The Tribe… The village…
If you are a woman, I know you have heard these terms. There has been talk about how we need to bring back the village. Apparently, the village has died. Which sucks because as it turns out women need other women, and mothers need other mothers. We need, in our very immediate circles, people who we know have not just our backs but the the backs of our children.
But more than that, the truth is that we need people outside of our circles to be willing to help, too. Because many hands make light work, especially when talking about children.
There was once a time when children could roam the town, discover nature’s delights, go down to the river (so to speak) and be totally fine. Parents used to set boundary rules (“stay in the neighborhood,” “don’t leave our street”) and let their kids live. Of course, some kids fell victim to tragedy but many didn’t.
How? The village.
People helped out, people stepped in. People weren’t afraid of hurting each other’s feelings by parenting someone else’s kid in their absence.
Studies have shown that while neighborhoods have gotten safer, parents have become more fearful of letting their children just be kids. Rather than leaning in to the statistics though, we have decided to build our walls higher. Both physically and emotionally. That’s definitely me.
I can hardly let my kids play outside in our fenced in back yard without imagining awful scenarios. I marvel at my neighbors who are able to set those boundary rules and not fall over from anxiety. And I know those parents exist, cause while I sit bench-side at the park or basketball courts eyes locked on my kids just waiting for the next injury… their kids are there too, sans adult. And doing just fine I might add.
There are times though. Certain situations call for an adults eyes and ears and since I am there anyway, I step in if warranted (which is seriously so rare).
Why? Because the village.
I believe that the village worked because people weren’t so offended by others parenting their children. They welcomed it, they insisted on it. Parents worried less because they knew other adults had their eyes open.
Something happened when we started hiding behind our cell phones. While the world suddenly became accessible to us via the internet, our real life communities inevitably grew smaller. We stopped being village members and started being lone wolfs.
Enter the: “stop judging other moms” trope. Also the “we don’t want your unsolicited advice” shtick.
This might be an unpopular opinion… but I call bullshit.
If we want the village back, we have to be okay with hearing the opinions of others. We have to stop thinking that anyone who offers advice is inherently against us. Seriously… what the hell kind of sense does that make? When someone reaches out and gives their advice why is our instinct to get annoyed?
In the tribe, when one woman sees another struggle with her newborn she doesn’t just swallow her words and mind her own business. She takes the baby and says “here, try it this way.” She doesn’t leave the new mother to figure it out on her own.
Women aren’t supposed to be doing womanhood alone.
Mothers aren’t supposed to mother alone.
I believe that. So I give unsolicited advice. If you are my friend you know this to be true. I will blatantly tell you what I have tried, what has or hasn’t worked for me, and sometimes even what I think your planned actions will yield you. Not because I think I’m right, but because I give a shit. Because I care about you, and because I believe I am part of your village. I want you to succeed. I want you to feel less stressed and more confident, so I share what works for me, not because I think it will work for you, but in hopes that it can.
If you want a village, you can’t keep ignoring the wisdom of other women. You can’t keep thinking your mom, sister, friend with (more) kids/experience just doesn’t get it or is out to get you.
But most importantly… you can not keep swallowing your own wisdom just because you’re scared of coming across as “judgmental.”
We are so scared to hurt other people’s feelings that sometimes we keep our mouths shut on really important topics. We want to come across as nice, but we forget that nice isn’t always kind.
So tell your friend about pace feeding, tell your cousin their child’s chest clip is too low, tell your brother to turn his babies car seat back around. Tell your neighbor their kid was being mean at the park. Step IN when you see a child doing something they really shouldn’t be. Yes, even if their parent is right there.
Give the advice. Open up your can of wisdom. Because without it, we all struggle, some of us make big mistakes, and it’s not always necessary.
What is necessary is community, trust, and true friendship. And it has become so clear to me that if you want that… if you want the village, you’ll have to open your ears, heart, and mouth.
If you are desperate to find your village… You’ll have to start being a village member.