Deep in my soul I yearn for friends. Real friends.
Ones that I see often, that check in on me, that I check in on, and that want to share life with me but understand that seasons of life can dictate my own involvement in their life and vice versa.
I long for a village.
The kind that helps raise my children like the very true and popular saying. But I have lived in my current residence for 4 years and have never found a truly tight-knit community to be a part of. Then after having kids I realized that the parenting village is somewhat of a romantic idea that doesn’t exist for everyone. And I think this is becoming more of a problem for more women as the social media interactions take the place of real-life connections.
Don’t get me wrong. I love social media and the power it has to connect people.
And don’t get me wrong in that I have no friends or that the internet has no place because some of the most meaningful connections I have are online with other bloggers (some I have never even met in real life).
In the end, what I am looking for is a true village. One with children of all ages, those that are married, the elderly, and the young. I am looking for the village that embraces newlyweds, rallies around struggling marriages, supports families of all sizes, prays for both the trivial and life-changing, and helps raise and watch children like they are their own.
Identifying the need for a village to raise children
- When the parenting village doesn’t exist, moms and dads everywhere are, exhausted, confused, burnt out, and just want to find someone who can relate to their current situation.
- When the parenting village doesn’t exist, it’s easy to point out the flaws and failures in other mothers rather than lift them up.
- When the parenting village doesn’t exist, we seem to turn more inwards rather than reach outward for help.
- When the parenting village doesn’t exist, there is no one to turn to for a babysitter, making maintaining that connection in marriage more difficult.
- When the parenting village doesn’t exist, our children are robbed of the opportunity to connect with children of all ages.
- When the parenting village doesn’t exist, our struggles seem one sided, larger than life, and unmanageable.
- When the parenting village doesn’t exist, mothers are left in a world of sanctimommies, judgment, and little idea of how to navigate the new and muddled waters of parenthood.
But why has community & a “village” become a lost art?
I can’t answer that. I really can’t. It seems like something that as the human race we would clutch onto for our very sanity.
Motherhood is hard enough without feeling lonely. There are days when I rejoice for the opportunity to go to a midwife appoint, chiropractic adjustment, or the grocery store just for the ability to be able to talk to someone else and hear about life outside of these four walls. And sometimes I feel like not having a community of village makes me live in a perpetual state of determined anxiety. For instance, the impending arrival of a second child has me frantically trying to get freezer meals cooked, the house in order for my husband’s “ease of use”, and a list of low-maintenance games and activities ready that I can go to for my older daughter since I know my husband will return to work fairly shortly after my delivery.
Aren’t we all dying to connect in meaningful relationships with others?
Living in a world where the individual is glorified over the community means that the village truly is a dying concept for far too many families. As parents, we just can’t do it all or know it all, but for some reason it’s expected that moms can at least have the do-all attitude, even if they are imperfect.
In the end, I firmly believe that our lack of deep and committed relationships with friends and community is what makes parenting more difficult that it has to be. I don’t think that the blogosphere is full of moms complaining. I think it’s full of mothers crying out for help and community.
While I don’t have answers, I maintain hope. I want to find women and families that can be my community. One where I can pour into the lives of others and bless them so that they know their struggles are real no matter how big or small, and that they are not alone.
Edited to add: This was written in 2014. There have been ebbs and flows in our life, including a cross-country move with out family and even a global health crisis. I have seen this play out over and over again in our own lives but also in those around us, with countless families leaving the Boston area to return closer to family to help.
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Kara is an author and advocate for positive, grace-filled parenting. She is homeschooler to her 5 children living on a farm in New England. She believes in creative educational approaches to help kids dive deeper into a rich learning experience and has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development. She is passionate about connecting with and helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!
Anne at Left Brain Craft Brain
I hear you! Finding my people as a parent has been a big challenge. It’s easy to meet friends in school, but when adulthood hits, it’s so much harder. I’ve worked hard at it and am lucky enough to say I’ve found a few village members, but I still feel like our family floats a bit. We joined a preschool co-op to help.
It’s so strange to me that it’s so much harder to find those connections in adulthood. I have a few people I can turn to, but when I see a “true village” I am reminded just how precious that would be be. I have actually thought about starting a pre-school/tot school co-op for socialization (maybe just as much for me as for my kids), but just don’t know where to start to get the word out! 🙂
I can’t see a date on this, so not sure if it’s current, but I think you did just get the word out. If there is no movement, then we start moving! Let’s just decide on some core values, type it up in the “About” box and call it “The Village (insert your locale here)”. Voila. I bet it would take root. If you Facebook-group it, they will come! 😉
Unfortunately it’s not that easy. At least not where I live. I even created a local group of moms and it has over 700 members in it now and for a year I planned play dates and get togethers that no one showed up to… literally 99% of the times I would wait for an hour and no one would show. It was heartbreaking. I would spend time planning, make arrangements to get the car, tell my daughter she would see all these people who had said they would be there and it would all be for nothing. A village is a community of people you can count on and that definitely did not manifest itself for me even in trying so diligently.
I bet they wouldn’t. Like the OP I tried social get togethers for expats living in Australia from the USA like my husband and the turnout was dismal. Maybe 10 people and then another lady in the group organised a play date and NOONE showed up. I dismantled the group the next week. I’m disgusted by society.
This is really hard to do when you don’t have people around. We live in an area where there are not a lot of kids and that makes it hard. Plus we have no family in the are either. We have made friendships and work with that a lot. We did a baby sitting coop that turned out horrible. Right now we have one baby sitter and we don’t dare use them much. I would have some older kids baby sit but they expect 10 dollars an hour PER child. Wish is hard.
So we really just work on doing our best and make sure we take mini dates at home.
What a great idea a babysitting coop would be if it worked well! I agree, it’s really hard in general and it just makes it harder when epople are flaky and/or they don’t exist in your life (at least in a meaningful way). We try to do some mini dates at home with movies and chatting with each other, but now that I think about it… when did life get so busy?!
Great post Kara! I am a huge advocate for and believer in the ‘village’ raising a child. Especially, as we have only one child. I enjoy being a part of other families’ lives and having them involved in ours. I think here, we are very fortunate to have ‘mums groups’ which start from the maternal and child health centre courses run for new mums. Some of my mums group friends are among my closest and best supports. But I totally agree – it is not easy!! Maybe the ‘village’ really is more global than local these days 🙂
That sounds like a really awesome idea to help connect moms from the beginning! And you really have an interesting point. We live in a global world so our village kind of isn’t as local or localized as it used to be. Something for me to think about and figure out how I can work a global village into my life as a parent and still feel connected to others.
Leanna @ Alldonemonkey
Brilliant post! I think for many of us moms groups fill in this gap. I really struggled when I first had my older son for just the reasons outlined above. I would occasionally make connections with other parents at the park but was too shy to follow up with them. Being in a moms group gave me the support I was looking for, but it did take a while to find one that was the right fit for me.
An sometimes following up with them is difficult! I so understand that. I have a small collection of contact information from people I have met but didn’t feel like it was such an awesome connection that I would feel comfortable reaching out again and like maybe we just exchanged information out of necessity or convenience.
I can totally relate. Wish we were neighbors!!
That would be awesome Melissa! (And an on a similar note, wouldn’t a neighborhood of bloggers be so much fun. Activities, excitement, and help ALL THE TIME! 😉 )
Maye this is true. But on the other hand, it is also so nice if noone shoves their noses into your affairs- like it happens in tightly knit communities (families, villages, etc). The way I feel is that I get more freedom to parent the way I want. If I need help, it comes from doctors, teachers, daycare nannies, etc. I also don’t agree that it takes a village. I think a village is not enough to raise a child- it takes so much more!
I absolutely don’t want anyone involved in my personal life, just a group of friends and community to do life with. The type of community that has their children play together and they have pot lucks and get togethers and fellowship with one another. Having a parenting village just means that your children get to experience togetherness with others, but it doesn’t mean that you don’t get to parent the way you want! I think we are thinking along the same lines but our word usage would be different. Ultimately, I believe it takes more than just a mom and dad to raise a child and that there are experiences that are missed out on and struggles families have when they do not have a community to be a part of.
Thank you for this great post. You articulate perfectly what I have been going through since I moved to the US from Italy 10 years ago. I am connected to other mothers with children roughly the same age as mine, but they are as overwhelmed as I am and our meetings (most often playdates) are based on exchanging tips and commiserating. We just don’t have the time to help each other properly.
I also came to realize how important “the village” would be in teaching your kids that rules are not some crazy whim mom has came up with: society actually expects them. When a child deals mostly with an overtired parent, I think there is much more boundary-pushing and brattiness. (Please don’t read it as selfish: I am a parent who thinks boundaries and basic manners actually make the child feel more relaxed and happy.)
Anyway, great post.
Thank you! I can definitely relate to how the typical playdate goes. I don’t necessarily find myself feeling fulfilled when I leave.
I think the “parenting village” really is that eye-opener for kids to know that all kids have rules and expectations from adults. Just like as adults, we have to know we are not the only ones who have marital struggles, financial difficulties, or whatever obstacle is in our path – and I guess the parenting village helps with that too!
And definitely didn’t read that as selfish – I can relate to the statement both from having been an overtired parent and seeing it in others as well.
WOW! I have to thank you for sharing this post…. I have sooo much more to say but, I will save it for a post on my own blog. Point, I can relate to MANY parts of this post. I am a Single Mother, in a Small Town (without a real transportation system), newly Disabled temporarily, 1 family member in town (who is too busy consistently, understandable), NO REAL Friends (of my own), every ‘mom friend’ on the street HAS their established friendships that come before a City girl newbie like me, I have TRIED, oh how i have tried (I know how it feels to set up meets & NO ONE Shows!)….. We have been here on our 3rd year now. I keep telling my teenager (who is also ready to leave in heart) ‘give it time’ over and over. We are really very blessed & generally happy but, my CORE is starting to hurt from missing my much needed “village”… I just wish something would change so we wouldnt have to move AGAIN! Just thank you thank you thank you for sharing your words about this subject. I am certain there are more ppl than we know that are experiencing this frustration. THANK YOU for talking about this.
You are so welcome. It’s the hard topics no one wants to truly dive into. It feels sometimes like people are ready to be critical of moms (especially SAHMs) because it’s always a “complaint”, but the emotional stability of the parental structure is so important! We are so blessed as well and life is good, but I do think we all just crave and yearn for meaningful relationships with others.
This post resonates with me. We did move from a big suburb to the country. It is a VERY tight knit community. If you’re not related or your child doesn’t do sports, there’s really not a lot of ways to connect. It’s been extremely frustrating – to the point that I pulled our boys from the local school and put them in a charter. They are doing well but it’s still really hard to connect with other parents. An added pressure is that we are a pastor’s family. I support my husband as best I can but it gets pretty darn lonely around here. Thank you again!
You are welcome! I have had several friends that are pastors’ families and I know that in itself can be very lonely in a very real way. Bless you for the life and example you lead even if you are not feeling as connected as you would like. My sister-in-law also talks about how it was hard to break into the community when moving to a small town. I just know you are definitely there for a reason and I empathize with you in so many ways!
We have lived far away from family our entire 16 years of marriage. We have always made our first priority when moving to a new town to find a church. That is our village. We have had to be intentional in making connections by joining small groups, bible classes, and being welcoming towards others as if they were the new people even though we were. It is hard work at first, but the people in our churches have been our family, our village. This has worked for us in very small churches and in very large ones. The key is to it in a large church is to find a small group whose stage of life is the same as yours. Once you’re established there, the broader connections to older and younger, single and childless people start to come more naturally. One more thing that is necessary is for the seeker of the village to be real. Pretending you’ve got it all together is what alienates us from one another. Open up, be vulnerable and you will attract other vulnerable people to you and thus begin the village.
We thought we had a village in our church community and we had been going there for years. But when push came to shove, no one had our backs and it really felt like a facade. Not to say they aren’t great people, but they were’t the village we thought we had.
After 3 churches I think we finally have found community that is not just a meet-and-greet, but that invests in lives and souls! What a wonderful feeling it is. However, we have only been there about a month or two so we are still working on truly building our community and village.
This is an interesting post. I never usually make comments but I have noticed this problem as well. I think it boils down to the fact that people are too busy these days. I’ve also come to realize that REAL friendships take years to develop as an adult. One way I’ve been able to experience the village effect is through my church community. That way there are people in every stage in life getting involved with each other. I teach the 12-13 year old girls class and therefore have 10 babysitters to choose from. Not sure if you’re religious but you might consider getting involved in a church community as there is definitely a focus on unity and fellowshipping each other 🙂
My husband and I have talked a lot about how community with various age groups and walks of life is so important. He said that when he was single, he didn’t go to the young class at church, rather he went to a men’s class that had varied ages from 18-90 and he said he learned more there because of the community and various walks of life.
We definitely are in a church community (finally!) after searching for a place to belong. It’s been such a sad struggle to find a church that aligns with our faith and also has a community to be a part of. We never knew it would be so hard to find true fellowship. Bt like I said, we finally found a place that we have felt called and led to and it seemed that we almost instantly have felt at home and are building closer friendships with those there so we can “do life” with them!
I just started writing an article on the village and how I want one. I feel the same way as you – motherhood can be so lonely. I am lucky to have found a few close friends in my current city but I do yearn for those friends who are more like family especially now that I’m a mom. Great post! Too bad Boston is so far away!
It is so strange how motherhood does seem to be so lonely on many days and it doesn’t make sense to me. I feel like it’s a modern thing… I hope it’s a modern thing and that it changes. Moving here, I already have a couple of mom friends and I am so thankful for that. But … Boston in general is a very professional city and not a ton of kids. I would most definitely be awesome friends with you if we were closer 😉 Hope time with your new tiny one has been precious and as relaxing as it can be. Soak it up! <3
Hello Kara. How refreshing it was to find someone else in the world who is looking for that village. I have a seven year-old and a new baby. I’m not going to lie, it’s been hard. My other half is a sustainable farmer in the white mountains of New Hampshire. I curretly live in our capital city while our house is being redone. I’m about 2 hours from my husband and it’s been brutal on the whole family. I yearn for the relationships (and extra hands) a village would bring. I don’t know when this post is from but I hope you have found or will find what you are looking for. God bless.
I’m so relieved to know there are other parents around without a village. My husband and I have a 2 1/2 yr old. His parents are deceased. I am an only child of divorced parents. My father lives far away. My mother lives about 45 minutes away but has never babysat or helped us out. Needles to say my relationship with my parents is not a close knit one. I am the only one of my friends without a village. They all have their moms to help them out and cannot relate to my situation. So I’m happy reading this post to know I’m not alone….
It is far worse when you are a single parent with no one else to rely on. Your entire existence becomes about your child. No time for anything else. It is extremely exhausting, there isn’t anyone else to take over while you run to the store, etc. so at least you have that. Trust me it could be far worse.