[image description: Adele sits in an arm chair, holding a mug]
When my first child was a baby, someone close to me asked whether I thought attachment parenting was hard on mothers. I couldn’t deny that keeping our baby close and mothering her responsively was demanding.
At times I felt like more of me was being wrung out than not. The question put me on the defensive if I’m honest. Was I really making life harder for myself by choosing to do the things that felt so instinctive in this new relationship with this person my body, soul and mind had grown?
I muddled through a tired response but inarticulately landed on something I still hold true today. The problem isn’t with babies and children’s evolutionary needs or with our attempts to meet rather than mould them.
Parenting today, however we do it, is hard because so many of us no longer have the village to hold us as we go through one of life’s monumental and therefore exposing transitions. It’s not just that we don’t get to babymoon in bed while someone else cleans the house and looks after the older children.
We’ve lost many of the spaces and activities where we might naturally meet the people who will safely hold onto us or with whom we could lock eyes over day-to-day living.
The loss of the village is an idea frequently applied to conversations around family life but mothers and parents are not the only ones who suffer its effects. Becoming a parent is just one major life event that cracks you open and maybe slows you down enough to notice that there is void where something we evolved to expect is no longer.
That thing is the village, the kind of community where our needs are seen and met – where we are seen and met – and where we draw life from living alongside others.
The life event, whether it’s diagnosis, failure, accident, grief or menopause, isn’t the thing that causes the void or prompts the need. It only unearths what was already there.
So why are we so ready to talk about nature connection but hesitant to frankly discuss our dearth of human connection?
It’s embarrassing to admit when you’re lonely. I say that as someone who has experienced profound loneliness, hasn’t naturally initiated friendships in the past and can still be socially anxious and sometimes socially awkward. There is a taboo around loneliness that is obstructing cultures from gathering intimate or even just practical communities.
I also say it as someone who has been and continues to be on a real journey with this. We need to apply that conversation we’ve had around rewilding to this.
It’s time for us to actively and collectively seek ways of revillaging. For ourselves and others.
All of it is scary. Revillaging could be as immersive as moving into an intentional community or it could be as simple as making the first move to exchange numbers.
We also all have varying levels of access to community just as we all have varying levels of access to nature, depending on any number of factors.
But unless we start having conversations about how we rediscover ways of living together, we can’t do anything about any of it, even though our isolationist set up is literally driving everything from ill health to social unrest to climate change.
It’s not enough to allow the phrase “we no longer have the village” to trail off into an ellipsis. In a small attempt to open up the conversation, I’m going to start committing to revillaging as a theme of my work here on the blog, over on Instagram and Facebook and in my newsletter, which is about to become more regular.
I’m also in the process of developing a podcast dedicated to revillaging, which I’m hoping will go live next month. I’m having lots of conversations around community as a force for social healing and personal wellbeing with thinkers, activists, artists and people with real if, at times, unusual, experiences with it.
I’d love to hear from you about where you’re finding life-giving connections, what obstacles have or are getting in the way of finding community and just whether you feel this deep longing too, that this is something we need to talk and do more about. Meet me in the comments or on any of my social channels. I really look forward to chatting with you.