I often hear a common theme from older black folks about how people used to believe in “it takes a village.” How black folks looked out for one another. How the communities rallied around everyone’s child. I’m sorry but I don’t remember any of this. I think by the time I was coming up that had faded and went out of style. Sure our neighbors may have looked out the window and made sure we were doing what we were supposed to be doing… (and would gladly tell on our asses if we weren’t) but that’s the extent of it that I remember. Now it could have been that our home life was just different and we didn’t need that much village intervention. My parents had their schedules worked out so that the both of them were there and able to assist in raising us. My daddy was there in the mornings to get us off to school and my mama was there in the afternoons once we got out. One thing I do remember is that family was there a lot. At some point my daddy’s schedule changed and he needed to be at work earlier than before, that’s when my grandma stepped in. She would come over in the morning and make sure we were getting ready for school and getting out the door on time. She never took us to school. She just sat back and observed.(she even observed one time me and my sister got into a fight because I didn’t like the outfit she was wearing—she literally walked in on that one and yes she told on us ASAP). It wasn’t just family was there when my parents had to work. I remember going over aunts’ and cousins’ houses a lot on the weekends. I used to cry when it was time to come home simply because I wanted to stay gone having fun.
My kids unfortunately don’t have that.
With me working weekends, they are 9.5 out 10 times at home and the same of course goes for through the week. That family bond just isn’t there for them. They don’t have an aunt who calls and asks to get them. Or cousins their age they can go spend the night with. Or a grandma who has a habit of getting them on a regular basis. That just does not exist for my kids. There are times when I feel sad for them –wishing they could have the same bonds and the same fun I had growing up.
“But to be honest, the village that’s raising my kids kind of only consists of two.”
There are some weekends when I really question my career and whether or not I’m doing the right thing by my kids. They’re getting older. And they are starting to ask questions. Questions like ‘Why do I work all the time?’ ‘Or why am I gone so long on Saturday and Sunday?’ Those questions are the kind that make it hard to be a working mother. While I’m sure we asked my mama similar questions, I’m sure her interrogations weren’t as often. Having to be at work at 5 a.m., we never really saw my mama leaving out for work. And since she was home by the time we got out of school and she was there when we went to bed, we never felt we were missing anything. But my kids are fully aware. Of course, their minds would be taken off mommy being at work, if they were more active on weekends, but that’s just not the case. Society has changed so much of the makeup of the family. Grandparents today are becoming grandparents younger and younger who are working longer and longer. My kids’ don’t have grandparents who are retired and free to come get them whenever. (There’s even question in my mind that if that were the case would it even happen).
Once upon a time, families were able to live off one single income – usually that of the father. But I believe there’s a strong argument that would show that for black families, there was always a need for dual incomes. And even today — that’s what most parents are doing. Working. Working. Working. So if parents are too busy for their own children, we know they are far too busy for someone else’s children. That once thriving, social village is now in constant work mode now. Each person operating as a separate unit, tending to what’s right there in front of them, without the time nor energy to check on anything else in the surrounding village.