Practice Parenting in a Community
Parents today are overwhelmed, exhausted, and under-supported as they struggle with the unanticipated needs of young children. The difference between what is needed and what parents can manage on their own can be painful, as evidenced by postpartum rates of depression and anxiety (in mothers and fathers). Human history offers insight into the remedy: community care.
Mothers shouldn't be isolated with their babies. They should have someone around to lend a hand—partner, baby’s grandparent, older siblings, or neighbors, when they need a break. Parents need a safety net of caregivers who also cares about and knows how to emotionally regulate the their child's emotional states. This model of multiple mutually-responsive caregivers, or what scientists call “alloparenting,” is critical to optimal child development. Anthropologically speaking, humans are designed for alloparenting. Raising a baby within an isolated nuclear family is biologically unnatural. That’s why it’s so hard.
In studies of small-band-hunter-gatherer societies, half the time alloparents were caring for a baby, but the mother was nearby, so if the baby became distressed, couldn’t get to sleep or needed to nurse, mom could step in. Toddlers and older children continue to be seen as children of the community rather than just as children of their parents. Elders, young adults, and experienced parents are all invaluable teaching resources as well, for children of all ages. This community sort of environment allows a child to become more comfortable away from mom while also developing a secure attachment, because mom is always there when she is needed.
How to Parent in a Community