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It Takes A Village (And Some Cheesecake)

Jan21

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Remember back when we were all first advised that “It takes a village” to raise our children? And we all held hands and sang kumbaya together… or at least talked about how we all have to unite for the common good? What a novel concept, that parenting maybe shouldn’t be this isolated slog while we put on bright smiles and brag about our children’s accomplishments to one another. Of course, when talking about that village, I think the main intent is that we all have a vested interest in our community’s youth, rather than that we seek out community for the adults, but I’ve come to believe it’s the latter that we really need.

I mean… yes, sure, I would love it if some other adults helped me to raise my children. Whenever my husband or dedicated teachers step into a nurturing/guiding role with my kids, that’s fantastic. That’s the Village at work, and I wouldn’t trade those times for anything. On the other hand, I need a different kind of village. Forget the kids; I need a Village.

I tend to forget this, to my detriment. I’m an introvert, for one thing, and I work from my home office, for another. If I’m being truthful, many of the parts of my day which require face-to-face interactions with other adults are not my favorite. Then again, I’m guessing the receptionist at the pediatrician’s office doesn’t enjoy us so much, either, when the doctor’s running behind. I make polite small-talk with the checkout clerk at the grocery store, of course. I thank the nice young man who retrieves my packages when I visit my PO Box. I wave to the UPS guy and shout “Thanks! Stay dry!” as he darts back to his truck in the rain. On some level, we have tons of shared experiences. But this is not my Village.

On a bad day, I’ll text a far-away friend. “Is it bedtime yet?” I’ll type, even though it’s not even time for lunch, and it’s two hours earlier, for her. Or I’ll shoot off a quick email to another friend. “Tell me again why we’re not supposed to eat our young…?” (A friend will send back soothing words. A true friend will remind you that your children are too skinny and are probably tough like old beef jerky, but worse-tasting.) On a really, really bad day, I’ll turn on Instant Messenger. “Are you around?” I type, waiting to see if a response comes. Most often, it doesn’t. We all have busy lives and our Village looks more like a bus map than a drum circle.

When the invitation to a “Girls’ Night In” landed in my inbox, it triggered a flush of shame. When was the last time I’d actually seen the friend who sent it? It had been months, at least. I couldn’t remember, even. And while that is something I don’t typically beat myself up about (life! kids! work!), I couldn’t remember our last phone call or email, either. So just to be clear, basically I received a party invitation and my immediate reaction was, “Wow, I am the worst friend ever.” (I’m productive like that.) The other women on the invitation… two of them are shared friends, whom I also couldn’t recall last seeing (but we’ve exchanged pleasantries on Facebook; does that count?), and of the other two women, one I’ve met a couple of times before and the other was a stranger. My brain spun through at least a dozen reasons not to go: I’m tired, the kids need me here, I don’t feel like meeting anyone new, I should work, I should clean the house, I shouldn’t have any fun unless my life is totally in order. (C’mon, now. I can’t be the only person who thinks that, even if we never say it out loud.)

I sent back a heartfelt thanks for the invite, along with a I-will-try-hard-to-be-there-but-life-is-complicated-right-now-so-I-will-get-back-to-you-in-a-few-days response. And yes, I felt like a complete jerk while I did it. I felt even worse when I realized, on the day of the event, that I had never followed up.

Luckily, my friends are used to me. When I called a mere couple of hours before the gathering, there was no admonishment at all, just a simple, “Please tell me you’re coming.” In a single fraction of a second in the silence that followed, I realized how fortunate I am not just for these sorts of invitations, but the understanding that comes along with them. I haven’t been a very good friend the last few years, not to anyone. While I think my crimes are more of the “neglect” than “abuse” variety, still, this isn’t who I want to be. And the fact that I still have a Village at all is testament to how much more my friends—and I—deserve.

“I’m coming,” I said. “I can’t wait to see you.” It was true, too.

We chatted in the kitchen, we sat around the dining room table—set beautifully, as our hostess explained that “I never take this stuff out and why not?”—and ate the best meal I’ve had in a long time. We compared notes on the joys and traumas of adolescent children and laughed until we cried. We gossiped about our kids’ teachers and poked gentle fun at our husbands. We toasted to our hostess, to dinner, to a night out, to toasting! We nibbled on thick slabs of homemade cheesecake even though we were full, because it was too good to refuse. I snuck out my cell phone and texted home (even though I was just a mile away) to ask if everyone was okay, there. “No we’re all dead,” my oldest texted back. “Bummer,” I replied, before putting my phone away and accepting a cup of coffee and the next round of conversation. I left earlier than I wanted to, though it was much later than I’d planned.

I felt human again. Fortified. Connected. A meal I didn’t have to cook and a decadent dessert aside, it’s easy to sit at my computer and forget that I am not alone. It’s too easy to have a million reasons about how it’s too much effort and there’s no time and it’s a luxury. Human connection is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.

Big thanks to my Village for reminding me. I’m going to try harder to remember, and act accordingly.

About the author

Mir Kamin

http://wouldashoulda.com/
Mir Kamin began writing about her life online nearly a decade ago, back when she was a divorced mom trying to raise two regular little kids and figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up. Now her life looks very different than it did back then: Those little kids turned into anything-but-regular teenagers, she is remarried, and somehow she's become one of those people who talks to her dog in a high-pitched baby voice. Along the way she's continued chronicling the everyday at Woulda Coulda Shoulda, plus she's bringing you daily bargain therapy at Want Not. The good news is that Mir grew up and became a writer and she still really likes hanging out with her kids; the bad news is that her hair is a lot grayer than it used to be.


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8 Responses to “It Takes A Village (And Some Cheesecake)”

  1. Jodie Jan 21 at 1:04 pm Reply Reply

    Mir, thanks for publishing exactly what this introvert needed to hear. You always get me choked up before I’ve had my coffee you old think you!

  2. diane Jan 21 at 1:34 pm Reply Reply

    This is why I entertain as often as I do…I can see my village without leaving the house. It’s so hard in these days of easy, quick electronic “communication” to unwittingly neglect real, face to face, laugh-til-you-pee type dates with friends. You certainly deserve a night out, Mir, and bless your friends for “dragging” you out.

  3. nicole Jan 21 at 1:40 pm Reply Reply

    a little over a year ago my circle of friends expanded and we hatched the plan for a monthly “book club.” I use that term loosely because we hardly ever discuss the books we’re supposed to be reading and sometimes we don’t even finish them.

    BUT, without fail we get together once a month at someone’s house and eat and drink and talk and generally enjoy the company of a room full of women. I’ve never really had anything like it before and I gotta say that I rather enjoy it.

    All that is to say that I highly recommend you make your outing a regular, monthly affair…supper club, book club, “let’s get together and have some drinks” club, whatever you want it to be. It’s good for the soul. 

  4. The Domestic Goddess Jan 21 at 4:21 pm Reply Reply

    Fortunately for me, most of my real life friends are in the same boat so we “get” it when we can’t get out to see one another adn when our families get together we can all relax because HELLO BEEN THERE DONE THAT.

    <3

  5. Beth A. Jan 22 at 10:34 am Reply Reply

    I just returned from a national conference for my business…and while it was exhausting, it was also fulfilling and lovely. I had 3 fantastic sit down dinners with friends of different varieties and LOVED it. Left my boys at home and just enjoyed myself. It was magical. Thank GOD for Villages. :)

  6. Katie @ Pick Any Two Jan 23 at 7:03 am Reply Reply

    As a fellow introvert who also works from home a lot, I appreciate this reminder that we often have to intentionally create our Villages. We can’t sit back, do nothing, and then expect them to be there when we need them. Creating and maintaining a supportive Village requires us to be proactive. 

  7. Ritzy P Jan 27 at 1:22 pm Reply Reply

    As a work at home mom I can relate to your post on a few levels. The best was when you wrote out loud the “I shouldn’t have any fun until my family is in order”. I’m a new mom and only 16 months in but for the first 12 months, that was me all the time. Now that we have stopped breast feeding I feel like my Super Powers are back and the occasional reconnect with friends is absolutely needed!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Just a friendly reminder | Woulda Coulda Shoulda - Jan 21

    [...] While I’m not fond of the old trope about moms always putting themselves last, a large part of the reason I dislike it is because—for me, anyway—it tends to be true. Thank goodness I have friends who sometimes drag me out of the house. I hear it’s even good for a person to do that! So I’m over at Alpha Mom today with a few words about my Village and how much I appreciate it. [...]

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