It takes a village to raise a child ~ Proverb.
In the modern context ‘village’ for us means a community of people interacting with children in order for them to experience and grow in a safe supportive environment. One where we all look out for each other and our children. This doesn’t necessarily mean family members only – it means we create our own networks and support structures.
As mothers we can be the best sources of support for one another.Yet we are lacking in ‘villages’.
We don’t have communities where mothers are working together to benefit one another. Every mother is struggling…on her own in her own way, our challenges are relative. We have mental health problems, physical ailments, birth trauma issues, sleep deprivation, our bodies, minds and hearts are exhausted often, yet we don’t help one another not because we don’t want to, but perhaps our inability to ask for help translates to being unable to offer genuine help. We don’t work together to create support networks for ourselves and our children. Why?
Because we think we don’t have enough of ourselves to give?
In our unintended resistance to set up villages, we set ourselves up for hardships we needn’t endure. Often the effect can become internalised and affect our personal lives running around like headless chickens trying to meet the demands of all our children and the expectations of everyone around us, but we don’t allow ourselves the opportunity to seek help. We have forgotten what ‘normal’ feels like, constantly telling ourselves that we aren’t doing enough for our children, forever feeling guilty that we haven’t managed to give them everything we wanted to. We are trying to meet so many needs we are making our priorities blurry and unclear.
We think that by devoting every minute of our day solely to our own needs we are doing ourselves and our children a favour.In making ourselves unavailable to others, we also bring extreme hardship upon ourselves.
We ‘can’t’ help anyone out in their time of need therefore feel unable to ask others for the help we need ourselves. We deem ourselves too busy, depressed, ill, sleep-deprived and mentally drained to be able to give anyone else an hour of our time every now and then, so we then have to cope with the devastating results of not having anyone else to call upon in our own hour of need. This is what the situation has become.
Yet women are the most caring, unselfish creatures on Earth.
Allah has given us the natural ability to love, nurture, support and care for those around us. With the immense level of giving we do on a daily basis, perhaps channeling some time to help out another struggling or vulnerable mother will help us realise how incredible we are and to be reminded that when we put out good we receive good in return. That there are others out there deserving of our time and attention too.
I’ve come across Supermums with 5,6,7 children with huge smiles on their faces, offering to make soup for a new mum or willing to come round and help with housework. This is what we need more of.
Our own individual problems will always be there and I am not dismissing that our own plates are full and at times overwhelming, but we don’t have to struggle through them in isolation. Training ourselves to look at the bigger picture too can help. Our problems seem huge until we open the door to someone else and realise the myriad of challenges other mothers face.
And this is where the story changes.
This is where we lighten the load for one another and really listen to someone who has nobody else to listen to her. Circumstances shift and change, there is light at the end of the tunnel, yet by dwelling on life’s problems and wallowing in self-pity, we cut ourselves off from seeing that light at the end of that tunnel. Allah tells us in the Quran ‘Verily, after hardship comes ease’.
What are we doing to invite that ease into our lives?
The selfie culture we live in has created within society an obsession where we are sometimes forced to remain preoccupied with our own problems to the point where we cannot see anyone else’s.
There are mums out there who have children with special needs, who are likely to need long-term support; How do we help them?
Do we realise that mums with disabilities or long-term illnesses, or those with disabled children are also worthy of our time? Our attention? A new mother who is suffering from post-natal depression or a mother who’s just returned to work and struggling to balance it all. Or do we all go back to work, our routines and leave mums like this struggling by the wayside? Just because our individual need for a village is no longer there should we show no interest in contributing towards one?
Too many women are struggling behind closed doors in segregated units to meet every need of their children, yet if we only opened up those doors and stopped cutting ourselves off from others we would realise that there is much more that needs to be done, and yes there IS part of us we can give. We can give and we can receive. Opening ourselves up to the possibilities of a support structure would indirectly mean helping ourselves and our own…but we have to be willing to put in the time and effort to get this cycle started and most importantly recognise that we can add value to the lives of others.
We need to teach ourselves to ask for help and accept help in our times of grief, ill health and hardships. Only when we get this cycle going will we ever get back anything that resembles a village.
1. Be willing to ask for and accept help from others. Sometimes you know you are going to be ok but it’s about knowing that someone is THERE for you.
2. Offer your help to others. This is the most important factor. To be someone else’s village is the biggest key to creating one for yourself.
3. Watch for women you can bring in. A village becomes stronger with numbers. If you already have a support network, keep your eyes open for others who might need what you can offer. Be a people connector.
“For those who are yearning for a community connection, keep working on yourselves until the right women are presented to you. Your vibe attracts your tribe.” Tina Jheeta
Safura Houghton is Co-founder of The Lantern Initiative, through which she raises awareness of mental health issues in the Muslim community. Safura is a Muslim Chaplain, and a community radio presenter. She is a mother of four, and has homeschooled her children for five years. She is passionate about travelling and reading.
By Afroze Fatima Zaidi