I think it was World Breastfeeding Week that triggered an internal conversation in my head. You know the types of conversations you have with yourself in the shower or while you are driving? You could talk for hours because no one is arguing against what you are saying. It turns into a passionate speech and suddenly you’re solving the big world issues with a vanilla ice latte in one hand and the steering wheel in the other.
So much of World Breastfeeding Week this year centred on ‘preserving and protecting’ breastfeeding which I wholeheartedly agree with and can get behind. Thea and I are six months in and to be honest I am surprised we have lasted this long. It was rough and unsettling at the start but I am beyond lucky I had the support I needed to press on forward to reach my goal.
It got me thinking about how we actually achieve this. It’s all good and well to plaster this goal across social media but mothers need more than a catch phrase. It is so much more than breastfeeding classes or lactation consultants or lactation cookies. It requires a support system in the home. It demands a village in every sense of the word, so mums can support other mums in their choices and not feel judged or as if they are running against each other in a race. It’s a team effort, not something to be done in isolation.
So then half way through my vanilla iced latte and a detour to keep Thea asleep and to keep on crapping on to myself, I was thinking about how much there is a lack of village today. We don’t live in physical villages anymore in the western world, where a mum next door can watch all the kids play together on the street while you sit down an focus on breastfeeding your new baby. We are all doing it alone. Doing the grocery run alone with our babies. Doing all the nap time put downs alone with our babies. Making the breakfasts alone for our own babies ( okay, Josh does that but you get my jist! I definitely do the lunches!). We might sneak a coffee in with our girlfriend on the odd occasions where we supervise all of our children (spilling their babycinos and having a tantrum over not wanting to sit in the high chair) together, but the heavy responsibility of raising our kids really rests solely on us as the parent. And it’s a lot. Everyone is living their own little life in their own little box and meeting up with others occasionally to have interrupted conversations and check in on each other, but it’s not the way mothering is meant to be. I just don’t think this is Mother Nature’s best for us.
My sister and mum have this running joke that one day we would all live together again. On a farm or something. Where we are all together at all times and are able to help each other out as we do life everyday. Grow veggies together. Take turns playing with the kids. Take turns in sleeping in. Get a whole lot of cats. Hang out. Chin wag. Not be restricted by making it home for bed times, not be restricted by having to drive to see each other, not be restricted by distance. Just being with each other to help each other.
I sometimes think this is what every mother needs. To be around other mums every single day. To take turns playing with the lego. To take turns in folding washing. To take turns at the self care rituals which could be done across days rather than squeezing them into the ten minute window all children are either asleep or being hypnotized by Cocomelon. Imagine if we could just snuggle our baby for their nap because our other children are being entertained in the sandpit by a fellow mum? Imagine if we could share a making dinner roster? Imagine taking turns on going out and getting groceries. Imagine living with mums who have the same skills as you and do everything you do. Imagine the lessened mental load. Imagine it guys!
I don’t mean to devalue what our partners do: my husband is an absolute machine when it comes to parenting and husbanding. He cooks and cleans and raises our kids completely 50/50 with me. But our relationships need village too! Even though I feel like I am so supported in my home and I can rely on Josh for anything, I’d love to have down time just with him more regularly. This takes time and planning and lining baby sitting up and all adds to the effort of making it all happen. It’s just a lot. If we all lived in villages among our parents and grandparents it would all happen so much more than it does.
So upon returning home and parking in my driveway, all but ice left in the latte cup and a baby babbling upon waking from her nap, I came to this conclusion: we need village. We need village among family. We need village among our friends. We need village for our kids. We need village for our relationships. I’m one of the lucky ones with oodles of support and many micro villages around me which is probably the best I’m going to get at the moment, but I know that’s few and far between. I rarely feel isolated and that’s a gift. It’s also not the standard.
All us women are part of a larger village globally which is powerful, but sometimes I just need a fellow mum to unstack my dishwasher or clean up the toys that isn’t me. It’s no wonder mums and dads feel burnt out. It’s no wonder we drown in housework. It’s no wonder we are aching for a break. We don’t live around others who can lighten the load. We are all carrying our entire loads, all of the time.
So I guess if you’re feeling burnt out, there is good reason. I don’t think this is how parenting or mothering was designed to be like. I think it was designed with community in mind. It was designed to be shared. It was designed to raise children who have an array of perspectives about life. It wasn’t designed to be done in a box on our own cut off from others.
I have no solutions. I’m just a mum talking to herself in TED talk format in her car. But I know I mustn’t be alone in feeling this way. I think we need to innovate a better way to do this thing. Suggestions welcome.