We all know the proverb ‘it takes a village to raise a child.’ It takes an entire community of different people caring for and interacting with a small person to help them flourish and grow.
But behind every happy, healthy child is a mother who has been supported through her own ‘birth’ into motherhood. So with mothering and mothers on our mind at The Basket Room this week, we’re reflecting on the ‘villages’ that raise mothers and the different places that mothers seek and find these supportive communities – both here in the UK and in Africa where hundreds of mothers flex work with childrearing to produce our beautiful hand woven baskets.
There’s been much coverage in the media recently on the disappearance of real, tangible communities when it comes to mothering in the UK today. Despite the advances in technology that help us feel more connected - and the myriad digital tools that help parents juggle domestic tasks, work and parenting - millennial motherhood can be an extremely lonely place.
“The flipside of the technological connectedness that defines millennial motherhood is a sort of alienation that can come with it,” says the Institute for Family Studies. “It has created a world in which a [mother] can work part-time at home in the middle of the city with two small children . . . but apart from an occasional errand, only interact with babies and a laptop screen for much of the working week.”
It’s not all bad news, though. A recent study found that 39% of millennial mothers have sold something they’ve made through social media. So digital tools are – whilst distancing in some ways – enabling mothers to harness and profit from their creativity.
@bon_ldn - Bonnie Doman, Illustrator and Mother with her morse code print on Instagram
Likewise, it’s social networking and digital media that has enabled The Basket Room to gain worldwide support, and bring ever-increasing volumes of basket orders to the weavers in Kenya, Ghana, Tanzania and Uganda. The power of digital technology has enabled these mothers to pay school fees and medical bills through this portable, sociable and flexible means of work.
Faith Nzau, Basket Weaver and Mother with her handwoven basket in Kenya
We live more fragmented lives in the UK today than our own mothers probably did: we are more likely to have flown the family nest and live in entirely different counties or even continents to our parents, siblings and oldest friends. So all the more need for mothers to build their own villages and to find new ‘tribes’: to use apps, technology and social media to close the geographical gaps.
So whilst the women weavers we partner with in Africa work and raise their children together in tight-knit communities in the most traditional sense, UK mothers weave different strands of support together to create a support network that’s part-virtual, part-physical.
Messaging apps like Whatsapp seem to be the glue that binds new mothers together in support through those long, sleepless nights, whilst Facebook groups and forums like Mumsnet bring together those in similar boats from all over the world to share experiences through every conceivable motherhood journey – from breastfeeding to postnatal health, mothering multiples to pregnancy loss and coping with fertility issues.
@MotherPukka - Anna Whitehouse, Vlogger and Writer on Instagram
Relatively new-on-the-scene apps like Mush Mums and Mums Meetup help new mothers to hook up with new, like-minded local friends and attend child-friendly dates in their area, whilst training providers like Digital Mums deliver courses designed to equip mothers with the skills to prosper in a freelance role. ‘Instamums’ like Mother Pukka and Molly Gunn, founder of the blogzine Selfish Mother are ones to watch for all kinds of inspiring content and discussion on flexible working, staying-at-home, and all the highs and lows of the millennial parent. We personally love the Scummy Mummies Podcast, and we’re big fans of Hurrah for Gin, Sketchy Muma and The Unmumsy Mum for delivering a much-needed dollop of humour and compassion through the books they’ve published, and through the community-generating pixels of Instagram.
So here’s to mothers, and here’s to the many different types of villages that nurture them - right here in the UK and across the seas in Africa. This week we’re thinking of the mothers and mother figures in our lives; we’re thinking of the motherless, the mothers-to-be and those mothers-in-waiting. Happy Mothers Day!