In our very connected world of thousands of text messages a day, email communication, Facebook and Twitter, we have an easy way to share information. In spite of all this connected technology, there are many things we don’t share with one another when it comes to becoming a parent. One of the most important things we neglect to say is how isolated it can be to begin the journey of parenting. A new patient and her mother have recently helped me to better understand how difficult that lack of support can be.
The idea seems very out of place in our “hyper-connected” world, but I have seen my doctor’s office become a place where a newborn’s health and well being has hinged on the emotional support we have been able to provide for exhausted mothers in those very challenging first months of parenting. What ever happened to the Village? My grandmother would remind each of us that the Village (as in “It takes a Village,”) is supposed to be sending over dinners and offering to run an errand or two, encouraging maternal confidence to grow where it never needed to before. There is no substitute for the human connection, the human touch in creating an environment where new parents and their babies can thrive. Communities of yester-year seem to have understood that better than we do. In an over-stylized look back, I suspect that mothers and grandmothers chose not to share some of the very exhausting realities of early parenting because it was truly more important to help carry the load than to empathize with its tremendous weight.
If you are interested in hearing more, parents Rufus Griscom and Alisa Volkman, founders of the website Babble, share their thoughts in the following video clip. To them, I would say that there are things that we don’t share with one another when it comes to the difficulties of parenting, but I’m a little old-fashioned myself in knowing that some things are better left unsaid. An online discussion group, or maybe even a local one (see the Commonwealth Parenting Center’s Nobody Told Me group meeting times) are all important ways to bridge the time it takes to journey through exhaustion, but they only partially meet the need parents have for help. The real need is met when we reach out with open arms and busy hands to help; fix a meal and fold a load of laundry while new parents and fussy newborns take a nap. You’re part of a very important Village, and it’s time to quit babbling, and step up to the plate.
Gayle Schrier Smith, MD