When my oldest son was born, I was the first of my local friends to have a baby. I had a couple friends who had babies around the same time as me, but they lived hours away. For the first time in my life, I was without a village

Sure, my nearby friends without kids were good listeners and happy to babysit now and then, they didn’t understand the monumental shift that a baby creates. When I was getting up for that 2 a.m. feeding, my local friends were rolling in from a night out at the bars. While I was eager for adult conversation after spending the day with a little human whose only mode of communication was crying and then crying louder, they just wanted to collapse on the couch after a long day at the office with a demanding boss.

I was able to commiserate with the few friends of mine who did have babies, but they lived hundreds of miles away. There were no last minute texts that said, “I need to get out of the house, let’s meet for a walk.” There were no play date swaps so we could each get a break now and then. There was only me and my baby. And you know what? It was pretty darn lonely.

After a few months, the loneliness was so heavy and my desperation for a village so strong, that I decided to create my own village. I joined a few local moms groups and met a handful of women who had babies around the same age as my own. We began going for walks to break up the day. We had rotating playdates where we shared our fears and struggles, tentatively at first and then more comfortably. They were a refuge during those unsettling days (and weeks and months) as a new mom. 

We celebrated birthdays together—our kids’ and our own. We talked about marriage challenges and how to deal with sleep regression. We cried. A lot. And laughed a lot too.

Over the years, I built up a village that included neighbors, extended family, and parents of my kids’ friends. Once again, this village saved me.

Eventually our tiny village grew apart. We slowly moved away to new cities and states. Our kids grew up, with their own interests and activities. And so did we. Our priorities shifted. Some of us still keep in touch, but we aren’t that same village anymore. But the memories of that village’s magic remains.

When I moved to a new town 12 years ago, I had a keen awareness of how important downright essential the proverbial village is to a mother’s wellbeing (and thereby her families’ wellbeing). Fortunately, I was able to cultivate a new village pretty quickly. My older son was an active preschooler by that time in loads of activities that lent themselves to meeting other parents. I knew how to intentionally search for the village too and I wasted no time looking for it.

Over the years, I built up a village that included neighbors, extended family, and parents of my kids’ friends. Once again, this village saved me. The village has taken turns hosting playdates when the kids were younger and carpool duties as they got older. The village has offered suggestions on which sports team to join. The village has been there when I needed to vent. And the village has been there for plenty of tears and plenty of laughter. The village hasn’t just been a refuge, but also a lifeline.

Now that my kids are in middle school and high school, I can feel the village shifting again. Sure, the neighbors, extended family, and friends are all still there. But it’s different. My kids no longer need me to be the gatekeeper of their social calendar. My husband and I feel like taxi drivers sometimes, with our kids leaping out the door when they reach the destination. There is no chatting at the school playground, and there are no play date pick-ups that turn into pizza-and-wine nights with a couple other families. And we can no longer vent about the challenges of motherhood because those stories aren’t ours to tell anymore; they belong to our children. 

My village is changing, and sometimes I feel that same unsettled feeling I did as a new mom struggling to find a village.

If you’re a mama struggling to find a village, I see you.

I understand the isolation. I know the loneliness. I feel the weariness.

Maybe you live far from family and don’t have free childcare.

Maybe you are the first of your friends to have a baby. Or maybe you’re friends had kids years ago and they are in a different stage.

Maybe you work long hours, or maybe you’ve moved to a new town.

Maybe you feel a bit unsettled after the past two years of pandemic-induced burnout and stress and emotional upheaval.

Maybe you’ve grown and changed, or your family has grown and changed.

Maybe you’re lonely or in need of some extra nurturing right now.

Whatever the reason, if you’re struggling to find a village—or to build a bigger village—I see you. 

I understand the isolation. I know the loneliness. I feel the weariness.

We are not meant to go it alone, as mamas and as humans. We need each other. 

So if you are struggling to find a village, or just struggling, know that you aren’t alone. Even if it feels like it sometimes. I promise you, your village is out there. There is another mama looking for her village too, looking for you.

Keep looking for your village. Keep building your village. And keep being the village for others. Because it doesn’t just take a village to raise a child, it takes a village to raise a mama too.