It Takes a Village (But Do We Accept That?)

You know that moment when you see a fellow parent doing something with their kid and you’re thinking “Oh dang, I just read an article about that, maybe I should share what I’ve learned!” But of course you don’t. And why? Because you don’t want to get punched in the face. We’ve all heard the phrase, “It takes a village,” being used in reference to child-rearing, but do we really take that to heart? I’m going to say that, no, we do not take it to heart. In fact, I think we take it as an insult. We think we should be able to know everything we need to know, all on our own.

I’m totally guilty of this too. But in this ever-humbling experience of parenting, I’ve had to get over myself. Let’s face it, there’s just too much to know. Being expected to be a “natural” at parenting is like being expected to be a “natural” mechanic. It’s ridiculous. Especially when you consider the complexity of a human being. There are so many developmental considerations: biological, psychological, social, and spiritual, to name a few. And we really think that we can just “naturally” know how to foster growth in all of those areas? That is very unfair to expect that of ourselves.

I’m also going to say that it’s unfair of us to get angry when others try to help us. “Don’t tell ME to do with MY kid!” That’s what I want to say. But truthfully, no one can make me do anything. I can listen and then research it for myself if I want to. Most importantly, I try to give them the benefit of the doubt. I know I’ve been in tons of situations when I’ve been afraid to share information because I don’t want to offend someone. But sadly, I just honestly care for them and want to help. I don’t think they’re bad parents because I just happened to read something that they didn’t. So now, I try really hard to give others (and myself) grace when advice is offered. I’m giving them grace by choosing to believe that they genuinely want to help. Then, I give myself grace for not having the ability to know all things parenting.

I’m not always going to know when to ask for help, so saying that advice shouldn’t be given unless it’s requested isn’t really fair either. Sometimes, I don’t know what I don’t know. For example, during my pregnancy, a cousin of mine sent me a Facebook message informing me about circumcision being optional. She also included links to some really informative sites so that I could research it. I was so thankful she did this because otherwise I may not have thought about it. I’ll admit, at first, I was surprised by it… but I know her heart. That experience empowered me to want to share information with other moms too. I realized in that moment that there is just too much to know.

I know this is a touchy subject… what do you think? Do you get the eebie jeebies when someone starts to offer you advice? How can people offer information in a positive way? Have I ever given you information that rubbed you the wrong way?

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10 thoughts on “It Takes a Village (But Do We Accept That?)

  1. It takes a tribe! Yes, parenting is very humbling, and most of the time I try to remember that people mean well when they give advice. Most of the time. 🙂

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    • Ha! A “tribe!” Love it! I love our Mama Tribe. They have been so amazing.

      I haven’t had any experiences yet when I felt like someone wasn’t meaning well. However, I have experienced people pushing their view so they could feel better about their own decisions… if that makes sense.

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  2. This is such a tough one! I think you really need to have a relationship with them. Going up to an acquaintance and offering your opinion can do more harm than good. They may have read everything there is to read on the subject and made up there mind about what to do, or worse be really struggling with that aspect of their parenting and feel more overwhelmed by the advice. I think in the context of good relationships, this can work, but even still it can be delicate. My mother-in-law is the most non-meddling person that I know – oxymoron right? Well, we have had a lot of sleep issues with our son, but instead of taking over or telling us what we were doing wrong, she just supported us and followed our parenting cues when watching him. Then I finally realized that I should ask for her advice (she raised 3 sons). She then gave it freely and it has helped tremendously! Could she have told me without me asking, sure! But would I have listened and taken it to heart? Probably not. More likely I would have ignored it and stopped asking for advice. Since she waited until I was ready and asked, I hung on every word and have really incorporated her advice into how I parent now and how I will parent for the next 18+ years. It does take a village, but villages are usually comprised of a small group of people that know each other very well and have tremendous respect for one another. I am actually reading a book about a village right now and I am so impressed with the patience and kindness with which they teach a newcomer their ways. We need our village to raise our children, but we need them to be patient with us and know when it is time to share and time to wait.

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    • I love your input Juliana! It’s so true that there needs to be a foundation of trust and mutual respect, well said! AND the fact that villages were small, intimate communities makes me see the phrase “it takes a village” in a new light. I think I will be chewing on this some more…

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      • AND… I really like what you said about being patient and waiting until the recipient is willing to hear what you have to say. It’s SO hard for me to be patient in those times.

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  3. Hey Jaclyn, great post! I hear ya, sista! I think that I am pretty open to hearing when people offer me their advice. I think it is harder, for me, if my child’s developmental stage is wearing me down and I’m at my end and then someone offers advice that I have already been trying and failing at. That is when it is hardest for me to receive their help. I already feel defeated. However, I LOVE getting ideas and advice from whomever…except that one lady in the meat department at Stater Bros who came up to me and told me to put a sweater on my daughter…I think that the approach can make/break how the advice is received as well as the emotional state of the parent. Does this make sense? I am a bit sleep deprived so I feel scattered…Anyways, love the post!!

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  4. The problem with advice is it usually is not coming from a well meaning place, at least in my experience, it’s just been people wanting to guffaw at what you’re doing and inform you of how much better/more knowledgeable they think they are than you. And typically it’s just them spouting off some nonsense that I’ve already heard and dismissed (or heard and use) or addressing a non-issue; giving advice to fix something that is not a problem. For the most part the people who really care keep their noses out and wait until you ask…

    It seems that the best way to change this is to completely humble ourselves and be willing to ask. You’re right, parenting is humbling. It’s the most humbling thing I’ve ever experienced. Maybe it’s hard to let go of that last little bit of control we think we have.

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