You’ve heard it takes a village to raise a child, but where do you even start to build yours?

With her own family living interstate, Emma Gray quickly discovered just how much help parents need. But if you’re anything like Emma, chances are you don’t like asking for help.

No-one wants to be a burden, but at the same time, there’s nothing nicer than being the recipient of a home-cooked meal or bag of groceries – especially when you’re navigating the throes of parenthood.

So she decided to create a really practical support network called the nurtured village. Through her community, people make home-cooked meals for others they’ve, potentially, never met, offer advice and support, and nominate young families in Brisbane for hampers every month.

It’s a cause we’re proud to support by donating a cleaning voucher every month for parents in need of a hand.

Emma is 100% authentic about working and parenting, and says she is learning every day how to practice what she preaches in terms of accepting a hand from others… and she has a clever idea below for minimising any guilt when saying yes to an offer of help!

About six months into becoming a first-time mum, I noticed the hard smack of reality…

As it probably is to everybody, I learned what it is actually like to be a mum. Prior to becoming a mother, I would visit a friend or family member who just had a new baby (empty-handed, mind you) and drink their tea or coffee, sit on their lounge and stay way too long and hold their baby. You don’t really understand until you become a mum yourself that you need people to be there for you, for food and support. 

In the past, I used to buy a onesie and some ornament as a gift, and I soon realised that’s not really what you need when you have a baby. The way we live in modern society means that the ‘village’ isn’t there. So I wanted to create an online community for people – a village of support for Brisbane friends. That is how the nurtured village came about.

The reality is that we don’t reach out to people for support very often. The nurtured village is a platform that means you don’t really have to – we’ll just be there for each other, for whatever the situation or circumstance. My idea was to organise home-cooked meals or meal trains if one of the members had a baby or returned to work from maternity leave, and then it just kind of took off.

After the first hamper, I soon realised that people within the community love helping others and are so generous. I think there is now just under 200 people in the Brisbane community and we have five other towns and cities in Australia where local mothers facilitate the nurtured village hampers in their community.

Every month we give a hamper away…

Families are nominated each month and the recipient is picked at random. The community then gets together, and they donate store-bought foods, home-cooked meals and small gifts. I collect and deliver it every month to the family’s door, and the hampers just keep getting bigger and bigger every single month.

It initially started off for women having a baby, but there is a multitude of reasons why people are nominated: we’ve had people who have a medical diagnosis with their children or the parents themselves, families in financial strain and parents doing inspiring things for others who deserve back what they so freely give to others.

It is a space where you don’t actually have to specify what you need. You don’t need to reach out and ask for the help; it’s just here, you know, and it’s people who don’t even know you or know your circumstances.

That’s how I came across Family Clean…

I was looking for a cleaner to come on-board for the hampers, and I really wanted a company that was really on the same page as the nurtured village and had a similar ethos. A lot of the people in the community are parents with young children or professionals, so I wanted to make sure that I was bringing a trustworthy, reliable service that I could trust with the community. And everybody loves having a cleaner in their home!

When I spend time with my family…

We like to drive down to the coast and spend the day at the beach. We love going out for breakfast or going out for lunch. So really being in nature and eating good food! There is nothing better than a cheese platter and just being outside and being with each other.

We live a long way from our family, so alternately spending time with family and friends is very special to us.

I went back to work this year and everything started piling up…

We also put our house on the market and bought a property and I thought, this is the perfect opportunity to get somebody to help out. It was one of those things where it’s like; something’s got to give, I can’t be everything for everybody.

I feel like hiring a cleaner is one of those things that is well and truly worth what you pay. It’s just like a breath of fresh air walking in and the house is clean and I don’t have to worry about that.

It takes a village to raise a child and the village isn’t always there. I’m hoping to form that kind of village with professionals and businesses as a way around not having aunties and uncles and grandparents around all the time to help out. I hadn’t used a cleaner before, but I’m booking our cleaning service once-off as we need it – it is just going to be a huge help.

I am very much in my infancy with learning how to stay on top of things…

And COVID-19 has presented many more challenges as well. So I’m reaching out within the community and making trusted contacts including professional services.

In terms of that, things I am doing include:

  • We’ve just gone to a food subscription for meals for the moment, so it takes the strain off grocery shopping and food preparation. I would also do a food delivery from Coles or Woolworths, especially when my daughter was very young. 
  • Being really transparent with my husband – we have a working document between us that we can update to inform each other of our list of things to be done and communicate really openly and clearly with each other. 
  • Giving myself the space to be okay with not being able to do it all. When something gets on top of me, I pretty much reach out and outsource.

If someone offers help, I offer something in return…

I do struggle with accepting help, and I think most people do, but something’s got to give. Accepting help is the only way around many of the problems you face as a young family.

So for example, my husband and I don’t get to spend much time together and I recently had a friend reach out to look after our daughter while we went out to dinner. I don’t like feeling like I owe something to somebody, so I find that my way around it is to offer something in return – I’ll accept if you agree that I can do this for you as well. So my advice is to agree on terms that you are comfortable with.

Giving back is very cyclic and I think it has a great snowball effect. That’s what I have found with the nurtured village as well – doing something for somebody else creates a big roll-on effect, and we have to start that ball rolling and say yes to people and do things back in return. Otherwise it can be a very lonely journey as young parents. People will never forget how you made them feel.

A big thanks to Emma for sharing her beautiful story! If you’re wondering how hiring a cleaner actually works, you’ll find a 4-step guide here. – The Mother Ducks