My Virtual Village

An essay by Bunmi Laditan — she of Honest Toddler hilarity — in which she lamented the village of tight-knit moms that she’s never had made its way around last week. You know, the village: the collaborative of moms that drifts in and out of each others’ nearby homes, sharing tips, tricks, babysitting, snacks, wine, and support.

Her post got a lot of commiseration from moms who have felt the same lack of community. But I couldn’t join in. It’s true that I don’t have the village as she describes it, but I’ve never felt like I was missing out.

In fact, the village that has emerged around me since Teddy was born has been a happy surprise. I was so focused on getting and staying pregnant, and then on having a healthy baby, that I didn’t give much thought to the support I’d need or want after he arrived.

It’s a good thing I didn’t have to look too far to find my tribes, scattered as they are across the country, across parenting experiences, and across my own past and present.

Been there, done that moms. Turns out that one of the pluses in taking pretty much forever to have a kid is that a lot of your friends have kids before you. These are the friends who bought me the hospital essentials (breath mints, hand lotion, hair elastics) before Teddy was born, who reassured me that I’d survive going back to work in the waning days of my maternity leave, and who give me a glimpse of what life will be like on the other side of the terrible twos (confirming that I’m not yet ready to jump ahead to the tween years).

There, right now moms. The long view from the BTDT moms is important. But so is the here and now. As in, the people who I can text pictures of my kid’s nasty rash to with the question, “Hand, foot and mouth? Or poison ivy or food allergy?” and not only do they not flinch at the gross picture, they know the answer, because their kid had the exact same nasty rash the week before. (For the record: my kid has had hand, foot and mouth twice now. Feel free to text me your nasty rash pictures and I’ll confirm or deny it.)

Family moms. And then there’s a group that combines BTDT and TRN. My brother’s son was born six months after Teddy, and my sister’s daughter two days shy of Teddy’s first birthday. B’s brother’s first son was 1.5 years old when Teddy was born, and his second son will be born in October, four days before kiddo #2. That adds up to lots of mothering (and grand-mothering, and great-grand-mothering) going on between our two families — and plenty of texts sent sharing stories of meltdowns, tips on willing a baby to nap, and pictures of long-distance cousins. (Also: very messy, very loud get-togethers.)

Moms of Tiny Dudes™. We had a baby boom at my last job, with a whole bunch of us pregnant — with boys, as it turned out — at the same time. Which meant we had a built-in group of fellow moms and babies to spend maternity leave with (whether in person, during the day, or virtually, in the wee hours of the night). Almost all of us have since moved on from that organization, but the Moms of Tiny Dudes have kept going with emails and brunches and playdates and MOTD nights out.

Listen to Your Mother moms. I’ve written before about how Listen to Your Mother turned out to be so much more than I expected — a fact that continues to ring true, even almost three months after our show. Even though we can’t get together very often — it took months to set a brunch date — we’ve got that whole “writing about our lives and families” thing in common. I learn something every time I read one of their posts — sometimes about how to have tough conversations, sometimes about celebrating milestones, sometimes about poop. All equally important.

Daycare moms. When we looked for daycare, we were concerned with Teddy’s welfare (and the location), and that was about it. But when I found the one we settled on, the director told me how she considers the daycare “her family” — and she’s helped the rest of us see it that way, too. With the daycare in our neighborhood, it means that the daycare moms are also…

Neighbor moms. Yes, they do still exist! Good friends lobbied us for years to move into their neighborhood. We had plenty of reasons not to — until I missed Teddy’s bedtime three times in my first two weeks back to work. Then, the Northern-Virginia-to-DC commute looked a lot less appealing, despite the many other pluses our little condo and neighborhood offered. Turns out the house we picked? It’s just a few blocks from our friends who successfully lobbied us, and right next door to another family with a son Teddy’s age, and their baby #2 is due a month after ours. The days of chatting over the fence and kids running between the two yards lives on, at least here.

Individually, no one group does all the babysitting, has all the answers, or keeps my wine glass filled (when gestationally and child-rearingly appropriate, of course). (They do all, however, have a thing for coffee.) But together, my tribes have created a full village, and for that, I’m grateful.

What did I know about being a mom back then? Yeah, pretty much nothing. Good thing I found a village.

What did I know about being a mom back then? Yeah, pretty much nothing. Good thing I found a village.



9 thoughts on “My Virtual Village

  1. Sadly, I don’t have the neighborhood mom thing happening but wish I did. And HTM twice? OHM. So sorry. That must have been rough. I’m glad you had your tribe to ask and I so agree that the LTYM experience – and meeting you and the rest of the awesome women – has been a highlight of my year. I can’t wait until the brunch!!

  2. Cheers to the LTYM mamas! We are a VILLAGE, aren’t we?

    This is such a great exercise, Michele. It took me a while to make friends after kids, but looking back I see I have/had these categories of mamas to keep me company, make me laugh, and share the load. But I think I would’ve benefited from writing about it so I could be aware of it. I really appreciated reading it.

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