What Does it Look Like to Actually Have a Village?

What Does it Look Like to Actually Have a Village?

Erin Burt

My little group of toddlers is starting to turn two this month. The moms are so happy to see them all growing and changing, and sad they’re growing and changing so fast! We’ve added a set of twins who are right smack dab in the middle of our bunch of toddlers, and they fit right in. When their mom, who we’ve been friends with for years, moved we sat her down and told her about our parenting system. We lovingly call it "village style parenting."

How it works
We’re together for hours every week so our kids, by extension, are together all the time. They love each other like siblings, and we therefore parent them accordingly. It’s a beautiful thing. The closest parent handles the toddler squabbles, diaper changes, snack allotments, and snuggles no matter which kid needs attention.

Basic ground rules
Every cup has water. Nothing special, whenever we’re together cups are treated as community property. Every kid gets one cup, and only one cup. If your kid is under the weather, you inform all parents at the start so we can be on heightened alert to avoid cross contamination as well as we can.

Every kid gets one special thing they don’t have to share. They all learn to take turns for everything else. At 18-24 months we haven’t gotten into complicated sharing rules, but we’ve all decided to embrace the concept of having one item that’s always theirs. They can choose to share it, but they get to pick when they’re done sharing. We feel like it gives kids some autonomy, while still teaching them to play well with others.

When parenting the village of kiddos, love all the kids like you want your kid to be loved. When I’m the closest parent to the group of toddlers, my kid doesn’t get any special treatment. Though, because my kid is clingy, she gets held a lot. As the parent-in-charge, if I make a choice, my word is law. We, the village, have decided that we always back up the parent in charge. Always.

Trust your village
For the most part, I’ve known my parenting village for years, long before we became parents, we were friends. This makes it easy to trust them. We trade off and share parenting duties all the time. It’s a great way to lighten the parenting load, and hopefully, will be a great way for our kids to grow up knowing they’re part of a tight-knit community that loves them fiercely. For me, my village is the most precious gift.

Jenny Ditch loves raising her toddler in her tiny little village in rural southern Illinois.

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