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It Takes a Village to Raise a Child: Why it Matters More than Ever

Published on May 8, 2023 11:59:01 AM PDT May 8, 2023 11:59:01 AM PDTth, May 8, 2023 11:59:01 AM PDT

It Takes a Village to Raise a Child: Why it Matters More than Ever

Photo: @jerilynmoon and her village

“It takes a village to raise a child” is an African proverb that holds the key to parenting success and raising children who flourish to be active contributors to the world.

It is hard raising children. It is even tougher raising children in silos.

In this era of advanced technology and modernity, it's paradoxical that many parents are suffering from chronic loneliness . Even millennial parents struggle to find their way to a village on their parenting map.

Perhaps, the rapid pace of our hectic day-to-day lives had drained us of the energy needed to seek, build, and cultivate a supportive community. And when our family or friends relocate, we often struggle to rebuild our close cherished network.

I feel incredibly fortunate as a parent raising a child in Singapore. We have access to what can be described as a “child-minding convenience store”.

Almost all child-minding tasks can be easily outsourced, thanks to affordable childcare services, foreign domestic workers (who even come with childcare levy benefits!), confinement nannies and babysitters.

But sometimes I wonder. Does this “hiring mentality” quietly erode away the supportive community network that parents desperately need?

Perhaps in a transactional economy where money is often traded for personal services, maybe as parents, we feel uncomfortable leaning on others and asking for help. If you are a close friend to a first-time mum with a capable domestic helper, it’s easy to assume she must be coping well since she has help at home.

Not having a village hurt parents and children.

It is increasingly clear that more hands are needed to support parents in overcoming challenges. No mum or dad is meant to replace the entire village. We are not meant to do this alone.

We need a village to preserve our families' sanity.

Parenting is a challenging task.

It can become excruciatingly difficult and put us under tremendous stress during family transitions such as the addition of a new family member, relocation, divorce or when we are coping with loss. During these periods, a tight-knit community can be the lifeline that keeps us grounded, sane and able to adjust to our new situation better and faster.

Even if you are not a first-time parent, every new addition to the family not only brings more joy but also its unique set of challenges.

One of my close friends, Jane, fell into post-partum depression after the birth of her second child. Jane has decided to leave a lucrative career to be a stay-at-home mum to focus on raising her children. As if adjusting to a full-time mum lifestyle wasn’t enough, her family was hit with a double whammy when her husband switched jobs, which came packaged with a gruelling work schedule and a huge pay cut.

Suddenly, their family’s finances were in jeopardy, and the stress and burnout were taking a toll on Jane’s physical and mental health. Jane began to doubt herself. She regretted quitting her job. She questioned her ability to be a good SAHM. She blamed herself for feeling overwhelmed and depressed.

There was a moment of deep connection when Jane shared her motherhood struggles with me.

I was proud of Jane. She was vulnerable and yet courageous. As we sat in the café, tears were shed, and words of support and encouragement were shared.

It was a powerful time for both of us. Jane has been seen and heard. Whereas for me, I felt trusted and valued.

A few weeks later, I was glad to receive news from Jane that her mum would seek early retirement and help her with child-giving if she decides to return to work.

Building a village means opening your heart, letting love in, and asking for help. This makes all the difference in preserving our families' sanity.

Parents thrive with support from our villages.

Photo: @lydias_layton_life and her village

As you stood by the sink, scrubbing away at the stubborn stains in the milk bottles for what feels like the millionth time, have you ever felt that as a parent, you’re missing out on pursuing your dreams, achieving your goals or losing touch with yourself?

While being present to nurture our children is an incredibly rewarding experience, most parents find the experience overwhelming. It is not uncommon for parents to feel weighed down by their daily child-giving routine, making them feel disheartened that they must sacrifice a huge part of themselves to raise a family.

It’s time for parents to lessen the guilt and accept the fact that having a singular identity as a mum or a dad leads to an unsatisfying life. It is like a monophony. The song of our life should sound like a symphony. Harmonising, cohesive and resonating. Most importantly, a great symphony connects with listeners deeply and meaningfully.

Let’s embrace the power of community to narrow the gap between the demands of parenthood and our aspirations. Let's lean into our village and find the support we need to thrive as parents and individuals.

We will lead happier and rich lives; our families will flourish and we will shine.

James is a single dad juggling a demanding career in property while raising a school-age son. With unpredictable client appointments that often spill over into weekends, his schedule was anything but easy. But James refused to give up, and through his son's school, he found a group of like-minded single parents who became his support system.

Together, they formed a tight-knit community that took turns watching each other's children, providing a safety net for busy days and work trips. With the help of his village, James was able to achieve his career goals while being there for his son, and he, in turn, supported other single parents facing similar challenges.

Parenting is tough, but when you have found a supportive village like James, get ready to fly and soar.

Unhappy families raise unhappy children.

Photo: @roxannegan_ and her village

As mothers, we are conditioned to tend to the needs of our children first and priorities ourselves last. To raise happier and more resilient children, we need to tend to our own garden first.

Rushing around from A to B to C every day makes us sizzle out faster than an uncapped bottle of soda. Leaving us exhausted and burned out.

It became difficult to be the patient, loving and understanding parents we wanted to be. We can also become frustrated with our children, resentful of our spouse, and disappointed in ourselves.

If we want our children to lead beautiful and more fulfilling lives, we need oil in our tank to model it for them. That’s why we need support from a village more than ever.

In a world where young adults experience increased loneliness and sadness, having a group of people who can trust and have authentic relationships will show them what it means to have a village. We need to show them that it’s okay to reach out and also offer help to our villagers.

Our children can better navigate the complexities in life with the support and strength of a tight-knit community.

Have you wondered how children develop their self-identity and unique place in the world? Through discovering the differences in relationships with people (e.g., grandmother versus auntie), children are nurtured physically, intellectually and emotionally.

Our children need to be surrounded by a tapestry of love woven from different threads to become a masterpiece.

Grandparents shower them with a special kind of love, while aunts, uncles, and cousins bring their own unique dimension of affection. Meanwhile, close friends, teachers, and helpers offer support that parents cannot always provide.

Though we all care for our children in different ways, it is this canvas of love that helps them blossom into the special young adults they are meant to be.

Together, we rise as a village.

Living in an achievement-oriented society like Singapore, where self-worth seems tied to accomplishments and possessions, it’s easy for parents to get caught up in the trap of an “us” versus “them” mindset.

We may falsely believe we’ll have less if others have more, perpetuating a cycle of competitiveness and endless comparison.

But let's face it: we all need each other. We are interdependent on one another, and there's no getting around that. At the end of the day, what really matters is the quality of our relationships and the connections we share that can bring both our family and community health and happiness.

Do you know how emperor penguins survive the extremely cold Antarctic winter of -30 degree Celsius? Surprisingly, they still manage to maintain a core body temperature of 38 degrees Celsius to incubate their eggs and survive!

Huddling is their solution. This cooperative social behaviour allows them to survive and procreate in an otherwise inhospitable environment.

Instead of individually battling, which decreases survival rate, emperor penguins gather in the thousands to warm each other up and act as windshields against the cold merciless harsh weather. No penguin is left out in the cold for too long as the outermost members rotate to the centre, giving them a chance to warm up and rest.

Isn't that amazing?

It is this exact idea that we need to embrace as members of our village. It is time to break out of our shells and lend a hand to that exhausted mum so that she can breathe a little.

It is time to harness the collective strength of a village and share the tasks of parenting as a community so that we can each rise above our individual struggles. It's a two-way street that benefits both parties mutually.

As Persian Poet Rumi put it perfectly ‘"You're not a drop in the sea. You are the sea, in a drop".

When we tear down walls to reconnect and uplift others, we unleash possibilities as boundless as the ocean.

Conclusion: Let's celebrate our village

Photo: @missysharont and her village

Amidst the daily chaos of parenting, it is important to express our gratitude and appreciation to our villagers. Because we know that if they weren’t there for us, it would be much harder to navigate the ups and downs of raising children.

It’s time to celebrate our village with thank-you letters,gifts , and dinner-get-togethers. Acknowledge that they are part of your inner circle and special to your family.

Every member of our village is precious. We were meant to support each other and never walk alone.

About the author
Joey Chen is a soloprenuer who is about to celebrate her tenth year of motherhood. She finds joy being surrounded by nature, reading and spending time with her family and friends.