In my years of working with hundreds of mothers, I’ve seen many tragic patterns, realities, and commonalities. One pattern that breaks my heart on the regular is the tendency for mothers to make sense of their needs based on our hyper-individualistic conditioning.
We live in a society that glorifies fierce individualism, so of course this is the lens through which most of us see the world (and ourselves within it).
But we’re made for village life. We’re wired for community care. So, trying to make sense of our unmet needs without considering our villagelessness is like a fish washed up on the beach trying to describe its struggles without considering that it’s out of the water.
“I can’t breathe,” it says.
“The sun’s too hot,” it says.
“I feel like I’m dying,” it finally admits in defeat.
Now imagine that this fish has been conditioned his whole life not to see water as essential to its wellness and survival. Instead, it’s taught to default to the thought, “What’s wrong with me?” every time it’s struggling. And imagine that since it hatched from its egg, it’s been brainwashed into thinking that all the other fish on the beach (who, for obvious reasons, feel just beyond reach) are doing great!, and that it simply needs to commit more fully to its breathwork practices and buy better skincare products and then it will feel good and be okay like everyone else.
We can see clearly that no fish can thrive outside its natural habitat, yet we assume there’s something wrong with us when we struggle outside our natural habitat. No one around us is naming this most fundamental unmet set of needs, so we continue defaulting to “how can I get better at being a beached fish?” And even when we finally see and admit we’re fish out of water, we have no idea how to get back in.
“The village,” or any such semblance of our natural habitat, feels completely inaccessible.
So we buy better sunscreen and flip over more often and look forward to cloud cover for a bit of relief. We shop, we organize, we focus on efficiency and productivity and we read more books about how to be good beached fish because community care, regular, competent support, emotional intimacy, mentorship, elders, and sisterhood simply don’t feel within reach.
As a whole, we can hardly afford to admit to ourselves just how many of our needs depend on community care because we don’t have that community, and the grief and discouragement that come with this admittance feel too crippling to allow in and create space for. And it’s a downward spiral from here given that our villageless lives result in us rarely getting time away from our children and responsibilities long enough to grieve (much less grieve collectively).
A MotherWorthy participant recently shared a short story that beautifully and tragically illuminates the longing so many mothers I talk with feel on some level every damn day:
“I volunteer at a food cupboard once a week and while I was stocking meat in a freezer I got a cut on my forearm from one of the shelves. An older woman on the team, who is my mother’s age, silently went and got ointment and a bandaid for me from the first aid kit & I nearly cried from the simple kindness/caretaking that I hadn’t realized I was starving for!”
This simple act brought tears to her eyes, not because it was an exceptionally grand act of kindness, but simply because someone noticed her need and responded. Someone took caring, competent action without her having to seek out and ask for support, know where the first-aid kit was kept, or school someone on basic wound care in her moment of need.
The need for others to track our needs and wellness, just as we, as mothers, track the needs and wellness of those we love, is just one example of the community-dependent needs it feels too vulnerable to admit to having.
Naming the unmet needs we have that can only be met in relationship with others is about as vulnerable as it gets. It forces us to admit that we can’t do it all ourselves (as we’ve been conditioned to think), that interdependence is essential to our thriving, and that we don’t know how to get back in the “water.”
But I believe this admittance is an essential piece of the puzzle for those of us here to grow, heal, and co-create a more beautiful world.
Here’s a good starting place for those of us looking to create change in this realm:
Resist the shiny temptation to limit your assessment of your needs to those that require only what you can provide for yourself (which is what we’re conditioned by the powers that be, to do). Allow grief to fill your village voids. Getting honest and grieving what we need but don’t (yet) have, is ultimately a healthier and less harmful path forward than the denial of our deepest desires, unmet needs, and inherent interdependence.
The fact that society isn’t set up for meeting our needs doesn’t mean we’re not worthy of having them met. It means we have work to do in order to lay the foundation for continued change and evolution, so that we might experience more joy and more beautiful connection in our lifetime, and so that our children might reach back and grab a burning torch from us and keep running with it. Revillaging is generational healing work, just as much as it is personal healing work. Our generation has a unique part to play in our collective healing and evolution.
Grieving and slowly building alongside you,
*Want to learn more? Join me next Thursday, February 2 (1-2pm EST/10-11am PST) for my FREE, live, one-hour webinar, “How to Build Your Village as an Overwhelmed Mom,” which breaks down the question I’m asked the most: “But how do we get/find/create the ‘village’ we long for?” Click HERE to reserve your free spot (and yes, there will be a webinar replay for those who can’t make it live) 🙂