Family life is rewarding but in the early years of having my children I encountered unexpected struggles with daily life. I say unexpected because it was the small things that threw me the most. I found myself constantly reflecting on why the simple things seemed so hard.
Millions of people around the world have children and manage to go about their daily lives without too much fuss. What was I doing wrong, what was I failing to see?
And every time I answered my own question I always came up with the same outcome – I was missing my village.
We’re not meant to live alone or detached. Life works best when we’re surrounded by others – working towards common goals. We’re more content, secure and fulfilled when we’re side by side, sharing the load. And it makes sense. Tasks are easier when there’s a community around you to help out, where you can ask for assistance right when you need it – not tomorrow, not next week or the following month – right then and there, when you need it the most.
Everything is easier with a village – cooking communal meals, cleaning up and children happily playing and learning together. And there’s no need to plan ahead for a special catch up with your sibling or bestie – you’ve probably been chatting all day long while going about your daily chores.
Yes I’m romanticising a little, but there’s beauty in collective living. And while living in a traditional village is unrealistic for the majority, there are ways we can reclaim the bits that matter, even in our modern times.
While modern day villages are diverse and complex we need to return to a physical closeness to make it truly work. So if you have the chance or choice, move closer to your dearest. Being in the same street or suburb can make a world of difference. You can carpool, organise community cooking days to prepare meals for the week or have help nearby if you need someone to watch the kids for a tic.
And if you’re on your own, consider shacking up with others. It can be challenging to live with a crowd if you’re used to your own space but with the number of single person households on the rise (one in four Australian households) and loneliness figures also spiking, it’s important to give it a go. Social isolation is reported to be a greater health risk than even smoking or obesity so connecting with others is vital.
Make new communities
Not everyone can or wants to live with their family or friends. If this is the case look at other ways to create a community that works for you. Get to know your neighbours – having a reliable person or family next door can be your saviour in times of need. It’s also lovely to talk about things you have in common such as your street and neighbourhood. You might be surprised by the connections you make.
I fantasise about the day when I can afford to start my own village and bring all of my favourite people together in the one location. It’s a dream my father has always voiced, coming from a small village in the mountains of southern Italy and knowing firsthand the virtues of a communal living. We would often make fun of his ideals but here I am now, longing for the same dream.
Live and breathe local
A recent back injury forced me to abandon driving for a while and turn to walking. Although it was a frustrating time, I found it liberating walking around my area and living local. It was a great way to slow down and keep things simple.
Our lives are complicated because we send our children to schools on the other side of the city, visit multiple shops to snap up items on special, spend hours waiting for the doctor and weekends chasing activities and playdates all over town.
But in the village, our food would be in our backyards, our school around the corner, our doctor a stone’s throw away and our family and friends right on our doorstep.
So go find your village – whatever it means for you. Build a community where you can gather the support you need while also caring for others.
About the author: Marina Barbaro is somewhat of a gypsy writer – roaming between projects and enjoying a spirited approach to the written word. Most recently she joined the team from a million smiles, where she will be sharing her extensive experiences travelling and living amongst different cultures. See more of her amazing work by following amillionsmilesmovie.com