Bring back the village: loneliness in hindsight

Nearly every day I read another article brilliantly articulating the loneliness of modern parenthood. These articles evoke a sense of solidarity for which I am forever indebted. While I’m grateful for the writers’ vulnerability, as well as the heightened cultural awareness of the issue, I catch myself feeling sad, so sad, about the ongoing necessity (and it is a very real necessity) of these articles.

I can safely say that after 2.5 years of parenthood, I’ve stepped out of the phase identified primarily as “lonely.” I most certainly still have moments of loneliness and longing for the ease of relationships as they were pre-parenthood, but the overarching theme of parenthood right now is joy – true joy.

At this point I see loneliness in hindsight and can identify pretty clearly why it happened to me. My brain was a mess, my hormones were shot, my nervous system was fried – all of it. But really, all of those circumstances might have felt manageable without the modern farce that parents should be able to do everything, or mostly everything, on their own.

My husband and I had amazing backing after our daughter was born. Our friends and family rallied behind us as we navigated a series of complications. We felt loved and supported. Even still, I felt lonely as hell. In the back of my mind, I always knew there would be a day when we were expected to figure this out, virtually alone. My husband would return to work long before me, and everyone else would have to carry on with their lives as well. I’m a strong woman who was expected, and expected myself, to figure it out. But here’s the issue: that has never been realistic. The village you need has historically been a literal village.

During Mother’s Unfolding, a supportive community for new mothers, I learned what this village really looked like: women assisting one another in every aspect of parenthood from nursing to teaching. Women trusted one another with their children and allowed themselves to step away for work, rest and other responsibilities. Women knew their village could collectively care for their beloved children much better than any one individual ever could. Motherhood wasn’t easy, but it was understood as a group effort. Community was more than close friendships even, it was a team endeavor to raise a child well.

This image brought me peace and reassurance time and time again in my loneliest moments. I often forced myself to remember that modern parenthood – newborn nursing on our own, the expectation that we just bounce back, physical distance from loved ones and social media misrepresentation – is never what this was intended to look like.

I know and find comfort in this realization, but it doesn’t change the fact that forming community, even without the responsibility of co-raising children, in our culture is very, very difficult:

We’re plagued by businesses, so scheduling is nearly impossible.

We often don’t live near the people we trust most, so we aren’t always able to help one another even when we want to.

We’re fiercely independent and often need to break before we even seek the support we need.

We’re bogged down by beautiful social media posts about parenthood while our real-life children are completely covered in crust and losing their shit over nothing.

The odds in terms of forming the relationships needed to raise a child in a village are entirely stacked against us. But I refuse to believe we’re doomed.

Having come out of the lonely and into the phase of loving motherhood an indescribable amount, I am determined to be a part of bringing back the village. It’ll look different, of course, but if modern parenthood exists, so can and should the modern village.

I’d be utterly shocked to find a mother who wasn’t interested in some form of a village. So let’s find each other. Let’s love each other. Let’s make time for each other. Let’s fight every modern tendency to give in to the challenges that make this so incredibly difficult. I’m ready to start reading articles about how loneliness was avoided and a mother’s joy was restored.

Image by Heather Gallagher for Love Child

Post Author
Jessie Collins
We often refer to parenthood as the "most" in our house. It's the most rewarding, most gratifying, most difficult, most terrifying, most fulfilling adventure we've ever known. The details change daily, but parenthood is consistently the most everything. These new experiences started the minute we met our first daughter, and nothing could have prepared me for the ways in which I'd need support once I became a mother (twice over!). So now, I write to create community, to give other women a voice and to offer support through the constant mosts of motherhood.