We all know that saying, “it takes a village”, mostly referring to raising kids, yet so many of us don’t actually live or practice what that saying actually means.
In many other countries, that ‘village’ is real, and they take care of each other and raise one anothers’ children. Many rural areas (not in the United States) share the responsibility of raising kids. They wet nurse other’s babies, they go without question to help other moms and dads, They hold the babies and help take care of them without even being asked. These rural villages and towns also happen to have the happiest and healthiest people.
So, why don’t we live this way in the U.S.?
Well, for the most part it has been driven into our heads as a society that asking for help equals weakness. For starters, a lot of moms and dads won’t ask for help out of fear of people thinking they can’t handle this task called parenting. Yes, it’s common that when we first have babies everyone comes over and brings food or groceries, but that lasts for what, maybe a few weeks?
After that, when we lose this help and pray and hope for more without asking, that’s when the depression/anxiety/fear sets in. It’s also why the United States has such a high rate of postpartum depression in moms. These actual villages gather and feed one another on a daily basis. They work together farming, gardening, cleaning, cooking, and looking after each others kids.
‘It take a village’ isn’t just about helping one another constantly. It is about not secluding people, not shaming them for needing help, and seeing how happy and healthy we all become by doing these simple things.
This small town in Italy
When I went back to school for nutrition, we studied about this small town in Italy where people were living the longest and happiest. They also had the lowest rates of heart disease and Alzheimers than anywhere else. They ate amazing Italian foods and drank copious amounts of wine, so it was a mystery as to why they were all so healthy. But what we learned was that this tiny village came together for almost every meal. No one ate alone, no one ever was forced to raise kids alone. They all came together for everything.
In some of these villages, women will carry (baby wear) the baby until he/she is one year old. At that point, they have a huge celebration of life, but for that whole year they take turns wearing the baby. These families also sleep with their children and kids in the same room/bed, because let’s be honest, the cavemen didn’t put their kids in another cave to go to sleep. People are creating communities called “co-housing” just to bring back this whole concept, and it’s a truly wonderful idea/concept. Mentally and physically, people need to be connected. They need to have someone to listen to them. Even the most introverted person still needs that ear to hear them every once in awhile. Can you imagine how healthy and happy we would all be? It would truly be a miracle! (And yes, I want to move there someday!)
Having a neighborhood with lots of kids and cul-de-sacs is definitely the right idea, but not as intimate as what I’m talking about, so I wouldn’t necessarily label it as a ‘village’. We don’t typically know our neighbors since birth, or go to one anothers’ homes daily. But we have become so separated from this idea of working together. We are becoming more and more introverted, or even afraid to be around people, and guess what? I’m one of those people.
I love the idea of these villages, but having not grown up like that, it would take me quite a while to get used to that feeling. I very much consider myself an introvert, and hate asking my parents, or anyone really, to help watch my kids. I also just like to be alone. However, when I had both my girls and people came and brought food and were just here to be here, I felt relieved. I think if you grow up around that culture and are used to it, then you won’t ever feel ashamed. I can only imagine how strange we must seem to those who are actually living that “village” life.
We need to remind ourselves that we are human, and we thrive on contact with other humans. Our country needs to create more co-housing communities that can work together to create actual communities like the one in Italy. Maybe it will even help with both the physical and mental health issues that we face in the US.