This is something not talked about very much and it is a huge factor. I knew raising children in isolation was not for me. My husband and I and our two small daughters lived with our divorced friend and her two children for many years, raising the four children as a shared responsibility. We took turns working so there was always someone available to them. We also had village around us and created a home school with a teacher for six children from four families as the kids got older. There was always someone to be with them if we needed a morning to sleep in or a date night. This made Mothering a joy instead of a burden and we had so much fun. There were still challenges especially with six teenagers around and those challenges were shared as well. When my youngest was going through a rough teenage time I remember hearing the other Mother slipping into the hot tub at midnight with my daughter fresh home from being out to sit out under the stars and have a talk. I could go back to sleep knowing she had it covered way better than I. Aunties have always been important.
— River Jameson
The majority of our mental load and emotional labor as modern-day mothers comes from constantly and creatively trying to piece together some semblance of a village, stepping into roles meant to be filled by other village members and unconsciously grieving this soul-crushing loss (which is hidden in plain sight). We hugely underestimate the weight of villagelessness on mothers.
— Beth Berry
We are molded into our human shapes by a thousand influences. Community or the lack of it plays a bigger role than we realize. The presence of kind adults with their stories and larger perspective is essential to guide us to a sense of connection with nature and community. The disassociation so common in our society puts hurdles in front of most of us that must be seen and removed before we can find our real path.
We start with the spark of love between two people, but somehow we must find a garden to plant ourselves and our children in. Our atomized American culture establishes a baseline of distance which conditions children to accept alienation as normal. We accept it as normal as parents.
I grew up in a family of eight. We six kids must have been a handful for our parents. There were no surrogates, no one to pick up the slack. It was just those two overwhelmed mortals stumbling from crisis to crisis. I think all of us felt alone and ignored when it came to our needs for guidance and understanding.
Living in Latin countries so long I can’t help but notice how differently family and community work for them. Not that it’s perfect — my young French friends complained loudly about its constraints. And yet they accepted their indestructible ties to friends and family as unquestionable. They nurtured them with reliable support and truth telling.
I began to notice that American society, which is so extroverted and overtly friendly, still has a lonely feel to it. That every-man-for-himself current runs through everything. That’s hard on children. Children growing up without extensive connections to community and trusted adults who can be confided in is injurious to them. It’s hard to learn who you are in the absence of wise adults who can reflect back to you what they see. It’s too bad that most adults in our society have grown up with the same cultural deficits.
The result is unwise adults who maintain and perpetuate the same system, the same sense of alienation.
I went to books as a child, looking for insights I couldn’t get from anywhere else. No parents or teachers around me seemed to see very deeply. They knew the rules but they didn’t question them. They just expected me to memorize and follow them. I don’t know why but that didn’t seem very intelligent to me.
In fact, I would not recommend that kind of education for any child. To find your personal way in your life, you need to be encouraged to be true to your best and deepest self. Having a community and environment that supports such a thing helps immensely.
Just knowing the rules and following them is not enough.