It takes a village to raise a child.
We’ve all likely heard this phrase. When I was pregnant with our eldest son, we lived in Alaska, thousands of miles from our family. We had a lovely village, created from friends who had become like family. They visited us in the hospital when he was born, brought us meals for a week, checked in with texts and calls to make sure we were adjusting okay.
The Importance of Family
We moved back to the South because we missed our family. We loved our village, but we ached for our kids to grow up surrounded by grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles. We chose Tennessee because my sister-in-law already lived here and my in-laws plan on retiring here. Long term, our goal will come to fruition. Holidays are spent with my nieces, and my boys love their cousins. We have a lot of family visits, but they are scattered throughout the year. Although we have one beloved family member here, we still need a village of friends.
Mom Dating 101
Making friends as an adult is difficult. I’ve found myself, more than once, feeling how men must when they pick women up in bars. I see a mom with kids around the same age as mine, I sidle up to her, smile, and if all goes well, ask for her number before she leaves. Friend dating is hard, y’all. Even in a city as friendly as Knoxville, it can be a struggle to meet new people. But we need that village, right?
Building a Village
It turns out, most villages don’t just spontaneously appear. They’re built over time, growing organically in all directions. You might luck out and make just one friend who pulls you into her village, but it also may take more work than that.
Here are some tips on places to find friends and build your village:
The organizers here at KMB plan fun play groups at exciting places such as The Muse and Ijams Nature Center. There’s an event coming up in July called Beat the Heat. It’s a great opportunity to meet other area moms, and expand your village.
This is the South, after all. There are probably more churches than McDonald’s. I met a dear friend at a women’s group at a church I’d only attended for five months. Now our boys are best friends, and I’m so grateful to have her as a part of my village. When my (terrible) two-year old runs off in public, she makes sure my older kid doesn’t (also) get lost. It takes courage to go to events churches hold because you don’t want to feel like the odd one out, but more often than not you’ll be welcomed with open arms.
Kidding! Well, kind of. Food places with playgrounds, including my beloved Chick-fil-A, McDonald’s, and Burger King, offer an air-conditioned respite and the small area usually means it’s fairly easy to figure out which kid goes with which parent. If you’re both sipping on those delicious frozen coffee drinks, there’s an icebreaker right there!
Whenever you’re with your kid somewhere and see them befriending someone, it can be an opening for a new friendship, for both of you.
The Knoxville Library system offers an insane number of story times. They’re usually organized by age range, so you’re guaranteed to meet people in the same stage of life, whether your kids are tiny lap babies or big kids or teens. They’ve also recently started a monthly not-a-book-club, where you can meet other book lovers and enjoy some potluck yumminess in a low-key setting. They also offer an assortment of clubs, classes, and activities for all ages. You can find more about their options here.
My eldest son met his ‘best girl’ (his words!) because we were neighbors. I simply noticed the kids were the same age, and when it started snowing while we were outside, I just ran right up to their door and knocked to tell them, because a) I’m crazy, b) I love snow, and c) it seemed like a good excuse to get to know them. Now our kids are inseparable and we moms are a part of each other’s village.
How to be a villager
Building a village is about having a support system, and being a member of a support system for other people. When a member of my village needed a babysitter for a last-minute issue, I was there. When I needed a sitter for a doctor’s visit, she was there. Another friend helped me set up for my kid’s birthday party, and brought an extra tray I needed last minute; she’s a rock star villager. Being a part of a village means it’s okay to ask for help, and it’s wonderful to offer it. It might potentially mean sharing holidays together, if you don’t have family in town and want a bigger celebration. It’s a framily — a family comprised of friends.