are supporting them while they have teamed up together, along with my oldest daughter say & step mom, to completely destroy my life, take my kids from me permanently in order to punish me for disobeying them, and have tried to get me arrested. I’ve dealt with two DCFS investigations this year that were solely based on all of these people blatantly lying. I’ve had to flee to a domestic violence shelter in a city where I have absolutely no one to support or encourage or defend me in any way. I’m finally in my own place, this is our fresh start for a beautiful life. Only now some miniscule events have occurred with my neighbors that they’ve turned into massive detest for me when they literally don’t know who I truly am at all. They all have kids who are this late group that play together everyday. For a brief time my kids were involved too. But for some reason, that I cannot get a single one of these parents to answer, said parents REFUSE to have an adult conversation with me about whatever has caused them to hate me so much that ostracizing me wasn’t enough, nope. They’re telling their children all the bad things they think of me and forbidding their children from interacting with mine.
They’re literally turning their backs on my children and flat out cruel and heartless towards my girls because “so and so’s mom says your mom is a beat” And so on.
I had to disown my mom, she doesn’t seem to understand that because she continues trying to insert herself into my life and find out details I refuse to give her with a fake ass smile on her face, her time dripping with gaslighting words and manipulation techniques. My entire family on her side has taken my ex’s side, be no one will defend me against any of these people except my lawyers.
I’m exhausted, I’m lonely & craving true, genuine connection. But how do you crave something you’ve only ever had in friendships? Literally every single romantic/intimate/sexual interaction/relationship I’ve ever had has always turned out to be nothing more than games, abuse, complete lies in every way, and everything else you could imagine to betray, belittle, and just get my heart either completely shattered OR suffer a great deal of pain while chastising myself for being dumb enough to keep trying when I know everyone is so full of garbage.
I am so exhausted with everything. All I’m trying to do is be the best mom i can to my kids, protect us, keep us safe, get us stable. I am being non stop met with adversity in every direction. Two days after moving into my apartment I was fired over something I was told would not be a problem when I started. Finding another job has been a nightmare.
All of the people who WERE SUPPOSED to love me unconditionally are ferociously and vehemently doing and saying anything they can think of to smear my name and utterly destroy everything in my life until I’m left with nothing, no one, on the street, guaranteed the reason they constantly keep trying to say I’m on drugs is cause they’re going after me so hard that my ex has flat out said he’ll do anything he has to until he breaks me down to not even a shell of a human, break me until I have no other choice but to start sticking needles in my arms again because in the end that’s all I truly am.
Which isn’t true, I have 3 1/2 years clean that I’ve fought like hell for and I’m going strong without slipping, not even thinking of slipping. I’m very confident and sure of myself when it comes to my sobriety as well as my love for my children surpassing all of these people.
If you read all of this, thank you. Maybe we could be friends.
I can’t take any more lies or betrayal. I’m a loyal, real, honest,. Loving woman with so much to offer and I know what I bring to the table. I’m sick of being surrounded by nothing but utter trash every where I turn.
Absolutely ! You have read my mind. Truely . Appreciated. Every line every word has its deep meaning and so much related to mommies like me. Thanks lots for such a nice writing ????
I am speechless Beth, truly speechless. You wrote another masterpiece right here and I can’t find the words to express what it meant to me and how much I want to thank you. I sat here crying, tears streaming down my face as I read your every word and it vibrated with deep truths in my soul. I’m a mother of a 1 year old and a 3 year old and I am so isolated. I’ve been desperately trying to find/make a village for 3 years where I live. Unfortunately, all the mamas, every single mama I’ve tried to build a friendship with, is very resistant to having my help. I think it comes from the cultural mentality of needing to do it all on our own, and everything you wrote here. I’ve offered to make meals during trying seasons, to clean their houses, watch their kids, just be present with them, whatever! Can you believe that that is my problem? I would love for help to be reciprocated, but honestly I would give say 75% or so and only want 25% in return or whatever they can offer. If they can’t help in return, I understand that too. But do you see what I’m saying? I’ve tried with easily over 50 women (from moms groups, functions, church ect) to creat some resemblance of a tribe, just starting out small, “let’s swap watching each other’s kids once a month, want to?” Or “can I bring you dinner?” “Hey I’m at the store do you need me to pick anything up?” Always, constantly, “no” is the response. Said politely, sure, but still no. I don’t get it. I am struggling to keep my head above water and would love to be able to contribute some of my love to other mamas, and we’re support for each other. I feel ready to give up though. I hate to say that but it’s true. I’m so tired of putting myself out there and being vulnerable–in the hopes of making an authentic friendship–and then being rejected over and over again. I have to go bc my kids need me. But I wanted to ask you a practical question: do you have any advice for getting a babysitter? I don’t like the idea of finding a stranger online to watch my kids, but my husband and I are getting quite desperate. We are AP style and since we don’t have any real friends, I don’t know where to begin looking for a trusted and good babysitter. A lot of people where we live have Grandma to do all the babysitting, but that’s not the case for us. So anyway, if you have any tips for finding quality babysitters, I’d love to hear them! Thank you again Beth! Sorry if this comment is all over the place. Your post here is one of the most treasured pieces I’ve read in years.
Thank you so much for sharing your story, Jess. Unfortunately, I think it is a fairly common one. So many mothers are so ashamed of their imperfections and afraid to be seen as inadequate that it causes them to deny themselves of the very connections that would prove them absolutely, wonderfully normal!
I responded to your babysitting question earlier, and then a bunch of comments and my responses were lost. Did you receive it via email? If not, I will be happy to respond again. Many blessings to you, and keep at it, friend! Your tribe is out there!!
This.yes this. Same here sister.
I have found that women are much more likely to ask for help if you have asked for help first.
Instead of “can I cook you a meal” start with “would you be able to make me a meal, I am really struggling”.
Pride seems to stop so many women from accepting help if they haven’t been able to give it first.
As for a babysitter. Find your own grandma locally. Look in your church or knitting group. Find someone older you click with. Be open about needing someone to help. Foster an adult relationship with them, and encourage them to foster one with your children. Invite her for dinner or afternoon tea a few times to get to know you and the kids. When you feel comfortable, have her mind the kids. People love being needed.
I’ve just read your comment
Where in the world are you?
I feel exactly like you and feel desparate to connect with you. I’ve never posted a comment on any website before but strongly feel like I want to reach out to you. Can you get in touch email@example.com
Sorry this might not make sense or sound crazy but I hope to hear from you I have to go now as the kids need me <3
I wanted to reach out to Jess too who said she’s AP style! Where about are you located? Florida by chance?!
I dont have a babysitter either. Its very hard to trust just a stranger online offering babysitting services I dont even trust my friends for that stuff idk maybe theyre the wrong friends.sigh its super hard and i only have one.
This is the exact lack and emptiness I have felt and experienced first hand since becoming a mother for the first time nearly 6 years ago while in my early 20’s. I see the effects of it in other moms I come into contact with and it is easy to see the negative consequences of it in our society. This was a very well written, well said post that speaks volumes to moms who are mentally, physically and/or even spiritually isolated. It would do much good to recognize vulnerability in other moms, even ones who seem to have it “all together” on the outside, and to realize in a nonjudgmental way, that we all have these struggles on some level.
Thank you, Elizabeth. I completely agree that we have to look past our first impressions and initial assumptions in order to create the kinds of connections we’re all craving. The lack and emptiness you speak of is all too common. All the best to you as you find your people and foster those connections.
I think this is a moving and interesting post, and I enjoyed it quite a lot. I think that you’re right that mothers, and even, parents, have a lot of burdens, and that societal shifts have made those worse.
But I would say that its not just mothers that have the biggest struggle– its all women. Its hard to make an inclusive, sensitive argument about value and being a village without acknowledging that many of the points you enumerated above (all really good ones!!) apply to all women, not just those who have custody of living children.
Thanks for your post. I did really enjoy it.
As a mother of four grown children, who brought them up without a village, I agree with most of what you write , however the solution is there for all to see. Get to know your neighbours, dont just think of yourselves as mothers, think of your selves as neighbours also. Help those around you who need help and you will find a village. When my children were growing up I lived ten kilometers from my nearest neighbour, now I live in a city, but in a neighbourhood and I spend my time helping young mothers who are my neighbours, and old people who are my neighbours. I could not be happier, the path to a village for everyone is within all of our control.
I completely agree, Penelope. Neighborly mindsets are so essential to moving out of this phase we are in! Thank you for your valuable perspective.
It’s not as simple as that. Those of us who have toxic families and need to detach from them are struggling to find our new tribe. We get divorced and move to find a job just to make ends meet and are faced with isolation and judgmental moms who are obsessed with social media. We’re all dealing with the same issues but fear judgment and rejection from others.
I agree Sandra. I too am from a toxic family, and I do have to wonder that any mom who feels there is not enough support is likely from a toxic family too, to some degree. I feel frustrated when I hear people say that improvement in my situation is all within my control, because it isn’t. I work and work and work on improving our situation and nothing changes for the better, ever. Rents go up, utilities rise, gas prices rise, and it only seems to bother those of us who are poor, because no one else with money seems to be bothered. And getting a job or addiing another job is harder than it has ever been. I have followed all the rules all of my life and done everything the way it was suggested by those with success, and I have come to the conclusion that there were always other factors to the success of others which they don’t acknowledge–for example, family support which many assume is there for everyone. It is not. And if you are a woman without any family support whatsoever, and an abusive spouse you are trying to leave, you cannot accept that the control all lies in your hands. It does not. Anyone who says that either underestimates how it really is to function without support in an increasingly competitive world (rental vacancies at .3% in cities around here) or has never experienced an abusive partner and his abusive lawyers. It’s nice to hear that others have found their village, but villages are not always easy to find. I have been looking for 20 years now and I have one person who is village for us, who lives ten hours away. But on the other side, there are more than enough folks who are happy to blame me for our lacks. so it is not that easy.
I just want to reply to say you have been heard. I come from a very poor family but married into wealth. I recognize that the help and support we receive is fundamental to success and our society is not set up so that the poor can raise up. It is much easier to build off what we were given and for what you are doing your kids will be better off for it! I don’t have many answers as I am not even near my family. I hope this encourages you to press on, maybe join a moms group and go into it not thinking you are being judged. There are Christian gals that really do have a heart to help and can rally together. Some alternative child cares provide tuition grants/help.
Dear Beth… I have the greatest appreciation for writing. Well done, albeit controversial, or debateable perhaps. As this 64 year-old grandmother of 10 now, how I wish I knew everything I did when I was 18 or 20! Did I know to discuss the trials & tribulations of child-rearing with my soon-to-be husband? Did I know I would have to be super woman, even though I put that burden on myself! Did I think for a moment that I would forego ‘myself’ and my needs, to ensure that my children would feel fulfilled and accomplished? How often did I feel like a failure, as a wife, when I was just too exhausted at the end of the day… I am a huge advocate of “the Village” but what I have learned over my adult life is this; The concept of the Village is not a physical village, the benefits of which need not be forgotten even today. It takes a village to raise a child is an unwritten agreement, an understanding between you and I as follows: I will look out for your child as you will look out for mine. I will intervene if I see your child being bullied, as you would intervene for mine. I will remind your child that hard work pays off, and I will reward him/her as you would reward mine. I promise to look out for your daughter/son while they are with me at birthday parties or sleepovers, ensuring they are out of harms way, as you agree to watch out for mine. I will listen to your child when s/he is troubled, or feels s/he can’t discuss his/her problems elsewhere, as you will listen to mine. You have my word that I will teach my son how he should treat your daughter, and you will help your daughter know how to break my son’s heart – without breaking his heart! I will rush to the base of the climbers when your son/daughter has a fall making sure s/he is alright and give him/her a hug, as I know you will hug my child. It takes a Village means that we’re all vested in the safety and well-being of each others children. These are the people we will all rely on in just a few years, so we all need to invest in their future. These are the young people who will be our daughters & sons-in-law, part of our families! It takes a Village, and the ‘village’ is within each of us. I don’t profess to know the struggles faced by moms of the 50’s and 60’s but I can tell you that the struggles of all moms (and as Anne says, above) all women, hasn’t changed in 50 years! Women have been trying to figure it out for years. How to meet the challenges of motherhood – successfully, I might add; how to be a good wife; a good housekeeper; a cherished daughter and sister; a valued friend; a loving neighbour; a fun co-worker; etc., etc.! You need to run a tight ship in order to gain the respect and order needed to meet these challenges. Do appreciate the precious moments you have with your children today, they’re only there for a moment! Really… don’t sweat the small stuff – odd socks, or dirty jeans – does it really matter? But most of all, when your son / daughter puts his/her arms around your neck and says “I love you Mom”.. well, need I say more! Priceless!
Thank you for your perspective, Maggie. I completely agree that a the core, it comes down to mindset shifts. We’re all in this together, and the more each of us commits to a “village mindset,” the quicker this trend will be reversed!
This is an insightful, beautifully written piece, and I agree with all of it. I just wish we fathers could be included in these conversations. There are all kinds of families out there, including families with single fathers, families with fathers as the primary daytime caregivers, families in which the mother and father share parenting responsibilities evenly, and families with two fathers and no mother. Often, these fathers feel extraordinarily alone, as there are very few knitting groups or moms’ circles that welcome men. Mothers often shun us on playgrounds, and our masculinity is questioned constantly. Please, invite fathers to the discussion and expect more from us, both individually and as a community. Many of us are capable and competent parents.
Thanks for adding that Dave. I completely agree that Men have many of the same issues in their own lives, and need to find support networks. I’m my area there are many Men’s groups which are wonderful support for me. I hope you have something like that near you. 🙂
I hear you, Dave, and I agree with you. Thank you for expanding the conversation to encompass ALL under-supported caregivers and community members. I will be more sensitive to this in my writing going forward, as in my heart, you are absolutely appreciated, cherished, and included.
Thank you, Beth!
And thank you, Emma. There used to be a dads’ group in my city and I attended a couple of their get-togethers, but it kind of faded away. There are several moms’ groups that I’m aware of, but most don’t welcome men, which is unfortunate for this stay-at-home dad. I’m not really sure why we need separate moms’ and dads’ groups. In the spirit of building a village, can’t we just have parents’ groups?
Awesomely expressed there Dave! Thx!
Thank you for expressing something which has been ruminating in my mind for a long time. The power of collective consciousness is amazing. I am inspired by your words, insights and advice. Thank you.
Thank you for saying so, Teri. The power of collective consciousness IS amazing!!
My heart and soul go out to mothers living in this whirlwind of societal and cultural dysfunction. Your writing exhibits such intelligence and perceptiveness. I hope you can find your way.
Thank you Mary Lou. I so appreciate your affirming, supportive words.
This really hit home for me and moved me deeply as it made me think of some dark times I faced while trying to being a stay at home in a village-less society. I had to find myself again and regain my inner strength to find balance in my life. I learned that as women, men, moms and dads we all need to learn to create those villages around us and not be afraid to ask for help. We can’t do it alone, well you could but it’s gonna be really damn hard!
Thank you for this lovely article.
Thank you so much for this blog post. It is validation for all that I have been feeling, it is always nice to know you are not alone in your thought process. As a single mother who is motherless herself, with no family in the country (or even on the continent) and no close friends, I have been thinking this over and over recently… “I have no village”.
I have not stopped thinking about this essay since Mother Pac shared it yesterday. There is something profoundly different between having friendships and living in community–or in a village, as you frame it. Like you, I experienced a brief period of young adulthood living in joyful, messy community, but once we all migrated to graduate programs and careers and families, it ended. I miss it daily.
But where I really feel the longing is on behalf of my two teenaged daughters. I see the fact that they have to earn their place day after day, and the currency is toxic–looks, popularity, who’s in and who’s out. I so wish for them a community that accepted–though probably judged–their eccentricities and rough edges.
Count me in on the village movement! xoxox
Just yesterday I read a piece about judgments levied against mothers and it made me think two things: 1) I AM THE VILLAGE. This is the reality of modern parenting in this society, especially living semi-rural as I do; 2) I will not apologize for raising my child in the ways I deem best, especially when going against the expectations of a socially maladjusted society. In my family we adapt to sensibilities, not socially sanctioned insanity. Damn straight it’s a revolution. Solidarity!
As a 60 year old woman; mother, grandmother, and full-time Nanny of a 4 yo, 2yo and 1 due in Aug., I can most certainly relate.
This is a wonderfully written article, thank you for articulating something that so many women struggle with. I’m not a mother yet, but I hope to be one soon and I find myself wanting to create my village before I need it. It directly ties into the conversation sparked by my photo and interview series on modern motherhood: http://www.roseannbathphoto.com/modern-motherhood/
It also reminds me of the conversation that Cheryl Strayed and Steve Almond (Dear Sugar Radio) had with Esther Perel about infidelity, that for the first time in human history we are expecting our significant others to serve as our lover/best friend/provider/therapist/confidante etc when in the past we had an entire village to fill those rolls. http://www.wbur.org/…/25/dear-sugar-episode-twenty-seven
A beautifully written piece that I feel comes straight out of my own heart, yearnings and desires.
Thank you for putting it out there. Xx
Thank you so much.
Wow! I’m so glad that I found and read this article because I’ve been feeling this way for a long time, mourning the loss of the village where I grew up. The place is still there, but it’s no longer safe to let the children roam free the way that I (an only child) did back in the 1950s. Bravo, Beth, for your insight and for your ability to express it so well!
I am a single woman, almost 30, with no children or other family responsibilities of my own…and one of my greatest life’s passions is to BE the village for all these mommas you write about! My dearest friends are these moms – and I am simply and truly SO BLESSED to live this way. Sharing life and building community in a way that our culture doesn’t support takes effort, intentionality, pushing against all that we know in this society…but it is SO worth it, for them and for me. Because while I am grocery shopping for them, making meals and loaves of bread, folding laundry and taking their children to school on my way to work…they are supporting me with their friendship. That’s all I need – most of my needs in this stage of life are not tangible, practical needs – but the depth of life-sharing in these friendships is what means the most to me. We are in this together, with Christ at the center, which is the most important facet of the whole story in my life and theirs. This article is exactly what I have been saying for so long…and each time I read something like this, I say “yes!” and know it truly is needed. Let’s keep persevering – it is so worth every bit of the effort.
As a parent, over the years, I have felt like our generation has a distinctly different but parallel issue to what Betty Friedan called ‘the problem with no name’. You’ve articulated it beautifully. Thank you!
Love your article and yes you have it right. Sadly though groups like church, sport, craftetc also dont replace the village. Time-poor, competitive behaviour, judgement, stress and our current way of life dis-enable these groups to be effective in the way village used to be. Even more sadly chu r ches are the worst offemders.
This was really a great piece. Right on target.
Recently we went to hear Jonathan Richman perform. He did a wonderful song about there being “no zocalo” in the United States. “No piazza…” Where does the community gather? Answer: Nowhere.
This is a first world problem which really diminishes us. It was the most striking difference in our day to day experience once we returned to the US from Mexico. I’ve spoken with Canadians and Australians who were expats there who also shared this observation.
This was a problem when we were raising Ben, who is now 23.
We raised him by listening to his his needs, which were way out of the norm for a kid his age. As a result, we were marginalized by other parents in our “progressive” community. With our families far away, we were on our own.
Because we listened to our hearts, We now have a son who is independent and knows himself. It was a hard road then and I know that it’s even a harder one now.
As a man I have seen the pain that the lack of a village has had on my wife and kids. I have seen my wife desire and need for the sharing of the responsibility of the kids. I have seen the pain of not having the wise woman to talk to.
I have brought pain to my family every time I have made them move so that I can make sure that there is money to pay for the house and food. I have felt the anger, depression, frustration from my wife from not having the village. I seen the pain and damage the lack of the group of kids running around has brought to my kids. The damage is great on my kids and wife.
My burden as a husband is knowing that my wife and kids are suffering and not always knowing how to help. Knowing that my first goal has to be to put the food on the table and feeling that I am failing as a husband and father to do that.
I agree that it weights heavier on my wife and I know that this has to change in our society because without a village our society can not last.
Beth thank you for writing such an amazing piece. I have total regard and respect for what you are saying. I really feel our generation has missed out on this ‘sisterhood village’.
I ma a Child and Family Health Nurse and facilitate new parent groups, predominantly attended by new mums, with a few dads attending here and there. My big mantra that this group is free of judgement and comparing and to instill to theses eager new mums this is their sisterhood group.
In a group I ran last year, one of the mums was vision impaired. I wasn’t sure how this was going to work as I had never worked with a vision impaired client before. Anyway I ran my group as I would but with a real emphasis on looking after and nurturing each other. Well this group over the past 16 months have continued to meet weekly. My vision impaired mum has had a second baby recently and the other mums from the group make her meals, go over to watch the 16 mth toddler, take her to appointments etc. I couldn’t be more prouder that I may have helped nurture this little group into a little village.
And I am chatting to our 11 yo daughter already about the importance of village and being inclusive of all. Power to this next generation!
Am I allowed to print your article if you don’t mind to use in my groups.
Well done to you.
Nice Job! Beautiful post on a very, very important topic!!
“The quickest route back to the “village it takes to raise a child” is to begin by open heartedly welcoming the presence of grandparents back into the family equation. Try focusing on moving beyond the currently popular “gate keeper” position and aim to serve as the bridge builders between the generations. Grandparent estrangement/alienation is not natural or health no matter which generation is the perpetrator.” ~Anue Nue
Unless the grandparents are toxic and you don’t want the children exposed to their awful behavior, or they are too busy with their own lives and want nothing to do with you. Trust us, those of us without grandparent support are not turning it down out of pride.
May I just say that you are an excellent writer, and I agree wholeheartedly with pretty much everything you have said here! Thank you for articulating our problem (and the possible solution/s) so well!
Thank you! Spot on and perfectly describing a deep yearning I have been trying to communicate of late. Bless us all and may we find our way home to the tribe x
Leaving or finding the village is a choice, not one made in a single decision but a myriad of comforts and compromises that make the village impossible (or so we come to believe). What the village costs, is your life.
I live in a village, with my wife and 3 children. I work and she stays at home (like the last century, work but not pay). We’ve home schooled kids at times, public school others. There are neighbors (young and old) gardens, chickens and all the things you mentioned in your post. Anyone can have this.. there are even houses down the street for sale (some older folks eventually need more care than a village can give).
The cost? EVERYTHING you are told is oh so valuable and must have. Your time can become other peoples time, you help, volunteer, belong and commit to it; not running a balance sheet of hours. Learn to balance personal and community needs, hear gossip and find out privacy is an illusion.
There are not multitudes of restaurants, fast food, cultural events, sports or shopping centers. You do not get new clothes at a whim or the latest iPhone, hemp clothing, cable packages or uber-fast Internet. You sacrifice you time, money and energy into what is important.. having a life. You see that’s the key, a village IS life and you need to be living and helping others live to belong. You can’t buy in with dollars, you buy in with your time.. the ultimate currency, no one has anymore than anyone else.
So find the place, a job and move. Make the commitments needed and let go of all the things you don’t need and never did. Christmas will be special if that’s one of the only times new toys arrive (both of them). Discover thrift stores, lose the pride of ‘purchasing power’. A steak is awesome when it’s only 1 or 2 times a month.. and garden salad is better when it’s your garden. Help you neighbors get firewood (and yourself), join the volunteer fire department and fix your own darn house (and learn how from that old guy down the street for a shared 6 pack of beer).
Some will scoff, quoting a dozen reasons is can’t be done, doesn’t exist or how their circumstances are different. It’s still your choice, the option exists, are your willing to pay?
where is this village??
You didn’t read the article. There is no village in your life. You’re doing everything on your own and overdoing for others. This is a big problem with a disproportionate amount of people doing all the work for others, which is basically slavery. A tribe is about contributing ONLY after you meet your needs first. When you’re working with a half empty cup, pretty soon it will run dry.
Ummm, if one lives in a rural village (which seems to a plausible setting, given the chickens) …isn’t that a village?
Willingness can be there but past choices of relationships can make it impossible.
Love this. I often hear older mothers say “well I managed to do it!” But the thing is mothers today have higher expectations on them. They are expected to do so much more than just nurture their children, and they’re expected to do it whilst society tells them the role of parent doesn’t deserve respect. Thats why mothers take on more than they can handld, to earn respect that we don’t get while mothering.
You have spoken my heart and my message more clearly and beautifully than I could do my self. For years I have said our culture of one family…2 parents and children in a house and responsible for every need…is just unworkable. Thank you for writing this as you have. I will share it with everyone I can. Much love to you. Kerry
There is one more thing I need to add. My children’s father passed away three years ago. My son (almost 23) is crying out for a village of elders to guide him and help him. He talks about it all the time. People are around but they are difficult to access. They are busy with their own stuff. That is where the problem comes. We need to all work together. There would be so much less heartbreak. I just wanted to show that the young people know they need a village. They know.
I wholeheartedly agree with this beautifully written article. The village gives a child a foundation of rock not sand. Sometimes it seems we are too busy to build these villages, which defeats its own purpose. Each generation has its own difficulties, sometimes thrust upon them, sometimes choices or priorities they make. Therefore, we do not disregard the same difficulties our foremothers had. There was a definite line and division of responsibility. Father provided, Mother did everything else. Those on the land who opened and made this country so great, had little freedom, and had to be wife, mother, doctor, nurse, home teacher, domestic, and able to drive anything incl. machinery, and sometime husbandry assistant. Isolation of any type be it physical, mental or emotional is detrimental to any mother who gives out so much love as is possible. Loss if identity needs to be reversed within a village. We need to show our kids how life needs balance to be healthy within oneself. Multiple generations can do this together.
Thank you …you have exressesed a global pain of society and most definitely one of woman raising children…the most valuable commodity in our world greater than oil etc and how little we value the “smooth healthy process of rearing children” . The response of a father further up really struck me …men are becoming so aware of the plight of this self imposed isolation of “family” that we as a society have taken on. Wow when the male and female energies of this world truly find the empathy and compassion for each ones commitments and contributions to our world a New way will Be benefitting All…thank you Beth.
Thank you Beth for sharing your thoughts on a community. This worked so well years ago, for obvious reasons. Everyone looked out for everyone else’s child and in fact, for the adults as well. Then the next generation had to leave the community behind to find work and the wife was so isolated as well as the children. This was my scenario for quite some time and everyone misses out, as a mother can’t pass on happiness to her family if she hasn’t got it herself. At the end of the day, all you feel like is falling into bed. A wonderful idea to create the community again. Thank you Beth, for taking the time to reach out to us all and try to make a difference in families’ lives. Take care.
Thank you, Beth, for such an articulate piece of writing. As a 68 yr old grandmother, I am part of my daughter’s “tribe” and continue to see families thrive when they have the support and love of their ‘created’ communities and villages. I know I was blessed because being from Puerto Rico I grew up with my own village and so I knew what I was missing and what I had to re-create when we moved to the States with our 3 young kids.
I applaud you in starting this blog because it will provide women with a forum where to express their concerns and find virtual support until they, too, can create their own village.
You know there is also a national movement to turn neighborhoods into “villages”? It is an attempt (by baby boomers, of course) to develop a support network that will allow elderly to remain in their homes, as they approach vulnerable years, knowing they can count on and depend on neighbors to help out in their homes. I am a member of the Mount Pleasant Village in Washington DC which we just began last year and has taken off eagerly.
I will continue to monitor your blog to be in touch with the pulse of the younger generation and your remarkable quest to replace a dysfunctional mindset with a healthy, joyous one. I send you my blessings !!!! Eileen María
I loved your article and your concept. Thank you for that. The main problem that I see is that people move. This is one of the reasons why we don’t have “villages” anymore. And if we create our own villages, people move away also. It’s hard to find a group of people who stay in one place for more than a few years. Also, one person cannot give and give to families who need support, and then later find out that those people are gone and they don’t get any support in return when THEY need it. Reciprocation is hard. I still agree with your article wholeheartedly; I just am not sure how to avoid the issue of people moving and changing.
I wrote about this two years ago. Preach, girl, preach! http://ukcavill.blogspot.com/2015/02/build-your-village.html
Thank you for this article. It is so spot on from my experiences as a solo mom of a 6 year old. I have always been very independent and motherhood had made me realize I have to be more vulnerable and be ok with asking for help sometimes. I’m always been the giver, but found myself pretty tapped out when my child was under 4 to give much beyond my daughter and my dog and very immediate friends. I’ve been craving stronger community and how tricky it can be to find and just wondering if it exists anymore. Reading your article I know it does, I just have to look harder and create more situations to open to door to it.
Thank you for this heartfull article, it made a tribe of us right here.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for this article. You have put into words so beautifully how I have been feeling since becoming a mother. We live slap bang in the middle of a village and yet I feel the absence of that village. There are no children playing together in the square, no mothers exchanging stories over the garden fences. Everyone is so busy trying to keep up with their own lives they have no time or energy to care about anyone else. I dream of that proverbial village every day. Recently I’ve felt an overwhelming need to do something to change the world in which we live. I started a blog to help keep me focused on what I want to achieve. Like you I strongly believe that change begins at home. I can sense a big shift coming and I want to be a part of this adventure. I look forward to exploring the rest of your website. I feel I have found a ‘kindred spirit’ x x x
I’m going to have to re-read because I only got through 3/4 of it
and am crying so much I can’t read it.
I’ve been feeling this way for the last few years, and have even used the
quote it takes a village ( where’s the village?)
Whilst taking care of my 88 year old mother with
Thank you soooo much for articulating how
incredibly difficult this is in this day & age.
Makes me feel a little less crazy.
Thank you for your beautiful sharing, it inspired me x
Thanks for this post. I have found it an interesting balancing act in my own “village.” I moved from the U.S. to a Latin-American country where family dynamics are very much different. While I most definitely see the isolation and the stress of living an American lifestyle as a mother, I also struggle against the Latin American lifestyle of “village” living as well. It is indeed glorious to know that there are people you can always count on in a really tough situation. For example, if one of my daughters were to be hospitalized and I could not afford the fees, I have relatives who would gladly chip in and not expect the money to be returned the next week. Or perhaps ever. The most important thing is health and children. I don’t think the same thing would happen in my American family. Yes, there would be help, but there would also be reminders (and constant ones) to pay the debt off even if the funds were not readily available. There is significantly less pressure and judgment in my American family. In their opinion, my family is my family and I am the one who makes the parenting decisions. There is a respectful distance about what I should or shouldn’t do. My parents provide great advice but they allow me to do the asking. Not so with my Latin American family. The grandmother is the matriarch of all and dispenses advice with definitive mandate–even to complete strangers. After a birth, ALL of the family members flock to the home of the mother even if it’s her first day back from the hospital suffering with pain and the stress of breast feeding for the first time. American families provide support, but also know when to keep their distance and simply provide space. I love my Latin American families, boisterous parties and free-spirited attitudes toward how I dress, whether I have a drink or not, and what music I listen to. My American family is far more conservative and to be honest a bit prudish. Even old ladies are allowed to wear a bikini on the beach over here, but in the U.S., my mother raises an eyebrow when I wear a bikini at a hotel pool, hinting that my daughter might grow up dressing inappropriately. (she’s 7.) The problem with the village is that the village also fights and clashes, causing sides to be taken and huge echoing repercussions on all. This is why my husband and I have opted out of Christmas gatherings. There’s always someone either not invited or not accepting the invitation. OR the person shows up and it’s all fake smiles and tension. My family never had these kinds of manipulative circumstances. There was no pressure to pick sides in a family argument because family members simply didn’t really argue with outside relatives. There’s also the pressure to “make up for” past gifts or favors in my Latin American family. Nothing is ever truly for free. When one family member manages to get a promotion, family members suddenly start asking for loans. It makes it really difficult for a person to enjoy their success and use their good fortune to better their immediate family. This is why most of my Latin family members do not share their good fortune in some cases; they don’t want someone showing up to ask for a handout. This is something that would never happen in my American family. Loans between family members is frowned upon because it tends to cause arguments and resentment. Personally, I still think this is the case. I realize that this is a REALLY long comparison, but I think that a village is AWESOME for supporting moms, letting the children run around and simply opening doors for children to gather together even if it’s an unplanned event. However, I think some aspects of American life are also appropriate in protecting privacy and for giving your family some much needed space. Not all families are raging extroverts and need to be surrounded by people all of the time. Some moms are actually happier when they can find a little bit of peace at home and tend to their babies without interference.
Maybe people should try getting to know their neighbors in the real world, instead of hoping for head pats online. If you don’t reach out to your neighbors, why should they care about you?
Thank you, I’m glad somebody said it.
Exactly! Almost no one lives in absolute isolation. You all have neighbours and live in a community. Get out there. Join the local mothers group or playgroup or start one. Invite your neighbours over and get to know them.
Beth, thank you so much for such an articulate and hard-hitting article. I’ve recently started my own village (www.rokimom.com) because I felt the EXACT same way – but it’s so true – because of our isolation into individual family units, away from the village structure, moms especially are vulnerable to depression and anxiety due to isolation. May is National Mental Health Awareness month, and this month especially, it is important to help moms who are suffering get the help they need. I hope articles like yours will help those moms who need help the most to ask for it – for their sake and for their family’s sakes.
This is one of the best pieces I’ve read in months. Halfway through, I started tearing up.
My therapist, who I didn’t seek out until age 41, but probably needed since my children were born, suggested that I get a sitter once a week and do something for myself.
Getting someone to watch the kids – choosing them, picking them up or dropping hem off, doing homework before we left, planning around piano class – was too much.
In a village, I’d just walk to the market or visit with Grandma.
First time I have read anything from you. You so clearly distilled everything I feel about living as a parent in the US now (or anyone for that matter). I have been in India over 3 years, living in villages, so I can understand really what you mean and what the US so dearly lacks.
I had my baby in the US and came back to India when he was 3 months- WHAT A DIFFERENCE! I was so supported and taken care of in India. And even though I was living in my dad’s house (even had a home birth there) after the birth, I felt completely overwhelmed and like everything was so much harder than it should’ve been. And that’s because it was. I shouldn’t have been the ONLY one waking up 5-10 times a night with my son…It’s hard for me to talk about this with my family, whom I dearly adore. I feel like if I am completely honest, they will be hurt and feel like I feel they are inadequate…
But you are right- our culture has sorely let us down. I hope our children can root down more and bring us all back home and into our village.
Please keep writing, sharing and sifting through it all.
Thank you for saying this. We deeply need to re-prioritize our values and knowing other people feel the same way is so encouraging. Keep it up!
I’ve so much to say but little typing time (as I don’t have a village). Do you have a link to a printable version of this? I’d like to print it for myself to take notes and share with others and to also print it to share with people who I am not (gasp!) in touch with electronically but in real life periodically.
Thank you for your thoughtful, articulate, almost exactly what I’d say if I had the time, piece.
yes. yes. yes. yes. yes.
i have been speaking these truths for years (which is my husband forwarded the link to me). people are so critical of moms who can’t ‘keep it together’. we were never meant to do this alone. never.
thank you for addressing all of those points with grace and power. there are so many who need to understand this.
This is fantastic. Thank you.
You know, it occurs to me that I am in completely different circumstances, but I, too, am suffering from the lack of a village.
I am childless. This was my own choice. Most of the time, it feels like an easy choice. But I do enjoy the company of children. I adore my friends’ kids.
To me, the concept of the village includes all different kinds of people. It includes the mothers, the fathers, the hunters, the gatherers, the leaders, the followers, etc. It should also include the childless.
I often feel left out of the child-rearing process. I think that my friends with children assume that I know nothing about children. I also think they assume that because I don’t have my own kids, I won’t want to spend time with theirs. So I’m not often offered babysitting opportunities, though I have plenty of time to devote to that kind of work, and I have friends who sorely need some time to themselves.
I often get the “you wouldn’t understand, you’re not a parent” vibe from friends with children. I’ll go to lunch with coworkers who have children, and the discussion inevitably turns to the kids (naturally), but I’m usually excluded from the conversation.
The thing is, I do understand.
In a village, I imagine that there were childless people who helped out with children. Perhaps being childless in a village wasn’t desirable, back in the day, but it certainly happened. I can’t imagine that childless couples were ostracized. Rather, I would hope that they were included. Parents by proxy, if you will.
I’m an adoptee. It’s part of the reason I don’t have children of my own. As someone with no country, no heritage, no ancestry, I wish I’d had a village to give me that kind of identity. Just as a village would give shelter to an orphan, I would hope that a village would grant kinship to people with no children. I have a very dear friend whose son calls me “auntie”, and it means the world to me.
Just another point of view to consider. <3
Thanks for writing this Beth! You articulate so clearly a feeling that is obviously reverberating throughout mother-dom…
Thank you for this post. I do have ‘a village’…I didn’t realise I did until reading this article. I have always craved the type of family and communities where stories were shared and wisdom gleaned. Now that my circumstances have changed; back at home with my mom, newborn son and younger sisters, I can see my village. It doesn’t look have I might have imagined it, but I can truly see the love and tips that has been passed to me. I have always been an independant, busy, kind of woman- doing everything myself without asking for help (what a curse! I blame feminism…), but not being able to help myself has shown me how much my close family care about me. And accepting their support has brought peace and rest to my soul. I know it’s the Most High who has provided everything through them, and I am thankful for their love; which covers a multiple of sins.
Beautiful post and so powerful and true. We live in a multigenerational home (with my in-laws) and I am so grateful for the positive impact of such a decision. Also could relate to your suggestion of getting involved as we choose who lives in our village. Beautiful!
I enjoyed reading what you have shared , I felt you sincere till I read thr book time with me and find that you actually are investing on Thé Feeling öf lost , lonlines and the nostalgie that you have already described 🙁 it seems you did not understand or never asked what causes the village life to disappear. What is the cause of our suffering ? Who destroyed the communities we once had 🙁
If you asked these questions you will find that the system the capitalist system is the responsible for this situation . The system that destroy any thing is not profitable in the market , the same system invest in everything even our sadness .
At village you said women washing clothes on the stream while kids play . Knitting to their kids while listing to old women stories and talk ( all these do not produce value in the market and Must be destroyed according to capitalist) as result you have mom knitting in facturies, producing a value in any field by any mean in the market . Kids enjoy preschools and stuffed so called bright programs to prepare them for the market . Old moms have no place in a productive society must rest in elderly houses far from influencing family ….. many many things .
Capitalism decides to create you new communities : swimming moms, basketball lovers , dentist wives , nurses club ….. etc these communities can never be as natural coz are based on profits consist of ppl who due to the system thinks only on the Self and the profit .
So plz Don not do like the capitalist don’t invest in us .
Thanks for this beautiful article dear sister…
This is such a fantastic article! I am a new mom, and I have found myself craving a tribe so much! I wish I could gather all the people who are important to me around me in one place!
Your article rings true on so many levels for me. Thanks for writing this. I had similar reflections upon returning from Tanzania recently — https://sadafshallwani.net/2016/04/25/parenting-with-community-support/
There are so many of us parents who are craving this sense of community and yet it’s so hard to create it in the physical and social structures of our lives and neighbourhoods 🙁
Wow! What a beautiful, powerful essay – the words ‘blog post’ don’t do it justice. You’ve encapsulated everything so perfectly and just reading your words has left me feeling uplifted and less ‘alone’ in this wilderness of motherhood and adulthood so thank you for that! There are many thought provoking points that I will carry with me and cherish – namely that it is not Me that fails, I’m just getting tangled up in the collective failings of our modern day society as we all do at times!
Thank you so much for expressing in words what I have been feeling for a while, and trying to explain to my husband. This made me cry, as it exposed some of the painful but true things I have been feeling especially as we recently had our second child. Your article helped me realize that I am doing a lot of things that are not true to myself in order to just ‘get by’. I don’t want to look back and realize that I’ve just survived and edited these tough years but to really do my best to flourish – set the example I want to for my children and also not to lose my sense of self. So thank you for providing a clear picture of not just the problem, but empowering actions to help. ❤️
I made the mistake of stumbling across this article and gave me an idea for you all…Instead of taking however many hours it took youbto write this ridiculous article, please go spend time with your family and your children! Do something productive instead of whining…good grief people! And same goes to everyone who took the time to commiserate and whine along with her! Our children need mothers that are there for them…not mothers that have their phones in their faces or worried about posting that perfect picture on Instagram or creating these cutesy little blogs with the soft little font and catchy titles pouring our hearts out to strangers! Seriously!! Stop wasting time writing and complaining…instead, put your phones down, ,pour your heart and time into finding the positives, taking care of yourself, and enjoying your children! Then everything, including that village, will fall into place!.
Ummm actually, I spend 24/7 with my children. Have a continuous feeling of i dont know what. Spend only half an hour on fb every now and then after kids in bed. Beths article has given me a sense of understanding and encouragement. Everyone is different; some people stay cynical and miss the whole point completely somehow.
This is brilliant!!! When I grew up I had grandparents, aunts & uncles, neighbors as well as parents of my friends all play a frequent part in my growing up. It has made me so sad that I wasn’t able to give the same to my only child, so this piece made me cry as I’m not the only one that has in many respects done it alone or with minimum support like me. Now at 50, I am learning what it means to be true to myself & I encourage each & everyone to do the same as they are able – without judgement & with love <3
Beth, this spoke to such a deep part of my soul. I am a fairly new mother (daughter age 2) and this has been the biggest part of sadness and emptiness in my life. I have tried to supplement it with an online Facebook group (The Super Moms Village) but obviously it’s not the same as having a friend next door who you can go to when your child is sick or need a listening ear. I have talked about the lack of community and how it impacts not only mothers, but also society to anyone who will listen. Women are meant to be in immunity, to be supporting each other and building each other up. We are not meant to be pitted against each other for our looks, competing on who is the best mother or doing it all alone. This goes against every fiber of our being. I am actually creating a summit for new moms and I would love to have you share with my audience the importance of building a village and how we can do it in our modern day life. Thank you for such a beautiful article and the work you are doing to build women up. <3
Beth!!! Thankyou!! Have not read anything like this before and am stunned. It has put all my feelings into words perfectly. And is very encouraging to engage with others.
Beth, what you wrote speaks to a very deep part of my soul. In the past two years as a new mom, lacking a village has been the biggest challenge for me. I grew up with grandparents in the house and aunts, uncles and cousins within walking distance. We were the house where everyone gathered or dropped off their kids because my grandparents would watch up. Now I’m in a new city where we are programmed to be silo’ed off from each other. Even meeting moms in the neighborhood has been a challenge and my husband and I feel cold shoulders more often than welcoming arms. This is an epidemic that has tremendous repercussions on our society that I think we are already seeing from violence to depression to destroying our environment. What you outline here is a great way for women to start reclaiming that village. Thank you for sharing this as it has touched mine and many other lives already.
I shared your page on Facebook a week ago with this comment:
This article explains all of the heartaches and difficulties that have been culminating in my life. One week after posting this, yesterday we got the news that the owner of our rented townhomes is going to sell. My world is crumbling.
“All but one point in the list are my current reality. The one that does not ring true: “Our children’s natural way of being is compromised, as most neighborhoods and communities no longer contain packs of roaming children with whom to explore, create, and nurture their curiosity.”
Thank GOD my kids have that, the independence of a safe, neighborhood community. They are free, at least in the longer spring and summer months, to explore and wander with friends around our little neighborhood. Our house has an open door with kids wandering in and out.
I have that to cling to while the rest falls apart around me.”
A great piece of writing Beth, but unfortunately what you are saying is too true. Certainly need to bring back the village. In the 1970s Adrienne Rich wrote the classic Of Woman Born, which made a distinction between motherhood (social structures and cultural practices that assigned care to mothers) and mothering (the work that women do as mothers that includes their relationship with their children). There is heaps happening within academia on this topic – you can see a journal and many conferences here MIRCI http://motherhoodinitiative.org/ and a fabulous publishing house, Demeter Press here: http://demeterpress.org/ There is a sister group in Australia called AMIRCI and there is a conference planned for Melbourne in July if anyone would like to come along see: http://www.mothering.org.au/
Yes, it takes a village and there are significant movements for change. You might like to see campaigns currently being waged in Australia by The Parenthood at: http://www.theparenthood.org.au/
Please do join the chorus of people calling for CHANGE and in the meantime look after yourself, mums are people with needs and wants too!!
Best, Joan G
When I think of a village I think of a small town , small businesses (goodbye due to walmart, they came in beat out all the mom and pop businesses and now they are closing the stores because of low sales , leaving no place for the elderly to shop ) small farms (goodbye thanks to corporate farms) with locals allowing gleaning of their fields for those who are needy , small butcher shops and grocers who would let you carry a debt when things were bad , neighbors who traded services with one another , moms who parented the neighborhood kids , they knew your mom and you knew they would let her know what you were doing . help when there were sickness or deaths , shared child care ……todays moms dont know how to make healthy food , make it last til the end of the week/month how to make do with leftovers and helping each other , …..don’t have an answer , prayer , I have 4 grown children 3 grandchildren , I have helped raise a niece , a nephew and now two great nephews , I have a new grandchild on the way …..my dream, is to open a nonprofit shop in my parents small home town (population around 450 ) when I retire , to make sure young school kids have clothes, shoes and school supplies … I would like to eventually have volunteers sewing restyling clothes for the kids . the area has been hit with a great many crystal meth parent drug users , thank goodness for a church program sending kids home with snacks and fruit and microwave items , because I know many who depend on them . I know of great grand mothers raisin great grandchildren…..sad ….
I pray for America to find their Villages .
This post, and your entire blog for that matter, have really struck a chord with me. I am currently working on a blog post called “Rebuilding the Village” which touches on many of the same points. Reading your post could not have come at a better time, as i feel this deeply in my life. I wonder if you might permit me to reference your article in my blog? I just started blogging recently and currently do not write for profit, but for myself- and my village 🙂 it would mean a lot to me to be able to add some of your beautiful sentiment to what i have already been working on. Thank you for writing.
I have been struggling with this since my daughter was born a year ago. I am a pretty shy person and it is indeed scary to step out in a new way when society isn’t set up for the support and community you speak of. I know it is out there, it is just taking the steps on behalf of my daughters growth and wellbeing. I hope I can find the courage to do so for the betterment of ourselves and those around us. I am praying. Thanks.
Hi Beth! this blog article has circulated as far as Hobart! Tasmania! Australia.
I resonated 100% with all that you wrote. An enormous relief for me to have someone articulate in an article what I most certainly experience.
I have chosen the path of full time solo parenting ( of course I would love a partner to share the journey with… But at this stage this has not unfolded)… And I am SHOCKED at how few women are comfortable with sharing the whole experience of setting up village style living or sharing arrangements.
My dream is to cohouse share with another family, or another full time solo mum, but have found, and this has been a surprise to me…. Pretty well all mums I approach about theossibility of sharing a house to raise children in a closer form of ” village” is met with the common response …..” Ooooooh I couldn’t do that…… I need my own space.”
What is it with our western dysfunctional society, that we live isolatedly, with skyrocketing depression, loneliness, and isolation…yet we collectively seem to value ” having our own space” above the loneliness, depression, isolation we may feel….while 80 % of the rest of the world have learned to live in much more crowded! close cramped….. And guess what, more village like conditions……
I think we have fundamentally lost the skill, ritual, tolerance to live closely together in village, to live in relationship with a wide variety of people.
And so stress, exhaustion, post natal depression and not quite so wholistic parenting techniques run rampant in our society…. In order to preserve our ” own space” in the domestic living situation.
I would love to hear more discussion about this aspect of our western human condition
Yes. 100% yes. I have felt this deeply. As someone who has no family nearby, it has been so hard to be a mom, a wife, and an individual. One thing I might add that I have witnessed in my own family is that the absence of a village atmosphere has also made our family elders (the empty nesters, the retirees, the elderly) have very little sense of purpose and an overwhelming loneliness. As stressful as motherhood has been, I am dreading the next phase if our culture remains the same. Thank you for this desperately needed commentary.
Beth, I love your post.
The fire in your gut and the ‘outing’ of this deep sickness of isolation and blame in parenthood – your enraged cry into the void of disconnect, that we need to connect and support each other – is a clarion call. We need each other! For the sakes of all our health, for the wellbeing of our kids and future of this nation, we need to support caring communities.
I have been struggling for the last five years, having come to the US from the UK and raised my child here in the US. As well as it being culturally very different (it surprised me how different) and being fresh off the boat it has been critical to my survival to find community here. And this struggle to find my tribe has taken up almost every minute of every hour of every day for the last five years.
I know deeply that I need community, and so I have prioritized this every day for the sake of my health, my marriage, and my kid – to find and build community. I am fortunate to have been in a preschool co-op for the last three years, it is a lot of work – but all the reciprocal support we give each other, has been a life line. And I still rely on my husband for too much, and I still struggle finding paid work and keeping afloat and remembering who the hell I am, before I moved here, before I became an American mother. Before my husband became removed into his depression because of his work pressures and life pressures.
Even within the co-op the fact is that we are so busy trying to do even more than we have to do already to run a school, we are maybe burdening ourselves even more? – though as you say, we know the rewards are deep and meaningful. But we could be more intentional, we could get clear on how much we are all struggling, we could find the space to show vulnerability.
I went on a life changing program with the Center for Partnership Studies (http://centerforpartnership.org/) earlier this year – the work or Riane Eisler and the Caring Economy (http://www.caringeconomy.org/). I think you will find that their campaign to include caregiving in our understanding of what wealth is could be a campaign you’d fully support. The premise is that we need to be more partnership driven, and we need a full spectrum economy to account for what really matters – our communities, households, environment – and support this.
I know that there are similar struggles in the UK – where there is also rising income inequality and all the societal ills that brings – but the universal principles of parental leave, child support benefits, healthcare, education and preschool support, employee rights to flexible working, do make a big difference. I know that families in America seem to get very little by way of support, from all the taxes you pay, unless you find yourself on the very edge. So much could be done to make this burden less onerous.
Maybe there is an issue of pride here too – without ‘universalist’ principles that say we are all in this together, we all contribute and we all benefit, it is easier to see why people are more reluctant to ask for support, it is saying you are falling beneath what is required of you, you are now a burden, you are failing in some way. Heck, I’ve never seen people work as hard as I have here – nearly every American mother to me is some kind of a super human, with kryptonite for marrow, who does it all and some and still feels bad about not doing enough. WE DO PLENTY is a great line from your blog – TAKE A BREAK could be another one! 🙂
I agree what you say that this is a ‘broken, still-oppressive social structure”. We do need systems change and a cultural shift towards valuing caregiving – everywhere. And if America is able to crack this nut, then that surely would put them onto the global stage in a powerful way that really represents honoring human potential.
I hope the Great American Mother really is rising and really is saying ENOUGH, it is time to really CARE for each other, and we know how – this is a voice that has been silenced for too long.
Thank you for your wise words and rage – so well directed.
I love this article and have had discussions along the same lines with other Mum’s who feel the same way.
I am a single Mum and being able to visit with my son’s cousins and Uncle’s and Aunties has been an incredible support to both of us. He blossoms in the company of other children who love him and enjoy looking after him.
However…I’ve recently made the decision to move interstate in order to be with my partner. My son’s father is in this other state also, so whilst we will be losing our village, I’m hopeful we can create another, albeit with friends rather than family and at least he will have both his Mother and Father close by.
What are your thoughts on the importance of a strong family unit vs. a village?
I will lose my village, but gain my own family unit…
I disagree that villages don’t exist today. I’m sad that you haven’t found any which fit you.
Several interesting points are made above: the freedom to separate from toxic blood families; the opportunity to have help from professional therapists; the need to adjust lifestyle expectations, behaviors, & relationships to both get what you need and to give what you can.
I guess I’ve been lucky. In seeking & reaching out to find a better path, I’ve found multiple villiages exist and overlap here in our suburban community (part of a metro area with 2M pop). However, I also see my friends enjoying other, alternate villages which both overlap my own and operate independently of mine.
Some of the villages I enjoy include: public school volunteering, church, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Venture Scouting, martial arts club, marching band parent organization, fine arts clubs parent support at school, post-retreat support/accountability groups, business networking clubs, and a professional led psychotherapy group.
Now I’m not suggesting any of these groups are made up of perfect people, but then again, our ancient tribal villages weren’t so perfect either — this the impulse some of us felt to leave our mid-America hometowns and go exploring other villages.
In some of my own circles, I’ve found the opportunity to be supported by others of my peer group and elders in our circles. In other circles, I’ve found growth and learning through teaching and supporting younger persons.
Of course, all of this does require that I adopt flexibility and tolerance. Whether it’s tolerance for an national organization where I may disagree with some of their politics, or tolerance of advice & judgment handed to me from my elders — or just trusting others when I have to put my own kids into a room with other adults while I go teach a different class of youth.
I can assure that I’ve personally struggled through my own personal growth, but I haven’t felt alone in that work. I also have seen my children be guided by other parents — sometimes people who I politically disagree with, but who speak from love to my kids. I’ve also talked to my kids about how we disagree with certain positions that our neighbors hold, but love them and enjoy their company anyway.
It’s not easy, and you will give up some things you may have though you needed to be a perfect parent, but you will find more love, peace, and growth for you and your kids if you engage the villages around you. If not, maybe it’s time to move?
of course, maybe I’m just ridiculously fortunate and I live in a bubble…
Dear Beth, I am touched by your openness and hopefulness. I agree or concur with most every word you wrote. What you did not write I will add; coming from a 67 year old old school conservetive/liberal: Women were never supposed to go it alone since our simlple sisters one to two billion years ago invented sex, ie gender difereniation. My big piont is that in western society since 1958 our culture has steadily let males off the hook. We expect little or nothing of boys and men. As long as women think that they have to be Super Women and let men dither and fritter their lives away playing childish games. Until our society calls males to be men and provide, protect, and guide as well as procreate in strong families you women will struggle vainly to put Humpty Dumpty together again. — With Sincere Admiration. Jesse David
You are writing so clearly about what I begin to feel 26 yrs ago when I had my first child. La Leche League and play groups helped so much but by the time my then 2 children were school aged it dissolved and everyone spread out…Life changes. Searched for co-housing groups but none that suited us at the time. I now have a 16 yr. with Down Syndrome – while she is amazing it can be a isolating and lonely journey. I now more than ever long for a “village”. But I do believe the divine feminine is returning and new possibilities await. May the next generations find their way to a new “village”
In gratitude for your sharing
I used to live in an eco community in Dartmoor, UK, and it was the best place i have seen for children to be brought up, in connection with multiple adults, children and safe outdoor wild spaces full of other than humans.
I’m about to dive deeper in developing a regional ‘village’ here, using wisdom and practices from the 8 Shields Institute, who are mentoring communities all over the world to restore the many levels of Village that we need – http://8shields.com/distance-mentoring-programs/village-builders-mentoring/
Thank you so much for this article. It’s like I wrote it myself. I’ve been saying this to people all along. Our emotions are our indicators. We should be with tribe!
Also, the knowing that we need support, but being too exhausted to go out and find it.
It’s all done on purpose to get us mummas back to work, get the kids into nursery so they become indoctrinated into ‘good litte society people’. So-in continues the rat race.
Well, no! I say no! If i have to, I’ll run away with the Rainbow Gathering! Live in nature, surrounded by people, music, simple living!
I completely agreed with everything you said right up to the very last section on how to achieve this! I think you have really well explained the benefits we have lost and the troubles we have gained with the loss of the village. There is plenty of research which shows that above a certain size, communities lack that cohesion and the sense of “shared responsibility” that come with a deeper knowledge of, and more personal connection to our “neighbours”.
The points that I disagreed with you on were that 1) some of your suggestions (after your brilliantly specific summary of the problems) were a little “fuzzy”. 2) I think that if you swap the word “village” for the word “parish” I think you CAN take your metaphor literally. No we may not all live in actual villages, but we all live in pariches. This is a small geographical location, and if we make a point of whenever possible employing tradespeople, contractors and professionals. Of shopping in smaller shops within our parish (effectively within walking distance), of choosing to send our kids to the local school and not moving to a new location to get a “better” one. If we do these things, we will find that almost magically we will know almost all of the people around us. We will start to rely on them, and they will rely on us. And this is really ALL that it takes to return to some sort of village life! We will no longer be trapped in a world where we don’t know the people on our street, so we will no longer be fearful of sending our kids out to play because we don’t know or trust the people around us. We will stop living a life where our only form of redress when things go wrong is legal action, and return to the more sensible discussion based justice for minor wrongs. We will stop relying on “elf and safety” culture, and above all, we wil find ourselve trusting our own instaincts, and being more able to think critically and assess risk critically.
I’m sorry to waffle, but you have struck a chord with both myself and my wife. (Yes I am a man who supports your way of thinking!) We live in a small community which works really well in rural Devon, but there is a constant stream of people coming from “up-country” who really don’t seem to get this. At least at first. Some never do, but others do. And they are the ones that stay. Localism is about attitude! Take care.
I agree with your diagnosis: absolutely, many/most people lack a village. What I believe you may be missing is the cause and the cure. We have lost a sacramental way of being – the further we move from experiencing all of life as a given-gift the more we become atomized individuals attempting to self-actualize through so-called freedom of choice. The cure is simple: the Eucharist and the life that flows out of the Eucharist as the heart of our fellowship and our lives as distinct persons. We can begin “curing” this disease of no village by stopping right now, and ironically, giving thanks to God for the very thing that we lack. There is no poverty that His grace cannot address.
This article!!! It so perfectly expresses my life’s work and deepest inner knowings of what’s needed and the challenge of being a mother today! Thank you for shifting the perspective and pointing out so clearly, that we happen to be on the front lines of a huge systemic problem and are putting ourselves down for it instead of seeing ourselves as heroes! Holy crap!!! We are heroes, every mother out there.
Thank you. I needed this, we ( my family & I ) are struggling with this so much right now. Even our daughter has said , I miss people- we went from having a multigenerational home, daycare to being a stay at home mom & kids in a big house…with fewer people. We are working on finding a new village.
While I agree with much of your posting, I think it is important to recognize that the village was also a means of oppressing or excluding those that did not conform to social conventions and norms. If you and your family conformed to the strictures of the community, then yes, you had support. If you did not, perhaps you were gay, or got pregnant before marriage, were born out of wedlock, were disabled, mentally ill, etc., etc., you most likely would have lived in a community that ostracized you. Anyone who has had this experience- knows how difficult it is. So, yes, there are advantages for those that easily conform to society’s expectations when raising children, but for those of us that don’t, the village is hell.
Thank you for your clear sight and for sharing it with us. I think it’s true that for many of us it can be hard to see what is ours and what belongs to the culture we find ourselves in. Appreciate your vision and hope. Right here alongside you in the movement towards a brighter future 🙂
THIS is exactly what I try to explain to all the mothers I come across and strike up a conversation with!
I started to foster these kinds of relationships when my daughter started school.
I extended my time and help to other parents… Having my daughter’s classmates over for play dates (but also giving those kids dinner, putting them in the tub, teaching them anything I can…gardening, English (we live in Belgium)..etc etc). At first everyone thought I was crazy, but now it has really caught on! People are once again starting to realise it truly does take a village..and when there is one, EVERYONE benefits!
Beth. Thank you for this post and for raising awareness on our society’s lack of village to support new moms. I especially appreciate your 9 tangible steps on how we can help ourselves. Many of them are things we probably know we should do but reading them from another person is a helpful reminder. (Some of them are things we probably wouldn’t think of too.) I agree with some of the other commenters about not romaticizing the village too much especially if a woman is in a toxic, confining, or otherwise limited environment. I’m a daughter of a new immigrant and my (single) mother passed away over a decade ago. My extended family are out of country, and my relationship with the in-laws is complicated. Although, I think the global point you’re making about having a mother-centric support network is so incredibly valid. Fortunately, my husband and I were privileged enough to afford a postpartum doula, who absolutely helped create parts of that village for us. Like you, I want to advocate for better postpartum care. I wonder how we can help bring in elements of this village into standard practice in 21st-century America!
Love this Beth, sharing on https://www.facebook.com/GreatParentingShow/. Hope that’s OK, Kriz
This article is spot on.
And I think the lack of ‘village’ affects men too, which in turn makes mothers’ lives harder again. Fathers are often having to bear the responsibility for working and supporting the family all by themselves, with no help from other men in the community or other relatives. The lack of community support and friendship that fathers receive means they have to bear full responsibility for their family, they can only rely on themselves, and they have to spend less time with the family and can’t provide as much of the practical or emotional or loving support that the mother and children need – meaning the mother is burdened even more with having to survive with a much smaller share of the father’s support and having to make up for his absence with the children.
I agree!! I feel for the fathers that don’t know how to reach out and connect with other men. They say they don’t need it, but they don’t realize they do. I just continue to encourage my husband to go out and be with the men, it is good.
Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and support. I was raised by a mom who had the village but left it because that was part of her journey of finding herself. I am now a mom tasked with trying to uncover, to understand, and to love myself in order to live abundantly. Every day I learn more and more that I desperately need a village because that’s where my self is in a big way. Unfortunately, I was raised to doubt and to stay away from any kind of village at all costs. Fighting this learned trait is a daily battle, but you have given me some much needed hope and inspiration. Bless you!
Beth! This is exactly where we are at, isn’t it? And I am so proud to say, I have come home to myself and I have been building my village for the last few years and it is good, so good. I will have to email you personally, but I wanted to say here that YOU were one of the shining stars lighting my way as I groped around in the dark these last years. I found you towards the part in my journey where I really was coming out of the tunnel, and your warmth and wisdom helped catapult me fully into light. I am living proof that this sort of change is possible, one mama at a time. And now I am living out my passion in a new job, right where I want to be. Incredible. Warmest hugs and peace to you:). – amy cormode
You hit the nail on the head with this one. I have four kids under age 12, including 3-year old twins, so I don’t even have the time or energy to tell you how much your writing resonates with me right now. But I am so grateful for you putting into words what I have been feeling for so long. I am dedicated to rebuilding the Village not just for me and mine, but for all. Thank you!!!
This really resonated with me as my family will be moving to a new state in a few weeks. We will have to start over with everything: schools, therapies, directions, friends, etc. It feels overwhelming, as we also have a son with Autism, so we have to advocate and educate as well. I helped to build a community of moms where I am through meetup and hopefully will be able to build or join something similar when we move as it will be very lonely/stressful going it alone.
Hi Beth~ THANK YOU THANK YOU- Big heart felt thank you for sharing the love and supporting mamas on their journey- Eve0rything you wrote about in this piece on the Village has been spoken through my lips since I started teaching mama’s yoga back in 1999. My journey with mothers actually started as an RN back in 1980.
While I haven’t done extensive writing- I’ve held space weekly for the past 16 years for new mother’s to gather and move their bodies- breathe and share their joys and challenges with other mama’s. I have seen first hand what happens when mother’s willing come and share their journey- They make new friends in my class- they find a shoulder to cry on- they up lift and love each other in ways that only mothers- aunties- grandmothers can do- SO- It would be more than amazing to connect with you.
This is quite simply the best thing I’ve ever read. Yes. To all of it. Thank you.
Thank you for writing/posting this article. It is the first light toward finding what is “sacred among the insanity”. Life looks nothing like I thought it would at this phase of my life. Thank you for inspiring me to not settle, but seek the right people for my values.
Wow, just wow. I cried as I read this. FINALLY I have found (your) words to express what has been in my heart for years. I am a single mom of three kiddos (11,14,16). I work 6 days a week/8 hr day to support them financially. My children are my life. Each day I wake up, say thank you to the universe, to God for another day to spend with my kids. My prayer for the day is that: my thoughts be positive, my eyes see the good in this world, my words spoken are uplifting, my heart be of good courage, my gut be free of nervousness, and that my feet carry me swiftly to serve my fellow person at work. I practice deep breathing methods when the panic attacks wash over me. When the worry/self doubt/shame/guilt/uncertainty hits me like a wave, I simply say to myself, “Be Here Now.” I am alone in raising my kids. But I accept it as part of my story. With gratitude and love for my babies, I take one day at a time.
I raised my son (now 29 and thriving) alone. I did not have family to help me, though I did belong to a spiritual community which helped him a lot but not myself. I am grateful and relieved that I lived long enough to raise him to maturity while working full-time, and sometimes working two jobs. Now he is married and on his own, and I am still working but am lonely. I had to leave my spiritual community last year for personal reasons and need to find a new one. What I really need is a village that will embrace what I have to offer at this stage in my life. We all need each other all of the time!
I didn’t have time to read it all, But my take on the overall problem of moms with kids abandoned by the father (although I don’t think you actually said that) is to strengthen the family. Which requires the KIDS to be returned to their “passenger” position in the home. The MOMS need to return to their “co-pilot” position and DADS should be returned to their “pilot” position. Nothing like a pitcher catching, the catcher pitching, and some bases not even covered. Now that’s a winning line-up!! (jk) —Dana
I read this and all I could think is that society is reaping what it has sown. We have vilified churches as bigotry camps, patriotism and nationalism as hateful and exclusionary, and every other community based group, especially the religious ones, as somehow outdated, evil, hateful etc. Feminism has turned from “girl-power” to a purely “men suck” movement. Chivalry is dead because women killed it and your aforementioned “villages” are burned wastelands because your liberal friends torched them. I feel your pain and empathize with the modern women’s plight, however, I have less and less sympathy every passing election as more and more women vote democrat and less and less sympathy as more and more women think marriage, traditional values, etc. are outdated. Welcome to “modernity” where we are so much more “advanced” than our bigoted, hateful, superstitious ancestors.
Thank you, for so eloquently articulating this. This is everything I feel and I feel with every woman. It’s like you took the words from our souls and shared them to connect us all.
Thank you. thank you. thank you. I’m now going to share this with every single person I ever meet again.
I am SO glad to have found you and your voice! I’m a Clinical Psychologist in Perth, Western Australia and our messages are SO similar. I run retreats for mothers for many reasons. Yes to help them overcome the anxiety, depression, overwhelm, disillusionment, self-doubt etc… but the other HUGE reason is to help them create as true a village as is possible without living in an Ashram! The mothers who join me on the retreat make connections with one another that transcend the facade that they arrived with. They are forever changed, forever connected and forever united. I’m so glad that there is someone else out there – even if on the other side of the world – sharing this message. Thanks Kirstin
As a preteen in the late 1960’s,isolated,illiterate, socially withdrawn, I played, in my urban asphalt backyard,school with my collection of toys and dolls. An impression rested on my soul that day, and whispered simply,”prepare to teach your own children!”
Forthcoming Opportunities changed bad names, social/psychology labels into compliments of “well-read”. Later, I found Jesus Christ at the helm of all good events. At that same time,the culture war the US now unmistakably experiences surfaced in a rage within home and family. The anguish of oppression hit hard and shattered every good effort, Yet intuition hardened a shield in the heart…I knew help was on the way. As the rescue ship, baring the name Richard G Wilkins, appeared survival courage arose from despair. Following the first… another, The World Congress of Families, and another, Hillsdale College, and many others braving the culture storms intended on sinking smaller unarmed craft of defiance. The promise for the future families will have legacy to encourage the path of Liberty and Natural Family and Education in the bonds of heart filled heritage communities…without a shadow of doubt. Thank you to our brave and valiant, even those who give the last full measure of devotion. God be with us.
Happy Birthday (Father and Freedom, 13June16)
I had the opportunity to spend 6 months in one of Cambodia’s villages. Upon arrival, I was surprised to see that most of the children are helping out with their family’s chores in one way or another after school.
The parents are not uptight about their children, while the children explore the little world around them as a group.
Back home, children form ‘cliques’ and you’d be sad to notice they aren’t as tolerant of others’ behavior and flaws as well as those who grew up from ‘villages’. Being in a community certainly has its virtues.
I raised my kids in a village for 5 years in southern Cambodia. How wonderful to have grandparents next door and aunts all over town. moved back to Australia for school. I have already decided the only way a third baby is possible is if we go back for at least the first 2 years of the new baby’s life. Just The thought of being in the suburbs alone with a tiny baby is sad.
The village starts with the family. The nuclear family; mom, dad, kids, and spreads out from there into the extended family; grandparents (a set who will usually live with the parents, the other set nearby), aunts, uncles, cousins etc.
The main problem is that the core family unit has broken down and we don’t even have nuclear families anymore but single parents, the result of divorce, baby daddy/baby mama-ism, single parenting, etc.
Get the nuclear family solid again first and then we can talk about “village”.
OM SHANTI OM!
AMEN!!! My immediate family is an island in a very expensive metropolitan area where every family struggles- even dual income families. Everything is a montetary transaction, so in my isolation from extended family I need to pay no less than $20 an hour for help. None of us have time to help each other out naturally. I can’t even get back to work full time bc I am stuck doing drop-offs and pick-ups (the aftercare is FULL in my school district). And it’s true- I feel guilty all the time that there is no natural community landscape for my kids to grow up in. I resort to signing them up for costly camps and activities to make connections, but they are never lasting. Everyone is running around trying to do the same thing, and no one really seems fulfilled. I’m convinced money is the root of all evil 🙂
Can I be bold and vulnerable and offer one idea that immediately ran through my head as I read your article. You are missing one crucial place you can find a village. It’s at a church in your neighborhood/community. I belong to a great church in my area. We are like-minded in many important ways. Most churches take in a smaller congregation area then schools, etc, so they are more quaint. There are children for my children to play with or to be best friends with, whatever is needed. I don’t have family close, either, but these women and their families are my family. We lean on each other when we are having troubles, we can laugh and love. We help each other pack when moving, bring meals during sickness, stress, or births. We gather often to learn about God and also about domestic stuff that women/mothers like to learn. You will find multi-generations there, too. Older women for advice, younger women to mentor or get inspired by. We get together just to have lunch and laugh. They are my village! Consider finding one you can relate with, and you will find an instant family! I know it will make a difference for you and your families. That is all.
I talk about it all the time in a slightly different context. Here is “The welcome death of the single family home.” Thanks for writing this…. I’ll be sharing often.
Unreal, the amount of gratitude I feel for you, for writing this. I’ve written a lot about it too, and yet sometimes hearing it in the words of another mother– a soul sister we’ve never met– fills the well left dry by our own deep disappointment. During and after 13 months of “postpartum depression” following the home birth of my daughter, ONE thing shone clear: We Need Village. It was the ONE solution that most piercingly fed the thirsty souls of our motherhood. I sOOOOoooooOOOOOo thank you for writing this. Exquisitely thoughtful and eloquent.
I love this article. This is a topic discussed often between my sister and I and within my circle of friends. The truth in this article runs very deep. We are all severely impacted by the lack of village. While I don’t have children of my own, I do help to raise my niece, care for my disabled mother, take care of three animals, run two businesses that employee fifteen people and write and perform music as often as I can. I feel that as a woman I can relate to every line of this article. I too feel compelled to make up for the “lack of village” for both my niece and my mother and most recently for myself. I feel the word “mother” could almost be substituted for “women” throughout this article and it would still hold as much truth. Women are wired for the village which is no where to be found in this western society. Thank you for your deep insight and your honesty. I am so glad I found this article.
I have felt strongly led to do something about the lack of connection we experience as women, especially when in crisis, abuse, or isolation. Your article blew me away with its relevancy both to my current thoughts and to the truth of this phenomenon. Thank you so much for writing this article. <3
I like how you ascribe this dramatic shift to the focus of profits over people. And not just monetarily. The profit in the strive for success. The drive for the good life has us leaving home to work so that funds are provided for the kind of life we want for us and our children. There is no village because everyone is gone working during the day, so that their village will look and be secure. But why work so hard for that when you aren’t even around to experience or impact the life you are trying to achieve. And that is why the heart of the village – its people – are creating their own little villages at work, etc. away from the physical village they make for their child. It is a shifting of what you want for your child. You and little opportunity or funded opportunity and little of you. People are so afraid that their child won’t have the opportunities they want for them that they minimize the incredible power they have on their child. And when that fear of not being enough hits the village, that village disappears with the parents in an elusive effort to chase something they have had all along. You. And if more villages realize they need “you” and not just opportunity, then the power of “you” multiplies to becomes the power of a village.
You have opened my eyes. This. is. so. true!
I AM ‘lucky’ – I DO live in a village of about 1500 people. The community IS needed to raise a child, support a ‘broken’ family (death, separation, whatever), an elderly person, who needs a little help or someone with an illness. The love that surrounds you is amazing!! Yes I have experienced it and seen it in action many, many times!! There was a recent death in our community of someone who was part of a farming family so it was time for a certain activity to happen suddenly within a short period of time a few days later many helpers and that task was started and completed in that day!! If someone needs a hand, a shoulder to cry on, a hug or just someone to share a cuppa ( a cup of tea), there is usually someone who just is there! I am truly blessed to live in a caring community!!
Wow. Just wow. It’s so true in American culture. I am an American living in Italy and the Italian tribe is STRONG. I don’t know how we lost that in America but Im sad about it.
I’ve been so profoundly moved by this piece, Beth. Thank you. I’m sharing it with so many people. You’re making the world a better place…
(From South Africa. Where we’ve just bought a home in a village for these exact reasons…)
Thank you for writing this article. It’s everything to me in this phase of my life. Thank you
Your title was personal before I read the article! I raised a son, (I was basically a single parent before I ‘was’ a single parent) by myself from my son’s age of 8. My parents lived in another town, 45 minutes away, my divorced sis was living in her own issues with 3 kids, my church was not much more help, as I thought it should be! There was no village for me & my son. The church was the biggest problem as my then 8yr old got blamed for much mischief that went on with other kids of churchy, two parent families; wives didn’t want me around their husbands (a divorced woman might get to their hubbies); husbands didn’t want me around their wives, I might give their wives wrong ideas of single hood!!! (that’s a joke with a full-time mom as I was); I was not invited to many of the social gatherings at the church…I was the “divorced” female parent, a close friend was the “unwed” female parent of which we both dedicated ourselves to this church, not ever dating… do I need to go on? The “village” let us down & my 39 yr old son still has issues because of it. I didn’t even date for 10 yrs so he would not have that problem in his life. (Oh, I did spend time with an old male friend for the first few months of my divorce, but he quickly didn’t want my son with us…goodbye old friend!) I would hope that the “village” would read this, pay attention to it & actually become that village for the moms/kids out there alone. Just getting all that off my mind of not being able to talk about it to my churchy people, too late to change all of it now. I forgive them, but think my son does not. He’s a daily prayer for me… Thank you for putting this out there!
My good friend has created “The Village Magazine” where you can get just this! Not only is it a beautifully written and photographed magazine, but a Facebook and instagram account. As well as being a part of dinners held locally (or putting on your own dinner) to meet local moms and create the village!
Tout le monde, bienvenue!
Thanks to facebook I received notification of this wonderful inciseive post/ site…… perhaps the new village should be called “facebook” x
Wow, great thoughts! Very interesting read…however, dare I say that I don’t believe mothers hold the ticket alone here. This could include every person in our world…whether we’re parenting actively or not, this crisis affects us all. I sure feel it. And ironically, this is pretty much what I’ve been learning in our church about community and social ties. Our way of life here is as opposite as Heaven’s way of life could possibly be. We’re wired to be in tune with our Creator and the way we were meant to live is vastly different. We crave fellowship and close familial ties within our cultures. And you’re so right – we just don’t get it. I sure don’t. Thanks for sharing.
I shared this on my page last week and it did SO WELL! It obviously resonates—and for good reason. Thank you for writing this!
Thank you Beth. Exactly what I’ve been experiencing this last year having moved from an idyllic, small, rural town, where it was commonplace to share foods, share kids, share clothes, share stories, share tears and joys, and share meals. So hard to HAVE the village, then not. This summer I picked peaches from neighbor’s yard and made pies for 3 of the neighbors while freezing some for ourselves. I have joined a church, a co-op, sports teams, etc. but still no “real” relationships have come from our efforts. I feel sad not only for myself, but for all the other moms that struggle as I do. For the first time in my life I have had anxiety/panic attacks and have even thought to seek out a counselor and get therapy for my loneliness and sadness. I like that your article acknowledges that it’s not that we moms are somehow responsible, that we could do more, that our culture has changed and no longer nurtures these kinds of interactions and relationships.
Good this are happening to support each others health and healing.
You articulated how I’ve felt for a long time. As a special needs parent, our village is even smaller, and the demands and needs are even greater. I don’t know a solution, but I can say I literally have no energy or time to reach out, and even if I did the special needs part of things pretty much kills it. At least I know I’m not alone!
Why don’t you start with the basics. A strong family. From there, strong extended family connections.
If you REALLY WANT TO HELP — SIGN THE PETITION FOR POSTPARTUM SUPPORT SERVICES. SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT MOMS VILLAGE. We really can change things. I’m so frustrated with all these bloggers who want publicity for whining about the way things are but won’t actually HELP ME CHANGE IT. This charity can make a difference! Consider spreading the word to ACTUALLY CHANGE THE WORLD.
While I appreciate your efforts to increase postpartum support and “change the world,” you might reconsider your tactics. Insulting someone while asking for their support is not a very effective strategy.
All the best to you,
This sums up everything I’ve been feeling since being a mother. Well written! Thanks so much!
I’m on holiday at the moment in Turkey with my wife and 15 month old son in a busy little resort town on the Mediterranean coast. Yesterday evening we were invited by a couple who own a local café to come back to their home in a small town 10 minutes away where no tourists ever go. They speak virtually no English and we speak very limited Turkish. Within a minute of arriving it was clear that we’d just entered the “village” that you describe so accurately in this article. The set-up was two family houses next door to each other with a common courtyard. In one house lived the parents of the woman who’d invited us back and in the other the parents of her husband. A collection of cousins, nieces, nephews and other in-laws filled the rest of the two houses -so many and so fluidly that no-one seemed quite sure how many people were living between the two homes (estimates ranged from 15-26). The second we arrived all of the children present (aged between 2 and 13) took immediate responsibility for my son and we had no requirement whatsoever to look after him as they cared for him and played with him the entire time we were there. He immediately took to the unfamiliar surroundings as if it was the most natural thing in the world (which of course it is) and within 5 minutes was laughing uproariously in a way I’d never heard before at the antics of the other children. All night they showered him with affection, hugs and kisses, the adults joining in whenever they took a break from chatting with us. All the children I saw there were happy, confident, sociable and delighted to assume responsibility for looking after another child. The village still exists even in a country as developed as Turkey now is, but I fear that it is lost almost all together in most of the western world, and the sad thing is that most of us don’t even realise what we’ve lost – in fact we’ve been sold a vision of constant progress that makes us thankful that we don’t live like others who’ve actually often got much of the very basics of life better sorted than we have. This weekend we’ll leave Turkey and go back to living alone in our little house in England, no community around us to access like this, no support, no connections with the village. For the good of my son I’m considering quitting my job and relocating to Turkey or any other part of the world where he can grow up in the way that humans have for millions of years, surrounded by love and support. My thanks to you for articulating so clearly what we have lost and for all your work to try and address the situation in the context of our WEIRD (western, educated, industrialised, rich and democratic) world.
This is amazing! What truth!! This outlines many things I have thought for a long time. I spent 6 of my early years of motherhood in an intentional community in Chicago. Every summer, I would meet up with 7 of my dearest girlfriends from college, and I would hear their stories of motherhood. I realized how much I benefitted from living in community – having other women around during the day as you described, feeling connected to the work that others were doing that I could not participate in with your children, and feeling intellectually stimulated by all the speakers and visitors that came to our community (without me having to leave the neighborhood). My husband and I are now trying to start a similar community in Little Rock Arkansas. I deeply miss our community, but I believe communities are a gift to the cities they are in and that they model a different way, As you said, it’s very hard to creat community in this “doing” and emotionally draining season of life. I’m excited to share this article with others here to help them increase their awareness of what they are missing. Thank you so much for writing this.
Thank you so much!! Words can not express how much I needed to know that I am not the only one on the planet that feels this way!! I didn’t even realize that this is what has been wrong with me for the past year or so… I do have people around me but I feel completely alone. I am married with 2 daughters. Ages 14 & 9. I do work outside the home but am able to be here when my little one gets out of school. I have never been one to ask others to do things for me…even before becoming a mother. I am an only child of divorced parents but was never technically “alone”. I have/had AMAZING Grandparents…that adored me. My Grandmother passed away in August (she was 90) and my heart is shattered…. My frustrations with normal life are 100% worse because I feel like I can’t even have a minute to grief over losing this woman that I loved so much. I feel like my husband and kids have forgotten that this has happened and expect me to just still be who I was before. I don’t even know who I am right now. All I know is I feel ALONE.
This is happening even within families – we live RIGHT NEXT DOOR to my husband’s parents, and the kids hardly ever see them. They have stayed overnight at their grandparents’ ONE night in more than 9 years. While it helps a bit to know that other mothers feel like I do, I think it’s desperately sad that we don’t know how to fix this issue
Astonished to read this. This is so beautifully written and so so very sad. I am and have been feeling this way for quite some time but now that I’ve had my first baby, at her almost being six months I literally don’t care about anything else except creating this tribe at any cost, knowing that I NEED this tribe more than anything else. Of course it can never be as perfect or as natural as a tribe should have been, originally. But it will be better than being alone and isolated in a huge city, raising a little girl who cannot go out and play and is stuck in the confines of our four walls surrounding our home. I have very little savings, but I am determined and this year we have set a goal to go out to Asheville and buy a piece of land out there and build temporary yurts for now and eventually housing and HOPEFULLY find other families and people who want to join us on this land and in the surrounding areas. I hope to meet other families who also want to run away from the modernized and westernized way of living and live together, yet in separate houses but sharing land that our children can play upon together, forming somewhat of a community and sharing meals, weekends and other times together and growing close. I have SO many fears in doing this such as maybe I’ll never find anyone who wants to join me, maybe the land purchase will be a bad decision, maybe I’m wasting my time…. but I have to try. Because if I do not then there is no light at the end of my tunnel so I have to just jump and throw myself into this as I want the family I never had, the strange women who become my sisters, the strange men who become my brothers and to create a tribe and to be happy with collected lost people from all around the world. I hope that this works somehow and I’m not even more lonely upon my piece of land in the middle of nowhere as I am now on my piece of cement in this big city.
Thank you for writing this. Thank you for this.
Thank you for this wonderful piece of writing. As a single mum, with two teenagers and sole owner of a business I feel so encouraged by your words. Thank you.
Dear Beth, thank you for your writing on this topic. This evening, in Sydney, (Australia) the terrible discovery of a mother, father, two children and the family pet dead in their home has left people bewildered. It needn’t. We have one of the most judgmental cultures here, when it comes to women judging other women, instead of supporting each other. There’s too much pressure on all people to “put on a brave face”, instead of being able to relax and say how they really feel. There’s got to be more realistic help and attitudes if we want to stop this sort of tragedy occurring so often. Once is too much. There’s a wonderful book, “Between Parent and Child”, which helped so many people (including me). It just talks really simply about the feelings involved in being a parent, and a child. And actual helpful things to do and say. Both for yourself, and others’ feelings. Once we understand and accept all our feelings, life gets so much easier. Sometimes it’s ok to be human !!!
Thank you thank you thank you, dear one!
The growing epidemic of grandparent estrangement/alienation is a huge factor in the decline in the village way of life.
“…a recent study found that overall, parents in the U.S. report more conflict with their adult children than parents in other countries. The study compared the U.S. with Israel, Spain, Germany, and the U.K. and found that the relationship between adult children and their aging parents were the most “disharmonious” in the U.S.
A key reason for this is the highly individualistic nature of family relations in the U.S. While there are many cultural, economic, and institutional forces that organize family life, the primary determinant for whether family members remain close in the U.S. is based on how the relationship makes the individuals within those relationships feel.” ~Joshua Coleman, Ph.D.
This is so true. No one can do life alone. Humans are neurologically wired as social creatures and storytellers. So, you can see why religious communities filled these needs for so long, gathering the young and the old together, celebrating the seasons of life, passing on cultural knowledge and sharing stories that provided meaning and guidance. The trick is to find such a place that is filled with grace and love. May everyone find that place in a community of support whether it’s through a school or work or social network or family. In my case it is the Episcopal Church.
Thank you so so much for this. You’ve helped me make sense of the painful hole I’ve felt inside since moving to a new town when my son was eight weeks old, and another new town when he was three years old, even while experiencing total love and delight in my son. After reading your post, I no longer feel ashamed for being lonely for real connection, crazy for being anxious, guilty for spending money, or needy for asking too much of my husband. I have shared this with many other mothers, with my husband as well. Thank you again.
Thank you for including me as a tribe member you don’t know what this means to me I love you and your family and those two beautiful babies of yours you’re in awesome young lady and I’m so blessed to have found you or for your family to have found me thank you again question love Dana Tallman Payne
Thank you so much for writing this article! I read it twice and am crying now. I have been feeling these exact things this past year and fell into depression, but I haven’t been able to formulate exactly what it is I’m feeling or how to put it into words. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who feels this way.
I really enjoyed reading this. Thank you
This is what I’ve felt as a mother, but haven’t had the words to express. My first child was born and luckily my mother made it in time via air plane. She was there for the birth of our other children as well. I know, I”m lucky. But we moved to the other side of the country and I was learning to be a homemaker and raise children. Every evening was a challenge as I was learning to cook and trying to cook while entertaining two small boys. And then we moved back to the side of the country closer to family and yet still so far away and without a job. Then for a short time we were only an hour from family, but even then my nearly 70 year old mother was still working. We hardly saw family. I know the idea of the “village” is how it should be because I can feel it. For now, I live almost village-less (except on Sundays), but I will strengthen and start with our own little family.
I’m from that mother who struggled to keep her 3 boys in good company, out of trouble and fed. Without that community, she made choices that weren’t good for her and suffered. She had poor body images and let something go, that was to be the mistake that took her life at the age of 46. Cancer. We grew up without a mom and the dads had left so very long ago, we never knew them. I remember the silence afterwards, the deafening silence that replaced what family we had. She was brave living without that village…
I migrated to Australia from Ireland, had two children and then my partner and I separated. My partner was very aspirational, and as I’d come from a broken home myself I fell into the trap of thinking that was the “right way” to be, so due to Financial pressures I’d worked full time since my kids were young; Consequently the opportunity to establish support networks was far more limited than I would have liked, we had dinner party’s with other overstretched unhappy couples. Than he had an affair with a younger woman that worked for him and left to”escape responsibility”, promptly remarrying and having another child and a mortgage. I was then faced with the true cost of migrating, working etc. On one hand it at least allowed me the finances to get a home for my kids and I, but on the other I was so isolated and as my ex was so wrapped up in his new relationship everything was left to me. all the relentless issues of parenting, bill, repairs compounded by having to deal with disappointments about Dad cancelling or not having time for them at all. In the end I felt I had no choice but to go even more rapidly backwards financially, take some time out to regroup and retrain. Try to cobble together a village of my own through new more meaningful connections. I was able to be there to support a dear friend while she was dying, I’m available to my kids and I’m ever grateful for that. Their Dad has become less counter productive and takes them on holidays etc now, which is much nicer for them. On the downside I’ve had to sacrifice financial security, pension contributions, sick leave etc. Women are in very precarious positions. If you’re left alone to look after kids without a proper support network your career and or your mental health will be put under enormous strain. This is one of the main reasons homelessness for older women is rising at an alarming rate. Women are forced to throw everything into surviving their kids childhood and dependent years, than left to scrounge an existence afterwards. The village support network was critical for relieving strain on relationships and single parents, supporting each other practically and often financially. I was fortunate that I could retrain and use my life experience to help others, but I still have an uphill battle to regain some form of security and the clock is ticking fast.
Absolutely spot on. And it’s even harder if you are an expat living abroad in a place where you can’t even speak the language properly. I’ve been living away from my home for almost ten years, and at first all the travelling was fun. But now that I’m a mother, I really feel the gaping, vacant hole that community, and family, and common history, are supposed to fill. And I’m not sure if or when I will ever get that back.
Yes! This is something I’ve felt bit never known what it really was or how to articulate it. I feel it deeply. Thank you.
I’m so glad I read your story. I’ve just crawled into bed at 11.30pm to have some me time, but I have my 7 year old in bed with me. My other son who is 12 is doing whatever in his bedroom and they are still on iPads. The good news is tomorrow we go on holidays to Cape Tribulation in North Qld. No wi-fi, phones and and only one TV at the resort. I pray this environment will give us a chance to bond as a family. I’m in recovery from alcoholism and that on top of being a single parent with no family help, never mind a village can be way too much at times.
Thanks for inspiring me to face another day
Thank you for this story of the realities of being a single parent in our times. I was the oldest boy of 5 children. My heart would ache as I saw my mother struggle to raise us with little, if any, family support.
I will bookmark and share this story with everyone I can. We are all a part of our community and we all should take this story to heart!
Beautiful!!! I am european and always felt like I wanted to live in a commune or multi-generational house at the very least. My university friends laughed at me, and still do, but I always saw the value and richness of the ‘village’. Funny, to try and relate it to them I used to say our future together is on Knotts Landing, and now they finally get it!! Well, we live in a neighbourhood where the houses are affordable (at least they used to be) and where many of us moms could stay home to raise our children. Our dead end street is my first village, several families that are engaged and willing to help one another, then there’s the university village, where the support is only a call away, and finally there is the ‘motherhood’ village (MumNet.ca) created 25 years ago by some other mothers who knew they needed to stay connected, which still thrives today. Beth, you’ve laid it out so beautifully in your piece here, I love the support you provide in your text, thank you for sharing.
Thank you, Thank you, Thank you. I reallly needed to read this. I validates so much of what Im feeling is expected and normal. I once had a village but have recently relocated and now have no village and in a city ” Sydney” where there are no vacancy for new recruits in a their village. Ive done a number of the practicle things, helping out at my kids school, joined the kids into clubs but no traction yet. Your article has inspired me to create my own villlage one that will encompass emapthy and understanding of relocating and there never be a “no vacancy” for as long as we are like minded. Thank you again 🙂
That’s how we live in the Basque Country, village life. I wouldn’t change it for anything.
For me having raised two sons alone, I was more frustrated with the power struggles other women are on, trying to prove how capable they are. The pettiness, backstabbing and cruel comments to make themselves look together. That would keep me from even wanting to be in a tribe.
The village went away because modern parenting drove it way. “It takes a village” only seems to be useful when parents are actively asking for help. Unfortunately, it’s been met with the attitude of “That’s my child! I’m the parent. Stay away and let me parent MY way. You know nothing about my life.” Is it any wonder the village stopped trying?
Yes to this! I am crying reading you right now. I have a very loving and supportive husband who does everything in the house ( cleaning, washing, nurturing)and I have a beautiful community of friends helping us in our Homeschooling journey. I take time to nurture myself weekly…we need to be there for each other and create a support network. I believe most of us do not know where to start because it is so very humbling to ask for help and for others to accept support. Thank you for writing this.
I was lucky when i was raised. ( in the 50’s)and when I raised my kids in the late 70’sand 80’s. There was a village. Now,as a grandma myself. I long to be part of that village. Unfortunately they live 600 miles away. But God willing, Maybe life will find me closer. Thanks for writing this. Very interesting
We are also missing the importance of elders…mothers who pass down not only the cookbook but the nuturing and communal way family takes care of one another. We have lost so many important familial and historical treasures. Wonderfully written thank you
Thank you for this article. I was actually looking for an article like this and here it was – today – June 20, 2017. I feel alone with no support most of the time. This s part of the reason we took so long to have the first kid and the second was heavily contemplated – but he’s hear! I am the proud mummy of 2 boys but help would be nice. I have to look at the neighbours on the street who’s parents show up with groceries food. Come to tend the lawn. Play with the kids outside or in park. Then they jump in their vehicles and leave and return in a couple of days. I am jealous, angry and dissappointed all at the same time. Sometimes I cry to myself – sometimes it’s just too much. My house needs organizing, cleaning in some areas. I don’t have the time. My second boy is a bit of a handful so the place is a mess as I don’t have the time to clean as I would like. Well for me. I like things in order and this is way out of order which is depressing sometimes for me. And I don’t have the money to hire someone. My husband and I are strong. We will get through this part of our lives. We knew it would be like this. I didn’t anticipate how hard. Especially emotionally. No village here. Need to find a village for my family. However I find most with villages don’t want new neighbours 🙂 Thank again for writing this article. I think this should be at the very least a Facebook group where we can write and support each other!
My husband died 3 yrs ago at 38..our son is now 7.. we have no village esp family… my mom is gone and i have a brother in cali who met his nephew once at funeral and rest of my family is toxic..my husbamd fathet passed away 2006 amd since myy husbamds death she has pretty much checked out of life.. has become like a hermit. And the only time she sees her grandson is if i take him there she puts no effort into life at all and then she proceeds to compare my son to his dad all the time and i dont even think she sees Colton as his own person. She wants him to be Shawn (her son) she even once told me i was brainwashing him because he wasnt like his dad..and my husbands sister lives 1 hr away and comes down once a month or so to see their mom and thats the only time we see her or my nephew whos 10…after my husband died we moved and i went thru all my husbands stuff by myself and packed whole house by myself.. his sister came once because she wanted stuff amd she has offered no help with my son or anything since that time.. but she has ni problem teying ti parent hin when we see her and try to make him act how she thinks he should… and also criticize and question .most if my decisions so to me.they are toxic as well and i keep my distance.. and his godparents never cone around..so it has been mainley just us because there have been very few consistent people in his life .. it seems when i do ask for help friends are rarely available so i dont ask much
Any relevance for men or fathers in this conversation. The more they are ignored and excluded the lonlier the village will feel i suspect.
What a beautiful space you’ve created here, Beth, with beautiful writing! I read this post about a year ago and thought about it lots over the past six months, while we were hosting an au pair for our daughter. It often occurred to me that we had effectively (if only temporarily) expanded our family, and it made all the difference. I’ve written about our experience and mentioned this post, if you’re interested: https://www.strawbaletales.com/single-post/2017/07/12/Hire-an-Au-Pair-Expand-your-Village. I look forward to reading more from you…
This is a wonderful article. The revival of the ” village” is a deeply needed feature for ours society. One thing though does come to mind: It is my belief that in many cases the village void has been filled by the joining of religious communities.I wonder if the pull of joining a community is not even greater than the religious creeds they promulgate. That is fine as religious communities do much great work and are very supportive. They do have on fatal trap, very evident in the United States today. They too often become virulently tribal. standing staunchly AGAINST other tribes as other religions, other cultures,other nationalities, other races and other political values. The tribalism in the U.S. has become so destructive that we have descended into a administration that screams tribalism at every opportunity. What we need is to rebuild true village communities that understand d themselves to be concentric and symbiotic with ever larger communities extending from village to region, to state, to country, to world,to all humanity,to all creatures, and to the planet herself. we must learn from our own bodies.. a small group of cells can become a cancer, but when they are loving members of a community of an organ,and those organs are mutually supportive members of the body.. there is health❤️
I totally can relate to everything you stated here. It is unnatural. I faced a lot of this becoming a mother. We live with my parents now and it is so much better. It is incredibly lonely at times when it’s just mama and child even though we love them to pieces. Mine is 3 and every day I realize more and more that my experiences are so common, but not many talk about them.
Thank you for your wonderful article!
Well articulated phenomena … thank you for this for your heart open writing, and ideas on self-care and village-making in the modern world.
We share the common longing for the Village. It seems as we become more digital, we are all longing for something genuine and authentic. Even children long for the joys shared in the village. I was inspired to write a series for kids to bring them back to a time simplicty, to know your neighnor, and having a friend that lasts a lifetime. The series is called My Little Red Adventure Books. If you have kids under ten, I’d love to send you a book.
What a positive reinforcing and inspiring article Beth! I grew up within a close community in WI surrounded by a very large extended family, it was rare that our home only contained us four and I have wonderful memories of growing up. When I had my first child at only 20 and as a single mother, I found myself surrounded by helping nonjudgmental supportive hands. At 30 after meeting my British husband I moved to a very small village in the UK in hopes I would be able to raise my 2nd child within a tight knit community that was still very ‘old school’. What I found initially was exactly that, as new outsiders I found the barriers were easy to break down amongst the adults (although initially daunting) and we were quickly absorbed as positive respected part of their community.
But the reality of what I’ve experienced is very different from what my son has experienced. I’ve found that the next generation although raised amongst us all, doesn’t have the appreciation or respect for us ‘new outsiders’… and as such my son has experienced constant bullying and torment for the last 10 years. My heart is sad that he cannot play outside in the fields and trails with the other kids without my own fear of knowing what is enevitable… a crying 13-year old walking back into our home that feels so alone but yet still desperate to have them accept him into their young community… I have tried to pursevere in hopes that longer we were here and the older they got, the closer they would all become. But so far, nothing… and my biggest disappointment is that the older parents and elderly in the community seem to have given up trying. I am saddened and exhausted.
But your article has renewed my hope that it may be as simple as reaching out to them and simply asking for their help.
Well, there are a few “villages” out there. There are many intentional communities that are doing a pretty good job at addressing this http://www.ic.org. I live at Twin Oaks Community, a 50 year old, income sharing, secular intentional community in central Virginia http://www.twinoaks.org, and the way we care for both children and the elderly is pretty amazing. But point well taken! Examples are few and far between. This does feel foundational to creating a peaceful and sustainable culture.
This is a great article with well-stated truths. I’m really not trying to be a jerk about this, but the whole thing resonates and I’m tracking going yes, yes, yes. Until the end, when the author offers to sell me support… that, as she so poignantly states in her blog, used to be free for the asking in well-functioning communities.
Yes, we all have to earn a living. Yes, this still smacks of profit before people. Even for those who can afford to pay for it, it just still feels like something that shouldn’t be for sale.
A truly great article! It should be read by as many as possible. Our society has lost something of late and I believe this article nails it. Well done!
I wish I had read this many years ago, Thank You
Hi, I’m starting a blog and one of my posts touches on this subject A LOT. I was hoping it would be alright to link this post for my readers to come check out. I’m a baby in this world. It will only be my second post. Let me know if its alright to share! -Ashton
Thank you for this post. Ever since I had children (10 years ago tomorrow), I have had a deep longing and ache in my heart to be in a village. The sense of isolation and overwhelm I feel from raising and unschooling my three boys (now 6,8 and 10) has been more challenging than I had ever imagined. I have been seeking a village of families since I became a mother, and although I have not yet found it, am not giving up. We are not meant to live in isolation as mothers, and it feels so good to read that there are others with a similar feeling. We need to come together and support one another, and go back to the ancient ways of motherhood. It’s in our bones. This is my prayer, for my family and all the families out there that feel the same way.
Beth, thanks a lot for the article, it encourages to make changes in my life as a mom ))
Beth, I’ve sent you the letter with request for permission to translate the article into Russian, maybe the letter has been lost.
I’m volunteer translator of Hug Elephant blog (https://t.me/hugelephant), where we make 1 post a day about mindfulness in parenting.
This blog is free from advertising and has several channels of distribution: Facebook page, Vk page (Russian social network), Telegram messenger (which is also popular here) and WordPress blog – about 9k readers in total.
One of the project goals is to spread high-quality content translated from English to Russian. I think that your article could bring inspiration to Russian speaking moms! Can we translate your article into Russian with information about you as the author and link to the original text?
My friend from California just shared this article, published in *Motherly,* and it brought tears of recognition to my eyes for what I experience living cross-country from my big wonderfully tightly-knit, multi-generational village of family and old friends (on my side, almost all on the West Coast of the U.S. and, on my husband’s side, almost all on the East Coast . . . of Mozambique, Africa). Out here in the American South, as an international and interracial family of three, we are trying to rebuild what we left behind when we moved for my husband’s new job, and I confess that I often feel older than my 42 years trying to figure out the secret handshake for making new friends that would help heal the grief of leaving my support system behind and, more importantly, provide a sense of mutual community for our children to grow up together, able to love and trust and depend on a whole village of peers and youngsters and elders versus my son getting all of his needs met by two tired and overextended people. You’ve defined the problem so beautifully and empowered me to think of the deep loneliness that I feel, not as a shameful secret or an ungrateful outlook, but as necessary fuel to make a change, to reach out more versus curling inwards (except for when I need to go inwards for self care).
So, I wanted to find this author to thank her for this article, and then I realized that you are my former student’s mother! I remembered E.B. saying that you and I were just alike, which was probably too generous of a comparison, but came from such a wise, intuitive, and kind fifth grader–and now, young woman–that you are raising! What a wonderful coincidence that your article circled the globe to my old hometown before finding me back (presumably) in the city where you wrote it. Thank you again! I send my love to E. and the whole family!
Wow. My heart aches. I wasn’t quite sure why, although I suspected village was something to do with it. Your writing soothed my soul knowing it’s not “me”. I thought I was inadequate beyond comprehension. Perhaps I’m not. Perhaps I’m just suffering from trying to compensate for the village. That gives me a little relief. Thank you. xxx
I just saw this and it helped me take a deep breath for the first time in years. It is so true, it speaks to me so much. I homeschool my kids, ages 11, 8, 4, and not quite 2. We are a military family and move every 12-24 months. Between homeschool and finding a new home all the time, I find I do not have the energy to make deeply authentic friendships like I would like, the ones I need, everywhere we go. I do my best, and I encourage my children’s friendships. I often have extra kids over at my house, and I work to integrate us into the community as quickly as possible once we get moved in. (our kids were in a wilderness day camp less than two weeks after our last move) Just realizing, remembering, understanding that the HARD I deal with every day is not my failure but a result of circumstance is so helpful. My one caveat with the “village” is remembering the small town in which I was raised, where there was indeed a village, but if you made a mistake in 3rd grade, it was remembered in collective memory for your whole life, and where you needed to stay on the side of what everyone thought you ought to do if you wanted to remain in good standing with the “village”. Sometimes the closeness cuts both ways. I know there is a middle ground, and military spouses are among the best I know at creating a village from scratch everywhere they go, but it is hard. No doubt about it. This is a wonderful article. I hope you have a book grow out of this, I know many of us could really benefit from it. Wishing you every blessing in the new year. Namaste.
Your article holds a good message overall but I do not share this ‘it takes a village’ as it was in the past. I can look back to my grandmothers life and the raising of her children…I have never been witness to this village concept.
Perhaps what you have experienced was more of a location thing. I do feel that mothers are overwhelmed but I don’t believe it’s because we lack the village. I beleive it’s the 2 parents having to work and then mom also doing the
majority of house and child rearing duties, in addition to. Back in my grandmothers day, the mother was home, raising the children.
not all people are sociable. I could never see myself wanting to be part of a larger group of women to help with child rearing etc. it’s not in everyone’s bones.
You do idolize a village. Why? From my experience; I do live in a village. And this is what I do have to cope with; unkindness,gossiping,being taken advantege of (nobody would feel to reciprocate any kindness but all will use you asif it was freely granted tor them for all time). And I tell you, you missed the point; it’s not about a village it is about people’s attitudes and good will. I di plan to move out of the village and hope to organize support group of kind and and more empathic people. We changed as people and become more egoistic and more material and greedy.
Excellent article, we have a very broken family, glimmers of love and hope but many many broken parts. My daughters yearn to develop a village of our own to thrive, support each other, cry, love, live. #someday
Yes!! This! You word it so well as I have felt the same sentiments. A lot of the struggle comes from our culture. In the u.s. at least, we mostly operate out of the nuclear family structure. Our immediate family is our world and we are independent of the families around us. I hate that. In most of Asia and parts of Europe at least, the family is linked with the community and there is much more helping one another out as they tend to think more collectively than individually. I’d say the only place in the u.s. where i’ve Seen that more is in some of the hawaiian islands as the hawaiian/islander lifestyle is much more along that structure.
What about when the people around you are already content their existing villages? How do I persuade the people I want in my village to Want to be in my village? I’ve yet to meet people who are at least accepting applications for other people to join theirs. They move through their lives which already has an abundance of people, activity, expectations, not at all concerned or compelled to reach out to others who don’t have those structures in place. I want to join an existing tribe. It’s impossible to try to create my own.
I totally agree that parenthood (in particular motherhood) is not valued in today’s society. It is sad to not value how important and all-encompassing it can be to raise a child, and caregiving in general is so derided nowadays. Get it wrong and society pays for it, get it right and it’s seen as ‘easy’ and invisible despite the transcendent benefits…However, I disagree with your other article blaming this on “the patriarchy”; western mothers have never been more encouraged to pursue a career and are discouraged from staying at home. I wish society would acknowledge that paid work, voluntary work and caregiving can all have intrinsic value at different points in a person’s life, but that’s not what we’ve been brainwashed to believe. If caregiving were valued at a governmental level people wouldn’t be so desperate for support. Their focus is on making sure people pay taxes and rely on the state, not the family.
sorry if this is a repeat, but in trauma expert Bruce Perry’s new book “Born for Love”, he talks about how there used to be 5 adult caregivers for every child. the ratio is way off today. it’s so great that scientists are talking about this. anyone who loves this article, there’s a lot more information in “Born for Love” about how crucial it is for children’s psychology and the development of empathy that they grow up experiencing this sense of a village or community. it’s so hard to figure out how to make it happen, but obviously with the trajectory of society at present, it’s not going to happen to us, we have to seek it out (which, yes, is exhausting).
This is a beautifully written, poingnant piece and I thank you for writing it.
Something strikes me about what you consider normal and essential. Parenthood is a choice. This “village” you feel entitled to surely did not exist when you made that choice. I believe adults should be accountable for their choices and own them and indeed be solely responsible for the consequences. I also believe with the way the world is, bringing more mouths to feed and stressing the demands on an already stressed planet is hardly something to be sanctified. The future would absolutely be 100% fine without the continuation of your gene pool.
The way you speak your cousins and only what they could do for you and your children speaks volumes to me. Motherhood is a choice. Your choice. Your responsibility. Period.
Let’s change “foremothers” to “women”. We as a group indeed have much to be proud of and still have a long way to go. Why not focus on helping each other? We fought and still fight for equality. Daily, hourly, with our every action even. I am proud and thankful to be the beneficiary of the hard won rights of those brave women.
Elevating and blatantly stating that motherhood is a woman’s most worthy role does our aex much harm. You only seem to consider other roles in how they benefit mothers. Please try to expand your mind and consider that there are other worthy goals. Some may even say more worthy.
I am not a mother. I was ambivalent for a long time before making the choice and the actions required not to be. I will not provide any further details about what I have done with my life because this is not about comparing the worthiness of specific women’s life choices.
I will however tell you how I am in fact part of this “village” while given no choice in the matter. I am still penalizes in the workplace suffering with lower wages because legal or not employers still consider the the potential loss of productivity due to a pregnancy. I pay higher taxes and use much less resources than families do. In fact, my property taxes pay for schools. I pay higher insurance premiums. Most plans only have 3 choices – single, couple, family. Families with 10 children pay the same as ones with 1 child. Who’s subsidizing who here?
Social pressure to not say anything about a child behaving inappropriately in an inappropriate venue is strong. Oh the migraines orher people’s children have given me.
Despite what you think nonmothers do look out for children. Amy decent person would be extremely careful driving in a parking lot with unsupervised children around. If you are walking slowly and taking up too much room because junior is just learning, I’d do my best ro not bump into you. I’d hold the door.if your arms are full as I’m would for anyone. All of that is being a good member of society and really everyone, mother or not, needs and deserves respect and kindness.
So, my point, finally, is that you seem to be disregarding the good many benefits you still receive from this “village” and you seem to believe that only mothers suffer and need care and respect. You are wrong and I find your assertions highly offensive.
Random Stranger, ignored and unappreciated.
This is the most important, relevant piece I’ve read in as long as I can remember. You have fully and perfectly articulated my experience as a working mother with no village. I hope I can find the strength to do my part to make the changes you’ve written about – for myself, my family, and other women and families. Change is so long overdue.
Thank you for articulating this so well. I’ve been working through these thoughts, but reading your piece helps put the puzzle together. And thank you for the reminder that even though I often feel like the problem is ME, it’s most definitely not. Society has individualized so many things, and the burden to perform and be perfect is one of them. I think that’s why we have so much anxiety and depression in general… We have so much toxicity in our systems, yet everyone puts the blame on themselves. As a society we cannot hold each other’s hurt and imperfections, so we say it’s their problem instead of our collective problem.
I have a vision For actual village on the ground that I have been writing about for 5 years now… it has grown and expanded since I first began writing about it but basically it is a village like the ones in England or France but the difference is there is no middle man to pay rent to. In other words, the village thrives because of its people rather than giving money to a landlord to maintain everything.
I am calling it “Mother Lands”. As the lands will return to the Mother (earth) and her children (humanity) rather than be “Lorded over”.
It consists of a Foundation and a network of villages.
Each village is a collection of nonprofits and businesses where businesses pay for (support) the nonprofits.
The nonprofits are specifically:
Whole education that serves the child’s innate intelligence and natural gifts
And whole health (physical, emotional, mental, spiritual)
The foundation is meant to raise funds to build the first one then once it takes off,
The income the first village makes goes to the whole village and a percentage goes back to the foundation to build more villages, making the whole “Mother Lands” concept its own investor and philanthropist.
It’s the difference between wealth and prosperity. The village is wealth that serves the whole rather than the whole serving wealth. Money is only energy as long as it is moving… The Mother Lands design is prosperous because no one single person is hanging onto money. The whole village acts as one entity so everyone is supported, mothers, children, young and old.
Your writing made me feel understood and not alone in my experiences. I related to what you said about the village and how it can make us feel like we have to overcompensate for what we lack. Thank you for sharing your story and giving me a sense of relief that I’m not the only one going through this.
Thank you so much for this wonderful article, I never thought someone feels the same way.