Living the village life

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My column recently published in The Catholic Weekly.

“Do you want to meet up for coffee?” I texted my friend the other day. “I feel like a hermit.”

For a week or two which included a couple of small work commitments and two of the kids getting sick, on top of my usual running around, I hadn’t seen or spoken at length to anyone outside of our immediate family. I really needed to spend time with some other adults, and especially, out of the house.

Another mutual friend had the same idea, and we ended up joining a few ladies at a café which included a children’s play area (these are a Godsend for carers of young children by the way).

It’s a paradox many have noticed, that as technology is making us better able to communicate with people who are geographically distant from us, we can more easily become isolated.

Often working in regular paid employment comes with the added bonus of in-built opportunities to socialise. The rest of us have to be a bit more proactive, or, if we are less mobile or otherwise capable of initiating contact ourselves, need someone to think of us.

Stay-at-home parents (especially new mothers), people who are working from home or are unemployed, and people who are sick, have a disability, or are very elderly, (and their carers) are more vulnerable to becoming isolated.

In my own circles, women with babies or young children who are home for much or all of the week attend a mother’s group, volunteer at an older child’s school, or find some other ways of meeting the need for adult company and community-building on a regular basis.

We’re well past that initial culture shock of moving suddenly from working full time and spending our free time with other adults to spending much of our time caring for our children at home in quiet neighbourhoods, visiting under-utilised playgrounds.

Still, it isn’t easy. Occasionally someone daydreams aloud about creating a lifestyle where we can live in very close proximity to our friends and raise our families together. Often that person is me!

With many of our parents (our children’s grandparents) still in paid work and having their own commitments, and often not living very close anyway, the idea of sharing the daily cooking, shopping, child-minding, and chauffeuring with a number of close friends instead of relying on our husbands for help with everything can be a very attractive proposition.

But in the absence of returning to some kind of small village lifestyle, when we really feel cut off from the outside world of wider social relationships, then there is always the telephone, the Internet, and the occasional SOS text message asking for a coffee date.

The bonus is that our spouses and children are better off for it as well.

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