It takes a village to raise a child. I've never been so sure about this idea in my entire life as I have been recently.
Seriously. Have you ever thought about this concept?
We mamas simply just do not have enough hands at multiple times during the day to care for, say, a two year old and a baby (and maybe more) and run the household. We just *need* an extra set of arms at a few key points during the day -- for me, I need thos hands during nap time, dinner preparation time and crabby time in the late afternoon, which happens to coincide with dinner prepping time. I need someone to simply open her arms to my baby, rock him and coo to him while I help the toddler settle into his nap and while I cook dinner. There are not enough times I need extra hands during the day to nesceistate a nanny or a maid or a cook or hired help -- there are just enough to need a grandmotherly type who can take an hour here or there to help a mama out by rocking her sweet baby so she can help the rest of the family function. As SarahBeth, one of my Attachment Parenting friends, has pointed out before in the comments of a blog posting-- a woman in a village long ago would have had her mother, mother-in-law, sister or grandmother nearby to help with childcare and with household chores. If not in the same neighborhood, one of these female relatives was likely in the same town.
But we've lost that way of life.
In the over abundance of our lives and additions of items like dishwashers, cars, cell phones, battery-operated swings and microwaves, we have seemingly eliminated the need for a village in order to run our households and raise our children well.
It's sad, but I'm guilty of being tricked by this replacement of the village by modern technologies.
I willingly moved 100 miles away from her mother, grandmother and relatives. Why? Because I could. Let me explain -- I wasn't rebelliously trying to live somewhere far just because I could; I willingly moved somewhere far because hubby's job was here, and the modern technologies we've added to our lives allowed me to live so far while still maintaining a relational closeness with my family. I have a car that affords me the luxary of traveling 100 miles in 1.45 hours to visit; I have a cell phone that connects us instantly. I honestly thought that I would be able to function just fine with my family hours away. And I can function just fine.
But I cannot do it well. I find myself relying heavily on my father-in-law, who owns his own company and, thus, has flexible hours to help me through times during the day when I need someone to give me an extra set of child-rearing hands. I call for his help probably about once per week, and he graciously gives his time because he wants to help and, well, because he likes taking the two year old on special Buba and Gabe dates to Steak and Shake.
But I can't just call him up and ask him to come over and rock the baby while I cook dinner -- that time when I really just need that extra set of hands; our lives and committments don't allow for such calls. And I cannot dominate the off-work hours of a close-by mother-in-law and sister-in-law who work full-time jobs because that's not how our modern lives function.
What I, and what I suspect many of you other mamas need, is not only that ever-so-useful extra set of hands once or twice during the week, but also that extra set of hands once or twice during the day. Mrs. Maytag might be able to efficiently wash our clothes, but Mr. Graco swing is not always a smooth replacement for warm, loving, human arms. If we want to raise our children in the connected, attached fashion, what we're really missing is the village.
We're missing the older, wiser women who are not working out of the home and can coach an overwhelmed mother through a toddler tantrum because the older wise woman is simply close in proximity and can offer that help. We're missing the grandmothers who can take 20 minutes, run next door or down the street and rock a crying baby so a weary mom can snuggle her toddler to sleep for his nap instead of plopping him in a swing. We're missing the experienced aunts who can open their arms to an older sibling and read for a half hour while mom and baby take a nap or nurse or simply rest. We're missing the women who can cheerlead young mother through the early days of rearing small child while also nurturing themselves. These women who were part of a village were not pinned to the young mother's quarters or service all day; they had lives and responsibilities of their own, but the simple proximity of their village lives allowed them to help during those critical periods when a mama just needed an extra set of hands! I often ponder if instances of post-partum depression were less when young mothers had a village of women around to help them through those tough early days with multiple young children.
Simply, we've technologied ourselves to almost a fault here. Because we've got a machine for seemingly everything, we've been fooled into thinking we mamas with young families can do it all by ourselves with just a little help here or there.
I no longer believe this; I've set a crying baby in a swing far too many times so I can tend to a toddler to think that we've really gained more from technological advances than we actually have. What we lost when we lost the village is priceless and irreplaceable, and I bet far more reaching than we ever could imagine.