The Lost Village: A Culture Lacking Support For Motherhood
The Fall of the Village
It’s 2018 and young women no longer feel pressured to choose between starting a family or furthering their career.
Today’s young women have largely been brought up to be strong, empowered, and independent individuals ready to face the challenges that accompany small children at home and tall demands at work. It's not until a woman finds herself alone and isolated in the early stages of motherhood that she realizes perhaps “having it all” is not all it’s cut out to be. For most of these women, the idea of being the independent, self-made, woman who “has it all” rarely includes asking for, or seeking, help from others. It’s like we have to have it all, do it all, and be it all, all alone. We have forgotten our village; we have forgotten to communicate our need for support from our ‘village’ and now our village is becoming extinct.
Without a village moms can find themselves faced with the expectation of “bouncing back” alone and without support. A mother may feel pressured to quickly return to her previous routine and get back to the laundry, meal prep, financial management, and social planning that she did with ease before the new baby. Unless we support our women in this delicate time, we will find ourselves surrounded by an epidemic rooted in the fall of the ‘village’.
The Strength of the Village
Each mother needs a village, a village that’s made up of people and things that fit her unique circumstances. No two villages will look alike. It takes a network of people supporting a new mother in the recovery process during the postpartum period to prevent the risk of cognitive and emotional challenges. The individualistic values of North American culture make it difficult for new moms to cultivate the robust village they need to support them through this time. Through this emphasis on individualism, we lose the organic primal structure of a support network.
Many collectivist cultures observe a time period post-birth where relatives and community members pitch in to cook, clean, and take care of the kids and home of the new family (Stuart-Parrigon, K. & Stuart, S, 2014). The common thread of unity and community togetherness acts as a protective factor against perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMAD’s).
PMAD risk factors include “postpartum discomfort and exhaustion, low socioeconomic status, being a single parent, poor social support and general life stress. Stress in the relationship with the partner is also a major risk factor for PMD, specifically interpersonal violence and isolation” (Stuart-Parrigon & Stuart, 2014), all of which can be reduced with adequate support in the postpartum period.
The Surrogate Village
When a woman’s circumstance doesn’t allow for a ‘village’ to support her in the transition (or expansion) of motherhood, it is imperative that her postpartum birth plan include ongoing screening with her care team and incorporation of therapeutic interventions.
Both in-person and online therapy can be beneficial for parents during this difficult period of transition. A maternal mental health therapist will screen, identify, educate, and - most of all -offer a nonjudgemental, supportive platform for the mother to be heard. Perinatal mental health practitioners can work collaboratively with a postpartum Doula to ensure that the mother and family are supported during this major transition in their lives.
Editing; Allie Lewis R.P
Stuart-Parrigon, K. & Stuart, S. (2014). Perinatal Depression: an update and overview.
Curr Psychiatry Rep.16 (9): 468
Uppal, S. (2015). Employment patterns of families with children. Retrieved from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/75-006-x/2015001/article/14202-eng.htm