Parenting is a journey and one that is filled with plenty of highs and lows. The first time my first baby slept through the night: high. The first time I had to call poison control: low. The first time my little boy said, "I love you Mama!": major high. That really epic tantrum my daughter threw in the middle of Old Navy: major low. Like anything in life, it ebbs and flows. There are days when I truly believe that motherhood is the most beautiful thing in the world and there are other days when I wonder what I could've possibly been thinking when I decided to get pregnant (let alone deciding to get pregnant three times.)
Something that makes those low moments infinitely more bearable though is the presence of a beautiful "parenting village" in my life. I know a lot of people talk about finding their "tribe" or their "people" and that the importance of having a village is not a new concept. But, what if that village looked a little bit different than what we all thought it looked like?
I always envisioned my "village" as being comprised of my family and closest friends and though that is definitely true, some of my most beautiful "village" moments have come from people outside of this important circle. Some of my most encouraging parenting moments have come from mamas that were only acquaintances who I barely knew or even from complete strangers. These moments are the ones that truly stand out in my mind... the moments that truly bolstered me on a difficult day or during a challenging season and helped carry me to the next thing.
There was that time I braved the grocery store as a first-time mama. I looked like a hot mess with unkempt hair and bags under my eyes and a tiny baby strapped to my chest. I rushed my way down aisle after aisle, pausing to sway and shush my baby every so often as she fussed, just hoping and praying she wouldn't completely lose it until I was able to make it to the checkout line. By the time I reached the front of the store my baby was full-on wailing. A woman one checkout lane over noticed me visibly struggling to load my items onto the conveyor belt and left her cart to come over and help me. She proceeded to bag my groceries and then went one step further by insisting on walking me to my car to help me unload the items into my car.
We are the village my friends. The moment you become a parent, you become part of this special club.
As she helped me, she shared a similar experience she'd had as a new mom herself. She shared how she was struggling and felt overwhelmed and how no one offered to help her. She told me that ever since she has made it a point to help other mamas when she sees the opportunity. This random stranger lady then gave me a hug in the parking lot and told me it gets better and that I would be a confident pro in no time. I smiled through the tears in my eyes and thanked her for her kindness. Little did she know how much that simple act meant to my new mama heart.
Then there was the time when as a new breastfeeder, I got up the bravery to go to the mall in search of a few postpartum/nursing friendly clothing items. I was still just learning the ropes of breastfeeding and was about ready to give up. During our excursion it came down to the time I had been dreading—it was time to feed my daughter. I found the most inconspicuously placed bench possible and pulled out my nursing cover, fumbling around as I attempted to feed my child without flashing the entire food court.
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A woman passing by with her two older children paused to tell me what a wonderful thing I was doing for my baby. She shared how she'd had a difficult time with breastfeeding herself, but how she pushed through and was so thankful that she did and shared what a wonderful experience it ended up being once she got over that initial hump because it was "really hard." That woman went on with her day, but her words continued with me throughout the coming days. Whenever I felt like giving up on nursing, I remembered the encouragement of a fellow mom who had been where I was—right there in the trenches—and survived to tell the tale.
Often times it's my lowest parenting moments where I had felt like a failure, that suddenly turned into a beautiful "village moment" where one mom did something simple to say "I see you and I care." And it's meant the world to me.
We are the village my friends. The moment you become a parent, you become part of this special club. And though some may try to make you think it's elite and convince you that there's a very specific set of rules for belonging to it, that couldn't be further from the truth. Every one of us brings something unique to this parenting club and we can all encourage and help one another as we take on this journey. Parenting is not for the faint of heart and there will be challenges, but when we all become part of the village, everyone thrives.