How a Modern Day Village is Helping Me Raise My Child

  

They say “It takes a village to raise a child.” I’ve read many articles that explain how important it is to recognise that humans, by nature, are supposed to raise their children as a communal effort with their extended family. But in our modern day society, villages are pretty hard to come by. 

I often close my eyes and try to imagine what an old time village of help might have looked like. Big houses full of people, laughter, good conversation. Children running around playing together. A big pot of soup on the stove, bread in the oven. It brings a smile to my face, at the thought. I imagine during spring and summer, children would be out in the garden, helping their elders grow the food that will be one day cooked up for them to eat and in Autumn they all go out to collect fruit for pies. I imagine mums, who can always take 5 mins or longer, to breathe and take care of themselves, while another member of the family watches the kids. And the joint effort that would go into the general care of the house. I like this place. Something in my blood misses this place.

But now, in a world that focuses on each person being as productive for industry as possible, we find that the people in our “village” are gone. Simply too busy to take part. 

Grandparents, aunties and uncles, our closest friends, all have jobs to commit to. Unless one person in a single family earns enough to take care of the family finances, alone, all parties must find themselves a job in order to contribute and sustain their way of living. This leaves new parents in a bit of a pickle when it comes to sourcing help and support from their village. New parents find themselves alone in the home, to take care of not only the children but the other jobs that need taking care of in the home. Again, something that in days gone by, would have been a shared responsibility. 

We power through, often struggling to raise our children in the way we see fit, whilst trying to understand why this whole parenting thing is so bloody difficult! 

It usually leaves us feeling like we are incapable or like we are failing at parenting. 

Some become anxious, depressed and find themselves needing medical care, either in the form of medication or counselling. Many others don’t even get this far. As a result of poor mental health education and awareness, many continue to struggle through, without ever taking care of their mental well-being, leading to many more problems in their lives. It’s a huge problem!

I don’t have the answers to this. I’m aware that if our government spent a little more time focusing on the importance and value of care in the home, whatever form that might take, then we might not be finding ourselves in such a pandemic with maternal or family-related mental health issues – You can follow Mothers at Home Matter Too to see how one organisation is trying to change government policy on this issue and also The Politics of Mothering to join discussions that surround these issues. – For now, all I can do is hope that many will see the merit that a politician like Jeremy Corbyn would bring to our government, and carry on. But what I do recognise, is that I seem to have created my very own, modern-day village. And many other parents seem to be doing the same.

It’s not as traditional as the villages we humans were once used to. The grandparents are still there, on certain days. The friends still exist. But in this village, there is a special group of other parents, who are all going through the same dilemmas. They are all helping eachother out with advice and personal success stories. They are there when a mum needs breastfeeding advice, when they are struggling to get sleep but don’t want to leave their tiny baby alone in a room to cry, or when they want to deal with their raging toddler without losing the plot. They are there for moral support, when someone has argued once again with their husband or the house is a complete mess and they feel they have no one else in the world to turn to. They are there to support eachother through things like Postnatal Depression. There’s even a library in this village, full of cookbooks, breastfeeding books, weaning books, attachment parenting books, self-help books, a book full of ideas on what clothes they can wear to breastfeed in. It’s quite amazing! 

It’s called the internet. 

As if by magic, this new world has opened, in protest and mourning, at the loss of our physical villages. People are digging through pages and forums, to find a new community that can help them with the hardest job on earth. And these relationships have become some of the most important in our lives. 

There’s a part of me that feels sad at this realisation. There’s a part of me that wishes my village could be filled with the people I love most, in the physical world. But there is also a part of me that is hugely grateful for those who play such an important role in my online life because without those special people, without the library of information, I dread to think of how I would be getting by with my day-to-day life. 

However, this in itself is not a sustainable model. Why? Because behind our screens, these people are alone too and far away. 

One solution I found to this, was to set up a local parent support group. I recognised the need for realtime people, face-to-face support and friendships. And you know what? It’s going pretty well. 

There’s around 200 members in this group and around 30 volunteers. As volunteers, we aim to come together and help any parent we recognise to be struggling on their own. We make batch meals and deliver them if a parent is too tired or too busy to cook. We arrange playdates in eachothers houses, so that no parent ever has to feel isolated. We go for walks in the park together, meet up in coffee shops and at playgroups. We wash pots and hold the baby so mum can take a shower. And we’re also there for that all important online support. 

I’m really proud of what the group has achieved and feel it’s a great attempt to claw back a little of what has been lost with our sense of community. I urge any parent who feels the same to do similar. Find your village! Find that help and give it back. There’s a huge community of parents out there, just like you, feeling alone, stressed, believing they aren’t capable of this job. But they are. YOU are! We just a need a little help. We just need to find our village. 😉

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Follow on Human Milk. Why Everyone Needs to Calm Down When Children Breastfeed.

  
“OMG! Did you see that woman? She was breastfeeding her kid! He was at least 3!”
Somebody call the police! 

Shock, horror! 

Tits. They’re great, aren’t they? Everyone loves them! So much so, they’re put on a huge pedestal and worshipped by all. Women spend billions of pounds, each year, on underwear to make them look pretty, perk them up a bit, give them a bit more bounce, or deceive the men on the town into thinking they’re a cup or two bigger. Men spend a good penny or two to see them unleashed, when they’re having trouble getting a real person to let them have a peak. 

Everyone loves tits!

So, why do we find it so surprising, when our children love them too? 

Currently recoiling in horror, at the thought? 

Ah, ok! I see. That’s because you’re still assuming tits are sexual, even where children are involved. 

Let’s get one thing straight. 

BREASTS WERE MADE TO FEED CHILDREN

That is LITERALLY what they are for! 

Oh, and this…

A CHILD IS NOT A TEENAGER!

There’s nothing ‘bitty’ about it. And by giving women a hard time about it, you do nothing but contribute to ruining a great breastfeeding relationship that was not ready to end yet AND you kind of look like a bit of a bully. Sorry! 

Because of people, who don’t know a thing about breastfeeding, giving women who breastfeed until natural-term a bad name, women feel they must force early weaning from the breast. This can cause upset, tears, long, hard nights, feelings of guilt, stress and anxiety!! Doing it because the mother doesn’t want to do it anymore is fine but doing it because society doesn’t think she should, is just messed up.

Here’s a thought, lay off mums who are trying to do the best job they possibly can for their kids, who are giving up all their time and energy, to take care of them and make sure they are meeting their nutritional and emotional needs. 

Want to question this? Fine. Go do some research, read a book, look up attachment theory but DO NOT slag off the breastfeeding mother!

Whether or not a child can be “put on a bottle” or milk can be “just put in a cup” is irrelevant, because guess what, breastfeeding isn’t just about the food. 

Children get great comfort from breastfeeding. It gives them a sense of security, it helps them to feel loved, accepted, cared for and protected. If they fall, they need boob, if they’re sick, they need boob, if they’re having teething or growing pains, yep, they need boob. And as it happens, it’s a great parenting tool. In most cases it stops them crying, almost, instantly! How’s that for reducing parental stress?

Here’s something else I bet you didn’t know. The natural weaning age of humans is 4-7. Our MILK TEETH fall out at around age 7. Coincidence? Not at all. 

In Mongolia, when a mother has breastfed her child until age 7, she is congratulated and expected to have grown a good wrestler. 

So, why do us Westerners stop breastfeeding so early?? 

How do so many others cultures manage to breastfeed for so long?

There are many reasons, really. Lack of breastfeeding support being a big one, but no, it’s largely down to bottle culture. Our consumeristic society has spent many years advertising and pushing products on us that will make them a few quid, and well, wasn’t someone clever when they realised they could *create* a gap in breastfeeding market?

Formula companies have been playing dirty tricks for many years. Word on the grapevine, tells us they used to be so aggressive with their marketing tactics that they would go into hospitals, give out lots of free stuff, set up training sessions, with our health care professionals, and teach them how to get women to formula feed. In order to do so, they had to convince the woman that formula was better or that her milk wouldn’t be good enough. 

This exact thing happened to my mother, when my sisters and I were born. A midwife told her not to bother trying to breastfeed because it wouldn’t be good enough and that was that! Of course, my mother believed her. Why wouldn’t she? Don’t we all trust our doctors, midwives, health visitors and so on? 

The big problem we have today, however, is that this was done for so long that all that bad information is still floating around. It’s been passed down generation, after generation, as absolutely gospel! And trying to convince anyone, otherwise, is very difficult.

So, we live in a society that over-sexualises breasts, where a majority of parents bottle feed their babies milk from a completely different animal, and who can’t separate sexuality from biological purpose. 

If anyone is messed up, it’s the clown who thinks he knows it all, when he decides to shoot down the well-educated, hard working mum, sat breastfeeding her 3 year old.

Give it a rest, put down your derogatory newspaper and go read a book!

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Bed Sharing is NOT Co Sleeping!!

  
I’m a big believer in co sleeping to help alleviate stress for the whole family.

Let me just get one thing straight, first. Co sleeping is not bed sharing. Bed sharing is a FORM of co sleeping. If your baby still sleeps in your room, no matter where they are in that room (unless you have a really really huge room) then you are co sleeping. Obviously, the closer the better but still co sleeping. 

The reason the closer the better, is because it is natural for our infants (notice I said ‘infants’ not ‘babies’) to want to be near to us, for security and protection. They are small, helpless little animals and in our caveman days, prone to being eaten by predators. They crave to be near us, hence, lots of crying when they aren’t. 

This isn’t to make you feel bad, it’s to help you understand why your baby cries and how you might be able to solve it and get a better nights rest!! 

Crying stresses me out, to the point I can’t think straight and I feel sick. So does a really disturbed nights sleep! I know I’m not the only one, and I believe that it is partly down to our instincts as parents to feel like this. It is instinctive to answer our baby’s cries and keep them close. 

The best advice I ever got was to follow my instincts and I know, I have just discovered I have PND, at almost 12 months in, but I truly believe that if I hadn’t have been co sleeping with Maya, I would have delved into a great depression a lot sooner than now! 

It makes me feel better when I don’t hear my baby cry all the time. And did you know, that a hug, a kiss, a touch, skin-to-skin contact, and/or breastfeeding releases a hormone called oxytocin into YOUR body. Oxytocin work as a natural anti-depressant, alleviating stress and helping us to feel generally much better than we otherwise would.

Did you also know that sleeping with your new born helps to regulate their breathing, body temperature and heart rate? Without you there, they have to try and do this all on their own. Another reason to keep them near!

Again, you don’t have to bring them into your bed, all the time, to do this. You can simply just keep them nearby!

This article explains, really well, how western culture has messed up the way we were supposed to do things with out children, biologically, as humans. 

Follow your instincts! Do what feels right. I PROMISE it will make you feel better! ✌🏻️

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