Where Did the Village Go? Find It Here!
Self-sufficiency is a demanded virtue of our modern society. While it may be essential, it can also be isolating. We are now so accustomed to trying to do it all on our own. However, it is together that we thrive. I am reminded of the age-old African proverb, ”It takes a village to raise a child.” But when a modern-day parent looks around, most wonder “where is the village”?
Well, I think it is time for a change. And I hope you will join me in being a part of the change. Let’s be the village!
To understand how to best go about this, let’s first recognize what life is like for the average American family today. Let’s start at the beginning, when a child is born and a family of two become three. Joyous and exciting for most. But hello! Game changer! Your life is no longer your own. You are now responsible for a whole other being!
It is unfortunate that gone from our culture are any postpartum rituals to support a new mother. Rituals that most other cultures hang onto in order to promote wellness for the mother and young family. In other parts of the world, postpartum depression is warded off because women are provided rest and recuperation after pregnancy and labor. They are given assistance by the young and mentored by the elder women surrounding them. For many modern families amongst us, family and close friends are spread far and wide. There is very little support. Google has replaced mentors.
Further, our new mothers are not provided rest and recuperation. They are hurried back to work, as there is very minimal or zero support from our government or employers. Some fear they will not have a job to return to if they don’t return with haste. The lucky ones have their job protected by law for twelve weeks, but sadly that is not the case for all.
With our extended families spread far are wide, we are grateful for our evolved, modern husbands who have stepped up their game in the child-rearing department. But the time off given to new fathers after the birth of their child is pitiful. With our first child, my husband got three days paternity leave. Three days. I was in labor for two days. So he had to return to work before I even left the hospital. Talk about forcing self-sufficiency from the get-go!
Since my job was not protected by law, it was a risk I chose to take when I decided to take twelve weeks for maternity leave. I was fortunate that I had a job to return to. Especially after being away on maternity leave and living on a much lower income. To clarify, even if your job is protected, it does not necessarily mean you’re paid. The majority get little to no paid leave. No pay at a time when you need it most. Medical bills compound fast. It was quite shocking. Even for those of us with “good” benefit packages, a healthy birth can still yield thousands of dollars in medical bills.
My first prenatal visit alone yielded a $700+ bill for the routine lab work. When I inquired why that was not covered under preventive medicine, I was told it was because of my “diagnosis.” My diagnosis of “pregnancy.” What a shame. A blatant reminder that even for the unborn, health care in this country is not a right, it is a privilege. One that we must pay for. And we must pay for it whether or not there is a steady paycheck coming in. Get back to work already, mama!
Ahh, but once you return to work, that is when the costs really start to mount. We all hear about saving for our children’s college fund. But there is little warning provided that the cost of childcare for children under the age of five surpasses the cost of college! And mama, no one is gonna help you with that either. We live in America, where self-sufficiency is a must.
American families quickly learn there is no village, the well-being of your child is your sole responsibility. So out of necessity, things quickly become very internal facing. A “me, me, me” mentality is practically forced. You must take care of yourself and your family. It is made very clear to families from the get-go. You must be self-reliant.
Well, I think many of us crave a “we.” It is why we cling to social media. We long to connect. It is in our nature to have a community and a support system because deep down we know that is how we thrive. We want to come together. And if we unite in a purposeful way, we can create a more village-like society. In part, these sentiments are what inspired the formation of Via The Village. But there is even more to it and more to understand about the needs of modern-day families.
When I went back to work after my first child was born, we were absolutely astonished by the cost of childcare. It surpassed any of our other monthly expenses. But like everyone else, we just had to suck it up. It is what it is. We were not going to sacrifice quality and stick our precious new baby in some dumpy, overcrowded daycare center. Sadly, many parents don’t have a choice.
With my husband’s long work days and my twelve-hour shifts working as a nurse, daycare hours wouldn’t cover our care needs. We needed a nanny, and they come at the premium end of the cost spectrum. When choosing a nanny, it’s not like you’re going to go bargain shopping. You want the best. And you can’t low ball the best. The last thing you want to do is make the person caring for your helpless little baby feel undervalued.
Things were starting to feel a bit overwhelming, and then I heard about this innovative idea. Nanny sharing. Yes! Coming together. Notice a theme here? When two families come together to nanny share, it allows for families to save on quality childcare, while the child care provider gets paid more. What? Ingenious! We were all about it!
But with no platforms out there to aid families interested in coming together, it was a tedious process finding a share family. I posted on social media, started a Meetup group for nanny sharing, and even went as far as to put homemade flyers on windshields of cars in our Chicago neighborhood. We eventually found our nanny share family. Thing worked out with them for a bit until we moved. And we then had to start the process all over again. This time I around, I started my own Facebook group for those looking to share.
Success is what you work at. So we did end up finding another share family. One that lasted for years and gave my daughter her first best friend, Evy. What fun they had! “Evy,” “Evy,” “Evy” is all anyone heard about. It was wonderful. Sure, they had their little spats, but they worked it out. And to this day, the girls always pick up right where they left off when we get together for the occasional playdate or birthday party.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes, my nanny-sharing Chicago Facebook group was growing. One day, a friend of mine pointed out that it had organically grown to over 1,100 members. Hmm, I thought, look at all the people who want to come together. So I set out on my endeavor to help make that happen more efficiently. Design and development of a web application to bring families and nannies together is in the works.
What an endeavor it has been! I have a whole new level of respect and admiration for these web and mobile applications we take for granted. I have learned that building a “simple” application is actually quite complex. Without a background in business or tech, it has been an enormous learning process. But I have embraced the challenge, and it has been a really fun and exciting. As my nanny-sharing Facebook group for the Chicago area alone has grown to over 3,400 members, I am propelled knowing that it will be useful to so many.
Beyond that, it has been absolutely incredible how people have come into my life to help guide the process. I have spoken to so many wonderful nannies, many who expressed to me they also crave community. They crave support in their profession and for it to be recognized as a profession. I think we have a real opportunity here to raise the industry standards. To afford to pay these professionals better by coming together.
I feel I have been sent angels to encourage me to keep going. I honestly have never been so into “work” before. I suppose I learned a little something about passion through this endeavor. It is true what they say, if you pay attention to what interests you, God rewards you with passion. Passion truly is my fuel as I balance work as a nurse, life as a mother of two, and starting Via The Village. I certainly recognize that I couldn’t do it without my husband and my village.
I believe we all deserve a village so we can reach our full potential and help our children reach theirs. We can use modern technology to help make it happen, Via The Village! Join me, join us!