Kate Towne explains why she and her husband made an intentional decision to live very near family as they raised their children.
Longtime Catholic blogger and author (and now stand-up comedian!) Jen Fulwiler posted a short video on Instagram recently about something that many modern moms encounter: the lack of “a village.” In her hilarious and dramatic presentation, she suggested that the loss of the ancient multi-generational village set-up makes today’s motherhood harder than it needs to be.
While there are certainly some who don’t want a village and/or don’t believe it’s necessary, a general online search yields many, many articles going back years and continuing today about women who have heard of this village idea and would love to have one/be part of one but can’t or don’t for a number of reasons. Articles like those and some of the comments left on Jen’s video post reminded me of something I’ve often thought since becoming a mom and being exposed to others’ motherhoods, both in real life and online: making an intentional decision to stay close to family and loving community isn’t given as much consideration as I think it warrants.
Moving away from family and loving community contributes to the lack of a village.
I know that choosing where one lives isn’t always that easy, from a financial and employment standpoint as well as a host of other concerns. And only you know how helpful or harmful being geographically close to family and your hometown or other loving community would be for you and your family. That said, if a woman who is looking ahead to motherhood were to ask me for one thing that has been indispensable for me as a mom (mentally, emotionally, physically), I’d say it’s living close enough to my parents that I’ve been able to lean on my mom a lot for help.
One of my husband’s favorite things to tease me about is how I would only consider a four-square-block area when we were deciding where we’d live once we had children. I was generally unwilling to consider somewhat-nearby neighborhoods in which we could find bigger houses and bigger yards for less money, for example, because they were too far from my parents’ house. For better and worse, quality of school districts, cost of living, and even proximity to my husband’s job weren’t as important to me as being near my mom. Crazy, right??
But I had paid close attention to what it was like for my mom to bring up me and my siblings (when I was little and people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d say, “A mom!”), and I had a decent sense of the struggles and hardships and possibility for isolation and loneliness in a mom’s life (which, of course, turned out to be more intense than I could have known as a child). In my mind, having a mother who had strong support from the person she trusted in motherhood more than any other was something that would be best for my children. I also had a wonderful relationship with my grandmothers, and I wanted that for my kids, too. I’m now seventeen years into motherhood, and I continue to think these decisions are the best ones we could have made for our family, and my husband doesn’t disagree (despite his good-natured eye-rolling!).
Living near my parents has also meant that the schools I attended and even the pediatrician I went to as a child are ones I could choose for my own children, and this, too, has been such a blessing — my children have had teachers that also taught me and/or my younger siblings, and/or brought up their own kids alongside my parents, and our pediatrician delights in seeing the children of his former patient; all of these people know our family and our circumstances on a personal and affectionate level. Attending the same parish I grew up in has resulted in my boys being the objects of affection of many “grandmothers" who watched me grow up and love seeing my children, and are eager to pass on their own hard-earned wisdom. (We all know that not all of the old wisdom is helpful or best, especially in light of modern medical care, but I find generations of women helping women to be very moving.)
I’m not at all immune to the second guessing and massive decision fatigue that modern moms have to endure that make them feel like “an exhausted failure,” as Jen put it, due to both social media and also my friends and peers who have come to different conclusions and made different decisions than I, and also — especially, maybe — the disagreement among medical professionals on various health issues.
However, having such a regard for how my parents brought up my siblings and I, and being privy to my mom’s thought process and way of working through issues and problems with us kids at all ages and stages and difficulties and triumphs, especially regarding her reliance on her faith, and also having trusted and experienced advisors who have been a part of my life for a long time — my very own multi-generational village — has really helped to quiet those outside voices and increase my peace and confidence as a mom.
To those of you for whom this isn’t an option, I hope you can find the support you need in your motherhood! Otherwise, I hope the experiences of this increasingly-old-feeling mom are helpful to some of you.
(Note that nothing I wrote here was meant to take away from my husband’s irreplaceable role in our family. He is my partner and co-parent in every sense, and I’m grateful that he trusts my maternal instincts and experiences and those of my own mom. Nor do I want to take away from my dad — he has always been a model of fatherhood and manhood, one of the best men I’ve ever known. But my mom is the one that I relate to and understand best, as a woman and a mother.)
Copyright 2021 Kate Towne
Images (from top): Canva Pro; all others copyright 2021 Kate Towne, all rights reserved.
About the Author
Kate is a writer, wife to a really good man, and mama to their seven boys ages 1 to 15. She shares her thoughts on Catholic baby naming at Sancta Nomina, and her first book, Catholic Baby Names for Girls and Boys: Over 250 Ways to Honor Our Lady (Marian Press, 2018) can be found at ShopMercy.org and Amazon.