In this age of technology, where kids get cell phones when they are several years younger than I was before I even knew what cell phones were, where we succumb so easily to the disconnect of faceless conversations, when a world full of information fits on to a tiny plastic card, and when we are constantly criticized for spending more times with screens than with people, have we lost the village that it takes to raise our children? I say no. I say the village is there, at our fingertips, and, perhaps, even more accessible than it was to the generations of parents before us.
When I was a teenager, buying prepaid phone cards for the obsolete cell phone that my parents passed down to me and using the internet mostly for schoolwork and research, I didn’t have anyone to talk to in the middle of the night when I was awake and plagued with insomnia. I was painfully alone with my thoughts. As an introvert and a bookworm, I could usually cope with the solitude for several hours at a time, but eventually the loneliness would creep in. I didn’t have the option to text friends or hop on the computer and chat with people.
Now, ten years later, when I am awake in the middle of the night with a small child or with pregnancy-induced insomnia, I can find someone to talk to. I can vent and be understood. At 2am, I can find someone to empathize with me. At 5am, one of my mama friends a few thousand miles away is already up with her babies. When postpartum depression is ripping my world to shreds, I can talk to someone who understands what is going on in my head better than my own husband—who does not struggle with depression. The ability to connect in the middle of the night has helped me to stay marginally sane through many hours of breastfeeding and fussy babies. The ability to “scream” online has often helped me to calm down and breath before screaming in real life, which prevents silly arguments with my husband.
The internet and all of its boundless resources, birth stories, and articles, convinced me that I was capable of having a natural birth. Friends I made online have helped me through tough times in my life as much as the friends I have met face-to-face. When my husband can’t relate to something I am feeling, I can talk to other women who can and will understand what I’m trying to say. My depression and introversion don’t impede my socialization when I am able to control and limit the social input I get. I can set the boundaries that I need to set for the sake of my mental health, while still maintaining friendships.
When I need information about breastfeeding, cloth diapering, baby wearing, bed sharing/co-sleeping, babyled weaning, car seat safety, going back to work, midwifery care, healthy food choices, or really anything at all, I can use my smartphone to go online and access one of my social networks or Google. Presto! The information I need is at my fingertips, and I got it while breastfeeding my baby, cuddling my toddler, and half watching Bubble Guppies. I am a master of multitasking . . . at least I like to think I am. It isn’t all about me, either. Now that I’ve been a mom for a couple years and learned so much, I am able to answer questions and offer encouragement in the same way that my questions were answered and I was encouraged. This too I can do with just my phone, in the quiet hours of the morning, while I try to stay awake as I breastfeed my baby.
So, I’ll say it again—the village exists, and it isn’t as far off as you might think it is. Take full advantage of the technology around you—get involved in communities, whether they be online or on your street. Reach out with sincerity, and you may be very pleasantly surprised by the response.