It’s no secret that I firmly believe that kids should be raised in a village. What that village looks like has greatly evolved over time - from when the majority of women were stay-at-home moms, building a village made up of other stay-at-home moms, to a society in which more kiddos are in childcare than ever before. The way that we are raising these tiny humans and the structure of our village has totally changed. Many folks aren’t living near family and are in a space of having to build their framily (friends as family) village.
I had a village that I loved the crap out of while living in Boston, so as we anticipated moving to Vermont, I was super nervous about having to start over and build my village from scratch again. And it didn’t help that I work from home, making it even more difficult than it already is to make friends as an adult. Now, one year later, we have our Vermont Village. So, how did I do it? How did I build this village when I was so scared to do it? I don’t have all the answers, but I have found some things and seen some other folks do some things that I think are really valuable.
Social media is a huge presence in the vast majority of our lives, so what role will that play in our parenthood village? I love the crap out of our @seed.and.sew village. I love that we have a community like our Facebook group - Seed and Sew: Voices of Our Village, and our Instagram, that people turn to all of the time. To have a space online where you can go, where everyone is welcome, and there is no judgment or fear of being shamed, is huge.
Another huge thing in village building is reliability. We’ve gotta be able to rely on each other. If you tell someone you can help out, then you have to help out, and sometimes it isn’t going to be convenient. Nobody has large chunks of their day every day that are just free - most of us have a pretty packed calendar, but a huge part of being in the village is being inconvenienced a little bit. There are ways to figure out how to help out, like bringing someone’s kiddo along with you wherever you had plans to go, like the time Zach and I brought a preschooler to the farmer’s market when his mom needed help. We didn’t have to totally change or cancel our plans to be there for her.
Most of us don’t want to inconvenience anyone, but it’s okay to inconvenience people once in a while, and when someone asks you for help, you’ll return the favor. It’s not your job to decide for them by just not asking for help. “Reach out if you need help. If I can do it, I will. If I can’t, I’ll let you know.” There are so many things we’re doing by ourselves that we don’t have to be doing. Like, not everyone has to drive their own kid to school or to practice. How are we going to tag-team this stuff? Part of it is to ask for help. In this episode, I dive into several more examples of how we can work together to make things easier for ourselves while also being there for our village.
I am that person who will approach you and ask you for your number; I think we have to put ourselves out there a little bit. Maybe it is your neighbor or someone you’re consistently seeing at the playground. It might be someone who has a kid in your kid’s class or on their team. It might be someone at work who you know also has a kid or you just connect with, let them know you’d like to get together, but remember that this is also where reliability comes in. If you say you want to grab coffee sometime, then you’ve gotta make it happen; this is where you begin to form trust. Some schools have opportunities for parents to connect, or perhaps you can find a yoga class with other parents. There are also so many Facebook groups that you may fit into. You might even have to organize and start something yourself to build your village.
Do you think that your house needs to be clean for the people in your village? That you have to put on a facade that you’re the perfect parent and have your shit together? If you feel like everything needs to be perfect for them then you’re not going to want to hang out with these people because it’s going to be too much of an undertaking, so let’s be real and quit cleaning our house for hours for the people in our village. If instead you’re honest and say, “The house is a disaster and the fridge is empty, but come on over because I’d love to see ya,” great. I feel like it’s a common thing to make everything look perfect while in public, but behind closed doors, everything just goes downhill. I’d rather see your tiny human throw a tantrum and for you to just respond to it the same way you would in private. If we are really going to have villages that have meaning, then we have got to show up as our authentic selves, which will mean vulnerability.
Ask for help when you need it, and show up for others. Remember, perfection isn’t real. Show up as your normal, messy self. Come join this conversation over on in our Facebook group. We’re just not meant to do this alone.