Village, where art thou?

June 2019

We had dinner with my two of our couple friends on the weekend, some of our favourite couple friends actually. It was perfect - nothing fancy, nothing frilly, just easy and delish.

But I tell you what, we all came away feeling baffled that we don’t co-parent more often because, well, hands! Sheesh, 6 pairs of adult hands to wrangle, feed, bath, entertain and tend to 7 little babes, that’s just smart, heavenly parenting right there! And THREE women at that - three women’s brains, three women’s hands, three women's behaviour management - they say teamwork makes the dream work. By the end of the dinner, my girlfriends and I were seriously considering a commune lifestyle!

So, in all seriousness, when did it all change? When did the age old saying ‘It takes a village’ become an old wives’ tale instead of a smart reality? It seems these days, if you’re lucky to have a partner, then at least you’re one up on the single parents killing it out there raising kids on their own like a damn boss. I have no idea what happened, but somehow, as the generations developed over the past 50 years and the dynamics of families changed, so did our willingness to delegate, share, outsource and collaborate. I don’t think it was intentional, nor from a place of mistrust or spite, just a lifestyle change that unfortunately made life harder for us, especially for working mothers. Women re-joined the workforce, stay at home mothers no longer the norm, small communities transformed into singular households and logically, the village dissipated.

My mother speaks so fondly of raising us kids in a small town that very much resembled this magical village we all now fantasise about. The type of village where our ‘Nanny’ next door would listen out from her front veranda while the babies slept so mum could run down to the shops. The type of village where they’d bundle us kids up in dressing gowns and take us all to a last-minute BBQ with a bunch of other families so the adults could share the load and escape the monotony of the dinner, bath and bed routine. The type of village where her best friend would sneak in of a weekend morning and steal us kids away to take down the park so mum could sleep in after night shift. The type of village where they knew there were always eyes, ears and hands on us kids, no matter what street we were riding our bikes up or what shop we were buying lollies from. Every adult had each other’s back, it didn’t matter whose kids were around, they were fed, cared for, disciplined and loved.

I’m envious. I feel jipped. Don’t get me wrong, I have an incredibly supportive bunch of beautiful friends who would drop anything to help us and a family who loves on us hard even from 3 hours away. I live a very blessed, supported life. But I absolutely do not have that kind of village, the village my mum had. And it’s not because my friends are shit or that my community is unkind. It’s because the neighbour works full time so isn’t home during the day, it’s because the streets apparently aren’t deemed as safe as 30 years ago, it’s because by the end of a long fucking work day, the only thing on my mind is getting my own damn kids in bed so I can finally sit down.

Gone are the sporadic witching hour drop ins, now we isolate ourselves and say no to any sort of collaborative dinner plans in fear of overtired kids, altering routine regimes or pending workdays. We rarely see quiches on doorsteps or lasagnes on porches anymore, we all just feed our own tribe in the confines of our own homes and roll over those leftovers as a win for tomorrow. It’s now frowned upon to even raise your voice at someone else’s kid, when years ago women expected their kids to be pulled up when they were being dicks. We say no to outings with friends because god forbid, we let a 15-year-old babysitter watch our kids, when back in the day older siblings and cousins were the very convenient and free babysitting service. Somewhere along the way, I fear we lost touch with something so damn valuable, something so damn important – the comradery, the community, the convenience - the village.

So when did the thinking that doing it alone, outnumbered by tiny tyrants was the best way to live our lives. Surely sharing the weight of parenting, offloading our weeks horrors to fellow exhausted parents and teaching our children to respect other adults are all things worth keeping? Bring back the many hands, bring back the spontaneous communal dinner plans, bring back the neighbourly night watch.

J x