Many might assume that this African saying is not relevant in modern parenting. The trend of competitive parenting and ‘mum shaming’ has prevented lots of parents from having realistic, positive discussions about some of the challenges of parenting. There can be a mismatch between how parents are wanting to parent and their parents, and tensions can occur.
The use of social media to share our parenting experiences has also led to a skewed idea of how we are all doing. A day out with tantrums, arguments and a lot of rain can still lead to a lovely smiley photo to post. Or the opposite is true and life is presented as only being manageable by loads of alcohol. Every family has their moments and we are all just trying to do our best.
So, how can the village help? Firstly, connecting with people. This can be the hardest bit. Sorting out childcare, getting diaries together, negotiating different interests etc etc etc. When babies are young nct groups and play groups can be a good way to meet other parents. This can become harder as children get older and you may have less contact with other parents. Join interest groups and have regular dinners with grandparents. I’m not saying that this is easy but the effort will be worthwhile.
You may find that you are in these groups but that conversations end up as competitive or judgemental. sharing some information on how you like to parent can be helpful for others to understand. You could send them some ‘interesting articles’ or links. Information shared in this way can then be good topics for discussion without anyone feeling that they are doing it wrong!
You can then model listening. You don’t need to give advice or comment but just listen and be supportive to the person sharing. Being listened to is really powerful and empowering. Too much advice can be judgemental and make people feel as everyone else has the answers that they don’t.
Hopefully by being there for each other and listening we can help parents to feel supported by their village. Parents who feel well supported then have greater resources to listen and manage their child’s emotional responses to the broken biscuit!
The Parents Time to Talk group is one place where you can find this village. It’s aim is to provide a space that is supportive for parents. Join us on a Thursday eve at Indulge 8-9pm or set up one of your own!