April 16, 2024

It takes a village... but who makes a village?

Yesterday, Audrey (the 5.5 month old) poked Andy in the eye.  Then Andy couldn't see and he was very sad and he went to bed early.  I am sure his eye will recover soon but he spent all evening and all day today in a dark room with his eyes closed.  

This morning I woke up to the task of getting everyone ready for their day.  Lilah needed to go to nursery and Isaac to school.  Our cleaner was coming at 11:30 and the house needed a final tidy.  And, of course, the babies needed feeding and attention.  

Both babies woke up at 6:30, so both fed before I went downstairs and made the kids eggs on toast.  FYI, I am not a supermom who makes eggs for breakfast, I am a regular mom who ran out of milk for cereal.  I did remember Isaac needed PE clothes for school. 

I called a neighbour down the road and asked if Isaac could walk with them to school, and they picked him up at 7:50.  At 8am I put the babies down for a nap and drove Lilah to nursery (Andy could have gotten up if babies needed him).  I got back by 8:30, tidied the house for 30 minutes (thankfully I can get it cleaner-ready in 30 minutes, and I had done some last night), and then the babies woke up.  

Babies fed again at 9:30, and in this time I texted a teacher neighbour to see if she could walk Isaac home from school and called the school to authorise the teacher to pick up Isaac.

Although this was not an easy morning, it's definitely reminded me of the line "it takes a village to raise a child"

While this is arguably true, this village was mine.  I contacted the people down the street to pick up Isaac, and I had swapped numbers with the teacher while walking home from school.  I hired our cleaner, I texted her to let her know not to clean the bedroom (due to sleeping Andy).  

I am starting to wonder if the "it takes a village" sentiment means "it takes lots of women?"  Would dads create this type of network?  I know there's so much that goes into this, and I am barely scraping the surface with my gendered inquiry here.  Andy does loads with the kids - this isn't a mental load query, or a division of labour query.  However, have women been taking the majority of childcare responsibility for so long that we automatically create these networks?  

I'm sure Andy would have made something work if the roles were swapped.  But I doubt it would have been the same level of community involvement.  Perhaps I've built up these networks because I know I may need them someday... a form of parental networking?  None of these acquaintances were made with the explicit goal of help when needed, but all of them were exceptionally helpful today.  Is this how men traditionally network in their careers? Naturally but ever-present?  Perhaps I've used my "networking" skills networking my family into daily security?

While I dislike the idea of "networking" in a professional sense, I love the idea of women building a better community.  Especially if that community combines children and career building.  If I can network survival while solo parenting four kids age 5 and under I should be able to network myself professionally, and I should *definitely* be able to find way to combine these networks for the benefit of everyone.


  1. Yes, yes, yes. I think this is an aspect of mothering (and the "emotional" load) that almost never gets discussed. We tend to form the relationships and it is a critical part of surviving parenthood. But it does take intention and energy.
    One of my friends once commented that even at her husband's work she is the one who networks. She invites people over for dinner, makes baked goods for holidays. It helps him move up the ladder professionally (or, at least, be much beloved by his coworkers thanks to cookies).
    I arrange ALL the playdates in our household and that stems from creating a network to begin with.
    I solo parent a lot and it is critical that I have a network of support but it takes a lot of work (and reciprocation) to keep it healthy and thriving.
    Gold stars for pulling this together. I hope Andy is feeling better soon. And I think this post is absolutely spot on!

    1. I had not even considered the work-networking for spouses. Such an amazing point.

      I think the solo parenting must spotlight this need for you, but like you said you have to arrange the network and reciprocate to keep it going. I need to think more about the reciprocation aspect in regards to emotional load. Even with paid help (like our cleaner) I am often texting to say "thank you" after.
      Thank you (always) for your support from afar!

  2. I benefited from village support and it was truly a beautiful experience. I did not have a village network as I was not particularly a fan of village life, so I was very touched by the support. There is an equal divide between men and women that provided long term support. What’s different about these women is that they truly expect nothing in return. It is very refreshing to be able to accept help and also just offer it when you can with no strings attached. I wonder if that’s how male networking differs because they don’t add an emotional load to their interactions. I also notice this difference when arranging play dates - when organizing with dads it’s yes/ no, whereas with mums more thought seems necessary so as not to offend or take advantage.

    @Elisabeth - do you live in a village? I can imagine in a larger town or more rural area that creating such support networks requires a lot more work.
    I also think being able to cook or bake is a blessing for networking or offering help.

  3. If his eye is still bad, he may have a scratched cornea. My son did it to me once. He'll need drops.

    1. I know... he's scratched his cornea during covid (gardening injury) and had drops then. I think the drops may have been key here. Hopefully going to the optometrist today.

  4. Wow, the idea that "The Village" is a gendered concept is kind of blowing my mind. But it seems apt, doesn't it? To Elisabeth's point, I arrange all the playdates and do all the in-school volunteering, both of which build that network. Not to mention that I attend all the kid's medical/dental/etc appointments, so I'm the one who knows the staff at those establishments and the one who gets recommendations for other professionals if necessary. I'm the one who gets to know the neighbors and the camp counselors and the teachers... which has led to babysitters and tutors and lots of other things that help build out our village. But I never thought of this as part of the "work" I do as mom, or really noticed that it falls to me. So interesting!

    I was thinking about what my husband would do if he were in your situation -- needed to be in one place and the kid in another, with me out of commission. I kind of think he would just... take the kid with him? Let her skip school? Maybe that's not fair -- maybe he would call on one of our emergency contact families or reach out to the neighbors. But I don't know! And it's not that he isn't a good problem solver; he is, and he's a fantastic, involved dad. I just don't know if it would occur to him to ask for help? Again, I am just speculating. I had never realized our experiences of our "village" were so different! Thanks for a thought-provoking post.

    1. Thank you for your thoughts! I know you are the village builder in your house so I was really curious to see how you experience this too. And a huge YES to the recommendations for professionals! My husband generally deals with trades people now but I found our painter and our cleaner and our carpenter. Finding people is 90% of the effort and it's always done through networking.

      There's a teen at our local bike park who is so good with kids and i instantly thought "we need to get his number for babysitting". I don't think Andy even noticed or thought that. It's godo to hear how your village has been built through those interactions... but it definitely seems that you are the one building it too.

      I hadn't thought of it as gendered either. Now, like so many of these things, I'm not able to unsee it.

  5. Yes. Yes. The answer is yes. Women are the social glue that weaves webs of support in western/industrialized patriarchal societies because we have to. If we don't, everything falls apart. It sucks, even as the mutual support of it all is beautiful. -rachel

  6. I don't know why this is, but yes, I think women are wired to make these connections - as mothers, but also otherwise as wives and partners. I think it might have to do with the fact that we form relationships different from men.