"It takes a village," I said reassuringly as I helped a fellow mom in the grocery checkout line. I chatted with her toddler who was strapped in the cart as she tried to wrangle candy out of the hands of her two older kids. It was one of the first times, since becoming a mother myself, I had the opportunity to shop alone. "Thank you. It definitely takes a BIG village," she replied with a smile as we went our separate ways.
And it does truly take a village to raise a child. It takes classroom teachers and Sunday school teachers. It takes soccer coaches and occupational therapists and pediatricians. It takes the mom at the playground who calmly corrects and lovingly redirects your kiddo when he is wrong. It takes your neighbor across the street who lets you know your preschooler is urinating in the front yard again.
From grandparents to random women in the grocery checkout line, raising a child is a team effort. And yet, so many parents -- myself included -- feel as if parenting is supposed to be a solo act. Between helping our kids complete elaborate science fair projects for school, ushering them to yet another football game, and praying for bedtime, it is easy to forget the village exists and there is a network of people who are capable and willing to help us maneuver through this parenthood gig.
I found myself questioning if the proverbial village was still in tact yesterday evening. My husband was away on business, and I was in charge of the kids. The day was a textbook example of Murphy's Law: everything that could go wrong did go wrong. The day started with C refusing to wear any clothing with a tag and L forgetting her cheer shoes. I was delayed at work, found myself stuck in traffic, and I was late picking up both girls from school. I couldn't find where L's cheer practice was at, I got stuck in the rain, and C had an epic meltdown. We forgot C's backpack at cheer and didn't realize it till we were pulling in the driveway. There was another meltdown. And by bath time and bedtime kisses, I was ready to have a meltdown of my own.
I felt so alone, so emotionally exhausted, so physically tired and so mentally overwhelmed. And while worse things could have surely happened, it was all just too much for me at the moment. I called my husband to vent.
He answered on the second ring, but his voice was hard to make out against the background noise of his hotel lobby. Honestly, I did not really care if I could hear him, because I was the one who needed to be heard. I didn't ask about his day. I didn't even respond to his "hi!" Instead, I immediately broke down, and in between my sobs, I told him about my awful day parenting alone.
After five consecutive minutes of talking about my trials through my tears, I took a deep breath and paused. My husband said something in response to me asking if I may have unintentionally blinded one of the kiddos when she got shampoo in her eyes during bath, but I couldn't hear what he said. "You're breaking up," I responded. "I will talk to you later. Thanks for listening," I said as I hung up the phone.
I laid down in bed, and thought about how nice it was for my husband to just listen. Surely, he had a busy day as well. He was probably tired from traveling. He probably wanted nothing more than to unwind in his hotel room, but he listened to me, and he didn't even try to tell me how to fix any of the number of things that were bothering me. I suddenly felt much better and ready to face whatever else might be unexpectedly thrown my way.
And then my phone buzzed. A text message. I fumbled through the new phone I just recently purchased, trying to figure out how to pull up the text. It was a message from my husband: "Sorry. I think you have the wrong number."
I stared at the message for a few minutes contemplating if this was his failed attempt at trying to get me to laugh. That's when I realized that this was the only text message my husband and I had exchanged according to my new phone, even though we had texted throughout the day.
It was then that it dawned on me. For whatever reason, my new phone had not transferred over my husband's new phone number. Ladies and gentlemen, I sobbed and screamed and bared my soul to a complete stranger -- for five, uninterrupted minutes (according to my phone's call log.) And even though he could have hung up on me or muted me (maybe he did), he just listened. This complete stranger, who I thought was my husband, listened to this exhausted mom recount her day, and that meant everything. He made a tremendous difference.
Parents, if you too are questioning whether the village is still alive and thriving, it is. Good people are still out there, and sometimes all we need is a gentle nudge -- like a phone call to the wrong number -- to remind us that we are not in this alone.