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Past Event : Winter Booster

On the afternoon of November 12th, 2022, I was invited to screen my first two commissioned films; ‘Takes a Village’ (funded by Beatfreakz) and ‘She Lost Her Visa, Then Her Baby’ (funded by Homegrown31) at the Winter Booster, hosted by Adjeisun.

Following the screening, Adjei led questions for me to answer about the films and gave the community of viewers the opportunity to ask questions and contribute their feelings and views. I was incredibly touched to be asked to screen films that tell stories incredibly close to my heart and own experiences, as well as the experiences of those the films are based on. The topics of single motherhood without the village and forced parent-child separation are not commonly discussed and it felt validating and empowering to be able to bring these topics to the table using film.

Adjei created a space in which I was able to bring my children to the event (ages 3 and 4). This was the only way that I could have made the event as I could not find any support with childcare on that day. This highlights the imperative importance that event organizers find ways to enable single parents or parents lacking support to attend their events, otherwise, we are further marginalizing people who already feel isolated from many opportunities that are not child-welcoming. I’m grateful to Adjei for making it viable for me to attend this event with both of my children.

Having my children there tied into the themes of my films. As I sat in front of the community of viewers and answered questions, my children crawled over me, ran around, and played and spoke noisily at times. My children constantly demanded my attention and touch. This was seen as sweet and welcomed by everyone but also felt stressful and distracting to me. This is the reality of single or isolated parents. Barely a moment to focus on one’s own needs as children really require a village to meet their needs.

My quest, and other isolated parents’ quest, for that village, is the driving force behind both films, where women are shown to be tortured by the consequences of trying to raise children in adverse circumstances without the support needed. This was a large part of the discussion held by the Winter Booster. Adjei asked me how I had managed in building that community so far. My answer was something like this:

‘Recognizing my need for community was the start. Knowing what I needed so that I could focus my energy on nurturing and building in this area. Next came nurturing the trust and vulnerable communication skills that enable intimate bonds to be built – the foundation of community. This actually looks like, holding community-building events such as open mics and film screenings with post-film discussions, reaching out to people, sharing vulnerable conversations, and holding space for others to do such as well. Compared to how I started off as a parent, I now have friends I can reach out to, to discuss some of the most vulnerable parts, worries, and fears of my parenting journey. I have built my ability to ask for help and to advocate for my needs much more than when I started. I still feel like I have a long way to go to get to where I feel I need to be in terms of levels of support I need but I can see progress from where I started.’

I have experienced spells of support which has given me evidence of how much I benefit as a parent when supported compared to when isolated. I see two completely different parents in me; the well-rested supported parent versus the burnt-out isolated parent. My children benefit enormously from the well-rested, supportive parent in me, and they suffer to the burnt-out, isolated parent in me. This statement is true to all parents. There is a normalization of burnt-out parenting in our culture. Gabor Maté is an expert and a great writer and speaker on this. So, trying to advocate for ‘the village’ and more support from people who normalize ‘burnt-out parenting’ is next to impossible. Before the community will ever support parents and children in the ways that are truly needed, they first must be aware of how needed they are for their children to flourish.

Working together as a community or family to raise children has been our norm as humans for most of human history as spoken of in Ted Talk titled ‘How the Industrial Revolution Changed Childhood’, by Dorsa Amir (See link to talk at the end). However, in Western Society specifically, we have largely now become much more isolated in how children are raised. When I raise this topic with family, I am met with the response ‘working closely with the family has its drawbacks’, ‘not all families get on’, and ‘sometimes it creates more issues’. This may well be the case in unhealthy or abusive family dynamics. My question is: are we genuinely interested in improving family and community relationships so we can work closer together to raise children? Some of the biggest obstacles I see are power imbalances and a lack of conflict resolution skills within families and communities. To be more general; if people have experienced traumatic or profoundly negative experiences of close family or community units, they may be unconsciously and understandably repelled by the idea of working in a close community again.

Another trail of thought is that certain people in society perceive themselves to benefit from a more individualistic life or feel deserving of individualism after years of feeling they have self-sacrificed in other ways.

Since having children, I feel a deep connection to my adult responsibility of lifelong service to my children and community. As a single parent, I have firsthand witnessing of how much children need a village. Through my own therapeutic journey, I have also reflected and found the inner child in me also needed that village. I feel the connection we have to our own inner child/internal world determines how much we have to give to the children in our communities. Societal and structural change is needed for parents to be under less strain and burnout. Simultaneously, inner work is needed to recognize the internalized and normalized neglect and abuse we as a community inflict on our children as a by-product of years of oppression.

Healing from this generational trauma needs safe spaces. Being burnt out is not a fertile ground to heal in, which implies that the need for the community to work together is the greatest need of all. Paradoxically, if we are not healthy or self-developed/healed enough we are unable to maintain healthy relationships within a community.

This is a never-ending discussion where there is infinite room for growth and experience sharing. My own personal inquiry is:

“How am I blocking myself from building and nurturing relationships within my community?”

“What areas of growth have I seen in the building of my community? (However seemingly small, celebrate each win!)

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