They say it takes a village to raise a child, and there aren’t many parents out there who would argue. In fact, after three kids, I don’t just need a village, I need the assistance of at least one small, well-inhabited island to come to my rescue most days.
Kids require constant attention, care, and at least one pair of eyes on them at all times – which makes the fact that I have three kids and only one pair of eyes an increasingly difficult challenge. This is where that village comes in handy.
Of course, not all of us have a ready-made village of family close by to pitch in to make this grand experiment called childrearing a success. And then, again, some of us do. But whether you’ve got grandparents that live next door and constantly beg to watch your kids or you’re flying solo, there’s one thing you can have, and arguably, need. And that’s a tribe.
A tribe is similar to a village in that it includes people who we rely on to keep us sane and functioning, and, ideally, prevent us from tumbling off the parenting precipice. However, unlike a village that has a preexisting structure, a tribe is often composed of people that we choose to bring into our circle. Likewise, whereas a village serves to help us with the physical tasks of parenting, a tribe serves our emotional needs.
Simply put, a tribe is that special group of women that every mom needs to remind her that she is human and that she was put on this earth for reasons other than making sure that the crusts are cut off sandwiches properly.
Over the years, I’ve had an ever-shifting village, meaning that there have been times I’ve lived closer to family and times I’ve lived (what feels to be) light years away. But the one thing I’ve always had is my tribe. Sure people have come and gone as geography and stages of life have changed, but my tribe has evolved with the changes. And with time, I’ve come to realize that there are certain types of people we all need to help us stay on track as mothers, women, and friends.
Here are some of the women you might find (or be!) in your tribe:
This is the woman who’s seen it all, done it all, and proudly wears the battle scars to prove it. She’s perhaps a bit older than us, and likely has kids that are grown or close to it. Her wisdom and experience are, at times, the only things that keep us from doing a midnight runner to Mexico and never looking back. She constantly reminds us that it’s going to be ok, that our kids WILL be fine, and that we’re doing a good job, even as a toddler lies writhing at our feet because we forgot that they could zip their jacket up by themselves. She’s living proof that we can and will survive – and that the wrinkles and gray hair we earn along the way are simply the beautiful badges of our journey.
She’s the newcomer to the mom scene, and as such, is the opposite of the Chieftess. But, because she’s even more inexperienced than we are, we get to be the voice of reason. She helps to complete the circle of life that is motherhood by reminding us of how overwhelmed and scared we were in the beginning, and because she looks to us as the “expert” now, we have the chance to see just how far we’ve come. Her questions and need for advice give us a chance to give back and nurture; and her gratitude validates our journey in ways that are immeasurable.
The Wild Child
This woman is a constant reminder of how much fun we used to be before we started doing things like discussing the viscosity and color of a baby’s spit up in public gatherings. By that same token, she also reminds us that motherhood doesn’t mean we have to become a cloistered hermit. Sure, we’re not going out to clubs at 10pm and getting home at 4am like we did when we were 22, mainly because a) toddlers don’t respect sleeping in and b) gross. But this woman will make sure we get out now and then in clothes don’t boast an elementary school emblem or fall in the category of athleisurewear. She’s the one that plans the girls’ weekends and forces us to get a sitter. She may or may not be a mother herself. She may be a younger friend, a proud single, or even a sister. But regardless of what’s going on in her own life, she never stopped seeing us for who we are underneath the spit-up stained sweatshirts, black undereye circles, and designer diaper bag that now doubles as a purse, trash receptacle, lunch box, and laundry basket. And we love her dearly for it – even if we can’t always hang.
The Hot Mess
Kind of like the Newbie, the Hot Mess helps us keep perspective on our own chaos. She’s the one who always has a slightly panicked look, leading you to believe that there’s a good chance she’s forgotten to pick at least one child up from sports/school/ballet. Her house and car are messy, her schedule has more moving parts than a Broadway musical, and frankly, the girl needs help. But the beauty of the Hot Mess is that she’s not afraid to ask for it. She’ll reach out and be the first to suggest a car pool or ask for a playdate. She might always seem a day late and a dollar short, but somehow she gets it all done. Her example helps us to appreciate our own lives a little more and feel inspired to handle the chaos inherent to parenting with a little more grace.
The Mary Poppins
Standing on the opposite end of the spectrum from the Hot Mess is the Mary Poppins mom. This woman is practically perfect in every way and we cannot figure out for the life of us how she does it. Her clothes are actually clean, even at the morning bus stop. Her kids are learning Mandarin and playing violin in the youth orchestra, all while starring on the travel soccer team. Her house looks like a Pottery Barn advertisement and you’ve never even once seen a pile of laundry on her living room floor. It would be easy to hate her, except she’s just so darn inspirational. She’s the one we can go to for advice about how to get a little more structure in our own lives. Far from pretentious, she’s creative and clever and always brings the best cupcakes to school. So, while we may never achieve her level of perfection, she keeps us reaching for the brass ring – also, we get really good cupcakes…so there’s that.
The Common Core
At the center of all that comprises our Mom Tribe lies the Common Core. She’s the one who, from the moment we met, we knew would be a part of our lives forever. Our spirits simply recognized one another and we share a bond that goes beyond circumstance, time, or age. She may fall under one of the other categories listed here. Or she may be her own special, spinning cosmos that makes no sense to our daily lives. But whoever she is, a mother, a sister, or a friend, she is the one who gets us. She is the one we can call for no reason in the middle of the day, or for ALL the reasons in the middle of the night. We don’t have to justify, apologize, or explain – she just knows, because at her core, she is the same.
Sure, every mom tribe is different in character, dynamic, and size. Some of us need more people and personalities, some of us less. But one thing is constant – we do need each other. By recognizing our need for support as a parent – whether from a village or a tribe – our journey through parenting and motherhood doesn’t become less challenging, but it definitely becomes more rewarding each step of the way.