How does community influence our parenting journey?
“It’s takes a village to raise a child.” This infamous African proverb highlights the critical role a community plays in supporting the growing family. The village provides a sense of belonging. Research shows that mothers who were supported in childcare and other tasks by her village had better attachments toward her children. Contrarily, we live in a culture that heavily focuses on the mother-child bond as the most critical aspect of a child’s emotional development; and a society that craves independence and separation over interdependence and connection. It’s no wonder that many of us are raising children alone, in isolation, and disengaged from the world around us.
It wasn’t so long ago that children were raised almost exclusively in tribes. Families often lived within short distances from one another, and were usually larger than they are now. When you needed a break, there were plenty of helpful hands waiting for the opportunity to play their role as aunt, grandmother, neighbor, cousin, or confidant. The tribe offered a sense of protection for the mother’s wellbeing. In essence, the tribe ‘held’ the mother emotionally (and in many other ways) so that she could be available enough to hold her children when they needed her.
There also used to be a clear divide between work and the family. The work-week was limited to 40 hours; there wasn’t an expectation that you work more for the same pay. There also wasn’t as much pressure as we face today to put work above our relationships, especially those we share with our children and partners. While our place of work used to be an important part of our village, it has since become a source of division and stress for many struggling families, especially young families who are often saddled with college debt and living in expensive cities.
Finding your tribe and building your village is inarguably a crucial step toward protecting your mental and emotional health during the most vulnerable transitions of every mother’s life: pregnancy and the first year. Women who find their tribe of other like-minded women early in their newborn’s life not only enjoy the benefits of increased socialization and a sense of belonging, but they also report less stress and experience more joy on a daily basis. The village can help highlight our areas of strength and help us become aware of areas that need work, which ultimately serves us well in our parenting. Most importantly, the village reminds us that we are never alone, that there is always someone who can journey alongside us, and no matter how unusual our circumstance may be, there is always someone who can relate.
Mommy and Me is a great place to find your tribe of mamas and build your village. Join a local group, stay engaged, have play dates, bond with each other, and grow into the mother you envision yourself being.
Bryana Kappa, LMFT, IFECMHS
Owner and Director of South Bay Mommy and Me