I’ve always heard that it takes a village to raise a child, but now that I have children of my own, I know the truth: it takes a village to keep the parents sane.

There’s a lot that you don’t know until you’re a parent. You might know what all the parenting books say to do, but you might not know that they all require you to be full of energy and patience after a sleepless night and stressful day. Everyone knows they’ll love their babies from the bottom of their heart, but a big chunk of parents deal with postpartum depression and for a while, can barely manage to give out hugs. The three meals a day, topped with scheduling doctor’s appointments, assisting with homework, quelling sibling rivalry, keeping the house clean, going to work, paying the bills, dealing with emergencies – it’s a juggling act only parents know.

I remember shortly after having my first, reading the diary of Gluckel of Hameln. Gluckel was a Jewish businesswoman who lived at the turn of the 17th century. There’s a lot I don’t envy about her life; like the pogroms they had to flee, and the plagues that wiped out full towns. But Gluckel lived in the proverbial village. After each baby, she moved into her parent’s or in-law’s home for months, while family and friends stepped in to take care of her and her babies. The children spent hours playing together outside, women socialized daily, and neighbors comfortably leaned on each other for support. Raising children wasn’t seen as a stress, but as a responsibility that the village shared.

Most of today’s parents don’t have a village. People live in isolated homes, while socializing stays online. Loneliness has become a real epidemic. Somehow we’re expected to be the perfect Pinterest parents, all while juggling work and family alone.

It’s time to bring back the village. I believe that it can be done everywhere, even in cities. We’re doing it in our community of Neve Chabad.

We get together very often. Every week, women on Mondays, men on Thursdays, we gather without the kids. Just parents (and our Neve Chabad Bubby & Zeide!) gather together to socialize, learn, and support each other. We share Shabbat meals, barbecue dinners, family outings, and spontaneous adventures often. But we don’t rely on things just happening – we’re all busy, things need to be planned and organised for the cycle to keep going. Initiative, effective committees, effort, and routine gatherings are a must.

The men enjoying a Thursday night Farbrengen.

The result? A community of friends who can rely on each other in times of need. I asked fellow Neve Chabad moms what our lifestyle meant to them in day-to-day life.

Sometimes it’s the little things that make a huge difference. On a couple hectic Friday afternoons, Elke was relieved to be able to bring her toddler to her neighbour, Michla, who watched her for twenty minutes so that Elke could wash her floors.

Having someone nearby to rely on can ease the big stresses when they suddenly hit. “When my laundry machine broke, I used Michla’s,” Elke explained. “And then hers broke and she used mine. When I needed to go to the doctor in peace, I was able to leave my baby with you.”

“When we had an emergency right before Shabbat,” Leeba recalled. “The whole community was there for us. We didn’t have to worry about the kids being alone, or what we’d eat. I don’t know how we would manage that elsewhere.”

When Miiko was home with a newborn, she got a call from preschool with the news that her little daughter had a fever and needed to be picked up. Miiko couldn’t go out, and her husband was at work – but Michla dropped everything to bring her home.

When I was overdue with my third child, I didn’t need to worry about where my kids would go when labor hit. Friends offered to stay with them, or have them sleepover.

Miriam and Zehava both pointed out that often it’s just the sympathising with each other, like sharing in the struggles of navigating life in a new country, that makes life feel easier. Or knowing that you have a whole group of friends keeping an eye out for things you may need, like jobs, home rentals, or a good deal on new furniture.

Then there’s the more enjoyable parts of life. “It’s nice to spend chagim (holidays) together,” says Zehava. “And have the kids grow up with close-knit friends.”

“When any of us go on vacation with our spouse, our kids have where to sleepover.” Miiko commented. “Basically, we all have more flexibility for the things that are important, without sacrificing raising our kids in a protective environment.”

Pesach (Passover) cleaning in Neve Chabad has an extra custom. The kids excitedly pack up the clothes that are now too small on them, and pass them on to whichever child in the community it will now fit best. Fitche makes an extra effort to keep his clothes in good condition, and when Chaya buys new clothes, she thinks about how much her younger friend would love to wear it one day.

Summer vacation becomes full of mini-camps and rotational sleepover parties. The kids don’t have to be bored when there are so many places their parents can safely let them play.

Miriam summed it up beautifully: “We are a community of individual families which have come together to form a super-family, a clan, a tribe. Each child has a mother and father, but all the adults share an interest fostering and supporting all the children in learning derech eretz (respect), and chassidishe values.”

Every day I thank God that I get to raise my children in such a beautiful and supportive “village.” My only hope, is that more parents and children around the world can enjoy this wonderful blessing too.