Well, it’s now 6.31am now and I’ve been standing outside a little already and it’s pretty dark down there. Not sure I’m gonna be running on the road tomorrow, tripping on roots and things. No streetlights here. Yes, I know I can get one of those headlamp things, but I’d prefer to wait for the light. Probably will. And that’s okay too. Not planning a bloody half marathon for two hours anyway. Just a little at a time will work fine for me. But I can feel the excitement of the people out there, dog leads in hand and standing tall and straight so that they don’t automatically turn in circles.
But I have to say in all honesty (and of course this won’t sit well for all of you, it’s not intended to, it’s my blog you understand) I am truly enjoying lockdown. It works extremely well for me. I have gained many hours of productive work without driving kids around, have saved fuel, limited my visits to the shops which I loathe anyway, saved on unnecessary coffees at a café and been pleasantly surprised by the fact that I am still married! And that’s a treat for sure. I’m not easy going. Even I know that.
(Update on light outside as I sit in front of a wide open door: the dark silhouette of the mountains beyond is now framed by stunning shades of deep, then light orange, a mild misty grey and that beautiful blue sky is starting to appear. It’s gonna be another beauty in the Mother City!)
Talking of mothers and being married (btw, I think he feels he’s lucky too now that he sees what actually happens in a household of 6 and how his clean washing miraculously reappears back in his cupboard) and women in general, I’ve been wanting to chat about them and tell you some of my thoughts on all this. I think about it a lot as you may have gathered. Women and children and the dynamic of family. And I’ve seen and heard a lot.
And I’m sure you’ve seen the many articles on how this pandemic, forcing people to stay indoors, has had the greatest impact on women and children. And I’m not talking about the huge elephant in the room scenario of the horror which they endure- lockdown or not- in many sectors of society. No, I cannot go there with this. I’m talking about women who work and have children to care for who are now at home, having to do both. And many to feed their hungry children.
It’s extraordinary for me to (ooh, a little mauve, light berry creeping in over the orange and pink streaks now further in distance over the sea) …see that the world has through this pandemic, been awakened to a scenario of unequivocal evidence of something that I have spent many years writing about. And that is simply this: WOMEN CANNOT DO IT ALL.
Women, and particularly single women, who are breadwinners or even contributory partners in a marriage struggle with the demands of marriage, children and work. Yes, of course they manage to a degree. But I’m not talking about ‘to a degree’or alluding to part-time or flexitime or whatever type of work. I’m talking about adding meaningfully to a considerable degree, to major leadership positions and influential positions, and while still keeping their marriages going, without help.
Yes, of course you can work and have children, but you need to have HELP because babies don’t sit well on boardroom tables. And breastfeeding is generally not openly encouraged at press conferences or world summits. Or even in client meetings.
SOMEONE HAS TO LOOK AFTER THE HOME and the CHILDREN, people! And as far as I can see, and you can see, it’s still the women.
Here’s a link by Australian author Kathy Lette of a funny version of this where this line, with many others, also resonated:
I do all my research in an in-depth, scientific fashion – over cocktails with girlfriends.
So. Here we have it again. The great debate. The great divide on the position on whether marriage and babies and work and all is effectively an asset to society or a hindrance. And this sounds rather mean or even glib to phrase it in terms like this, but it bothers me because I have seen the fallout of this around me. Not necessarily in my own case (despite the fact that my parents got divorced, I had an extremely happy childhood and often thought that the lack of any real misery or hardship has made it harder to write a bloody good book…!) but around me and in my work. The hurt and trauma, the pain of bonds broken and “too broke to pay the bond” has affected a significant number of people in society. And sadly, often the children are the greatest sufferers. At any age. I’m not sure of the statistics and research about which age, but any age. (I can safely say that at 50, my greatest joy is seeing my parents now in their 80’s and long divorced, being good and caring friends to one another).
So, of course one wonders why people bother to get married in the first place. It’s not for ‘richer or poorer’ or in ‘sickness and health’. It’s because they FALL IN LOVE and they just want to BE MARRIED and divorce, at that point, is the least desirable and least foreseeable consequence but, for many a certain consequence. You may have divorced ‘well’ and be better apart but you know…well…
Well, actually no-one does. No-one really knows anything. That’s why we read books and write books and run around in the dark when we get a chance to escape all these conundrums.
So. There we have it. An introduction to Vanessa Raphaely whose brainchild of creating a VILLAGE FACEBOOK PAGE to raise a child came to fruition and who catches all the women and children (and some men) who all play roles in raising civil society. I have only met her a few times and am not a frequent Village contributor but I know she plays a SIGNIFICANT ROLE in the lives of many, many people and I felt it was a good idea to know HOW and WHY she does it. She strikes me as SUPERWOMAN and I’m always intrigued by interesting women.
Here’s an interview I had with her.
(PS. Incidentally, my blog page seems a little outdated and I only noticed it from Becoming You interview I shared last week. I do not work as a lecturer at present though do have an ongoing interest in ethics, not only legal but professional, personal, social media whatever. I am currently immersed in various fulltime writing projects and started a legal consultancy this time last year with the concern for the welfare of women and children in general.)
1. What made you decide to start a Facebook page connecting people on the Village? What was your idea behind it? What did you want to achieve?
I was actually in the planning stages of launching a “Sorbet for Teeth!” My dream (briefly) was to have a teeth whitening and oral hygiene bar in every shopping center. I thought that it would be good to have a community of women to market this idea to, and that, as my skill set was in media, it would make sense to have a platform of my own. It seemed that there were millions of communities for parents of babies but none for teens, tweens and young adults (a period of parenting that I knew was much tougher) these also were my peers, so I thought … it takes a Village, right? Luckily for me, given our current economic climate, the tooth idea died a quick death as The Village took off like a rocket.
2. How do you think connecting with so many people on a daily basis has changed/improved/ affected your life?
Well I have RSI, for a start! (FYI repetitive strain injury) On the amazing plus side .. I have 35 000 best friends! “Ask The Village,” has become a default position to many people and that gives me great pride and comfort. We really ARE stronger together. I feel comforted that no matter how challenging a problem any Villager brings to the community … there will be help, advice, comfort, support. No magic wands … but always help. In SA, because of how we live, even before quarantine, our real life communities were struggling, in many ways social media groups have stepped into that gap offering friendship, support and resources that people would otherwise find in a bustling busy Village square.
3. Do you ever feel threatened by some comments or perhaps that your privacy is invaded at all by sharing so much or yourself there?
I actually don’t share that much of my personal life on the group. I post on behalf of Villagers, who rightfully chose to protect their privacy – and occasionally post what I hope are just relatable snippets of my own parenting journey. Or un-fashion tips! My inner world and my own family’s privacy, I think is not exposed.
Regarding comments: The Village is an overwhelmingly and unusually supportive harmonious space. When there is hostility, or a contravention of the rules, I have very firm boundaries in place to cut transgressors off at the stem. Most powerfully, our community has taken on these values themselves, and guard the ethos of the group, as vigorously as I do. I’ve never had anyone turn on me, to be honest. It’s quite the opposite. I think the Villagers are too kind!
4. What are your impressions about human nature in general on the various threads you see and post and ask advice on?
I think people bring their best selves to The Village. None of us are lovely all the time, but if you know that the currency in the community is positivity, support, a lack of judgment and constructive help, then those are the values you adhere to. We have, and continue to achieve, little and large acts of positivity and value daily through this platform.
5. I suspect /know that most of your readers are women and thus you deal with women’s issues. Do you feel that women, in general, are happy with their lot/unhappy/whinge about men’s issues/wish they had done things differently in their lives/feel that there is still much they need to achieve in terms of gender equality?
94% of The Village is female. Chatting around a campfire about the family, one’s feelings, gossiping, the children … that conversation is probably more hardwired into the female psyche than into that of the male. Also, FB is overwhelmingly a female platform! I think human beings are under enormous pressure at the moment even before this catastrophe and, given the possibility for kindness, support, wisdom, insight and often anonymity, will share their truth. As women we are better off in some ways, not in other. As always, a realistic picture of anyone’s life looks less like an elegant binary line and more a spaghetti-like mess. Human beings talk to each other to try to make sense of it all.
(I love this spaghetti-like mess, metaphor!)
6. How do you manage your time?! How long do you spend on Facebook? Does it affect your family time? How do you prioritise which posts should be posted? You must get hunnnnndreds of messages.
I am always on the group. It’s not great. But I’m lucky as I’m profoundly ADD so multi-tasking is second nature to me. I don’t do it well, but I am ok with spinning many plates. Regarding curating the content – I am, by profession an editor, so managing content is pretty much instinctive.
7. What do you intend doing with this ultimately? I know you want to monetize in some way ( sorry that I don’t use it much and rarely log in though feel it is truly invaluable to mannnnny people,) but want to do foresee with it going forward?
I know how valuable this consumer is to marketers going forward. She is a “talk to one, get 5” low-hanging fruit. (She makes purchasing decisions for herself, her partner, girl child, boy child and the family,) so I am confident that The Village has an exciting future. We are currently developing a new platform, which, I think, will offer clients a very innovative means of communicating with her.
8. Do the same people post all the time or is there a constant change of posts from different people, different issues?
It’s very dynamic – people go through phases of posting as they need. But there is no evidence that people ever leave the group in big numbers. What’s really unusual though, is the fact that engagement is incredibly high: 260 000 responses, 3 800 posts every 28 days.
(That’s a staggering number of posts to deal with in a day. And still keep your own life intact!)
9. What are the main three issues that people want to know the answers to? I feel it is children/ family related/marriage ….? Am I wrong? Pre-covid maybe.
Usually the group concerns itself overwhelmingly with issues regarding teens and families. At the moment, it’s just Corona Corona Corona! Subjects covered, really, are just a mirror of every issues concerning every family in the group. What’s going on in your family, is going on, in The Village. The most commonly uttered comment about the experience of being part of this community is “Now that I have The Village, I don’t feel so alone.”
10. And then of course with Covid-19, How are you managing this resource to gather momentum and help where help is needed? Is it a place that you find you are getting more enquiries for help or offers for donations?
Yes. I am getting more requests for financial assistance. The Village is also a solid network of people who are geared up to support each other, so we continue to try to make a contribution. Civil society cannot answer all the need though, so how to face the next period, with regard to the disaster faced by the country, scares me.
THANK YOU SO MUCH VANESSA. AND THANK YOU TO THE VILLAGE.
So that’s it for today Noodles! (Spagetti messes!)
I think we’re all a little scared. Take comfort from those around you, and know that yes, our boats are vastly different but if my boat is going off course, it’s likely that yours may follow. And for that reason alone, we’re all in this together.
(PS Wasn’t that a song from High School Musical – hisical moosical my kids called it! Ah I miss those days. )
Til next time…