“It takes a village to raise a child.” We’ve all heard this proverb and find the sentiment to be heartening — that we’re not in it alone, that we need others to help us and help our children to navigate the growing-up years, and to develop their true potential. Parenting is hard, and it can be very isolating. We all want to have it all together, and for the world to think that we have it together. But sometimes, we just don’t. And that’s when we need to rely on our village.
Your parenting village can be made up of almost anyone. Your spouse, partner, or co-parent may seem like an obvious village member, but really, your village is much wider than your own immediate family members. Think of your village as a series of concentric circles, with you and your child — and your immediate family — in the centre circle. Who would be in the next circle? Perhaps grandparents, aunties and uncles, loving family friends, and others who are a big part of your child’s life occupy this space. Or friends, other close mums from your coffee group, neighbours, or parents from your child’s class who rely on one another.
Next might come teachers, caregivers, the person who runs your schoolkid’s after-school programme, the person who is in charge of the music group you take your toddler to. The next ring might contain your local Plunket nurse, GP, or other healthcare professionals you see quite a bit when you have small children. You may have a circle with members of your church or a community organisation you spend a lot of time with. Parents of children with unique needs will undoubtedly have a section of their village containing specialists, therapists, community nurses, and possibly even the kind receptionist at the medical clinic where you spend an awful lot of time.
If you live remotely, or you are far from your family, your parenting village may not look like that of others. You may have a circle with online support groups, message boards, blogs, or social media pages where you can reach out for advice or even just lurk and learn. Some of your circle might only be reachable via phone, video call, or email. You might not even know some of your village members in person. That’s the beauty of the modern parenting village which makes it so different from the one our own parents relied on. We don’t have to wait for the sun to rise to lean over the back fence and ask our neighbour for their help — we can go online and find it in a few seconds, even in the middle of the night. (Especially in the middle of the night!)
Who’s in your parenting village? I know sometimes you can feel like you’re alone and doing it tough, and it can be the hardest thing in the world to ask for help. But it can also be an incredible relief to reach out and tell someone you’re having a hard time, and ask whether they might have any help to offer you. And if they don’t, that’s okay — there will be someone else. You have to keep asking, and keep reaching out. Because it takes a village to raise a child, and we all need that village from time to time.