Warm relationships with other adults sustain us when we're struggling or feeling isolated. These "villages" are our connected communities of caring adults who support us in nurturing our relationships with our children.
"It takes a village to raise a child." ~ African proverb
Our villages often contain our closest friends but are more than a set of friends. They are friends, neighbors, extended family members, and acquaintances who–whether intentional or even knowing–help deliver us as parents to our children. We are full participants, receiving support while offering our care and support to others.
WHO IS IN YOUR VILLAGE?
As with our children, we have learned that relationship-building is at the heart of our villages. Establishing and maintaining relationships of any kind takes effort and persistence, and this can be intimidating especially at first. It is rare to stumble into a ready-made community and feel immediately welcome. Even in inclusive and inviting groups, you may have found that you still had to reach out, show up frequently, extend invitations repeatedly, and have patience.
Finding a village requires vulnerability. We had to extend ourselves and make invitations that may not have always been accepted. This was challenging. The challenge didn’t end once we established relationships. Opening our homes and our lives to other people also opens our hearts to hurts, but we learned that we must do so to create genuine relationships.
Building a strong village also required us to accept differences. While we're all looking for people who share our values or who are otherwise like us, true community allows for diversity. While we do not want to sacrifice our values for the sake of connection, we learned that authentic connection runs deeper than our similarities.
WHAT DOES CREATING YOUR VILLAGE LOOK LIKE?
Sometimes, we find our villages in organized parent groups in our community. Other villages seem to arise out of the people already in our lives. We may need to be intentional in creating and sustaining a community through planned activities. Which of these village-building ideas are your favorites?
- Invite friends to join in your family’s celebrations such as holidays, birthdays, or family meals;
- Begin a tradition with friends that allow for long stretches of relaxed time together such as camping trips;
- Walk your dogs, and children, together;
- Begin an online social group of families from your geographic neighborhood and use it to create opportunities for meeting in person;
- Visit your local farmers market;
- Open your house or backyard to your neighbors for a shared meal;
- Ask for help as needed (even if you feel you don’t need it) as many people enjoy giving support to others;
- Offer to help others when you recognize a need.
The idea is that we find easy ways to find “our people” – those friends who support us to be the parent we want to be. They come alongside us when it’s hard, help us answer our questions, encourage us to grow into our roles as moms and dads. And we do the same for them! That’s what it means to be part of our village. What does your village look like?