Despite this oft repeated adage “it takes a village to raise a child”our society seems to have headed in the opposite direction. The nuclear family model and pressures of modern society leave little space for sharing the task of child-rearing. But what would the world be like if children being born today were raised…differently? What if they grew up with models that didn’t repeat the old patterns that so many of us are trying to heal from today? What if there was a whole generation growing up with solid self-esteem and a deep respect for all life? How can we help make that happen?
These may seem like overwhelming questions. Finding community is more and more of a challenge for many of us. Technology keeps us focused on connecting with people far away rather than those around us; cities are designed for cars instead of for people; the media keeps us in a state of fear and mistrust of our neighbours by reporting all the negative news they can dig up; everything has been scaled up…the grocery store is no longer a quaint little shop where you know all the workers, the school is home to thousands rather than a handful of students.
Given all these changes in human social organization, it becomes ever more essential for us to build our own villages. This could mean actually finding a physical location for a more communal living style. It can also simply mean reaching out to friends with similar values and building the relationships necessary for shared child-rearing. If you want it to happen, it is possible!
Bring on the Aunties (and Uncles)
There are also lots of people out there who don’t have their own kids and who could be great mentors! Maybe you`re one of them. As someone who, at least for now, doesn’t feel the call to be a mom, I often joke with my close friends that I plan to be the “auntie” for their future children. I love kids and would love to contribute to a child’s upbringing as an adult friend for them to hang out with (don’t all call me at once ;). I feel that I and many others would have a lot of positive energy and influence to contribute as an adult friend for some kids out there in need of community.
To the parents out there what I’m saying is, you may feel like asking for help with childcare is a big favour to ask, or something you have to hire people to do. However, there are actually people out there who would love to get a chance to hang out with kids more! How many times have I heard friends in their mid-twenties bemoaning the fact that they never get to hang out with children or elderly people? Many of us simply don’t have access to multi-generational environments the way we used to! Find those people in your circles and figure out some kind of mutually beneficial arrangement.
Letting go (when parents lose control)
I’ve had conversations with friends and family who balk at the idea of raising their children with other people aside from their partner. Even between partners there are often some pretty big clashes when it comes to “best parenting practices,” (let alone when the grandparents get involved). So how on earth can we be expected to agree with other people?
It may seem scary to include others in your ideas and visions of child-rearing, but oh, the long-term benefits! There is, I believe, a strong potential for added freedom for both children and parents when other people join the mix. I, for one, am extremely grateful that I was raised in an environment that was multi-generational and where I was exposed to multiple models of adulthood. On the one hand parents get to enjoy some blessed time for themselves, or for simply getting some shit done, depending on where you’re at in your life. Children get to have a new friend, and speaking from experience having an older friend to hang out with is a lot of fun, no matter what your age!
In the end it comes down to how much control you are willing to let go of. And really, as much as you may want to mold the model citizen, you are still going to have to let go of some attachments at some point. Unfortunately, no matter how hard you try and control the outcome of Project Child, there is no way of predicting the way this particular little being will evolve.
So why not…ya know…relax a little (easier said than done, I know!)? Create some clear intentions for the type of support you’d like around you and you kid(s). Find a framework that makes you feel safe and secure in taking some first steps.
Being the Change
I strongly believe our culture would benefit from taking the pressure off individual parents. We not only need people consciously preparing themselves for parenting in a new way, we need people willing to step up and support them in those efforts. We are all equally responsible for creating the world we want to see. Contributing to the growth and education of the coming generations is a key part of that.
We need to get back to a place where inter-generational exchange and mentorship are natural parts of society. Those of us not engaged directly in parenting have the opportunity, honour and responsibility of offering our support in being positive models to the children of today.