Lately I've been thinking a lot about a lifestyle long before our time, when families lived in villages, the time of hunter-gatherers, when everyone had a task to do that the community relied on for survival. When meals were prepared by a group and everyone sat together to pray, eat, drink, tell stories, laugh, dance, and talk with each other. When people worked together to hunt and gather food, to prepare meals, to build huts and shelter, to fend off attackers, and to raise the children. When a child was born into a village, literally all of the women would come together and help take care of the new mother and baby. I read somewhere that it takes 3.75 adults to adequately care for a new baby, and I don't question it.
Lately I've been yearning for a greater sense of community and my mind frequently takes me back to thoughts of our ancestors. How although we've been blessed with so many great advances in technology and medicine, that life back then somehow seems so much more simple and gratifying than today's world. Even not going as far back as hunter-gatherers, but just looking back to a time before the internet and social media -- According to U.S.A. Today, back in 1985, the percentage of Americans with no close friends was 10%. Twenty years later, that number became 25%. So the idea of loneliness and isolation, and feeling disconnected, is escalating in our current cultural moment. The irony of this is that we now live in an age with social media -- which was designed to bring people together and connect with one another, and through which people are being more connected to what's going on than ever before -- and yet people are actually feeling a sense of more loneliness, more discontent, and more disconnectedness than any other time in history. And I specifically think that new mothers these days are finding themselves in places of loneliness and isolation more than any other point in history before.
When Landon was born and throughout his early infant weeks home from the hospital, outside help was unknown to me. My village consisted of myself, and Chris for two weeks. No close friends nearby, no family nearby, and really just no other women that I was close enough to nearby that offered to bring over a meal, help with Landon, or just be there to talk to and offer love. However, those early weeks and months were filled with so much love that I never felt sorry for myself or felt like I needed anything or anyone else other than my new precious little bundle. But were those days hard? Unbelievably. No one tells you just how hard it is when you leave that hospital, when you leave the nurses' 24/7 help, and enter into real life with a brand new baby as a brand new mother. I remember breaking down and crying on day 5 home from the hospital because my pump broke. I had a very hungry, demanding baby who refused my nipple, engorged painful breasts, and I was scared shitless to leave my apartment with a new baby all by myself and go out into the world in search of a new replacement pump. But as a new mom, you learn how to step up pretty quickly. You do what you need to do for this new little precious life you just created, which has now redefined your sole purpose as raising, nurturing, and doing whatever the hell it is you need to do to keep this new little life happy, healthy, growing, protected, & well loved.
As we are now currently trying to conceive baby number 2, I get scared again. How am I going to do that all over again with a toddler? With the passing of Chris' mother, still no family or close friends nearby, and tighter finances that naturally come with having more kids, I feel more scared than ever to baby-raise again.
We live in a world where everything is just plastered all over the internet. Women crop and instagram and photoshop and portray their best selves and leave out the normal, the mundane, and the ugly. We have relationships over the computer instead of in person, and women and mothers are constantly faced with comparing themselves to other women's photoshopped and edited lives. And as a result of all this, instead of reaching out, we turn inward, and we feel alone in our less than glamourous lives.
And in this new age of never ending information and technology, we learn on a daily basis about new techniques and parenting philosophies, the latest recalls, new safety concerns and SIDS research, that we should feed our kids organic and gluten-free and casein-free diets. We are bombarded with new articles and research on whether to vaccinate or not to vaccinate. On the benefits of enrolling your 6 month old in swim class. On why homeschooling is best for your children and how we are to raise a spiritually gifted and aware child. We learn about attachment and detachment parenting and why each is better than the other. It's simply overwhelming, and everyone out there just loves to give you their unsolicited advice on top of it all.
But advice is not what we need. We need help, and we need community.
Will we ever live in little huts and villages again? No. But we can come together and be real with each other. We can quit the extravagant baby showers and invitations for show and offer real, completely and utterly selfless acts of kindness to each other that are not done out of obligation or for recognition. We can drop by with a favor instead of offering an empty 'let me know if you need anything' text message. We can show love, not judgment. We can do things for each other without an expectation of getting something back in return. And I think that really being there for each other will get us back to a community. Because, deep down, we know life can be so much more rewarding and fulfilling. Because life is hard. Not because we are doing it wrong, and not because of any decisions we make, but because sometimes, it's just hard. And the loads we are carrying can be so much lighter when we have each other.