It takes a villageWritten by Aicha Lasfar
“It takes a village to raise a child.” – Old African Proverb
Had a rough time last night because your baby wasn’t sleeping? No problem! Just give him to your well rested mother in the morning while you catch up. Not able to eat because your baby is being too clingy? No problem! Toss him over to your niece while you eat breakfast. Can’t go take a shower in peace because your baby won’t stop crying? No problem! Call your brother over to entertain him for a few minutes.
How amazing would that be, right?
Human beings are social creatures who, for the biggest part of history, lived in tightly knit groups and villages. Family members and friends rarely lived far from each other and could easily provide support for one another in many aspects of life, including child rearing.
In a village setting, a mother would be constantly coached by her elders about the proper care of a newborn. Today, especially in the Western hemisphere, the family model has changed. Some would consider you lucky if your mother lived in the same city as you, let alone the same neighborhood.
These days, clueless parents can only refer to library books and the internet, if they refer to anything at all.
Many parents are driven to the edge of sanity as they struggle to keep up with their newborn’s needs. Sleep deprivation is something parents are all too familiar with, but it was never meant to be that way. As a society, we are loosing our sense of community, and as a result, parenting is only getting harder.
Not all fathers are lucky enough to get parental leave when their child is born, which means a new mother is left to her own devices. When left alone with a bawling newborn for the longest part of the day, a person can literally go crazy. Shaken baby syndrome is often the result of a parent at the end of their tether and, therefore, at the edge of insanity.
Post-partum depression, also known as the “Baby Blues” is the period of anguish mothers can feel after labor, which is the result of hormones plummeting after giving birth. Coupled with the hardships of parenting, post-partum depression can be a danger to a mother and her baby if they are left alone for too long.
Parents – especially new, inexperienced parents – need all the help they can get. The key is to make sure that new parents, especially new stay-at-home mothers, do not feel isolated and alone.
Here are some things you can do to help a new family in your circle:
Bring food: Cooking is the last thing on anyone’s mind when they have a bawling baby on their hands. Bringing healthy, easily frozen meals for new parents is a lifesaver.
Babysit: If you’re good with babies and young children, offer to watch them while their parents get a breather – even if it’s just a 30 minute walk outside.
Call them: A few words of encouragement can go a long way.
Visit them: If you’re good friends with a new mother in your circle, visit her often. Make her feel comfortable and don’t expect her to do a thing for you while you’re there. Be there for her and support her. Simply having company can completely change her mood and make her day.
Um Dean is a young mother and blogger based in Gatineau.
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