Has society forgotten how to ‘village’?
Yup. I pretty much make placards, burn my bra over and bang on about ‘The Village Concept’ but it’s planted the seed: Do we KNOW what the village entails? Are we waiting to be invited into the chaos that is motherhood? Are we too polite and playing to the societal norms that we don’t want to get our hands dirty and truly wrap around a new parent and cater to the actual needs?
Here we go....hold onto your soy cappuccino Brenda...you’re in for a ride.
The historical village:
This saying is in fact an African proverb, as many African cultures (amongst others) believe that the parenting concept is something that should be shared within the entire family. This includes not only the parents but everybody that’s involved in the child’s life. Friends are chosen family and play a vital role also. I’m looking at you fellow mum mates that have gone before!
Back when our parents and grandparents were children, their family lives looked and felt incredibly different. Families tended to be much bigger and lived in closer proximity together, plus those communities functioned much more like “villages” than they do today. Flash forward to today and we are so insular, guarded and conditioned that we must have our shit together, our ducks in a row and an instagramable lifestyle portrayed.
And don’t get me started on equality and lack of equity within the modern workplace or the toll of emotional labour on the primary caregiver... (another blog sass, calm ya tits girl).
Anyway... back on track: This closeness was a huge comfort for many families and an incredible help. Having other family members involved in bringing your children up is not only beneficial for their social skills, but it’s also an enormous help for the parents too. Having aunts, uncles, even grandparents and cousins helping out when you need it more than ever is worth more than gold.
Although still common in many cultures, it’s become socially acceptable to ‘bounce back’, to look like our ducks are in a row, that we have a ‘good’ baby and our relationship is the healthiest it’s ever been. We tend to put on a facade, compare ourselves and sadly our babies. We see social media as real life where it’s absolutely a highlight reel only. We have made things more complicated and need to bring it back to basics. So what might this look like?
Access to experts:
In my humble opinion after working with so many women postpartum, the options are fairly limited. Our government-sanctioned organisations are an absolute source of wisdom, knowledge and expertise but 15-minute visits have become more of a tick-box session that actually coaching brand spanking parents in this roller coaster ride that is parenthood. They absolutely serve a purpose and I absolutely adore ours. However, I am so aware of how above and beyond she goes and is stretched trying to meet the array of needs in Nappy Valley.
What does this mean in practical terms?
Respecting the fact that the fresh parent is learning and this requires experimenting, testing what works and what doesn’t and definitely doesn’t require your past horror stories, disapproval or passive-aggressive side passing comments. These are so detrimental when the new parent is already stretched, vulnerable and doubting themselves. To hear ‘oh it was far harder in my day!’ serves no purpose that you make you look like a heartless dick with an obviously terrible memory.
So rather than be deficit focused, let’s go through some practical things you could do that help so much more than you’d ever realised.
Make a meal train: Toot! Toot! Basically, one key person (usually close to the birthing family) asks around as to is interested/available to create a meal and drop it off for the first few weeks after baby is earthside. A roster is created and boom! No cooking for a few weeks! It’s a game-changer! This is not an invitation to come and hang out or have said meal with the whanau. It’s a drop n run sitcho. The person organising should find out: extreme likes/dislikes and any intolerances or food allergies. Nothing worse than being delivered an amazing chicken satay which you’re anaphylactic to nuts.
Bring over some groceries: Imagine having a load of weekly groceries delivered to your door? Bliss! Outings can be daunting at first but we still need to eat. It will be far more practical and provide for the entire family unit that a scratchy tutu dress with matchy headband and is actually comparable in price.
Come hang out but be helpful: That washing isn’t going to fold itself Brenda! Check the dishwasher, bring over some cleaning products, prep some veggies... you’re picking up what I’m putting down right?!
Send an encouraging text, tag her in a funny meme & don’t leave her out of group chats: It’s often an isolating and lovely adjustment. At 3.12 am, you feel like you are the only person in the universe awake. Even though the brand-spanking-new parent is dealing with a new set of norms...don’t forget to include her as not feeling like part of the gang... that feels like balls.
Help with older kids or walk the dog: Older siblings are adjusting to a massive life change and in their wee minds this new lil potato-baby has stolen their parents and they are now playing an out of tune second fiddle. Taking their medium sized mate to the park/beach/Kmart for some solid 1 v 1 time might let the new parent do some sleeping, bonding or whatever is flipping their pancake as well as medium mate getting their cup filled. You’ll get extra points if you tire the dog and child out equally.
Bring the birthing parent a treat/gift: A wee babe doesn’t need much but for some reason, people froth to get the baby a gift.
Although super thoughtful, that money could be used to get the new parent:
Bath soak/postpartum healing spray
A facial voucher
A lush moisturiser
A meal subscription for a week
Fill the car with gas
Pretty much any treat that doesn’t need to be shared with anyone else! Make it lux and not something they would usually buy themselves.
Take photos of her with her new lil mate:
Whenever I hang out with other parents, I’m like the paparazzi on crack! Candid snaps of mama and her babe are so often missed as she’s behind the lens. She will thank you later, I promise.
Hire a cleaner or create a cleaning roster with close friends/family: Either is amazing but obviously, depends on what works best for your village. The whanau know what day/time the cleaning is going down so can choose to be there or can bust a move out of the house, knowing on return...Marie Kondo has jushed the place up a storm!
Chip in and hire a postpartum doula: now I don’t mean to toot my own horn but ‘BARRRP!!! BAAAAARP!!” Having someone removed from close friends and family, who is skilled, experienced and has an arsenal of advice, strategies and tools and does this for a job can be such a fabulous investment. Meals, massage, education and support all rolled into one cheerleader. Pom-poms are optional but encouraged.
Let’s bring back The Village. In all its simplistic glory!
And the cool thing is, when your time comes to need your own village, it’s already established and good to go!
You’re welcome. Written by the lovely Sarah Horne - Lead Facilitator - Routachment
Please check out the article over at Viva La Vulva