I’m sure you have heard the African proverb, ‘It takes a village to raise a child’. I believe there was a second phrase they forgot to add: ‘It also takes a village to raise a mama.’
While ‘mother’ is the oldest role in the history of mankind, it doesn’t mean it’s easy. Nor does it come completely naturally or instinctively. In fact, having a baby is considered a major life stress, and it’s rife with uncertainty and anxiety (just as it’s equally full of love, excitement and joy).
‘It takes a village to raise a mother’
When you trace back through history, having a baby and becoming a mother was an event typically supported by the whole village and extended family. This changed for many cultures with the rise of industrialisation and the resulting mass urbanisation, meaning family units started going it alone.
But, you don’t have to be living in a village to have a village. It is possible to create your own tribe or support system as you transition to motherhood.
The reason I am writing this is because when I was pregnant, I didn’t have a village. I had just moved to the city I lived in and only had a couple of good friends (all child-free). My family was at least a three-hour drive away, and my in-laws were an eight-hour flight away – that is before they moved to West Africa when my son was 4 months old!
So one day when heavily pregnant, I looked around me, took stock of the situation and silently freaked out. It dawned on me that one of my biggest fears might actually come true – I might become isolated. I was terrified that my friends would lose interest in me when I had a baby, and that I’d lose touch with the outside world and current affairs.
Therefore, I realised that if I were to have a village, I had to create it. (As for my friends, well, I called up a few of them and literally begged them to make sure they called me regularly after my son was born. Bless them, they did.)
Benefits of creating a village
For a lot of us, before our child is born we’re largely in control of our lives. And then our tiny bundle of joy comes into our lives and it dawns on us that we’re no longer in control. Therefore, having a village helps support us in managing this tumultuous time and helps us build our foundations.
While this isn’t an exhaustive list, here are some of the benefits of having a village:
- Being supported, so you can focus on your number one priority – your baby. In the early days of motherhood, your job is to bond with, nurture and love your baby. Having people to support you, emotionally and/or practically, allows you and your partner to focus on your relationship with your baby.
- Help reduce your anxiety. Knowing you have people around you who can give you advice, reassure you, show you how to do things or even simply to share a cup of tea with and let you know you’re doing a really great job can help ease any anxiety you feel in early motherhood.
- Let you know you’re not alone. Sometimes when you’re at home by yourself with a crying baby and not sure how to settle them, you might feel like you’re alone and that you’re the only person going through this. A village of support – either online or in real life – will let you know that others are going through the same thing, or have in the past – and got through it. They remind you that ‘this too shall soon pass’.
- Give you a chance to catch up on life outside of baby. Sometimes it’s good to have a chat or spend time with people where the conversation and activities don’t revolve around your baby. It allows you a chance to be who you are, with the people who bring you joy.
How to find your village
When I refer to village, I mean it in a loose term. It’s the people around you that will support you as you learn and grow in your new role.
Your village will be unique to you and your particular circumstances – no one else’s village will look like yours. So, to help you, I’ve prepared the following questions so you can start thinking about what your village may look like:
- Do you have any family that you and your partner can call on for support? Can they visit you, can you visit them?
- Do you have ‘wise women’ who can guide you – ie, role models you would like to emulate?
- What kind of birth would you like to have – can you do a course and meet some like-minded parents? Can you hire a birth coach?
- Can you join a mother’s group or play group when your child is born?
- How do you wish to nourish your baby – can you seek support of breastfeeding groups?
- What activities are there for mums and bubs in your local area?
- Do you have a trusted family doctor and pharmacist?
- Would you benefit from seeing an energy practitioner (eg emotional release therapist or acupuncturist) who can help you prepare for your baby’s birth and help you find balance after your baby arrives?
- Is there a particular parenting style that speaks to you? For example, attachment parenting really spoke to me, and I sought both a community as well as a trusted source of information to refer to when I needed help.
- Can you hire some help? Eg, a cleaner, someone to bring meals, do your shopping for you.
- Are there online forums you can seek support from?
I know that may seem like a lot to take in, so take it gently. Also, it doesn’t matter what stage you’re at – you can start creating your village where you are, right now.
Be sure to let us know how you go in creating your village. Maybe you have a story or some ideas to share about how you created your village. Let us know in the comments.