I was the first of my friends to get pregnant—my girlfriends and colleagues, for the most part, were single or just getting engaged. Desperate for someone to talk to about placentas and stretch marks, I signed up for a prenatal yoga class. I hate yoga, but had the dreamy idea that I'd instantly bond with the other moms-to-be. I mean, wasn't that supposed to happen naturally when a room full of preggos got together?
But as much as I tried to fit in with my classmates, it simply didn't happen. I was several months further along in my pregnancy, more whale-like than belly-bump adorable. They compared natural birth plans and organic baby food recipes while I kept my fear of labour and my epidural plans a secret. Eventually, I dropped out of the class. So much for the "village" I envisioned.
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"I miss the village I never had. The one with mothers doing the washing side by side, clucking and laughing hysterically, tired in body but quick in spirit. We'd know each other so well: annoying one another from time to time, but never staying mad long because the truth is, we need each other."
Last week, author Bunmi Laditan's Huffington Post essay, "I Miss The Village", went viral. A beautiful, romantically written post, Laditan reminiscences about "the village"—the same village I believed existed when I was pregnant with my first child. The village I never found.
When I first read Laditan's essay I disagreed when the notion that the village was lost. But then I started thinking of how this missing village has been to blame for all manner of things lately. British nanny Emma Jenner believes it's the reason why today's kids are spoiled brats, why women like Debra Harrell are arrested for letting their children play in a park alone while they work, why Kim Brooks was arrested for leaving her son in a car while she stepped into a store quickly. It's like parents have stopped seeing the bigger picture, forgetting that support and kindness means that families and children thrive. It's like the sisterhood of motherhood has forgotten how to help each other.
But when I think of the friends I've made since having my children, I don't see them as a village but as more of a tribe. We celebrate milestones, swap child care and recipes just as I imagined I would in my village, but there is a fierce protectiveness that I never imagined existing. We're just as comfortable in each other's kitchens as we are disciplining each other's children (and if you want to test a friendship, just wait until you have to put your pal's kid in time-out).
If there is any drawback to having a group of friends who not only have your back, but your children's too, it's having to leave them behind. When we moved from Winnipeg four years ago, I was terrified that I wouldn't be able to find a new tribe. Now as we get ready to move again, I worry about making new friends, and navigating the awkward early stages of adult friendship—which is doubly nerve-wracking as an introvert.
But I know it will all work out. Because I believe in the dream of the village, even if it's not exactly what I originally imagined.
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