We often here, "It takes a village to raise a child", and with this in mind, many mothers today try to work together to support one another through the trials and tribulations of parenting in this modern world.
The thing is, in villages, it wasn't peers supporting one another with parenting, so much as an intergenerational support system, and I feel - I've witnessed a fair bit of this - that many women in peer community groups end up feeling let down by the concept of it taking a village to raise a child.
The problem with peers trying to be support to one another is that everyone has the same needs, and when you have a particular need, it's very hard to give of yourself to another person who has exactly the same need, because you have little to give.
When you're emotionally spent, and all touched out and the kids are demanding you constant attention, do you feel able to give someone else's children - as well as your own children - the attention they need in order to help out another mum to who is also emotionally spent, all touched out and has kids demanding her constant attention? Somehow, I doubt it. And so, community peer support often extends only to brief encounters with the dispersing of much anxious energy. Quite often women come away from these brief social encounters feeling less isolated, but not less tired.
There is no doubt it's great to laugh and cry with other women, but to what extent can this alleviate the symptoms of severe anxiety, stress, sleep deprivation or loneliness, particularly if it's a once a week, or once a month event?
Village life was all about the previous generation helping out the next generation, and the subsequent generation helping out with the one before it. It was about meeting complimentary needs, not competing needs. When everyone has the same need, it means they are under-resourced in the same way and are not going to be able to be a resource for the same need in one another.
As a mum of young children, it breaks my heart to see other mums of young children struggling, and yet, I am not able to meet their needs because I'm barely meeting my own need; two drowning people cannot keep one another afloat no matter how much they would like to!
For women to make the most of a village support mechanism, they need to be able to accept support from "aunties, uncles and grandparents" - I put this in double quotes because for some of us those "aunties, uncles and grandparents" are not going to be able to be blood or marital relatives, they're going to be the other wise elders. Just as with village life, we have to accept that we may not always see eye to eye with their perspective on parenting (Do we really think villages were Think Tanks? Of course they weren't, the next generation is always going to want to show their independance by reinventing the wheel). Mostly, we need to acknowledge that doing it all ourselves, or EXPECTING our friends (who also have children) to keep us afloat is not going to serve our children in the long run when every resource is beyond exhausted and we fall in a heap...