There are no shortage of articles out there about the loss of our parenting “village.” How with the advent of the global economy and pervasive technology, we have been given the opportunity to venture far and wide across this country and world, and yet, we seem ever further away from the people we need the most - our parents, the aunties, uncles, cousins; the people who USED to help us raise our children.
Instead we are left with our singular homes, shut away even from neighbours who could lend a helping hand. Many of us have parents who live on the other side of the country because we left for the jobs, and once settled, we don’t return.
What I have discovered recently is that although the traditional village has disappeared, a new village has sprung up in its place. This village is made up of friends - our closest bosom buddies, and the acquaintances we see at the bus stop every morning. Maybe it’s the families you see at church or your child’s hockey games, or the online groups where you spill your heart to virtual friends you’ve never met. This is our village, and it is good and precious.
In our fast-paced and distracted world, it can be all too easy to turn our back on our village. We don’t do this intentionally, but life has a way of taking over. We get caught up in our daily dramas of school, work, appointments, activities and LIFE, and we can’t see when someone is struggling. In this way, we are failing our modern village and when it’s our turn for support, who will we turn to?
Recently I’ve been reflecting on how I can better support my village, from my closest family and friends to the people I know just by name. Sometimes that negative voice in our heads can tell us “I don’t have time” or “we’re not that close,” but when we make small acts of kindness, we find ourselves on the receiving end of love and support when WE need it.
Here are a few ways I’m trying to build my village:
Buy Nothing Groups
Joining my local Buy Nothing group has been a huge positive in my life. I have gotten to know several neighbours better, and we have helped each other out with gifts of meals, the elusive cup of sugar or 1 egg for our recipe, or other items such as used clothing (amazing for growing kids!!) Although these people may not become your best friends, it will certainly give you the sense that you are surrounded by caring neighbours ready to lend a hand.
I get it - you are crazy busy, and it’s hard to find time to see your village in person. But in my mind, there’s always time to offer food. Maybe it’s some baking, or a big stew, or maybe you don’t bake/cook and just want to pick up some ready-made meals from the grocery store. In times of stress, supplying food to our village peeps can go a long way in showing support.
Weeks and months will go by when I suddenly realize I haven’t spoken to any of my closest friends. In high school and my twenties, I would spend hours on the phone with my mom and my friends. I could communicate my daily worries, lend an ear when needed, or just have a really good laugh. With our busy lives, long, lazy phone convos may no longer be possible. Instead, take the time to quickly check in every couple of weeks.
If you’re anything like me (introverted and highly anxious) phone calling will set your palms sweating and your heart racing. Here’s the thing though: we’re actually losing the ability to relate well to others by conducting all of our lives online. We don’t get to connect on a deeper level with people when meaningful conversations are carried out over email or text. Do yourself and your heart a favour and call a real person - even if you try to manage one phone call per week!
Find out who in your local village could use some help, and then provide that help by volunteering your time. As I’ve mentioned above, sometimes we don’t have time - so maybe your support can be less time consuming. Perhaps you are an expert or specially trained in something, and can lend a hand without even leaving your house! (e.g. editing someone’s homework/school papers, fixing someone’s bike etc.) Let’s get out of the traditional mindset of volunteering as a boring job you need to do for your resume, and more as a way for you to build up your village.
What I’ve come to realize is that if I don’t have time for my village, I don’t have my priorities straight. I’m putting non-essential tasks and “things” above the needs of my support network, and in turn, I end up feeling more anxious and isolated.
Giving more of ourselves can seem scary when pop culture wants us to focus on ME ME ME (if I have to read another article about self-care I will scream!) I’m not arguing that taking care of ourselves is not relevant - especially when it’s our own suffering we need to deal with. But if we’re regularly putting ourselves first without too much thought to our village, we may wonder why we have no one to turn to when we’re in the hot seat. In this big ol’ scary world, we can’t afford to turn our back on others.
What are the ways you take care of your village?