In the absence of our villages

This woman hits the nail right on the head. Agreed? Let’s do better folks. AGAIN. It’s time!

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In the absence of ‘the village,’ mothers struggle most

Dear mothers,

I’m writing you today because I can no longer contain the ache in my gut and fire in my heart over an injustice that you and I are bearing the brunt of.

Though this injustice is affecting everyone, mothers not only feel its burden more than most, but we also feel disproportionately responsible for alleviating its pervasive and deeply damaging symptoms, which is adding hugely to the weight of the world we’re already wired to carry.

The injustice is this:

It takes a village, but there are no villages.

By village I don’t simply mean “a group of houses and associated buildings, larger than a hamlet and smaller than a town, situated in a rural area.” I’m referring to the way of life inherent to relatively small, relatively contained multigenerational communities. Communities within which individuals know one another well, share the joys, burdens, and sorrows of everyday life, nurture one another in times of need, mind the well-being of each other’s ever-roaming children and increasingly dependent elderly, and feel fed by their clearly essential contribution to the group that securely holds them.

I’m talking about the most natural environment for children to grow up in.

I’m talking about a way of life we are biologically wired for, but that is nearly impossible to find in developed nations.

I’m talking about the primary unmet need driving the frustration that most every village-less mother is feeling. Though the proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” has become cliché, the impact of our village-less realities is anything but insignificant. It’s wreaking havoc on our quality of life in countless ways.

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In the absence of the village…

Enormous pressure is put on parents as we try to make up for what entire communities used to provide.

Our priorities become distorted and unclear as we attempt to meet so many conflicting needs at once.

We feel less safe and more anxious without the known boundaries, expectations and support of a well-known group of people with whom to grow.

We’re forced to create our tribes during seasons of our life when we have the least time and energy to do so.

We tend to hold tight to our ideals and parenting paradigms, even when doing so divides us, in an attempt to feel safer and less overwhelmed by so many ways and options.

Our children’s natural way of being is compromised, as most neighborhoods and communities no longer contain packs of roaming children with whom they can explore, create and nurture their curiosity.

We run around like crazy trying to make up for the interaction, stimulation and learning opportunities that were once within walking distance.

We forget what “normal” looks and feels like, which leaves us feeling as if we’re not doing enough, or enough of the “right” things.

Depression and anxiety skyrocket, particularly during seasons of our lives when we instinctively know we need more support than ever but don’t have the energy to find it.

We feel disempowered by the many responsibilities and pressures we’re trying so hard to keep up with.

We spend money we don’t have on things we don’t need in an attempt to fill the voids we feel.

We rely heavily on social media for a sense of connection, which often leads us to feel even more isolated and inadequate.

We feel lonely and unseen, even when we’re surrounded by people.

Our partnerships are heavily burdened by the needs that used to be spread among communities, and our expectations of loved ones increase to unrealistic levels.

We feel frequently judged and misunderstood.

We feel guilty for just about everything: not wanting or having time to be our children’s primary playmates, not working enough, working too much, allowing too much screen time in order to keep up with our million perceived responsibilities, etc.

Joy, lightness and fun feel hard to access.

We think we’re supposed to be independent, and feel ashamed of our need for others.

We make decisions that don’t reflect our values but our deeply unmet needs.

Perhaps most tragically of all, the absence of the village is distorting many mothers’ sense of self. It’s causing us to feel that our inadequacies are to blame for our struggles, which further perpetuates the feeling that we must do even more to make up for them.

It’s a trap. A self-perpetuating cycle. A distorted reality that derives its strength from the oppressive mindsets still in place despite our freedoms.

Here’s a new mindset to try on for size.

You and I are not the problem at all. WE ARE DOING PLENTY. We may feel inadequate, but that’s because we’re on the front lines of the problem, which means we’re the ones being hardest hit. We absorb the impact of a broken, still-oppressive social structure so that our children won’t have to.

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That makes us heroes, not failures.

No, we’re not oppressed in the same ways that we used to be (nor in the ways other women around the world still are), but make no mistake about it:

In the absence of the village, we’re disadvantaged like never before. We may have more freedoms than our foremothers, but our burden remains disproportionately, oppressively heavy.

Since the beginning of time (and until very recently), mothers have borne life’s burdens together. We scrubbed our clothes in the streams while laughing at splashing toddlers and mourning the latest loss of love or life. We wove, sewed, picked, tidied or mended while swapping stories and minding our aging grandmothers. We tended one another’s wounds (both physical and emotional), relied on one another for strength when times were tough, and sought counsel from our community’s wise, experienced and cherished elders.

Village life fostered a sense of safety, inclusivity, purpose, acceptance and importance. These essential elements of thriving were built in.

Now? We’re being forced to create all of that for ourselves within a society that has physically and energetically restructured itself around a whole new set of priorities. It’s a profits before people model that threatens the well-being of nearly everything we mothers are wired to protect.

Though I’m optimistic and hopeful by nature, this dilemma has left me discouraged many times over the years. How does an entire nation of mothers shift a storyline this massive while individually and collectively weakened by the absence of the very thing we so desperately need?

Major cultural shifts in prioritization, structure and power are clearly in order (and I do believe they’re happening, however chaotically). In the meantime, each of us has a choice to make:

We can buy into, make peace with, and conform to the way things are, or exercise the freedoms our foremothers and fathers won for us and commit to doing our unique and essential part in creating change, starting within us and working our way out.

You and I aren’t likely to experience what it’s like to raise children in an actual village, but that’s okay. That’s not what this generation is about. This generation is about waking up to who we really are and what we really want, and resetting society’s sails accordingly.

Playing your part in the re-villaging of our culture starts with being wholly, unapologetically, courageously YOU.

Here are a few tangible steps you can take whenever you’re ready:

1. Get really clear on one thing.

The fact that you’re struggling is not a reflection of your inadequacies, but the unnatural cultural circumstances you’re living within.

2. Own + honor your needs.

Most mothers are walking around with several deeply unmet needs of their own while focusing almost exclusively on the needs of others. This is precisely the thing that keeps us from gaining traction and improving our circumstances, both individually and collectively.

3. Practice vulnerability.

Rich, safe, authentic connection is essential for thriving. Cultivating this quality of connection takes courage and a willingness to step outside your comfort zone. What you want most exists on the other side of that initial awkward conversation or embarrassing introduction.

4. Own your strengths.

What makes you feel strong and fully alive? What lights you up and gives you energy just thinking about it? Who would you be to your village if you had one? Tapping into your strengths and engaging them is one of the greatest ways to attract the kinds of people you want into your life, bless and inspire others, and build a sense of community in ways that fill rather than drain you.

5. Become an integral part of something.

Whether it’s a knitting group, dance troupe, church, kayaking club or homeschool collective, commit to growing community around one area of your life that enlivens you or fills a need. Use the connections you cultivate within this community to practice showing up bravely and authentically and asking for what you need, whether that’s support, resources or encouragement.

6. Do your part + ONLY your part.

Though it’s tempting to fill our lives to the brim with commitments that make a difference, doing so only further disempowers us. Read Essentialism by Greg McKeown if you struggle with this one.

7. Learn self-love + self-compassion.

In a culture of “never enough” it is essential that we forge healthy relationships with ourselves in order to be able to fend off the many messages hitting us about who we’re meant to be and what makes us worthy of happiness and love. In fact, I see self-love in action as the greatest gift our generation of mothers could possibly give to the mothers of tomorrow.

8. Speak your truth.

Even when you’re terrified. Even if it makes you the bravest one in the room.

9. Imagine a new way.

Where we’re headed looks nothing like where we’ve come from. Creating the kind of future we want requires envisioning that future and believing a new way to be possible. Get specific and think big. What do you want?

I’ve tasted village life.

—During college, when my tribe of idealists and dreamers were all within walking distance, and we’d yet to subscribe to “adult” social rules that told us what what was most important.

—When my young adult cousins lived with us for several months at a time. I’ve never enjoyed motherhood more than those days when I knew that the needs of the children, home and its individuals were joyfully shared among eager, loving souls.

—On retreat with other women, when each of us was reminded how very similar our struggles were and how very desperate we all feel for consistent support, everyday interaction, healing, lightness and ease.

—At outdoor festivals, when the village is re-created, if only for a weekend of camping, and everyone settles into a communal way, cooperative rhythm and lighter state of being.

—During the time I spent with Mayan mothers in impoverished rural Mexico. There I witnessed the blessings made possible by the presence of a tribe, however disadvantaged.

My soul was fed deeply during those time periods. Every time I get a taste of what we’re missing, I become strengthened and hopeful again. THAT is the energy needed to create change. THAT is what the powers that be don’t want us to feel.

I have no idea what the future holds, but I do know this:

We’re supposed to be crying, celebrating, falling down and rising together.

We’re supposed to have grandmothers and aunts and neighbors and cousins sharing the everyday moments, guiding us and helping us see the sacredness in the insanity.

We’re supposed to be nurtured for months postpartum, cared for when we’re sick, held while we mourn, and supported during challenging transitions.

And our children are supposed to cradled and allowed to grow within the social structures WE deem best for them.

Find yourself, then find your people. Or do it the other way around. Just don’t settle. Don’t ever settle for a way of life created by those who don’t honor your soul and cherish your babies.

Change-making right alongside you,
Beth

A version of this article was originally published on Revolution from Home.

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Embracing diversity

Learning and growing. Isn’t that the purpose of life? The following article is incredibly touching and speaks to my personal journey over the last few years. Onward I go.

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From Bully to Friend: Building Interfaith Friendships – By Sarah Franklin

For most of my childhood, I recall considering myself simply non-religious, as I was too young to choose a religion for myself, yet I knew I did not agree with the religion and beliefs with which I was raised. I grew up in Alabama in the heart of the Bible Belt and my family and most of my small community were Southern Baptist.

When I was invited to sleepovers I was usually expected to attend church with the family whose house I was at, and though I did not mind I could not help but ask questions as I was a curious child. I always questioned what I was told, and in church I would usually question the biblical flood story because it seemed odd to me that God would kill everyone on the earth.

When I began to question/challenge some of the church’s teachings, my new sleepover buddies were suddenly no longer interested in being my friends. I can remember my peers in elementary school coming up to me after such an event occurred and asking me “Why don’t you love Jesus?” or “Jane told us that you don’t believe in God.” I was far too young to even comprehend the meaning behind these questions, much less have an answer to them.

Eventually, in an attempt to fit in, I began to pretend to adhere to a faith in which I did not believe. Until middle school, when I discovered and studied the pagan traditions of ancient Europe and it felt like the faith I had been searching for. After that I proudly called myself a pagan. However, this certainly didn’t help me fit in.

Eventually, in an attempt to fit in, I began to pretend to adhere to a faith in which I did not believe.

In high school, a classmate named John made it a point to taunt and condescend to those who did not follow the Christian path whenever the topic came up in class or otherwise. He came from a rather conservative Christian background and adhered to the belief that witnessing to people about the Abrahamic god was what he was supposed to do in order to bring souls to Christ. I was the easy target because I openly expressed my religious choices and when asked if I believed in god, I would blatantly tell people that I believe in multiple gods and goddesses but not the god that they worship.

I was the heathen that needed to be converted and John continually singled me out, which made me feel more and more like an outcast. However, I was lucky enough to have my small group of friends who loved me, and I loved them dearly; they were my support system and stood up for me against our peers and even teachers who seemed to think they had the authority to try to tell me that my religion was wrong.

Once I started attending university and was able to move away from my hometown I put those who had bothered me out of my mind. But, surprisingly, I ended up staying in contact with John. He would occasionally message me and just ask me how things were going and if I was happy to get out of our small town. When I came home after my first year at university, John asked if I wanted to hang out with him and a mutual friend that we had from high school. I was curious and agreed to go to dinner and see a new horror movie all three of us had been longing to see.

As we sat down to dinner at a little bar and grill, he spoke of how he had been able to learn and grow since going to college and felt unhappy about how he had acted towards me. I realized that he felt like we had actually been friends in high school and when I told him that I had never considered him a friend but rather a bully, he was shocked. I explained to him all the things he had done to torment me and demean my religious choices. All those years he thought the teasing was good-natured and lighthearted, just friends teasing each other.

I realized that he felt like we had actually been friends in high school and when I told him that I had never considered him a friend but rather a bully, he was shocked.

When he saw that in fact I had been hurt by this, he apologized, a sincere apology for how he had acted during those years. We ended up having a serious conversation and casual debate about religion and I spoke of how I had done my own research with my religion and made an informed choice about who/what I chose to worship and why. Today I consider this young man a good friend of mine, though we may not agree on fundamental religious values, we respect each other’s right to worship and live according to our beliefs.

Like with John, I’ve found that when I stay true to myself, people sometimes surprise me. When we hide our true self from others, people never have the chance to like and accept us for who we are. And those are the people we need in our lives. The people who love and accept us for who we are; not those who would want us to hide and pretend to be something else.

Last fall, I was looking for community service opportunities and I knew that many volunteer opportunities are associated with religious organizations. I asked some of my friends in the pagan community if they knew of any volunteering opportunities that would be accepting of non-Christians. Most of them recommended one specific church, so I went there and began volunteering.

Out of fear I did not outwardly wear, say, or do anything that was obviously pagan, because I was worried that if they knew I would be told that I could not continue to serve. After working there every Saturday morning feeding the homeless for a month I was faced with a problem. The group always prayed together before we served food. Normally, when this happened I would excuse myself to the restroom and tell them to continue without me. However, one day as I was sitting out the pastries on the dessert table, I was caught off guard when a woman asked me to join them in group prayer. I had to choose to either politely decline and then explain why or accept their invitation and feel incredibly uncomfortable joining a prayer to a God I do not believe in.

As we were talking, the entire service group turned to the woman and me. I could hear the people gathered outside waiting to be let in. The clock was ticking, and I was stunned and unsure of what to say next. I felt there was a 50/50 chance that if I answer truthfully I would be told I was no longer welcome. I was not sure if I was prepared for that possible rejection. I chose to say that I could not join and that was followed by the expected question, “Why?” I told the woman I was not a Christian, so it would not be right for me to participate. Of course, this led to a few more questions and I did my best to give simple answers (so as not to start a long lecture on paganism).

I was taken aback when her only response was, “Oh okay! That’s cool!” I was beyond relieved that there was no obvious panic among the church members about my religious choice, and that they still allowed me to be a part of their service group. After this they accepted that I did not pray with them, and I felt content to quietly busy myself in the kitchen while they prayed in the common room.

Most people I know do not have to worry about losing a friend over religious differences; they do not have to second guess revealing their religious/spiritual background to friends or other contacts. But for someone like myself who does not fit into one of the major religious categories, friendships and other relationships can be built or destroyed based on someone’s religious choice. I have been able to experience both sides of this situation, and I have had the pleasure of building lasting friendships with people I would have once considered my foes. Yet, I have also had people taunt, reject, and disparage my faith without even possessing a basic knowledge or understanding of my religion’s core values and beliefs.

I hold firm to a belief that if we wish to communicate better and create lasting friendships or community partnerships between religious groups, then the first step is to have an open dialogue.

I hold firm to a belief that if we wish to communicate better and create lasting friendships or community partnerships between religious groups, then the first step is to have an open dialogue between the community members. We do not all have to agree with each other’s perspectives (if we all had the same thought we would have no diversity), but we need to be able to openly speak and ask questions and give insightful answers if we wish to bring down some of the walls that have been built around religious discussion.

I hope to see more people of all spiritual/religious backgrounds choose to learn from one another’s experiences and beliefs instead of trying to belittle them. Hiding who we are does not help others to accept us, and it hinders us from using the opportunity to educate others. No one should ever feel like they need to pretend to be something they are not. The world already has enough hatred because of religion, what we need is understanding and tolerance.

Note: Here are some resource that help parents raise our children accordingly:

http://www.parentingbeyondbelief.com

http://growingupglobal.net/teaching-children-about-religious-diversity/

 

Study time!

 

Well as you can see there are a number of books I’ve read since the fall of last year. All are helping tremendously with my parenting journey. I have to say that I’m so glad I waited to read all these titles (except “Parenting Beyond Belief” and “Living Simply with Children” which I ploughed through years ago). I’d come across some of them years before I became a mom although others are new to me. The following is a list of the books I’m aiming to read by next year:

Awakening the Natural Genius of Black Children   https://www.amazon.com/Awakening-Natural-Genius-Black-Children/dp/1879164019

Kawaida   https://www.amazon.com/Kawaida-Theory-African-Communitarian-Philosophy/dp/0943412013

Seven Kinds of Smart    https://www.amazon.com/Seven-Kinds-Smart-Identifying-Intelligences/dp/0452281377

Beating Black Kids    https://www.amazon.com/Beating-Black-Kids-Asadah-Kirkland/dp/B002QO88HK

Selections from the Husia    https://www.amazon.com/Selections-Husia-Sacred-Wisdom-Ancient/dp/0943412064

Magical Child    https://www.amazon.com/Magical-Child-Joseph-Chilton-Pearce/dp/0452267897

I started this book awhile back and am still at it. Very practical. Written simply. It’s a fun read!

Raising Vegan Children in a Non-Vegan World    https://www.amazon.com/Raising-Vegan-Children-Non-Vegan-World/dp/0972510206

Odu Ifa    https://www.amazon.com/Odu-Ifa-Teachings-Maulana-Karenga/dp/0943412226

Developmental Psychology of the Black Child    https://www.amazon.com/Developmental-Psychology-Black-Child-Wilson/dp/0686241835

The Tao of Pooh    https://www.amazon.com/Tao-Pooh-Benjamin-Hoff/dp/0140067477

The Family Virtues Guide     https://www.amazon.com/Family-Virtues-Guide-Children-Ourselves/dp/0452278104

Raising Revolutionaries    https://www.amazon.com/Raising-Revolutionaries-Apetebii-Osunyemi-Akalatunde/dp/147001260X

The Black Parenting Book   https://www.amazon.com/Black-Parenting-Book-Caring-Children/dp/0767901967     I started this book a few months ago and am struggling to get through it. Why? I find it very conservative. The whole step-by-step approach is a turn off to me and I don’t find it realistic since every child/family is so unique. It is also written from a very allopathic standpoint which I’m not drawn to.  That being said I’m sure some parents love the book.

 

Kwanzaa: From Holiday to Every Day   https://www.amazon.com/Kwanzaa-Holiday-Every-Maitefa-Angaza/dp/0758216653

Books by Judy Arnall & Grace Llewellyn

 

My parenting book binge

Who would’ve thought that it’d take me almost 3 years to be able to pick up a book and actually finish it? Well that’s exactly what happened once I birthed my daughter in 2015! Talk about a struggle! It hurt on so many levels especially since I’ve been an avid reader since childhood. In my world books are life. So I’m back at it and it feels amazing! Over the last few months I’ve been called to essentially study the following books. Yeah I’m in the midst of a parenting book binge. These titles are all incredible. Yes, every single last one of ’em. Some of you may find them helpful too:

Gingersnaps   https://www.amazon.com/Gingersnaps-Affirmations-American-Children-Families/dp/0786813067

Singing Black: Alternative Nursery Rhymes for Children  https://www.amazon.com/Singing-Black-Alternative-Nursery-Children/dp/0940975807

Stepping into Womanhood   https://www.amazon.com/Stepping-into-Womanhood-Womans-Journey/dp/0966802306

Raising Up Queens   https://www.amazon.com/Raising-Up-Queens-Loving-Daughters/dp/1880913461

 

What Kids Really Want That Money Can’t Buy   https://www.amazon.com/What-Kids-Really-Want-Money/dp/0446529648

The Discipline Book   https://www.amazon.com/Discipline-Book-Better-Behaved-Child-Birth/dp/0316779032

Our life

Happy Tuesday folks! Are you a life learning (aka unschooling) family? If so how’s your journey going? Baby girl and I are lovin’ ours! As a mama of a precious three year old one of my main priorities is ensuring that my daughter gets LOTS of unstructured playtime with other children (neighbours, cousins and friends).   Our small co-op is helping immensely with this. We’re building it slowly, meetup after meetup. Here’s an article that focuses on one family’s experience with an unschooling co-op. It really speaks to me. ENJOY!

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Why We’re Starting a Radically Unschooling Coop by Modern Alternative Mama

A little over two years ago, I had an idea for an unschooling-themed coop.  There was already one in my area, but that group met once a week, all day, and offered classes that seemed awesome for teens and tweens — and not a great fit for my family (which, at that point, consisted of 4 kids from age 10 months to age 6).

I really had no idea what I was doing.  I didn’t know what my family would need, educationally.  I didn’t really know what our options were.  I tossed my general ideas out to a bunch of different local people, started talking to them, and we formed a leadership team to create the coop.

The leadership team changed hands several times.  The coop grew.  The form and structure we put in place, stuck.  Many families were happy with it.

But I realized that wasn’t, and neither were my kids.

Why We Struggled

A handful of months into our second year, my kids started complaining.  This year had more structure than the previous year.  They had to choose classes, and were expected to be in those classes and paying attention.  There was no option to ‘not’ go if they didn’t like the offerings during one session.  There was no real break time.  My kids didn’t like having to go to specific classes.  They asked to do something else.  Or leave.

I don’t like fighting with my kids over things that are completely unnecessary.

Yes, I have hard-and-fast rules about car seats and seat belts in the car.  Yes, we make careful choices about food.  Some things, almost exclusively health and safety issues, are simply what they are.  If it’s not one of those issues, I don’t choose it as a battle.

Part of the reason we are homeschooling, and unschooling, is so that learning isn’t a battle.  This group was no longer making sense for our family.

It was tough to choose to walk away, but the other group members mostly were happy with how it was.  Some even wanted more structure.  (The group offers parent-led crafts and activities, weekly themes, and more in a hands-on way.  Many parents let us know that they enjoyed the structure and used the themes for at-home extensions, where they learned even more about the topics.)  That’s all well and good…for them.  But not for me.

I did a lot of educational research, looked into Sudbury schools a lot, talked to my kids.  I asked if they’d rather have a different style group, where they had more freedom — or if they’d rather just stay with their friends.  Both my older two said they’d rather have the group with more freedom.  (Pretty neat that they chose what works for them instead of only thinking of friendships!  That’s the kind of stuff I want to encourage.)

Another mom and I decided to start a new, true radically unschooling coop.

 

Why We’re Starting a Radically Unschooling Coop

It’s radical, for sure.

The group has no classes.  No teachers.  No curriculum.  No grades or groups.

The kids themselves get to choose everything.  We provide the space, time, and materials, and they do the rest.

We aren’t separating kids by age level.  We’re not even differentiating between preschool and elementary.  We will be offering them a wide variety of art supplies, craft/ sewing supplies, computers, board games, blocks, Legos, cooking/food, woodworking, outdoor toys, etc. and they will be allowed to do whatever they want — in groups of their own choosing, or independently.

There are no arbitrary rules.  The kids are allowed to talk freely, move around, run, yell (as long as they’re not disturbing anyone else’s work), take bathroom breaks, get snacks or water, etc. whenever they feel like it.

Sounds a bit crazy?  It really isn’t.

Kids are human.  I know that’s crazy.  But they are.

As an adult, you have much more control over yourself — even at work.  You can stop and use the bathroom usually whenever you want to, even if you have to ask someone to cover for you for a few minutes.  Most adults can keep drinks or snackswith them, or get breaks every couple hours to get them.  Most can chat pretty freely with co-workers as desired.  They’re more autonomous.

Kids can do it too, with an adult presence and guidance where needed.  That’s all this is about.  The basic rules about respect for people and property will stand — kids can’t hurt others, break things, disturb others’ work, and so on.

We’re really excited about this radically unschooling coop.  And other local families are excited, too!  There’s something amazing about exposing kids to lots of different ideas and materials and letting them be creative in their own ways.

We’ll be getting started in just a couple months.  We decided not to wait, because, why?  The “traditional” school year is Sept – May, but we’re not traditionally schooling, so we’ll do what suits us.  We’re breaking free of all the ‘usual’ ways of doing things.

The downside of the Feminist movement

Yes indeed. There are some definite cons. Pros too.  The impact of the whole movement is serious. Let’s aim to achieve some sort of balance.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1021293/How-mothers-fanatical-feminist-views-tore-apart-daughter-The-Color-Purple-author.html

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/lisa-marie-jenkins/whats-so-feminine-about-being-a-feminist_b_6200322.html

 

Special note: Yes I still give thanks for feminism & feminists. Most definitely.  Much has been accomplished through the movement.  At the same time I’m very clear that some things have been overlooked or are simply unholistic. http://www.rebellesociety.com/2018/03/06/butterflymaiden-counts/