It takes a village to keep your child from turning into a reality TV star, or so I’ve heard. Before I became a mom, I thought of said "village" as parents relying on family and friends to help watch, nurture, teach, and support their children. But now, I understand it differently. When we talk about having a village to help us raise our kids, we effectively are talking about the whole damn village around us, not just our family and friends. Now that I actually have a kid, I'm starting to see that there are a ton of unexpected people I rely on as a parent.
Granted, sometimes it's obvious where there's room to help, but sometimes it's not. The village is no longer just made up of my nearest and dearest, though they are crucial to this child-rearing thing. It’s also comprised of acquaintances, neighbors, strangers, companies whose products I use, entertainers who create content I read and watch, lawmakers, leaders, other moms and dads, and everyone in between.
Depending on the day, it may take just one or two people, or it’ll take a city, a country, a universe. And most of the time, the other people influencing my parenting have no idea. Until now, really. Here’s a few examples of some of the others who’ve helped on the crazy, winding path of parenting:
Random Stylish Moms at the Grocery Store
You guys, the city I live in is pretty casual. Jeans are acceptable practically everywhere in town, and it’s common to see women out and about sans make-up. I’m often doing both when I’m running errands, well, because I can. And so, when I see other moms who’ve taken the few extra minutes it takes to pull themselves together, it motivates me a little bit more. It's not even a competitive thing; It's just like, "Damn, they look awesome and they look like they're enjoying that self-vibe you get when you know you look awesome. I want that!"
And it’s not always in the form of extra make-up or heels. Sometimes it’s pulling one of my favorite shirts out just for a Target run, or putting on flashy earrings to walk to the coffee shop with my little because they add a little something extra to the day. If I didn’t see these other moms every so often, reminding me that I can feel good even in the produce section, I’d be in danger of losing that awesome confidence you only get when you know you're on your game.
Her Royal Highness, Tina Fey
Confession: I’ve been a Tina Fey fangirl since high school, back when she co-hosted Weekend Update with Jimmy Fallon. Like me, she had glasses and brown hair, but that’s about where the similarities end. For starters, she was wayyy cooler than I was, and she got to sit closer to Jimmy Fallon than I ever have (though life is long and winding, so I’m not ruling it out). I’ve loved watching her turn into such a boss, and I eat up her wisdom on working and motherhood like I’m starving on a desert island. Even if she doesn’t drop any additional truth bombs anytime soon, there’s always my copy of Mean Girls.
Fellow Shoppers Who Didn’t Judge Your Back-Of-The-Car Diaper Change
I’m sure we all have stories about dirty diapers coming at the most inopportune times, so I know I’m no exception here. However, what struck me most about the time that my husband and I were frantically trying to handle a super-messy diaper in the parking lot of our grocery store was that no passers-by even gave us a second glance. I was so frazzled that even a judgey eye roll probably would have caused me hands to shake, however I experienced nothing of the sort. Thanks, tolerant shoppers.
To me, librarians are the embodiment of books, reading, wonder, and exploration. Perhaps it’s my own fond memories of going to a library when I was a kid, but I love, love, love that this profession is out there and that I can bring my kiddo to the library for an extra dose of imagination and creativity in his week.
The Waiter Who Brings A Balloon To Your Table
For decades, I forgot that restaurant balloons even exist. I used to go bonkers for them when I was younger (shout-out to Billy McHale’s in Federal Way, Washington) but haven’t really given them much thought since, like, puberty. However, a few months back, a kind waiter at a local chain offered one to our son and it totally melted my heart. It made me think about how we would soon be helping our son create small, magical moments that, added together, will shape his childhood. And since “balloon” was like the fifth word my son picked up, I’m thinking it meant something to him, too.
This guy. He sets such a fantastic example, I want my son to have half of his enthusiasm someday. I love how he owns his creativity, his passion, and that he keeps things so freaking positive. Happy trees, you guys. Happy trees.
Strangers Who Smile And Wave When Your Kiddo Wanders Over To Their Table And Stares At Them In The Coffee Shop
Technically, my son is interrupting them, so it’s within reason to assume they might be annoyed. That rarely happens, though. Most of the time, strangers are kind and patient and friendly when he wanders over to them, which helps me more than they probably realize.
Speaking Of Coffee Shops, ALL THE BARISTAS EVERYWHERE
Sometimes, baristas are my only adult interaction of the day, and so far none of them have judged my overly enthusiastic efforts to initiate conversation ("OH HEY HI HOW ARE YOU WHAT'S IT LIKE TO NOT HAVE SOMEONE CLINGING TO YOUR LEG RIGHT THIS SECOND?").
Whoever Came Up With the Idea Of Putting Baby Food Into Pouches
I love you, whoever you are. Sorry that I’m already married because otherwise I’d be courting you so hard right now.
Lady Who Stands Up For You In Line At The Store
Gather round, friends. I’ve got a story to tell. The only real time I’ve been “mom-shamed” was when my son was around six months old, and I was wearing him while running some errands. We were standing in line at the fabric store, and this older woman got all judge-y about the fact that he didn’t have shoes on. (Remember, two sentences ago, when I said he was around six months old and that I was wearing him? Those were important details.) He definitely couldn’t walk at the time, and his feet never touched the ground. Oblivious to the fact that she was trying to shame me, I pointed out that he was in fact wearing socks. You guys, she proceeded to tell me that because it was cold out, he should have on shoes, too. ...OK.
I was so stunned by her lecture that I couldn’t even think of an immediate response. Turns out, I didn’t have to: Another woman spoke up and cheerfully remarked that my son was nice and warm next to me in the carrier and surely he didn’t need shoes. This response quieted the first lady, and left me feeling relieved and grateful and like I had an unbreakable sisterly bond with my advocate that rivaled the four years I spent in a sorority. Cheers to you, random stranger.
The People At Pixar
Granted, I know there are technically other films out there that will entertain my toddler and me at the same time, but I can't think of any right now. Computer-generated animation is where it's at, at least in our household.
Pop Singers Of Today And Yesteryear
When I need to dig deep for energy at six in the morning while my toddler does laps around me in his footie jammies, it's uptempo pop music that I turn to. And so far, no one in that category has let me down.
Kind Strangers Who Let My Kid Interact With Their Dog From A Safe Distance
Often, the interaction begins after my son has pointed and shouted "DOG!" which, surprisingly, doesn't seem to offend anyone. While he's still young enough that petting strange animals isn't something I'm keen to initiate, I've seen a surprising number pause to let him get a good look at their animal, which is pretty dang nice of them, especially because sometimes his awe is mistaken for boredom, and they don't always get a rewarding reaction from him. Still, deep down, I know he appreciates it, too.
Anyone Who Admits Publicly That Social Media Is Not Very Real
We're all doing the best we can, guys. I don't need notifications on my phone to tell me that your best looks like posed photos in matching sweaters surrounded by fallen leaves, upbeat status updates about checking everything off your to-do-lists, and filtered shots of those ice cube trays full of organic snacks that keep following me everywhere on Pinterest. Thank you to everyone who readily admits the falseness of a well-groomed social media presence. You are literally making my mom life easier.