They say it takes a village to raise a child. Do you have one? Do you need one?
When we were in Thailand, we came across “the village”. People who look out for others the way that you look out for your own.
I could relax for a moment, knowing that my kids were free to explore wherever we were, and that someone else was also keen to help them explore in a safe way.
I could eat, and not have a child sit on my lap for the whole meal, and someone else would feed them banana and milk and not think anything of doing so.
I could sit with my children when I was hot and tired, and they were full of beans, and let them play with total strangers and know that they were safe.
Is that the village?
But, all that I’ve described above; is that the village? Is that what people are pining for? If you go on any Facebook group nowadays, if it has a parenting focus, you can bet your bottom dollar that at some time someone will have lamented the lack of a village these days.
What do people mean when they say they wish the village was here?
In response to this question, when I was asking about this for this post, I was told by an elderly lady, “people who are looking for the village are looking for an excuse to be lazy”.
I’m not lazy when I want to eat my food in peace. I swear.
“People who are looking for the village want someone to take their kids while they have me-time” – this was from a man in his 50s.
Is that right? I don’t think that’s true either.
The village takes care of your kids
“I want the village to be real, because I want someone else to take care of my kids the way I take care of my own” – this from a mum in her 40s.
I think that’s it. A village is a group of people, all with the best interests of your kids (and theirs, and everyone else’s) at heart. And the key point – this is from a few of my friends who’ve all got kids – “In a village, they don’t just take care of your kids. They have the courage to tell them off, as well”.
In a way, they’re not only taking care of your kids; they’re looking out for you, too. Is the village a sanity-saving mechanism? For parents without nearby family, connecting with friends, neighbours and acquaintances who can lend a helping hand or a sympathetic ear is crucial for their mental health.
Not everyone lives near their parents, or among friends they grew up with. And I think it’s ok to seek out a village, to grab opportunities like a quick trip to the park after school with a mum you chat to at the school gate, or stalk that friendly face in a Facebook group to add them and chat online. Swapping tips, real life situations and sharing some of the load – those things make the village.
What do you think? What is the village? Do you have one? And what do you think parents are looking for when they ask where is the village?