Postpartum: What happened to "it takes a village?"
Much like parenting, there is no singular way of managing the period after giving birth. Some countries have extended hospital stays with home aftercare appointments, while others encourage mothers to secure a spot in daycare 3 months into pregnancy and hurry back to work. Some mothers look to grandmothers and aunts for support and guidance, while others follow influencers on Instagram for advice and solidarity. Neither way is wrong or right; they're just different. One thing that all mothers can agree on is that they can't do it alone. It truly takes a village to raise a child. But many mothers today ask, "Where's my village?" The lack of a village has been the result of several societal changes over time. With the ease of travel and technology, many couples move away from their family and friends, seeking independence and adventure. Women are having babies later in life, which makes it difficult for aging grandparents to step in and provide help. More women are in the workforce than ever, shifting the dynamic from depending on family as caregivers to relying on formal daycares. Our villages are diminishing, yet the pressures to be the perfect mother have increased twofold. Thanks social media. Postpartum depression and anxiety are exacerbated by mothers feeling like they have to do it all on their own. Mothers feel like they aren’t good enough or can’t measure up to be the mother their baby needs. Unfortunately, babies don’t come with instruction manuals. After giving birth, women experience hormone fluctuations and physical changes. Add in sleep deprivation, a painful recovery, and a crying baby and you’ve got a recipe for postpartum depression and anxiety. A CDC study shows that about one 1 out of 10 women in the United States reported symptoms that suggest they experienced an episode of major depression in the last year. If women don’t feel supported during the postpartum period, this number will continue to increase over time. So what does the modern day village look like? The first step to building your village is allowing yourself to be vulnerable and ask for help. Accept that being perfect isn’t possible. Your family, friends, neighbors, and babysitters can’t read your mind. If you need 20 minutes to shower while your sister-in-law is over for dinner, tell her. If you have a doctor’s appointment that you’ve already canceled three times, book a sitter. Put on an episode of Daniel Tiger to do the dishes. Order grocery pickup to save time. Don’t fold all the laundry. Join parent groups. Get pizza delivered. Find free local activities where you can meet other parents that “get it” and are building villages of their own. This season of your life is temporary and you will get through it. Your children already look up to you as their hero. Asking for help and building your village will enable you to find your inner strength and teach your children it’s okay to ask for help when they need it, too. It still takes a village. The village just looks a little different these days.