Updated on March 22, 2016
If It Takes A Village, Why Can’t I Help?
How many times have you read about the loss of the proverbial “village” when it comes to parenting these days? I’ve seen it countless times. We want to bring back the village, we want other parents to lift us up and help us along our journey as parents, or do we? Why is it that when another parent offers a tidbit of advice about our child’s safety that the instinctual response is to tell them to mind their own business? Why is it that the knee jerk reaction is to get defensive about our parenting? I don’t believe that every mom that offers up a bit of advice is secretly (or overtly) judging other moms. So why do we treat each other as if every mom we meet is just trying to outparent us in some way?
A few weeks ago my parents were in town for a visit. The Heir was at preschool, and my mom and I were in the car in a parking lot with Petit Prince asleep in his car seat waiting for the library to open. We were talking about car seats “back in the day” and she told me a story. Back in 1980, shortly after my sister was born, she went to visit her co-workers at the office. She took my sister along, buckled safely into her car seat and up in the front passenger seat where my mom could keep an eye on her. One of my mom’s co-workers saw my mom drive in with my sister in the front seat. This co-worker was a mom of two older children, and she had something she wanted to tell my mom. She told my mom that it was much safer for my sister to travel in the back seat of the car in her car seat rather than in the front seat. That even if she couldn’t see the baby, it was still the safest place for my sister to ride. Want to know how my mom reacted? She thanked her. My mom told me that she simply had no idea it wasn’t safe and was appreciative of the advice this other mom gave her. My sister and I both rode in the back seat of the car in our car seats from that point forward.
If anything, my mom’s story goes to show just how much times have changed. Today, if you try to help another mom out, you get accused of butting in where you don’t belong. Other moms immediately take up the defensive. I’ve seen well meaning moms get reamed out after offering to help another mom. They get told to mind their own business, are told they’re being ridiculous, that they’re way too overprotective, or even that they just don’t know what they’re talking about. Look, I know it feels like everyone’s a critic, but maybe, just maybe some of the moms that offer their advice are just trying to help. Maybe they don’t assume they’re better parents than you, maybe they aren’t judging you, maybe they really aren’t trying to embarrass you or call you out.
You know what? I WANT to help other moms, it’s a big part of why I started a blog of my own. I want to help, but when I see a mom out with her baby doing something that she may not even realize is unsafe, I don’t say anything. Why? I don’t say anything because I don’t want to get yelled at. I don’t need to be told to mind my own business or get an earful from a stranger. So I say nothing. I’ve seen babies in carriers pulling the “Ryan Reynolds” (that’s feet sticking out the middle/bottom of the waist panel of a carrier in case you missed that internet explosion), I’ve seen infant bucket seats perched precariously on top of shopping cart handles, and I’ve seen chest clips sitting across belly buttons in car seat photos. And I’ve said nothing.
I, for one, want the village back. I really do. But it’s going to be pretty darned impossible to bring the village back if we can’t, at the very least, be courteous to well meaning moms. No, we don’t have all the answers. No, we don’t think we’re better than you. No, we’re not judging you. We’re just reaching out a hand to help you along the way. You don’t have to take it, but it sure would be nice if you didn’t use it to slap us down.
Have you ever tried to help out another mom? How did the mom respond?