Yesterday the New York Times published a letter to the editor from Having Kids. The letter called for starting a public dialogue about non-coercive but effective family-planning policies that protect all of the interests at stake, including children, parents, and their communities. A few days earlier, the Times published an article titled “Finding Family, Right Next Door” that raised the issue of what we mean by the word “family.” The piece tells the story of two mothers helping to raise one another’s children, living out the common expression that it takes a village to raise a child.
Geography brought us together when we were both young mothers. We spent days, weeks, months, years eating meals together, celebrating birthdays, helping raise each other’s children. We made enough chicken nuggets and pasta for all of the kids, and delicious meatballs and jerk chicken for us. We swept up leaves and drank wine, and borrowed Benadryl and ketchup. We took vacations together and grocery shopped for each other and put Band-Aids on whichever little daredevil had fallen off his or her skateboard. We welcomed the other’s kids if one of us had to work, or had to take care of an aging parent, and during those times the kids never felt like guests, they felt like they were home. Being there, actually being there in physical proximity to each other meant something, something significant.
. . .
As young mothers, each with two kids, we both knew that our traditional support networks were vital, if not indispensable — spouses, helpful grandparents, lifelong girlfriends. And these mattered, of course. But husbands weren’t always available, grandparents became sick or lived too far away, and lifelong girlfriends, well, they had their own lives with their own families. So luckily, we found our lifelines in our next-door family.
How does this story—which really tells the story of breaking down the archaic vision and norm of families isolated in their private homes holding fast against the world—relate to the Having Kids model? The model takes it one step back from families raising their children together to families planning their children together, cooperating to ensure their children enter the world in the best conditions possible.
If it takes it takes a village to raise a child, it will take a village to plan for one.