Life Without Baby

Filling the silence in the motherhood discussion

It Takes a Village July 28, 2011

There’s an old African proverb that says: “It takes a village to raise a child.” But these days, families often live in isolation and there is no village to raise the children.

But what about teachers, neighbors, aunties, caretakers, volunteers, nannies, nurses? These people play a critical role in the raising of a child.

So, I’m wondering, do you play one of these roles in the lives of other people’s children? Do you volunteer, donate to a charity, work with children, or give your time to help raise someone else’s children?

What does it mean to you? How do you see your role in these children’s lives? I’d love to hear how you see yourself and how you think others see you.

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10 Responses to “It Takes a Village”

  1. Mali Says:

    “… these days, families often live in isolation and there is no village to raise the children.”

    I’ve often thought about this statement. As the childless aunt (by blood, or by friendship) I would have loved to have played a critical role in the raising of a child. But my friends were private and held their children close. They didn’t want a village raising their child. And my nieces and nephews (as I frequently bemoan) all live so far away I only see them every few years. I have one niece I’m close to – but she turns 20 next week and lives on the other side of the world. It’s a great sadness to me, that I haven’t been able to play this role.

  2. Lois Says:

    We sponsor two girls through Compassion Intl. Writing letters and sending money may not seem like much, but I know I am contributing to helping these girls develop and grow and leave poverty behind. I love being able to make a difference even from afar.

    • Mali Says:

      Bravo for you. I do that too – got my latest update and a photo from my girl in Malawi yesterday in fact. It was such a thrill just to see that her family could plant more maize this year. Especially when there is famine further north.

  3. Lara Says:

    3 teenage stepdaughters, and I love them (for now… believe me, as much as I tried it didn’t happen with the last one until a year ago and I am always a bit weary that things can change). But my relationship to them is very far from parenting… though I did spend a great deal of time listening to some boyfriend problem or school friend feud and quite some money making-up for their parents’ stinginess.

    I had a childless aunt whom I loved, she took me out drinking cocktails in London bars and smoking weed at a Pink Floyd concert when I was still a teenager. It was awesome, and removed the urge of doing those illegal things on my own with less trustworthy people. But thinking of it now, sounds kind of weird. I certainly would never do that with my stepdaughters!

  4. IrisD Says:

    My brother’s kids were definitely raised in our “family village”. When I still lived at home, my brother and his wife, and my nephew, lived only a few blocks away. My mom took care of my little nephew while my sister worked. We were together all the time, and he used to cry when it was time to go home in the evenings if I didn’t go and spend the night with him. When my niece was born, my aunt who lived next door took care of her, even though by then my brother and his wife had moved further away. When I got the chicken pox at the ripe old age of 27, I shared them with my 8 year old nephew and 3 year old niece (who has the same mark as I do right smack in the middle of her forehead). If the kids needed to be picked up from school, taken to little league or ballet, they had plenty of adults to pitch in. I’m very thankful that I managed through the year to build a strong bond with these two kids that have grown into lovely young adults.

  5. Agnieszka Says:

    Hello,
    your post made me smile; I’m a childfree teacher, been happily married for 5 years and still am. I’m 33. Even worse, I’m French, thus living in a country where motherhood is especially valued.
    Everyone keeps asking why we don’t have kids, and people just don’t get it, especially b/c I’m a teacher. The fact is that teaching actually helps me to make my decision to remain childfree even more solid: I have much interaction with kids. I have love from them, and I feel I’m playing a major role in their lives. I really think I am an important person for them and I love interacting with them, but I really really don’t want to have them at home, 24 hours a day. I love the quiet of my home, and my freedom, too.
    So to me it makes even more sense to work or volunteer with kids when you’re childfree. I’ve noticed that I find them much nicer and calm in the classroom than when I see them with their parents. I actually kinda feel I’m getting the best part. I love my job. I love children. I just don’t want to have any.

  6. Angela Says:

    My husband and I have 12 neices and nephews. We keep some of them for weeks at a time – right now we have two because their mother currently is suffering with a fairly serious illness – we take the older ones on camping trips or lakehouse weekends, and the smaller ones we will have over to spend the night and do something special with them. We also have a group of friends with kids, and we spend time with them. We try to do our part to mold their little minds when the opportunties arise, such as telling them about good nutrition, saying please and thank you, minding their manners, and answering lots of questions about all kinds of things that kids think up. We even end up disciplining them alot of the time! Their parents are always grateful for that type of support LOL! I find it somewhat satisfying to be able to contribute to the upbringing of little humans. After all, kids (and all people) basically just need people to love and encourage them, to learn good character and how to survive in this world, and we all know something about that!

  7. loribeth Says:

    Well, dh & I dote on our two nephews. We’ve always given them generous presents, & I always gave them special treat bags for Halloween, Easter, Valentine’s Day, etc., stuff like that. The youngest one is in university now, & each year before he starts classes, we’ve written him a fairly generous cheque to help defray his expenses. (We’ll do the same for the other one if/when he goes to school, or buys a house.)

    But I do sometimes wish we had been more involved in their lives when they were younger. I think we’ve been a good aunt & uncle to them, when all is said & done — but I never had them for a sleepover or to colour Easter eggs or carve Halloween pumpkins. All things I thought I’d be doing with my own kids… so of course I didn’t place as much importance on doing them with the nephews. Also, they live about an hour away, which made it difficult for us to be there for things like trick or treating or soccer games (& their parents never thought to invite us when those things happened on the weekends). They are 19 & 22 now, so those opportunities are gone.

    • Elena Says:

      I used to be very sad that not having my own child, i didn’t even have any nieces or nephews. Now friends made me the godmother of their second child and it means so much to me to be “officially” allowed to “befriend” this little baby, much more than other friend’s kids. After all i learned in my anthropology studies at University that being a godfather/-mother means symbolically to be related, part of the family.
      I work in youth work, though not directly with young children anymore, i am a manager and coordinator in a national association. But what is very important for me in my work is that i get to make some impact on family and youth politics in my country, and here’s my point: Our politicians seem to believe that everything to do with the growing up of children is basically up to the mothers and fathers (and even more to the mothers!!), school being a necessity to produce workforce for the market, and that’s about it. Any other decision taken is not regarded in relation to the impact it might have on the growing up and future chances of children in our country. i do my best to get the message across that kids need neighbourhoods, teachers that care, relatives, possibility to spend time with a positive peer group etc and that it’s NOT all in the private life and on the shoulders of the mothers, but concerns the whole of society!!!

  8. Jessica Says:

    I was looking for images on google for a grad school presentation when I came across your blog post. So happy to have found another IF blogger in such a different way. 🙂


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