Have We Lost Our Sense of Community?

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September 24, 2014

It takes a village to raise a child – or at least it used to.

When I was a kid, I welcomed new neighbors with cookies and we borrowed sugar from the neighbor if Mom ran out. We ran freely around the neighborhood until the street lights came on and Mom always knew we were safe at a neighbor’s house. These neighbor friends also carpooled a group of kids to school or soccer practice, giving the other moms a chance to catch up on whatever they needed to do. It was common to see a minivan drive down the street, dropping each kid off after practice. They all knew each other, trusted each other and worked together to ensure the safety of their kids.

My mom was even in a babysitting co-op. It was a point based system, where everyone would babysit each others kids for an exchange of points to be used for services. No money exchanged and everyone was a trusted neighbor or friend.

Fast forward to 2014 and as a busy working mom, this is what I observe. Every morning 4 cars (I mean minivans) pull out of my court and drive ½ mile to school to drop 6 kids off at the same school all between the ages of 5-8. Not only is this a waste of gas, but it seems as if we could all be helping each other out and dare I say it … carpool. It would decrease the amount of traffic during school drop off. It would allow a few mom’s a break every once in a while or allow those who work to perhaps get to the office a few minutes early for once.

My husband and I don’t go out on dates because we don’t have a babysitter, we don’t have the money to hire one or we don’t trust anyone with our kids.

This phenomena seems to be the result of a few issues:

  1. We seem to live in a world where we are oblivious to our neighbors and focus most on ourselves and our immediate needs. We don’t live in a world where we help others succeed.
  2. Helicopter parenting. We just cannot let our kids go to school without us as parents holding their hands all the way to the classroom door. In fact, they need us. They need us so bad that we must do everything for them and do not instill independence in our children. Most of the time it’s for our own dysfunctional needs. We need our children and all their activities to justify our role.
  3. With women’s rights came a shift in society, where we as moms must prove to everyone that we can handle everything. We do not need help and if we do, it’s failure on our part. We can do it all. Until we can’t, and then it all falls apart in one heap of a stressful, tear filled day of emotions where we realize we are swimming and overwhelmed and have no help.

Case in point. I am a working mom of 3 kids. I have a professional job that requires a lot from me. I like it that way. And I take pride in my ability to balance it all. But here are my days lately. Dad leaves for work before anyone is awake. Mom gets 3 kids and herself ready and out the door. One child gets dropped at daycare and the other two get dropped at school. Here is where it gets tricky. I cannot drop them off any earlier than 8:30 am. But it takes me a good 45 minutes to get to work, making me late almost every day.

Then Dad picks all 3 up from school and daycare, and rushes to get the two older ones to soccer practice, right next to the school, which is ½ mile from our house. He sits there with all three kids for 2 hours. I rush to leave the office on time to either make it to a game/practice, or head home to start, or get a jump-start on  homework. I am very involved in my kids’ lives and want to be a part of everything, but with three kids on different schedules, a full-time job for both Mom and Dad, I’m finding it increasingly hard to do it all.

I get that we live in a different world than a few decades ago. Or I might argue that it’s the same, we are just more aware of the dangers because of the increased media and accessibility to information. In either case, I’m not advocating that we leave our children unattended or unsupported in their activities. However …

Our lives today are increasingly more stressful and demanding of our time. Which leaves little time for ourselves or our relationships, which in turn leads to divorce and a whole host of other social problems.

So, I call on everyone to begin to work together. Help each other out, start a carpool, a co-op, etc. and begin to see the benefits it brings. You’ll see relationships with adult friends prosper. You’ll get to know your children’s friends better. You’ll be less stressed at least a few times a week. And because you’ve helped a neighbor, one day when you find yourself swimming, someone will help you.

Be the one to throw the life raft. Be proactive and create this community early so you can successfully do it all with ease.

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