As you may know, I grew up in a small town. My mom was amazing, but even she will tell you that she (and my dad) didn’t do it alone. I imagine the early days were particularly tough because they didn’t yet know a ton of people in town and sometimes dad had to work long days. Let’s face it, even an 8-hour day with a 30-minute lunch and a 10-minute commute either way would be nearly 9 hours with a toddler and 2 babies. Mom’s saving grace was our neighbor Terri. Whether Terri helped with laundry or held a crying baby, she was so much more than an extra set of hands. I now realize that she was someone that spoke the adult English language and was there for support and an encouraging word. She was the start of my mom’s village.
As our roots grew in that town, so did mom’s connections, friendships and support. Mom made friends everywhere she went. Some were from work or church, while others were parents of our friends from various activities including Boy Scouts & 4-H. She developed authentic relationships with people of all ages. Some became like Grandmas to us and we would include them in all our holiday festivities. Some were similar ages to my mom and became other moms to us in a way. The benefit for the group of ‘other moms’ is that they typically got the same level of respect with much less sass than our own folks received.
Regardless of their ages, this network of women would watch out for us kids. They became extensions of my parents. They weren’t asked to do anything (that I know of), but they’d offer encouragement, love on us, or redirect us however they saw fit. Amy had 3 wonderful daughters and would make comments about how she was proud of the role models we were to them, which made me want to be even better. Kathy helped me talk through various frustrations I had with my sister whether it was junior high drama or bridezilla moments. Colette was there to give me the longest & tightest hug the day one of my friends died in high school. Shelley pulled me aside to talk to me about being more kind to a boy in our youth group. These are just a few of the women that made me feel special, heard, loved, accountable. These are just a few examples of their perfectly timed positive influence. There are countless other times these women and many others stepped up. They were truly invested in the parenting journey right alongside mom & dad.
As I grew up, my appreciation for them also grew. I remember being especially glad mom had people around after she was empty nested. I remember being even more grateful when she was surrounded by loving arms when my grandma was ill. My mom’s village grew in size over the years, but the bond also grew stronger and deeper with each phase of life. Now that I have kids of my own, I think I am coming to fully realize the importance of having girlfriends; the importance of having a village. As I continue to grow my own village, I am thankful to have such a great example to look to.