Although this phrase has been used to title multiple books and has been credited as an African proverb, it's exact origin is unknown. I believe, though, that it must have come from a mother.
I remember the days in the first several months after my first daughter was born. I had left my career and, thus, my colleagues. However, none of my closest friend had children yet. I spent my days at home nursing, rocking, soothing - lost in becoming a mom. Many days, since my husband traveled for work, I had little or no contact with other adults. I felt very isolated. I hadn't found my village yet.
Eventually, I did. One of my dearest friends had a daughter about six months after me and we began spending lots of time together. I found someone close by who wanted to have regular playdates. I joined a women's bible study group at my church made up primarily of young mothers.
Then, we moved away to another state. I was once again on my own.
After almost a year, we ended up returning to our previous city and to the friends and family we already had, but those months in between, in the new city were brutal. By then I had two children, a toddler and an infant. I knew no one. I had no one to baby-sit for me. I had no time at all away from my children. It felt like I was right back where I began.
The one big difference this time, however, was that I knew how important it was to find my village. Right away, I found a MOMS groups and joined. I frequently lugged the kids and all the required "stuff" to the neighborhood pool in hopes of meeting some other mothers (which I did). Pretty quickly, we started visiting churches trying to find one that was a good ft for our family. And, on Saturdays, when my husband said for me to go to Starbucks and relax for a couple hours, I practically ran out the door before he could change his mind.
It was in those days, the days when I feel most alone as a mom, that I truly realized the importance of having a support system of people to help you, encourage you, and, sometimes, just listen to you. As they say, oftentimes you don't realize what you have until it's gone. When I didn't have it, I realized how much I needed it. So much so, that I recently shared this nugget of advice for younger moms:
Find your tribe. This is advice that is given to bloggers. It means to find a group of other bloggers who write about similar topics and who will support you by sharing your posts, having your back when commenters get nasty, and helping you out of a writing funk. Moms need a tribe, too. Find a group of other moms who are going through what you are going through; who can laugh with you and cry with you; who will have your back and help you out of a down time.
Nowadays, my girls are older. As they have grown, I have evolved as a mother, and my village has evolved as well. One thing that has never changed, though, is how grateful I am to all the people who are part of my mommy tribe. Who are they? I'm glad you asked.
Family - My extended family is a HUGE part of my tribe. My in-laws are literally my neighbors and are always happy to help me out with transporting kids or baby-sitting. I can't remember one time that I have asked and they have told me no. My parents are a couple hours away, but are more than willing to lend a hand when they can. My mom is my confidant and advisor. My kids ADORE all their grandparents and I would be lost without them.
Friends - I have never been one of those people who has tons of friends, but I have a couple super great ones that I cherish. They have seen me through the ups and downs of motherhood and, hopefully, they feel the same way about me.
My Church - This won't be on everyone's list, but it is an important part of my life. My children attended preschool at my church and I have attended several parenting classes there as well. Many of those friends I referred to above, also came from my church where we met and studied together and where we continue to raise our children together in faith.
The Schools - Right now, I have two children in elementary school and one in middle school. Although I'm not really part of the "Cool Moms Club" at either school (you know what I'm talking about!), I still view the school at part of my village. After all, they spend as much or more of the day with my children than I do. They can offer me advice or perspective about where my children are developmentally and give suggestions when problems arise. As a former teacher myself, I hope all parents view their children's school as an ally.
The Blogosphere - It may sound crazy to those who don't blog, but some of my best friends are other bloggers and, some of them, I have never even met. Through our blogs, we share stories - fears, joys, frustrations, and all the things that motherhood entails. Not too long ago, I emailed sweet Chris for advice on an issue I was/am working through with one of my kids. She was supportive and gracious and so totally genuine in her response. Just a couple days ago, I commited the cardinal sin of vague commenting, but Kristi "heard" me and followed up to make sure everything was okay. We share our lives with each other and they are my tribe - in the blogosphere and in motherhood.
Last but most definitely not least is my husband. Having children was a decision we made together and parenting is something we do together. We have different roles, different approaches, and, sometimes, even different expectations, but we are a team. He supports me and I support him. We laugh about our children and we get frustrated with them. We strategize ways to discipline and ways to make sure the kids are getting everything they need. He is and always will be my #1 partner in parenting.
Not all villages look like mine. Some people have strained relationships with extended family or live too far away for them to be really involved. Some families do not choose organized religion and some choose homeschooling. Others may have neighbors or colleagues they consider to be a part of their support system. Of course, not everyone is a blogger. It doesn't matter who is in your village, though. What matters is that you have one, big or small, that supports you, encourages you, and makes your journey through motherhood a little less stressful and a little more joyful.
So, tell me, who's in YOUR parenting village?