In my post from earlier this week, I compared the internet to a tribal village water well: a gathering place where women can have quick, casual conversations in the course of their daily lives. One of the things I’ve been thinking about a lot as I read through all the fascinating comments is the ways in which the internet is not perfect replacement for a real village well. I think one of the biggest things missing, as a many commenters have pointed out, is that our children are not involved in our online interactions. If we had a real well to go visit, our children would be running around and playing as we chatted — filling our need for casual interaction with other adults would be something we did with our kids.
Yet the modern alternative, going to playgroups or other get-togethers involving moms and children, is missing something as well: it doesn’t involve any aspect of our daily household duties. Again, if we had a real well to gather around, we wouldn’t just be there for the chatting: we’d be accomplishing a vital household task (gathering water) in addition to meeting those needs #2-4 that I talked about in that last post. From what I remember from those anthropology classes, the daily gathering places that women have always had were places where they also washed clothes, collected water, prepared food, etc. (I recall a commenter offering a lovely glimpse into this sort of life in the first comment to this post over at Mothers of Many Saints.)
Personally, as my family has grown, I’ve found it harder and harder to put all daily work on hold to pack everyone up and go socialize. Though it’s well worth the effort to occasionally go to good friends’ houses for meaningful conversations and quality visits, it’s increasingly difficult to make it to playgroups or other sources of casual get-togethers. It takes a large amount of time and effort to get everyone packed in the car and out of the house, and doing that too often leaves me exhausted and puts me behind on all that I have to do to just keep the house at a “probably not going to be condemned by the health department” level. The beauty of having a real community water well area would be that life would be decompartmentalized: I’d have an opportunity to chat with other adults, my children would be part of these interactions, and it would all be part of my daily work. “Time with my children” and “work time” and “socializing time” would all blend together as one (to borrow from Steve G.’s term) community liturgy.
So here’s what I’ve been pondering this week: is there any way to recreate this in modern life?
I would love to draw on the brainpower of my brilliant commenters and see if you have any ideas here: can you think of any solutions, either short-term or long-term, that would help us combine our daily work with gathering with others?
To give you some examples, my husband and I were thinking that some short-term solutions could be to, say, meet other moms at a laundromat once a week and do our laundry together, or perhaps start a garden with another family, or join a mothers prayer group. A long-term solution could be to have opportunities for socializing heavily influence our housing choices, i.e. either living in an urban, walkable area or intentionally living on the same street as friends or family members. We even threw out the crazy idea of getting together with other families and buying a bunch of land outside the city limits and all building houses there. (Some of those are more feasible than others, and I’m not saying that any one of these would definitely work or is a perfect solution — just some quick examples from our brainstorming session.)
So…I turn the question over to all of you: What do you think about this? Can you think of some ways we could combine our daily work with community interaction? Have you found something that’s worked for you?
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