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The impact of the loss of the village

Something I’ve heard a lot over the past couple of years is ‘people shouldn’t have children if they don’t want to parent them’.

This has brought up a lot from deep within me. I heard this numerous times in response to mothers feeling stressed out and overwhelmed with home-schooling and not being able to send their children anywhere with schools and much of the world shut down.

I have seen those without children, or perhaps in a more privileged position, looking in at parents with young children, who were desperate to be able to send their kids back to school, with judgement.

This idea that seems to be held by some became more evident during the events of the last couple of years; that if a parent, most often a mother, is not capable of being responsible for all aspects of their child’s life, 24hours a day, 365 days a year, then perhaps they are not fit to be a parent, a mother, at all. If they can not cope with what this entails, then they probably should not have become parents at all.

It is clear to me that so many parents are struggling, especially mothers. The last few years have amplified these struggles. The isolation that parenthood, especially motherhood can bring was taken to new levels. But even before these recent years women have been struggling away in silence.

There seems to be much shaming of mothers who confess to the difficulties of motherhood. Is it really the case that if a mother can’t cope with the weight of the role alone then she isn’t doing it right? Can it be true that it is poor parenting to wish to be able to send your child back to school so you can breath again for just a moment?

My daughter was pretty much new born going into the craziness of the last few years. The comment about schooling does not apply directly to me, but it really got me thinking.

So many people have forgotten the way children were traditionally raised; for much of our history mothers worked, cleaned, laughed together whilst raising children amongst community.

They say it takes an entire village to raise a child. There are those of us that grieve the village we do not have every day. The pain of remembering the way it should be can hopefully enable us to work towards changing the way things have become, but the isolation of these recent years have further broken many remaining support networks.

For many it has been so long now since community existed in the way that is beneficial to all of us, having been systematically destroyed generation after generation, that sending children to school is the only way to experience some respite for many.

It was never the job of one person to fulfil all the roles and duties it takes to raise a child. In the past the members of the village shared tasks, shared the roles, shared the job of bringing up the children, teaching the children; it was done together. Children playing with children, mothers supporting mothers.

The village has been lost. True community has been close to eradicated. The impact of this can be felt so deeply, there are barely words to describe it. Too many people do not even know what it is they are craving, what is is they are missing, what it is they are grieving.

So many parents, so many mothers, so many fathers are struggling. So many parents face day after day bringing up their children mostly alone with limited help, and sending children to school is the closest they can come to the village they do not have.

I recently read that mothers do not want ‘time out’, they want ‘time in’. I felt this deep within my core. We desperately desire the connection with other women, sisters, mothers. We desperately need our villages back, where we can share the weight of bringing up our children.

We may feel the need to take ‘time out’ because we are so overwhelmed in isolation by the all-encompassing job that raising a child alone becomes in a society that normalises this and provides little aid for the mental, and physical impact this creates.

I believe that if we all had the ‘time in’ that we need, that we all undoubtedly yearn for, even if it is not a conscious yearning for everyone, then our needs would be better met, our sufferings would be seen, our voices heard and our struggles and load lessened.

Perhaps ‘time in’ would give us everything we have been missing for so long within this society, that ‘time out’ would be much less necessary.

It is easy to judge parents, to judge other mothers. I suggest that it is the structuring of our society that needs to be judged. Then we need to go beyond that, we need to change it. We need to resurrect the village, the support systems, the connection. Although being a parent will unlikely ever be an easy task, it should be a joyful one.

So going back to the comment that initially pulled these feelings from me; ‘people shouldn’t have children if they don’t want to parent them’, it seems to me that when living in a state of constant stress and overwhelm it is only natural to find any space available to escape this, and for many this comes in the form of needing to be able to send their children to school.

This issue I feel has been highlighted by the last few years, with mostly women having to take on all the extra burdens that the isolation brought with it. Women who were already struggling to cope, being ripped of their ability to share this weight with others who understood them.

We all need our villages, we all need the connection and support we have lost. Instead we carry around the guilt about our seemingly constant failings. We bare the weight, often struggling in silence for many years, and face the judgement of others, who have not yet experienced the loneliness it can bring, doing a job that was traditionally a village-wide undertaking.

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