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Where Has the Village Gone?

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.

Christine A Hall

Wednesday 19th of June 2019

Hi Laura!

I raised four sons, my first were unexpected twins! When I see someone else's kid doing something dangerous or risky and Mom/Grandma/God Knows Who is looking away, I have a trick I use that seems to have worked pretty well so far. I ask the child, in a very sweet voice, loud enough for Mom to hear, "Does your Momma, (I find that's the safest word to use, Grandma's appreciate being told they look that young!), know you're doing [whatever]?" I've gotten quite a few grateful looks! Of course, I've been retail for so many years, that I also look out for kids. Woe to the picky shopper in a Walmart when a Code Adam goes out!! They are quite suddenly all on their own! And complaining to the manager doesn't go over well when a kid is lost... *rueful chuckle*

I also ask the parents/caregivers, in a very private way, "Can your kid have a piece of candy" if it's Halloween or Christmas, whatever and the store is handing it out. My brother was ADHD and Mom tried diets that were way ahead of their time. Knowing now that sugar, preservatives, colors, etc., can be off-limits for some kids - or dinner is waiting in a half hour or so! - I ALWAYS ask. There are still villagers out here, we're just few and far between.

Loving your printables, thank you!

Christine <3


Monday 8th of January 2018

This has been on my mind ALL year. It is kind of self serving of me to expect there to always be someone to come to my aid, when I don't have my life put together in a way to help out right back.

One thing that never seems to come up is that the old "being a village" has big downsides too.

One downside is if you want a village you should probably stay close to where you grew up which for us would be significantly less access to jobs. Family connections, long knowledge of whose kid / whose grandkid you are, who owns the local grocery, etc. IT can be created where you relocate to but only if your jobs allow stability, and you put in the time and others are looking for the same thing. Some people go so far as to intentionally find homes around their existing family and friends, but not everyone has that ability.

Another is the reciprocal nature of the village. Yes id love it if someone would watch out for my daughter after school once she is old enough to... but I can't do the same thing because I am at work, and on the weekends I don't want some stray kid coming over regularly because their parents are at work and they need some batteries, or some sugar, or they got a cut. Occasionally sure and if I see a kid who just fell down on her bike I'm there... but interrupting my toddlers nap with a ringing doorbell 3 times a Saturday ICK. I have my kids, sunday school, heading to the pool or the park, getting a sitter for a date night, heading to the cities to visit with my friends, cleaning my house. Id love someone to come over and hang out with me and we organize that closet that always is a mess with them while our kids run amok... but when it comes to find a spare 4 hours to go to their house or whatever their emergency is... can I find that time?

Another downside is (which someone touched on) the lack of universal parenting practices and growth of specialty issues (some required like food allergies and others preference like no red #40 or whatever). Free range kids, nature kids, attachment parenting, Never say ing NO, sleep training, back to sleep, what words are OK / or NOT. Nothing is for granted anymore, even climbing up a slide.. are you allowed at all ever? Does it matter if others are there or the height of the slide? MAYBE this was never universal and it was just pockets of parenting culture formed by our neighborhoods combined with our parents income brackets and home lives (working dad stay at home mom) made it seem universal. We all feel that strong push though that stepping in with your own parenting style to a strangers kid is a NO, and the internet and social media bring all these views to our attention more often.

And the last I'll bring up and by far my favorite... Just because someone wants to be in your village doesn't mean you can stand them or trust them with your kids. The parenting mismatches mentioned above, extreme political opinions, thinly veiled judgemental comments, a mother in law who doesn't ever seem to accept you, a relative who showers your kids with ridiculous gifts but never wants to just hang out and play. Scan any moms group, poll your friends who do have involved moms and dads and etc and most will have a story.

So for now I am OK not having a true "village", as long as stranger will occasionally smile instead of scowl at my kids when they mis behave. I am always on a lookout for someone who can fit into the particular life I have, whose free time matches my free time and whose interests intersect JUST enough that it's not weird.


Friday 12th of May 2017

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.


Saturday 13th of May 2017

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!


Friday 12th of May 2017

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!


Friday 12th of May 2017

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.


Friday 12th of May 2017

Thanks so much Cassandra! Thanks for sharing your insight and for your encouragement.

Martins Talk Play

Friday 12th of May 2017

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.


Friday 12th of May 2017

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!