I Wish I Had a Mommune Village Next Door But Instead I Have This

Where is the village they say it takes to raise a baby? It’s gone digital.
digital mom village

The adage is, “It takes a village to raise a baby.” Yet there seems to be an overwhelming narrative in modern motherhood that, “There is no village. My village didn’t show up.” 

As I navigated my postpartum experience, I realized I do have a village—it’s just “digital,” not “IRL.” My Digital Village has been amazing and given many doses of much-needed sanity, but some support just cannot translate virtually.  

I quite literally have a group chat called “The Mom’s Thread.” It’s three of my college friends and me, and across the group we have nine kids ranging from five months to 12 years old. I am the newest mom initiated into the group, and over the last nine months they have given me words of encouragement when I said things like, “I knew it was hard, but I didn’t know it was that hard,” (“It totally is, you’re doing great even if it doesn’t feel like it!”)

And they gave advice in moments like, “Is it normal for a baby to shriek at a deafening tone at 7:15 AM?” (“Yep, totally normal developmental stage, no one would judge you for earplugs”). 

We trade bedtime war stories, share highly graphic details of weird things our bodies have done postpartum, laugh over pictures of our kids being ridiculous or adorable, and commiserate about domestic labor and mental load.

We even started texting “Proof of Life?!” when one of us is silent on the thread long enough to cause concern.

Three of us had newborns within three months of each other this summer. During her early postpartum days, one friend sent more than a few 3 a.m. texts, sharing her sheer exhaustion from round-the-clock feedings and navigating big feelings from her toddler who was not acclimating well to her little brother. 

I said, “I feel so terrible, I wish that we all lived close together because you know that we would be there in a second to divide and conquer.” We then started dreaming—what if we all had houses in the same neighborhood—or better yet, one giant house!

One of us  would take the morning shift with the babies, someone else  would make breakfast and coffee, and another would be corralling the pets, and yet another  would get her sleeping break.

We coined it the “Mommune.” 

It was at that moment that it hit me—hat these women were my village. It’s just that they live at least an hour away from me, and we can’t realistically help each other every day like we wanted (and probably needed).

We were there for each other digitally, but we all knew how much more powerful we’d be if we were together. 

My Digital Village

When I became a mom, I felt like I was initiated into a secret digital club that hosts frequent meetings on Instagram. Whether it’s the sorority sister I haven’t talked to much since college who regularly checks in on me after she saw my 5 a.m. “Syringe feeding is the pits” Story, or the friend of a friend who sends me the latest “Fisher Price’s Purple Monkey” parody Reel (IYKYK), acquaintances have become kin as we bond over the ups and downs of motherhood.

I also discovered several accounts run by moms who either have small businesses or are influencers. They share their accounts of what it’s like with a baby or a toddler, and even though I’ve never met them in real life, I leave comments on their posts and chuckle at their responses as if we’re old friends from high school. 

Texting or calling my mMom friends has been a pivotal lifeline. “The Mom’s Thread” runs all day every day. Another friend instituted “Mom’s Monday” when she had her first baby during the pandemic and couldn’t have an in-person village and invited me into the fold when I had my daughter last summer.

With other friends, conversations about motherhood weave in and out of conversations about work, current events, and making plans. 

Middle of the night “u up?” messages have new meaning and have made me feel so much less alone and afraid, but there were so many times since I gave birth when I desperately wished my village could be with me in person.

My Digital Village couldn’t come run my 18th load of laundry when my daughter had her third blowout of the day, so I found myself in my robe and postpartum undies, trudging up and down the stairs instead of napping.

They couldn’t hold my water bottle to my lips or get me a snack when she was cluster feeding and I hadn’t moved in 90 minutes. They couldn’t show me how—with only the two hands I have—to feed my baby, support her neck, and tickle her feet to keep her awake all at the same time, so I clumsily did each of those things as best I could, and then sent whining texts afterward insisting I needed another five hands. 

Those are the things that moms so desperately need, especially in that first month when you’re in a haze of hormones, sleep deprivation and overthinking every baby noise. But those are the things that most of my friends (and the general corners of the internet that I hang out in) say seem to be in the shortest supply. 

Good [In Person] Help is So Hard to Find

I recently read an article from NPR discussing a study by an evolutionary anthropologist analyzing  children and their caretakers., “Together with a handful of previous studies, this new one suggests that for the vast majority of human history, mothers had a huge amount of help caring for infants – and even a lot of support with toddlers as well. We’re not talking about just an extra hand on the weekends. We’re talking about more than a dozen people for daily help with all sorts of tasks – cleaning a child, holding them, keeping an eye on them and soothing them when they cry.” 

In the article, they discuss how Western society has evolved and this help—which scientists call “alloparents”—no longer exists and the burden of care falls to parents, primarily moms. 

So, we were onto something with our Mommune! Actual science has shown that it is practically impossible to raise a baby without a village. But where has the village gone? 

I wondered if it was because I moved away from where I grew up, and that Gen X, Millennials, and now Gen Z parents are spreading out across the country. According to a US Census study from 2022, 40 percent of young adults live more than ten miles away from where they grew up (me), and 20 percent live over 100 miles (me again). While the study asserts, “Most young adults do not move far from their childhood home,” if you’re in the 40 percent – or the 20 percent – part of the village doesn’t live close enough for frequent postpartum assistance.  

I asked a few friends who live roughly 10 miles from where they grew up if they had a different village experience from me. My friend who does Mom Mondays said to me “For my first, the village never showed up because the pandemic fucked it all up. But with my second, I’m having a good village, [although] it’s not really a village as much as family I guess, maybe even just grandparents.”

One of the Mom’s Thread Moms said, “Yes, for sure living near my parents helps. I feel like they have saved us because of the childcare crisis, we’re in a childcare desert here. My Mom stopped by today to watch my kids today because I had a middle of the day, mandatory meeting.” 

But then she brought up another good point – “Part of my proximity is also based in eventual care giving.” Her parents were both nearly 40 when she was born, so she’s aware that she’ll have to be their village, one day.

And perhaps that’s what is happening to other Moms—as the sandwich generation, we find ourselves caring for both our children and aging parents and are at (or over) our capacity to be a village.  

What I Wish My Village Looked Like

Don’t get me wrong—I had some help in person. My mother-in-law took three-week-old dirty sheets off my bed, washed them, and put fresh sheets on, which was refreshing since I basically lived in bed the first two weeks.

My mom went to the pharmacy to pick up my prescriptions so neither my husband nor I had to figure out how to coordinate that trip around the feed-nap-sleep-repeat cycle.

My dad took all my rejected pumping bras to the post office so they’d get back in their return window. I paid for a doula service, which included some postpartum care, and having access to a professional who understood what I was experiencing and versed in infant development was a lifesaver on multiple occasions. 

But I couldn’t help but imagine—what if my Digital Village was part of my in-person community? What if there was a group of us, in similar phases of life, all working together to keep our children alive and our households running?

Although my early visitors were well-intentioned, I often felt exhausted those days at a time where I had very little extra energy to spare. While it was nice to have an adult conversation, what I really needed was food and sleep, and

I didn’t usually have the brainpower to effectively communicate my needs while my visitors were there. My Digital Village understood that, and I trusted they could do my typical household chores without any prompting from me (the only time invisible labor is both acceptable and preferred!).  

There is much work that can be done so our society can ensure new Moms have the village they need — paid parental leave for birthing and non-birthing parents, subsidized in-home midwife, nurse, or doula postpartum care (like this pilot program in Maryland, which a friend used and said was “a game changer”), PTO for “alloparent” figures, a culture of respect around boundaries, and even improved childcare options. 

In the meantime, we’ll keep dreaming of our Mommune.


  • Jess Kirsche Morrow

    <p>If you asked Jess in college what she wanted to do when she grew up, she'd have told you she wanted to be the next Miranda Priestley (only a little nicer). During grad school, she fell in love with digital marketing and never looked back... until now.</p>

    <p>She is currently on sabbatical to learn how to be a Mom, and has been exploring her experience and new identity through writing. Jess lives in Annapolis, MD on the Chesapeake Bay with her husband, daughter, and rescue lab named Coffee.</p>

    <p>She recently launched @creatinglittlereaders with her college best friend, with a mission to make it easy for parents to foster a love of reading in their little ones.</p>

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