Finding My Village

It takes a village.

I used to wonder what those words really meant. I mean, I live in the suburbs and I don’t even know my neighbors. What kind of village am I supposed to be a part of and how do I join?

When I first became a mother, I lived in a town in which I knew no one, my friends were not married, and my family lived in other parts of the state, country, even other parts of the world. There were times that I dreamt of having others to rely on—someone to watch the baby when I needed to go to the doctor, or to baby-sit so my husband and I could have an evening “off,” or to just share my worries with over a cup of coffee—but I was alone. Well, alone with my beautiful daughter and my loving husband, and we were enough.

By the time our daughter started school, we had moved to a new town—a town very near, and very much like, the one I grew up in—but little had changed in my life. I worked in the same office, I had the same friends—some were married, but none had children—, and my mother and siblings still didn’t live anywhere near me. It was while dropping my daughter off at school that I first caught a glimpse into this village that I wasn’t a part of—the mothers chatting at drop off about PTO meetings and play-dates, the town sports teams that I didn’t know I was supposed to sign my daughter up for. I felt on the outside—juggling two children, a job, my husband’s business, and our home. I told myself that I didn’t need to be part of this “suburban village”—we would be fine on our own.

Then I met the mother of one my daughter’s classmates. She found out that I had been running home from work each day during lunch so that I could take my daughter to school, often eating my lunch as I drove. In order to give me a break one or two days a week, she offered to pick her up and take her to school for me. With that offer of her time, a few extra minutes out of her day twice a week, she suddenly made me feel—for the very first time—a little less alone.

Although I have never truly become friends with the mothers of my daughter’s friends, I have been able to form a kind of relationship with many of them—I know their names and occupations, the number of children each have and their corresponding ages, and for some, I even have their cell phone numbers. It’s been enough.

It wasn’t until my son entered kindergarten, however, that my relationship with mothers in my town started to change. A month before school started, I was swimming with my son at the town pool when I heard someone say my name—it was a friend from high school who I hadn’t seen in nearly twenty years. As it turned out, she had recently moved to my town and she had a son who would also be starting kindergarten that September—she was also expecting her second child. Over the next few weeks, whenever we saw each other at the pool we would sit down and chat about the last two decades of our lives, often while our boys played together in the background—it was bliss.

Soon after our boys started school—it was afternoon kindergarten once again—she went out on maternity leave. I thought back on that year when my daughter was in kindergarten, and how much it meant to me to have someone to rely on. So, I offered to take her son to and from school each day, or whenever she needed me to. I wanted to do for her what had been done for me—I wanted to “pay it forward” in my own way.

I realized something this week that has taken me by surprise—I am part of a village and I wasn’t even trying to be. It happened slowly, almost without effort. It started with a small conversation during drop off, a quick chat about school policies (I am somehow an expert after six years at the school), and the occasional commiseration over the “joys” of parenthood. These parents that I met at school have become more than just the parents of my son’s classmates—they have become my friends. They are there for me when I need them, like when I forgot to pick my kids up from school (it happened only once), or when they knew I was going to be stuck in meetings all afternoon so they invited my son over after school. These women are my village, and I am thankful each day that they are in my life.

My advice for my daughter is to know that if she ever feels isolated or alone—whether it be in high school, college, or as an adult—she should always know that there are people around her that she can lean on, even if she hasn’t met them yet. She just needs to put herself out there—maybe strike up a conversation—for there is no reason to go through life alone.

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27 thoughts on “Finding My Village

    • Growing up, my mother had the same kind of relationship with the mom next door. Their family was just an extension of my own. I wish that I could have given that to my children, but because I can’t, I’m doing my best to put myself out there so at least she can develop strong relationships with her friends. Thanks so much for sharing.

  1. I’m shy and it took me a long time to make friends with moms in my community. But what a great thing when I did! It does take time, and you do have to put yourself out there. That’s hard for me, but so worth it.

    • I am very similar. I would feel self-conscious waiting outside the school, and I’d never want to put myself out there. You’re right—it can be hard, but it is worth it. Thank you for being so honest!

  2. Beautifully said. We call our village The Sisterhood, but it is a special thing. It creeps up on you in the most wonderful way.

    “She just needs to put herself out there—maybe strike up a conversation—for there is no reason to go through life alone.” This is something I am going to share.
    Ellen

  3. I need to really remember this. I generally am not a very social person and don’t like to put myself out there with the other moms, but I’ve generally found that when I do, it goes well. Last week for instance, I got stuck in a meeting longer than expected at work, and I called the mother of one of my oldest daughter’s friends to ask if she could pick up my girl from running club while she was there. She’d actually already picked up her daughter and left, but she TURNED AROUND and got my kid. It meant so much to me to realize that I had someone to turn to when I needed help. And it didn’t occur to me until I was stuck in that “what should I do because I’m not going to make it” position.

    • I’ve been in that exact situation—at work, and feeling sick to my stomach about having to reach out to another mother. It’s so important to have someone to rely on. Thanks for your response—it’s amazing how many of us are just so similar.

    • It took me five years, and all because I didn’t really put myself out there. I always wished I could just ask another mom out for coffee—but I couldn’t bring myself to ask the question. Even though I have lived in this town for seven years, I only joined the pool two years ago. It was there that I met up with my old friend. It has also been the place that has allowed me to meet many other parents in this town. If you have the opportunity to join one (and haven’t already), I would. I’m sure you’ll have plenty of opportunities to get to know the other women in your community.

  4. It is so easy to curl up inside your little bubble and refuse to seek help or take an extended hand – at least it is for me anyway. What’s annoying about me to me is that I would LOVE to help someone else out if they needed it.

  5. For those of us that left our hometown and relocate to a place where we known no one, it’s so isolating at first and the idea of a Village seems so far removed. But making that first friend only opens the floodgates, at least that’s how it’s been for me. Great post!

  6. What a beautiful post and so very true. We start to realize just who our real friends are in times like these; when we are at our wit’s end and could really use a bit of help. I’m glad that you have found your village :) Beautiful post, Erin.

    Also, I think I am putting 2+2 together and realized we may have someone in common! Your BIL (who works in Hoboken, yes?). I remember him telling me you blog and I think I may have seen him in one of your pictures. The world’s often not so big as we think, right?

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  8. It took me a long time to open myself to the “village” that was around me. I had two young kids when we moved to our home and I felt like I could do it on my own. You can’t, you shouldn’t. Motherhood is so much better with support. Great post!

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