Forging A Village In The Absence Of One

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I loved packing my bags and boarding the plane for England. My family weren’t there to see me off, since they were living in Malaysia. When they left Malaysia and eventually immigrated to Australia, via a few years back in South Africa, I was already married and living in England.

Our parents met over coffee in a restaurant a 12 hour flight from where we were sitting at our desks working. We were already married, so the pressure was off. We’ve just always been together, now. Together, alone.

It was really only when we started a family that I began to feel the lack of an extended family. It was in doing it alone, together, that I began to understand why the ‘village’ in African culture is so important.  Let me tell you a story:

We had a cleaner for part of my childhood. One day she needed time off because her mother had died. Of course, we said, go home! Except a few months later, she needed time off again. See, her mother had died. We let it slide, but the third time she had to go home because her mother had died, the question was raised.  The answer was beautiful, actually. In African culture, you are raised by a community of mothers and grandmothers. One gives birth to you, but it takes a village to raise a child.

I finally understand the value of that. And I miss my family.

How many great-grandmothers crawl around with their great-grandchildren?

We’ve been exceedingly blessed that my parents, though not well off particularly, do prioritise travel in their expenses.  I spent some time with them when I was pregnant with Ameli. They were there for her birth (as was my sister, who visited every couple of months) and we were with them for her first birthday, when we spent six months with them.

I saw them again last year when I was pregnant, and my mother made it out here for Aviya’s birth eight weeks ago. We also have Skype and I’m quite trigger happy with my camera, and have plenty of video of our time together (which is amazing for keeping the memories of people alive for children. Ameli actually talks to and interacts with people in our home movies!) so while they’re so incredibly far away, Ameli knows her family, and loves them. She talks about them unprompted, and it’s wonderful… but it’s not a village.

My mother is available. My grandmother – the girls’ great grandmother – loves them deeply. She has spent more time with Ameli than most great grandparents get (she went camping with us when Ameli was 8 months old!). She’s always there for support. I can message her at any time of the day or night. But it’s still not a village.

Something I hear repeatedly from AP friends online is the deep sad loneliness that comes from choosing to parent differently. I recognise it, because for two years, I felt like the odd one. “Oh, you’re the one that still breastfeeds?” (When Ameli was 8 months old). “Oh, the one who doesn’t use a pushchair?” (1 year). “The one that sleeps with her baby?”

I can’t emphasise enough, either how isolating choosing to parent consciously can be, or how important it is to find a tribe, build a village.

Having an Attachment Parenting group in our area has been a life saver for me. Or at least a sanity saver. It’s something I’m endlessly grateful for.

I’m grateful for Nadja, who let me sleep on her sofa when I was pregnant and exhausted while she read books to her son and Ameli. I’m grateful that she let me be a part of her son’s birth.  I’m grateful to Nina who didn’t think my fear of not having enough love for two was ridiculous. I’m grateful for Rhiannon who agreed to be my Doula. I’m grateful for Nadja and Mish who filled our freezer with food in the weeks following having a baby. I’m grateful for Sara who has so much energy and enthusiasm despite a sleep-averse son that it can’t help but rub off on me and I love her company.

I’m grateful for Fee who has been a companion and is in many ways a like-minded soul. I’m grateful for Laura who I think epitomises what an ‘earth mother’ is and is such an inspiration to me. I’m grateful to Ellie who is one of the most gentle and peaceful people I’ve ever met, and has such an unbelievable way with Ameli, who adores her. I’m grateful to Emily who is the one person whose children are just a few months older than mine and who has had amazing advice to offer.

Communal Fire, Qwantani, South Africa

And you know what blows me away? I met these ladies six months ago. Not years. Months. There’s a village, and every week we meet up around the camp fire (an indoor playgroup, no flames involved) and there’s always someone on Facebook. We can always pop over and ask a question. There’s always someone to provide an answer a few minutes later. This is my village, and that is our shared pot.

It didn’t always exist either. It took Emily and Nadja deciding to start a group, to put in the effort and to place an ad to start it up a year ago. And the group has grown, more mothers have come, some have left, but we all learn from each other, support each other and grow together.

We turn to each other when we’re in a parenting ‘low’. We turn to each other when we’re happy, excited or just want to share. We can offer advice, information or just a cup of tea. Sometimes a mother just needs to know someone really, truly understands. This is what my ‘village’ offers.

This is what family does.

We all need a village, and in the absence of one formed by blood, one forged by shared experience is a gift.  A blessed, beautiful, wonderful gift.



Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon May 8 with all the carnival links.)

  • Dealing With Unsupportive Grandparents — In a guest post at Natural Parents Network, The Pistachio Project tells what to do when your child’s grandparents are less than thrilled about your parenting choices.
  • Parenting With Extended Family — Jenny at I’m a full-time mummy shares the pros and cons of parenting with extended family…
  • Parental Support for an AP Mama — Meegs at A New Day talks about the invaluable support of her parents in her journey to be an AP mama.
  • Priceless GrandparentsThat Mama Gretchen reflects on her relationship with her priceless Grammy while sharing ways to help children preserve memories of their own special grandparents.
  • Routines Are Meant To Be Broken — Olga at Around The Birthing Ball urges us to see Extended Family as a crucial and necessary link between what children are used to at home and the world at large.
  • It Helps To Have A Village – Even A Small One — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama discusses how she has flourished as a mother due to the support of her parents.
  • The Orange Week — Erika at Cinco de Mommy lets go of some rules when her family finally visits extended family in San Diego.
  • One Size Doesn’t Fit All — Kellie at Our Mindful Life realizes that when it comes to family, some like it bigger and some like it smaller.
  • It Takes a Family — Alicia at What’s Next can’t imagine raising a child without the help of her family.
  • A new foray into family — As someone who never experienced close extended family, Lauren at Hobo Mama wrestles with how to raise her kids — and herself — to restart that type of community.
  • My Mama Rocks! — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment is one lucky Mama to have the support and presence of her own awesome Mama.
  • Embracing Our Extended Family — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares 7 ideas for nurturing relationships with extended family members.
  • Doing Things Differently — Valerie at Momma in Progress shares how parenting her children far away from extended family improved her confidence in her choices.
  • Snapshots of love — Caroline at stoneageparent describes the joys of sharing her young son’s life with her own parents.
  • Parenting with Relies – A mixed bagUrsula Ciller shares some of her viewpoints on the pros and cons of parenting with relatives and extended family.
  • Tante and Uncles — How a great adult sibling relationship begets a great relationship with aunt and uncles from Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy.
  • Tips for Traveling With Twins — Megan at the Boho Mama shares some tips for traveling with infant twins (or two or more babies!).
  • Parenting passed through the generations — Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes talks about the incredible parenting resource that is her found family, and how she hopes to continue the trend.
  • My Family and My Kids — Jorje of Momma Jorje ponders whether she distrusts her family or if she is simply a control freak.
  • Parenting with a Hero — Rachel at Lautaret Bohemiet reminisces about the relationship she shared with her younger brother, and how he now shares that closeness in a relationship with her son.
  • Text/ended Family — Kenna of A Million Tiny Things wishes her family was around for the Easter egg hunt… until she remembers what it’s actually like having her family around.
  • Two Kinds of Families — Adrienne at Mommying My Way writes about how her extended family is just as valuable to her mommying as her church family.
  • My ‘high-needs’ child and ‘strangers’ — With a ‘high-needs’ daughter, aNonyMous at Radical Ramblings has had to manage without the help of family or friends, adapting to her daughter’s extreme shyness and allowing her to socialise on her own terms.
  • Our Summer Tribe — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger shares a love of her family’s summer reunion, her secret to getting the wisdom of the “village” even as she lives 1,000 miles away.
  • My Life Boat {Well, One of Them} — What good is a life boat if you don’t get it? Grandparents are a life boat MomeeeZen loves!
  • Dear Children — In an open letter to her children, Laura at Pug in the Kitchen promises to support them as needed in her early days of parenting.
  • Yearning for Tribal Times — Ever had one of those days where everything seems to keep going wrong? Amy at Anktangle recounts one such day and how it inspired her to think about what life must’ve been like when we lived together in large family units.
  • I don’t have a village — Jessica Claire at Crunchy-Chewy Mama wishes she had family nearby but appreciates their support and respect.
  • Trouble With MILs– Ourselves? — Jaye Anne at Wide Awake Half Asleep explains how her arguments with her mother-in-law may have something to do with herself.
  • A Family Apart — Melissa at Vibrant Wanderings writes about the challenges, and the benefits, of building a family apart from relatives.
  • First Do No Harm — Zoie at TouchstoneZ asks: How do you write about making different parenting choices than your own family experience without criticizing your parents?
  • Military Family SeparationAmy Willa shares her feelings about being separated from extended family during her military family journey.
  • Forging A Village In The Absence Of One — Luschka from Diary of a First Child writes about the importance of creating a support network, a village, when family isn’t an option.
  • Respecting My Sister’s Parenting Decisions — Dionna at Code Name: Mama‘s sister is guest posting on the many roles she has as an aunt. The most important? She is the named guardian, and she takes that role seriously.
  • Multi-Generational Living: An Exercise in Love, Patience, and Co-Parenting — Boomerang Mama at The Other Baby Book shares her experience of moving back in with Mom and Dad for 7 months, and the unexpected connection that followed.
  • A Heartfelt Letter to Family: Yes, We’re Weird, but Please Respect Us Anyway — Sheila of A Living Family sincerely expresses ways she would appreciate her extended family’s support for her and her children, despite their “weird” parenting choices.
  • The nuclear family is insane! — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle is grateful for family support, wishes her Mum lived closer, and feels an intentional community would be the ideal way to raise her children.


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30 thoughts on “Forging A Village In The Absence Of One

  1. Pingback: Trouble With MILs–Ourselves? | Mamas Tribe
  2. Nadja

    Luschka, as a full-time mum who doesn’t “work” (i.e. earn money) I often question whether my contributions are enough… I feel really grateful that the only thing I’ve done apart from parenting has turned out to be such a blessing to others. The group is just the facilitator for forging relationships – the people that have connected through it are the real blessing!


  3. Great post. Starting a family also make me realise so many things I never would have given any thought. I couldn’t just throw a crudly packed bag in the car and drive home willy nilly – super late or super early to avoid traffic. I had to look after the baby, make sure we had baby provisions, plenty of spare nappies, clothing, etc. I started to really value my families help and started to understand why Mum felt about us like we felt about our daughter. Time and time again, I can not get over how much negativity there is over things like breastfeeding, co-sleeping, or any other attachment parenting thing. I have come accross those annoying comments as well. It’s great you have forged a supportive village around you :)
    Ursula Ciller’s last blog post ..Parenting with Relies – A mixed bag


  4. Gosh – thank you for this. We moved *back home* when we were pregnant with our second babe. We are now closer to my family, but something is missing. I also had a wonderful tribe of fellow mamas back in our old town – a group of gals I met at prenatal yoga and just couldn’t let go. What a wonderful village they were – and still are. I miss them terribly, but I don’t think I realized how much until I read this. Time to forge a new clan in our new home!


  5. Amy

    It is incredibly important to forge these type of friendships. Being a military family, stationed away from our “village” of friends and extended family, I can relate completely. What a beautiful story about the cleaner and her three (or more!) “mothers” . . . I feel like in our society, we shy away from relying on others because of a huge push to be self reliant and I think that in lots of ways, that is huge failing of our society.
    Amy’s last blog post ..Military Family Separation


  6. Pingback: The nuclear family is insane! We love family and welcome community - Child of the Nature Isle
  7. I think women, in general, tend to underestimate their need for a village or a group of like-minded individuals. Since most people don’t settle down near family anymore, it is so important to make your own form of family, wherever you live.

    Thank you for reminding us of that.


  8. Pingback: Hybrid Rasta Mama: It Helps To Have A Village – Even A Small One
  9. What a beautiful story! I still haven’t found my tribe here in Hungary, so we are going it alone, but I long for the day to find other like minded individuals around us, so glad that you found yours!


  10. Oh wow, the story about your cleaner actually gave me chills. I love that she was so close to so many different women! And your post made me tear up – I have some amazing friends, too. Both here at home and virtually. What a wonderful community we can provide for each other!


    Luschka Reply:

    ha! look at us making each other cry today ;)


  11. Pingback: Dear Children |
  12. Pingback: A Family Apart
  13. Lauren @ Hobo Mama

    I love your description of your created village. That’s what we really need, isn’t it? Those like-minded friends who will support us, no matter what. Particularly when, as with us, family isn’t around.
    Lauren @ Hobo Mama’s last blog post ..May Carnival of Natural Parenting: A new foray into family


  14. Pingback: A Heartfelt Letter to Family: Yes, We’re Weird, but Please Respect Us Anyway « alivingfamily
  15. Pingback: My ‘High-Needs’ Child and ‘Strangers’ | Radical Ramblings

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