“It takes a village to raise a child” - African proverb
This African wisdom still holds true after generations. In the past, living in tight-knit communities was just how things were done. Since the dawn of mankind, people shared resources, looked out for each other, and learned from one another.
"It takes a village to raise a child" - that African proverb has held its wisdom for generations. Once upon a time, living in tight-knit communities was just how things were done. People shared resources, looked out for each other, and learned from one another. But in the modern age, our sense of community has shifted. The days of extended families living under one roof have given way to the allure of the nuclear family. Yet, the essence of that village still rings true.
We've lost something along the way. That village, which was once our safety net and source of collective knowledge, has slipped through our fingers. We need it to raise our kids in a way that's nurturing, imaginative, and secure, without burning ourselves out.
Community is a lifeline; it nurtures us inside and out. Being part of a village has countless perks, from simple acts like swapping meals and seeking advice from our elders to larger benefits like having a trusted friend watch over our little ones. Conversely, families adrift without a true community miss out on opportunities that shape us, expose us to different perspectives, and help us navigate the world.
In the end, many of us parents feel stranded, grappling with the belief that we're the only ones facing our challenges. We think, "No one else could possibly understand." Our emotions and experiences often go unvalidated, and loneliness becomes our daily companion.
How can we create or begin our village?
A great starting point is to look around our immediate surroundings and bring in our family and friends. You'd be surprised – they're often eager to lend support, even on a regular basis. They want to be active participants in our lives and the lives of our children, rather than mere observers.
For exchanging experiences among parents with babies/children of the same age, childbirth preparation courses, pre- and postnatal fitness or yoga groups, parenting groups, postpartum recovery classes, and activities with children, like Prague Parent-Child program sessions offer good opportunities to connect with other parents.
Expressing the desire to connect within these groups can work wonders. It's here that experiences are shared – feelings, troubles, questions, and the latest nuggets of parenting wisdom. And it feels incredibly reassuring.
Of course, your midwife, pediatrician, osteopath or babysitter can also be part of your village - make sure to find people you trust and with whom you feel comfortable.
That's the nice thing about OUR village: WE are allowed to invite people to be a part of it. :)
I felt the need to write a letter to my “village” to start a dialogue and open up. Feel free to read!
A Letter to the Village
Even though we may have never said it before or even thought about it, and certainly could not have anticipated what it would be like when we became parents, one thing is certain: we need you now more than ever. Even though we swore that everything would remain the same, it feels like nothing is as it once was.
Give us time to navigate our new situation. Support us, and our connection will continue to grow even under these new circumstances. When you share your experiences, don't be disappointed if we choose our own path. Your knowledge and openness are important guides for us.
If we decline help, remind us that it's okay to accept it and that we don't have to carry everything on our own. We tend to shoulder the burden quickly, and sometimes even an additional thought is too exhausting.
If we look tired, don't mention it. We know it. We feel it. A hot cup of coffee or an offer to take the baby for a walk so we can rest means so much more.
If you see us struggling, looking strained, or feeling desperate, stay with us. Leave all judgment aside, as we are already being hard on ourselves. Say to us:
- It will get better.
- It's just a phase.
- It will be different soon.
- You're doing great.
- We are here.
When we make mistakes, let's laugh about them together. Or cry. With you by our side, we feel safe and find the strength to keep going.
If you don't hear from us, don't get upset. Maybe our batteries are depleted. Ask about us. We appreciate your messages. We'll respond at impossible times when the baby is asleep, but we're wide awake in bed. Promise.
Tell us how sweet our child is. How beautiful the bond between us and our baby is. Being seen by you means a lot to us.
When we make decisions, support us, whether you can understand them or not. Trust us; we've considered all the options and sacrificed a few hours of sleep for sure.
If we have to cancel last minute, please know we're truly sorry. How we'd love to occasionally hand over this great new responsibility just to spend time with our loved ones.
Share your lives with us, even when we forget to ask. We're interested in how you're doing, and you matter to us, even when "Mental Load" and "Baby Brain" are currently distracting us.
Connect with our children. We can't imagine anything more beautiful for them than being influenced by wonderful people like you. Share with them what you've learned about life. Learn new things together with us.
Let's play, feel, argue, love, discover the world, create memories, live life as a village. Be present, stay connected, don't leave us alone.
Let us be together.
With love and gratitude,
The new parents in your village