If It Takes A Village, Why Can’t I Help?

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 It Takes A Village, Why Can't I Help

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.

If It Takes A Village, Why Can't I Help

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?


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18 Comments on “If It Takes A Village, Why Can’t I Help?

  1. I agree that advice is often not being welcomed unless it is requested. I love the idea of a village too. I have a friend who i grew up with who wanted that in her neighborhood after she had kids, so she created it by going door to door and forging relationships with all her neighbors. It took effort on her part, but it has turned out just as she had hoped.

  2. I believe in the village too. As long as another person approaches me thoughtfully and with good intent, I am happy to hear out advice. Who knows? I might learn something!

  3. It’s interesting; I not only love the village idea, and in principle I feel like life could be so much better that way. At the same time I feel like my attack radar has sprung into over drive since becoming a mom. There is so much criticism of everyone for everything that I just feel defensive over everything, and it’s rediculously. I’m almost sure this is why my relationship with my MIL had become a bit more strained lately (almost).
    I think it might be about more than just accepting things at face value, and in part about the Internet making it extra easy to judge and criticize people without consequence.

  4. It’s my job to give other parents advice, yet I am very careful to try to give advice only when asked. I haven’t had much success with parents following through with unwanted advice so I have decided to wait until asked.

  5. It WOULD be nice to have that village back! When someone told me that my son’s chest buckle was too low, I said THANK YOU! I was appreciative! His buckle is now where it is supposed to be. *sigh* So many people think everyone is judging them these days.

  6. I agree we get too defensive sometime. At least I know I do. It depends on the approach of people. I’ve had someone stop me when I first put my baby in a wrap and help me with the seat and I was so grateful. But I had another instance when I felt like I was being attacked when a woman told me to cover my baby’s ears. It all had to do with the approach, but both were trying to be helpful.

  7. It definitely takes a village! I love getting parenting recommendations and tips, I’ll admit 85% of the time I have no idea what I am doing haha.

  8. I am seven months pregnant with my first child and I will take any advice any mom will give me. I agree with you completely! I am listening to everything my mommy friends tell me and trying to soak it all in =]]

  9. Love this post!! I to would love to have the village back bc I’m a first time mom who doesn’t have a mom. It’s hard doing it all by yourself n I’ll b the first to admit sometimes I don’t have a clue what I’m doing. LOL! I wish mom’s would stop judging each other so much n start helping one another. We’d all b a lot better for it n it’d sure make things easier.

  10. Thank you for this! A friend and I were just having this conversation last week. I can’t wait to forward this to her!

  11. What a refreshing article. We all need to have a teachable kind spirit, whether we are being given advice or giving it. I appreciate what you are saying here. It goes against our nature to listen. I know I’ve bristled many times from “advice.” I think it does make a difference how someone approaches you in how easy it is to really listen and accept what they’re saying.

  12. I usually take parenting advice gracefully when it comes to safety. My biggest peeve is seeing kids facing forward in their carseats at nine months (yes, a coworker of mine has turned both kids around at around 9 months). There really is no excuse for it, and this is coming from someone who ERF’s in a Hyundai accent. But I know that if I say something, I will either infuriate them or they will ignore me.

  13. I love this post so much. I’ve been around babies my whole life, but I never really started doing serious research about safety and parenting until I started trying to conceive (Due in December!) There’s many babies in my family and when I see them doing something I know isn’t as safe for their babies, they don’t take me seriously or think I don’t know what I’m talking about because I don’t have my own baby yet. It’s so frustrating, I just want the baby to be safe. Parenting isn’t a contest, we should WANT to help each other!

  14. It definitely takes a village. I stand firm on the big stuff. But try to accept help from the day to day stuff. But I know so many people that get defensive over every little thing. I wish we could let go more.

  15. It would be great if this actually happened but I don’t think it ever will. I almost always keep my parenting advice to myself and even my parenting choices most of the time.

  16. Parents should be lifting other parents up. We should be supporting each other instead of tearing each other down. As long as the advice is not coming from a ‘ I’m better than you, I know better than you ‘ place, it should be welcomed. Just because you listen to someones advice, doesn’t mean you HAVE to use it ;);

  17. I think that there is a lot more places to get knowledge with the internet and a lot of times with experience comes knowledge and if we can pass on what we have learned to those that will listen this is great.

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