Where Has the Village Gone?

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Where has the village gone? Mom Envy

I am sure most of you have heard the expression, it takes a village to raise a child. Sitting underfoot of my mom and her friends, I would often hear this saying. It was easy for me to understand because my Mom had a tribe. While her and my dad were our primary caregivers, they looked to neighbors and friends to help with us when they were in need. On my school form, under emergency contacts (after my Mom and Dad of course), were our neighbors. During public outings, other parents would comment on our behavior if it was inappropriate. Parents would work together to keep all children safe; they’d tell children other than their own not to run on the wet concrete at the pool or to sit down when they decided that standing on top of a picnic table looked like fun. Even as a child, my Mom taught me how to entertain a baby that was crying in a grocery store or help a Mom out when she had her hands full. Parents helped each other; they lived in a village where they supported the other villagers.

Now that I am a mom myself, 30 years later than my own Mom, I have realized that the village no longer exists. Where has the village gone? Every once in a while, I will have an older person (generally a woman), help me with a crying or tantruming child, but most people just stare at me in disgust and walk away. It seems people have forgotten what it was like to shop with a little one or they just don’t care to help anymore or they are worried that getting involved may upset the parent. I don’t know about you, but when my child is crying in a store, I’d love someone else try to get their attention and distract them so that they’ll stop crying. Even more so, I would be extremely appreciative if a stranger saw my child doing something dangerous and they stopped them. I have my eyes on my children at all times, but sometimes things happen (like my other child falling and getting hurt, or grabbing an item off of a high shelf which takes time for someone so short).

This has been a recent topic of conversation between my husband and me. I am frustrated with the looks and stares I get when I am out with my children and they misbehave even a little bit. He, on the other hand, has a very different experience as a male. People look at him and smile because they are amazed that he is out with his children alone. Being hopeful, I commented to him that maybe I have just had some bad experiences and I told myself that I had to have faith that if I was really in need, someone would stop and help. Then about a month ago, when I found myself in desperate need of help, no one came. There were no other villagers in my village. I now realize that when I am out with my children (sans family or close friends), I am truly alone. And it’s frightening.

Where Has the Village Gone? Mom Envy.

The Moment I Realized the Village has Disappeared

Jack is a rambunctious child. He is your stereotypical boy. His energy is intense and his ability to maneuver and climb is on par with a monkey. At our local grocery store, there are carts for little ones to push around. While I love the idea of the carts, they can be troublesome so I try to avoid this particular store. Carl is great with the cart but Jack is determined to do his own thing. I would love to keep him riding in the cart but he has learned how to undo the buckle which can be dangerous when you’re reaching for a gallon of milk and he decides to climb down. Keeping him seated has become too risky; nowadays he walks beside me.

On this day, the other store was just too far away. While checking out, Jack decided to take off. I was trapped behind my own cart, Carl’s little cart, a bagger, and two patrons with carts full of groceries behind me. Jack took his cart and zoomed past seven checkout lines, the customer service desk, and straight out two sliding double doors, into the parking lot. Not one single person tried to stop him. He ran by multiple cashiers, the customer service counter with people waiting in line, a cart collecting worker, and multiple shoppers. And not one person attempted to stop the tiny little two-year-old with the cart. Carl, thankfully, is used to Jack’s antics and chased right after him. By the time I got unstuck and could catch up, my four-year-old, Carl, was dragging his brother in from the parking lot (kicking and screaming of course).

I looked around in disappointment at the people surrounding me. Where has the village gone? Where were all of the villagers? Why didn’t they help? Why did they just stand there? My child could have been severely hurt. If I saw a child running away into a parking lot, I would at least attempt to stop them. Maybe it’s my former teacher mentality, but my instinct would be to stop the child so they wouldn’t get hurt. He was in close range to multiple people, some were less than an arm’s length away. Yet, nobody moved.

Now a lot of you reading this may be Mom-judging me. Why didn’t she leave her kids at home with a babysitter? Why doesn’t she have control of her children? How has her child gotten to be so out of control? Let me tell you that I do my best and my children are safe (and good 90% of the time). But things happen sometimes that are out of our control. My littlest is fiercely independent and sometimes he is too quick for me.

I have spent countless hours after this event, trying to understand why the village is disappearing. We live in a world where people are afraid to offend each other. Where people spend hours staring at their phones instead of the world around them. Where everyone is watching their backs and afraid that someone may take or harm their child. The world is a more dangerous place (even if it was just as dangerous back then, it wasn’t being reported on as it is today). Children can’t play outside alone until the sun begins to set or ride their bikes to a nearby store to buy some treats with their allowance. Life is different. I understand that. But please, if you see a child in harm, don’t just stand there. Step in. Even if the parent gets mad at you, it’s better that the child is kept safe. Please help bring the villagers back to the village. The village is a lonely place without them.

Have you had any similar experiences to mine? Or have you found that the village mentality still exists where you are? I’d love to hear some other people’s experiences and thoughts on why the village mentality is no longer.

28 COMMENTS

  1. Such a great topic. I’ve vented about this before, and my husband and I talk about it often. I also think it goes hand-in-hand with the concept of “stranger danger.” In reality, it’s the adults who have an unhealthy level of stranger danger. No one talks to strangers anymore, so the village is all but gone. My thoughts on changing things? Speak up. Ask a stranger for help. In that situation? Shout, “stop him!” And be the change, like you said.

    • Hi Grace – you’re totally right. I should have thought to speak up and yell “Stop him” to the other people. I did yell it get him to my older son who was quick to respond but it was directed at him. I’ll have to remember that for the future.

  2. This is such a scary situation. Jack sounds a lot like my 2 yr old son. He’s a handful to take anywhere and his listening skills are not great. He once did something similar when we were walking out of a store and I had my hands full. He took off in the parking lot. I was so scared and screamed for him to stop. Two ladies just stopped and watched it happen. I threw my stuff down to chase after him. Luckily he was fine. I was not. I cried once I got in the car. Going to the store should not give me anxiety, but it does now. If I can, I order groceries for pickup or have my aunt watch him while I run my errands. I am lucky to have a village around when I’m home or need help at home, but when I’m out its rare to have anyone “help” when I may need assistance. Thank you for sharing your story. Glad I’m not alone.

    • Oh my goodness – I am sure you were terrified. It’s amazing how quick little ones can be. I am lucky to have a wonderful village at home, too. I can imagine it would be even more difficult for someone in a new area without family and friends. Thanks so much for stopping by and for sharing your story.

  3. My 3.5 year old is like that and just in the pst few months I allowed him to walk next to me. He took off on me more than once in a similar situation and I am so lucky that there were people to stop and entertain him while I finished paying for my groceries and pushed my twins in the stroller to get to him. It’s such terrifying experience none the less.

    • It is so scary anytime they get away. Kids can be so quick. That’s so glad that people were able to stop and entertain him! Thanks so much for stopping by and for sharing your experience! 🙂

  4. I agree with this. We all used to help each other in my neighborhood growing up. Other Moms would step up when my own Mom wasn’t there. And when I had my kids, the same thing…what has happened to that network? Why aren’t we there for each other? I think this is a symptom of a bigger problem going on in the world. People just don’t care about each other…they are too busy and too distracted. We need to get back to what we used to be. Let’s start with us…

  5. I completely agree with you, I am blessed to have my husbands amazing family only one or two streets over from us! But going out of the house with 5 kids is so stressful… I read this article last night and it has really been on my mind! So many people just watch a child do something dangerous, and some even video it making comments like “why isn’t the mom paying better attention?” And judging instead of stepping in and helping… like with the whole Harembe thing… if another person would have just stopped the child from climbing the fence the kid would have been safe and the gorilla would still be alive…bring back the village!

    • You’re so right – I have seen so many videos where people are just videoing a situation instead of helping. Thank you so much for taking the time to share your experience. I am sure going out with 5 kids it’s even more terrifying. I am lucky to have a great family support system, too. I know a lot of people don’t; I can imagine it must be so difficult for them.

  6. I could not agree with you more. I am not parent, but have observed the same multiple times. I attribute a great deal of it to a changing mentality regarding parenting and increased diversity in our communities. Everyone has such different parenting styles and many have very strong reactions if someone else steps in and attempts to “parent” their children. I think that, combined with our lawsuit happy generation, prevents people from feeling safe to step up and help.

  7. This actually happens to me in a restaurant yesterday and it made my jaw drop when nobody reached an arm out to stop my 3 year old even when I yelled “Stop!” and was running after him. My almost 5 year old grabbed his coat before he reaches the door, thankfully. I’m rather fit and quick, but having to dodge tables and servers I may not have made it to the door before my son, and nobody else tried to stop him. He’s small for his age, so even someone elderly could have stopped him by simply putting an arm or leg out in his path.

    It’s a shame our society is failing us, but all we can do is be the change we wish to see. I am the person on the playground playing with the kids and being the referee. If I look like an idiot for doing this I don’t care. In the end I’m the one having fun while the other parents are missing out. Some are starting to join in at my daughters preschool. They need to see someone else take the leap first. Be open, be friendly, even if you’re shy and don’t say a word. Just be the tribe and hopefully others will begin to change as well.

    • Thanks so much April for sharing your story. How scary. I am so glad you five year old was able to grab him before he reached the door. Sometimes it’s hard to get to them because they’re so small they can maneuver easier in tiny spaces. And you’re totally right – one way to fight it is to put yourself out there and help others in need when you see they need it. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  8. I always tell kids when they aren’t being safe, or report to the parents when they are less distracted. Sometimes I get looks, but mostly they are grateful. I refuse to stand back and let another child get hurt or be hurtful just to spare my own feelings. I will gladly take a stern look if it means I didn’t have to watch a child get squished

  9. I completely agree and am most disappointed by the double standard for men and women. Although we as moms can in fact do it all, it would be nice to have some help every once in a while when out of the house. We have 2 boys ages 3 1/2 and 7 months and my husband has never once been out of the house by himself with the two of them. Well, a couple of weeks ago I had to do some training for a gig so I dropped the boys off at a local pizza place with my husband so they could have dinner while I went to training. When I met back up with them he said that their dinner was free because when he asked for the bill the waitress told him someone had paid for their dinner because they were an adorable family. Off course I was super grateful that someone treated my family to dinner, but it shouldn’t be a shock for people to see a dad out alone with his kids. The issue is this was my husbands FIRST time out with the kids and someone went out of their way to help him and I can count on one hand the number of times that has happened to me in the past 3 1/2 years. I have an ETSY shop and am at the post office 3-4 times a week with the baby in a Tula, a bag full of packages in one hand and my 3 year old’s hand in the other and people (men and women) don’t even stop to hold the door open for me. I know I can do it all alone, but it would be nice if that wasn’t always the expectation.

    • My husband and I talk about it every time he takes the boys out. He always has a better experience out with the kids (lots of cute looks and aws). It’s funny how it’s expected for us but still in today’s world not for men. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your experience!

  10. This happens to me often. I have theee so the odds of one of them not happy is high. I personally don’t care when people look at me in disgust because they have no idea what I have dealt with. I just look and smile. Their reactions mean nothing to me anymore. Now it has taken me 8 years and three kids to get that way but I will not let other people judgements make me feel any less of a mom. I am a good mom and I know that no one is perfect, including my kids. I’m actually working on a piece like this at the moment about where the support has gone and why we judge others. Parenting has changed a lot since our parents had young kids. Know that you are doing a great job and do not let anyone make you feel like you aren’t.

  11. Completely agree. I don’t understand the judgmental stares at normal child behavior, especially from moms – at any stage of parenthood. Haven’t we all been through similar experiences of trying to wrangle a busy child at some point while you’re trying to accomplish other mom-duties? It’s very alarming that no one stepped in to help out in that situation. We definitely need more villagers. Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks, Courtney for the support. We have definitely all been there but some people just seem to forget what it’s like to be having one of those days. Thanks so much for stopping by!

    • I totally agree. I think sometimes people really don’t remember that things happen and it’s not always in your control. Thanks so much for stopping by!

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