'Having a village is paramount for working parents. But I'm still looking for mine.'

Routine is the lifeblood of my household. That sounds like a paradox, given what these words connote – routine is sterile and boring, while lifeblood is the essence of what gives something its meaning or joy – but for my little family it is absolutely true. My husband and I work full time in professional jobs, have two small children, a dog and no parents living anywhere near us: mine are interstate, while his are in Sweden and most decidedly off the hook.

I have three sisters who live in the same city as us, but they are all busy working professionals with lives of their own and understandably don’t have time or inclination to babysit my children. As a result, our domestic life is a series of logistical gymnastics and shared calendars, carefully mapped to take us from business meeting to play date; kinder pick up to soccer practice. We seesaw together in a beautiful pattern, weaving balletic tapestries of chores around each other like two artists, and it is truly majestic watching this poetry in motion.

Watch: New parents, here are some handy things you oughta know! Post continues after video.

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Until something happens to upset the balance, and the whole thing crashes to the ground.

This reality is something I hadn’t considered as a wide-eyed woman newly pregnant with my firstborn and contemplating breastfeeding, bums and Bugaboos: domestic life with no outside 'spotter' is a house of cards, and it doesn’t just wobble – it falls. Violently. Village support is paramount when the routine gets wrecked, but I’m surely not the only working parent looking around for mine.


The etymology of the 'village' is long-storied: originating from an African proverb "it takes a village to raise a child", the phrase is oft-repeated at children’s birthday parties by teary-eyed parents on their second noon mimosa. But does the village truly exist today? When my husband and I each flaked on checking the shared calendar and both found ourselves in business meetings on the same afternoon during pickup time, we flailed around for our village. 

Our usual babysitters were unavailable, mainly due to the 3pm time slot. The random sitter I found on a normally reliable website bailed on her 'meet-the-kids' pre-job, so I cancelled her for fear that she wouldn’t rock up on the actual day. Guilt and shame was preventing me from asking my kids’ friends - I’d called in so many favours, and those favours had never been asked of me. In desperation, I floated the conundrum in my family chat and my eldest sibling (bless her selfless socks) stepped in. Our village came to the rescue once more, aided by working from home – one of COVID's few gifts.

But the anxiety in this activity had me reeling and got me thinking about what I could do better to ensure the village is stronger than ever for next time. I have come up with four steps for strengthening your support systems.

1. Talk about it.

With everyone. All the time. When I was expecting my first child, my mind was swimming with thoughts: feeding, sleep, exactly how 'playtime' works for a newborn who doesn’t do anything, but the discussion of building your own village was rarely raised. We need to talk about it, and at length. No man is an island, and no woman is a village, so ladies, start talking.

2. Share the load.

The best way to ensure a strong village for yourself is to demonstrate effective 'villaging' for others. Offer to help with mates’ kids at pick up. Volunteer as Saturday night babysitter (this only works if you’re partnered or your own kid likes sleepovers, of course). Create a rotating playdate roster with your nieces and nephews. Communal parenting is one of the best things in the world, so invite a mate with kids over while you look after a third friend’s kids. Honestly, when there’s a giant pile of children already at your house, one or two more makes no difference, and kids love nothing better than feeling they outnumber the grown-ups like an unruly tribe.


Listen to This Glorious Mess where Holly and Andrew had a very candid conversation about parental burnout. Post continues below.

3. Cry for help.

Do what your baby does and wail when you’re unhappy! It’s an embarrassing truth that women love to be seen to be helpful, so make these cries as public as necessary to activate your village. I’m talking Instagram reels, WhatsApp message groups, sky-writing, whatever you need to get your message out that you’re just not coping and you need to Assemble Village, pronto. The lasagnes will turn up at your door faster than your internet speed.

4. Say thank you.

The most important part of village-creation is gratitude. Write them a card, pick them some blooms and DEFINITELY make sure you return the favour. If you don’t tell your mates and family how deeply you appreciate them, they’ll leave your village in droves: no one likes a mean mayor.

While childcare costs and interest rates continue to climb, the truth is that it’s up to us to create the communities we need to make our lives and goals achievable. Gone are the days of the literal village raising a child but, with a little work, we can sculpt a beautiful replica.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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