While the origin of this proverb is up for discussion, the concept itself is a familiar one for most parents. The idea of an entire community taking part in nurturing and caring for its children is one that can be found in many cultures.
My husband and I moved to Vermont in 2005. We could count the people we knew here on one hand — well, one finger: my best friend. By the time our oldest daughter was born in 2007, we had expanded our social circle a bit. My best friend was still my primary social contact, but I had started to become closer with some coworkers. I consider myself a pretty social person, so during my six weeks of maternity leave I felt pretty isolated. I took weekly trips into the big city of Burlington to my workplace. Being able to interact with adult humans, even for a few minutes, probably saved my sanity.
By the time kiddo number two arrived, I had put some more roots down in my community. I was still working at the same place, and a few of my work acquaintances had become good friends. I had met some amazing people in nursing school and had started to get to know some of our neighbors. This time, maternity leave flew by, thanks to visits from friends.
These days, when I look at the group of people that are helping me raise my kids, I’m amazed at how big my village has become.
As my daughters have grown and started to become a bigger part of our community, their ever-widening social circles have expanded my own. There are so many people helping me raise my children to become strong, smart, independent women. Their help and feedback are invaluable in helping me realize I’m not such a terrible mom most of the time.
When I look at my village, I see that many of my people fit into different categories. They’re all so different, and they bring so much diversity into my life and my kids’ lives. Some people fit into more than one category, of course. They all have one thing in common, though — they love us and want nothing but the best for us.
Here’s a list of seven types of people that I have in my village that I think everyone needs to have:
You may think that this goes without saying. Everyone’s definition of family is different. I immediately think of my mom, dad, sister, and extended family, even though they live too far away to be a daily presence in our lives. But there’s also my husband’s family, who are numerous and spread far and wide. And there’s the third branch, which segues perfectly into…
Friends who are family.
You know, the kind who have known you for so long that you forget that you aren’t related. The ones who call your parents “Mom” and “Dad” and vice versa. The ones who, when you start to tell a story about grade school, stop you in your tracks because you’re telling it wrong. The friends who knew you before kids — heck, when YOU were a kid. The people who remind you that it’s okay to be that kid again once in a while.
Ride or die friends.
We all have certain people in our lives who will be there for us in a heartbeat. They’re ready to take the kids when they get too crazy for us to handle. They have no problem pitching in with the cleaning or the laundry if they walk in at the wrong time (and of course, they walk in without knocking). They won’t judge you when you push your daughter to the ground to save your wineglass from breaking. They’re the first ones to stand up for your fundraiser idea at the PTO meeting. They will also whip out their judgmental glare for anyone who disagrees with it.
I have had the great fortune of welcoming some of my daughters’ teachers into my village. These people remind me that even though my kids can be completely frustrating at home, once they’re out in the community, they become role models and helpers. My teacher friends nurture my kids’ minds and hearts during times when I just can’t do it myself.
Friends without kids.
Whether it’s by choice, or they haven’t started their families yet, we all need a couple of non-mom friends in our lives. These friends encourage us to pursue kid-free activities and remind us how awesome we are as individuals, not just as moms. Even if you only see them once in a blue moon, their perspective on your life can sometimes change the balance when you feel like you’re stuck in a mom rut.
Some people, for whatever reason, have a smaller physical village. Instead, they rely on a large community on social media to help them feel sane. Sometimes all you need to do is post something in a private forum and watch the supportive comments and great advice roll in. For me, I gained a whole new street in my village when I joined the BVTMB team. We don’t see each other in person very often, but I know these ladies have my back and I definitely have theirs.
Whether they are your husband, kids’ dad/stepdad, brother, uncle, or just a friend, we all need a little Y-chromosome perspective in our lives. Sometimes it’s as simple as watching them roughhouse with our kids to make us realize that we don’t have to treat them like fragile little dolls. Or maybe one of your male friends or relatives can show your daughters how to bait a hook and go fishing (ew). My husband has instilled his love of nature into our daughters. Thanks to him, we’ve all spent quite a few weekends exploring the wilderness of Vermont.