(Left to right) Greg, Dave, Maureen and Tim Kordesh enjoy bonding time on the couch.

I never really thought of my mother, a traditional homemaker, as being just about the house.

Our mom, and some of the other moms on our block in Berwyn, had this way of not just cooking in their kitchens, straightening up their living rooms, and managing their own kids, but of doing so in ways that projected their love into the neighborhood. In doing so, they reflected unspoken understanding that to a certain extent, our block, including the alley where we played, was an extension of those homes.

On a summer morning, or maybe after school, my mom might be sitting on one of the stoops alongside our bungalow’s steps, watching us as we played in front, but also talking with neighbors who might be out. And the women talked with each other from the porches, or while standing together on the sidewalks, forming a kind of monitoring and story-sharing network, without ever calling it that.

We, the kids, accepted that the other moms who might be out front or who might be gardening or hanging clothes in the back were, at least while we were out on the sidewalks or in the alleys, our moms, too. Motherly care and watchfulness were the neighborhood effects of these devoted women, especially when we were preschool or grade-school age.

That’s how things were in an era when men worked away from home and women with kids stayed home, managing the house and taking care of children. Moms served as the first line of vigilance beyond the boundaries of home, just by doing their jobs. On the weekends, or sometimes in the evenings, dads would be out there too as they played ball with us, mowed lawns or worked on their cars.

From the late ’80s and into the early years of the new century, Maureen and I had a very different mix of roles than those traditional arrangements of the ’50s and ’60s. We both worked, sometimes from home — she as a lawyer and law professor. Maureen brought the lawyer’s savvy into her role as mom, but also had something in common with those earlier mothers: her presence with the kids in and around the house, interacting with neighbors as she did, also nurtured that unspoken, yet shared sense that these sidewalks and streets between our houses were home, too.

In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where our kids were born, some of the houses, including ours, were arranged around a cul-de-sac, an inviting space for kicking a ball or learning to ride a bike. We built and tended a large, terraced garden, 90 feet across, on the hill in our backyard, quite visible to the bordering neighbors’ properties. They occasionally came by and spoke to us about it. We talked landscaping and composting with them. Our gardened hill blended with their landscaping projects to add to the neighborhood’s identity.

In the 1990s when we moved to Oak Park, the internet emerged explosively as a new space in which moms and dads needed to be present and watchful. The virtual “neighborhood” became defined by gaming groups and social media niches that the kids entered, not through the front doors of their domiciles, but through the computers sitting on their desks or resting in their laps.

Parents ventured into these online neighborhoods with their own interests, but also to be where the kids were, monitoring and learning about the new games and interactive sites they’d be entering. Some of these interactions built durable ties that lasted across stages of the lifespan.

We’re Facebook friends with some of our own kids’ childhood friends who are now adults, some raising their own children. A few we see when we’re out with our grandchildren in Oak Park playgrounds or parks, and we comment occasionally about recent posts about their kids. We’re their neighbors now in virtual and geographic space, even when at home.

Whether in the traditional sense of the stay-at-home caretaker, or in the contemporary sense that mixes work and home, moms collaborate with dads and other partners. They shape the small worlds outside their front doors that matter for their kids’ safety and development.

And they do so today as well in those vast, slippery and murky domains of the web, planting stakes for the values of their homes while there.

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