The village is the ideal I dream about. I can make grand statements about how we’ve lost it in modern society and that people have lost the art of caring for one another, truly and practically. But that’s not going to accomplish much.
The truth is, to have a village, you have to be more than just casual acquaintances. You have to see your tribe on a near-daily basis. You have to grow together. You have to really know each other. Like an idyllic small-town community, which the majority of us don’t have. We don’t live in small-town America anymore; we live in suburban sprawl, and much of our connection exists online. The beautiful imagery of the out-in-the-bush African village surrounding a mother with love and care isn’t reality for us! Maybe it’s an ideal. Maybe it’s an inspiration. But we certainly don’t live that way.
And actually: when we put those expectations on our own society, it can be damaging.
When I was a childless newly-wed, I had many friends who were growing their families. Being Navy spouses together, I felt called to lend a hand whenever I could and be there to support these moms who did so much. Their husbands were on frequent deployments, like mine, and having to manage a family and household by yourself without any support is overwhelming and exhausting, to say the least. I was happy to help wherever I could.
But what I didn’t realize was the importance of having a relationship on which to base this support. With one family in particular, I started out with oodles of enthusiasm and said yes to every request for childcare.
This is my village dream… right?
But because my relationship with the mom had no legs to stand on, I ended up as her free babysitter. I was more than willing to help out in a pinch, but without the basis of a relationship, I started to feel taken advantage of. This led to bitterness and self-loathing (why can’t I just give freely? Why am I so selfish?).
This experience rocked me a little. Why did I become bitter? I did what the community was supposed to do! But I realized that if a close friend of mine was experiencing this and needed this much help, I would be there with bells on. But we would be living life together. And that familiarity would make all the difference – I wouldn’t be a babysitter, I would be a sister.
I’ve analyzed this in many ways and revisited it over and over in my head, and the conclusion I’ve come up with is you CAN overstep boundaries even within a strong community. The deep social connectedness, which you find in a small town or village situation, can be lacking in today’s environment and the abruptness and intensity of the needs of postpartum women can overwhelm us. Especially in relationships that are new. Our close family and friends that we’ve known since our own birth are often far from us geographically or too busy to provide the 24/7 support postpartum mothers need. Those in our immediate vicinity – like neighbors or co-workers – we may have known for a short time. Does it really make sense to yell at Americans to meet each other’s needs so deeply when we barely know each other?
How do we bridge the gap?
My ideal is that dreamy little village where everyone supports a new mom. It always has been, and always will be. But how do we meet a new mom’s needs midst our modern culture, which is self-isolating? How do we pull together as a community to care for new moms during recovery even though we are often not near our dearest loved ones or have little to bind us to one another as closely?
- Don’t stop the encouragements
It’s easier than ever in today’s world to give a quick shout out via Facebook, Instagram, text – or better yet – a heartfelt phone call. A positive bit of encouragement shines through the fear and “not-good-enough” culture like a candle in the dark. New moms are bombarded with unsolicited and unhelpful advice filled with fear that fuels the innate anxiety they already have (the focus of that first year is often how to keep your baby from dying). If more people were proactively optimistic with the new moms they know, there is no doubt we would see a measurable decline in Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Anxiety.
- Visit moms with the right attitude
We all want to see the new baby! That’s a natural and good thing to celebrate. What we should also keep in mind, especially if you get to visit in those first few weeks, is that new moms need help! Paternity leave is not as prevalent in our society and dad may not be able to take time off. Mama needs rest. Who’s going to do the dishes? And when I say dishes, I mean the whole kit and caboodle: vacuuming, dusting, tidying, dishes, yardwork… look around and you’ll find something mom would appreciate done. It might come across as awkward in the moment because we’re not used to this kind of approach. But if you follow your gut and just go for it, you’ll end up leaving mom better than you found her.
- Gift a practical and much-needed service
Does your close friend need another cute onesie from you? Does your daughter who is approaching her due date want to concern herself with laundering more baby blankets? What she really needs is a second set of helping hands. Give her a postpartum service, instead of more stuff!
Sound expensive? It is, trust me. Even a single house cleaning can cost hundreds of dollars, and postpartum doulas have valuable skills which are reflected in their hourly wage. No single individual is going to drop $800 to give a new mom the care she needs.
DON’T STOP READING! YOU CAN STILL GIVE HER THAT SERVICE SHE NEEDS!
There is a way to bridge the gap between our geographically dispersed society and the needs of new moms.
Marabou Services is a postpartum registry that gives you and your whole community the ability to gift services that are generally out of reach for a single gift giver. How does it work? Instead of one person giving $800, how about twenty people giving $40? Or maybe you don’t need expensive doula care and just want to sign her up for a few house cleanings. Does ten people giving $30 sound reasonable?
Services are what postpartum mothers need, don’t let their price tags deter you from filling that need.
We as a society do a great job taking care of first-time moms. They need baby gear. That’s easy: put together a registry and everyone chips in! But the needs of second-, third-, and fourth-time moms often go unmet. Less than 10% of moms are thrown a baby shower for subsequent children after their first. This makes sense: they don’t need more of that baby gear! The needs they have include keeping up with the other children, and the house, and dinner, and work, and their husband; all while their body moans “SLOW DOWN!” We’ve left many moms in the lurch because there is no effective avenue to satisfying their needs.
This is why Marabou began (see here). This is why Marabou teams up with postpartum doulas (see here). This is why you should remember Marabou when your best friend announces she’s having her third child, or your co-worker prepares to have her first baby; or if you’re a mother-to-be, why you should consider asking your family and friends to gift this to you (see here). Marabou fills a need that otherwise goes unmet.
In our culture of “who can bounce back the fastest,” moms who need a longer recovery time are bullied to buck up against their best interest. Don’t give into the nonsense, mom. You’re not a tennis ball. You don’t need to bounce anywhere. You need rest and recovery after childbirth. It’s healthy for you and good for your child. Your own personal village should be there for you; however they manage to do so. But hopefully for whatever needs you’re left with, Marabou Services can step in.