I was raised by a village of women, with my grandmother as the chief mother. There was a common understanding that parenting was a communal responsibility. When I became a parent I made the decision to create a community around me that would support raising my girls with the ease my grandmother raised me. With this community of family and friends, my daughters are secure and confident that there is a village looking out for their best interests.
Raising children is a huge undertaking and even in a household with two or more adults, it is a demanding job. For a single parent, it can be quite daunting. When it gets overwhelming, I lean on my village. My village is a circle of friends who my children love and are comfortable with and who understand the importance of communal responsibility.
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown every parent a curve ball. The children have been stuck at home and struggling with their own emotions during the new normal.
I have discovered a new village. It is completely different from the village I knew growing up and has extended beyond what I have created with my 'tribe'. This village is the World Wide Web — a whole network of parents who share their experiences, offer advice, and share resources online. The pandemic has created a big online community and resurrected for many the old African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child”.
Regardless of our family structure, the pandemic has forced us to rely more on each other. Without much thought or design, we have automatically leaned into the tradition of a collective responsibility.
The village is providing the support necessary for parents to survive. From assisting with homeschooling to psychosocial support, the extended community has eased the burden of working at home and juggling mommy duties. Parenting is too big of a job to do on your own. We can all play our part in this 'new' village. Here are a few ways I have observed the village at work.
Support with school
We share educational resources and skill sets with an organised, online, co-teaching network. My cousin 'Zooms' in with my younger daughter for math classes and I pay it forward with English classes to parents who are need of help in that area. In my village, we assumed that the teachers needed our support to prepare for this new classroom, that some parents were unprepared to parent at home while working from home, and offered the necessary support to each other. We are clear it is not perfect, but together we were able to find a system that worked for the school family, leaving no one behind.
Support for social engagement
After week five of isolation I felt like I was going crazy, and a call from a friend I was out of touch with led us to her farm for the weekend, allowing the children some well-needed social interaction and playtime. Creating a sense of normality for the children became a collective decision which led us to carve out time every day for the children to hang out with each other on Google Hangouts or other social platforms.
Support for each other
Reaching out to others to let them know they are not alone is a regular practice. From simply allowing them to talk by lending a listening ear, or offering to babysit for a few hours, I consciously include other parents in my village so their children can benefit from the wider community.
The 'village' is a conscious choice to act from a place of love and humanity, embracing the spirit of UBUNTU — I AM because YOU ARE. This is the best gift we can give our children.
Coleen Antoinette is a lover of culture and people. She is currently the director of marketing communications at Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts. Share your experiences with her at firstname.lastname@example.org.