My family just returned from a multi-family camp-out in yurts on the Oregon coast, and I am happily reminiscing about the experience. Granted I have not even had a chance to download photos, catch up on laundry or repack the camping gear for the next trip, but mostly my thoughts go to the importance and beauty of having an excellent support network. My husband and I have limited family support and have supplemented this by developing strong relationships with five or so other couples who have same age children. While there are not grandparents who can take our kids overnight or drop by to watch them if we have work scheduling conflicts, we do have a web of families in our neighborhood who can fill that need.
Between the six families on the trip cooperating on meals, activities and supervision, we were all able to sneak in some breaks. The children had a great time, and what ever I forgot to pack, another mother was sure to have remembered (diapers, bubbles, glow sticks…).
Are you parenting alone, you and your partner on an island? Trying to juggle it all yourselves? What does your village look like? Are you new in town and have not yet met other moms? Have you struggled with post partum depression and unintentionally isolated yourself? do you work so much you think you don’t have time to cultivate mama friends? maybe your old friends do not have kids and your lifestyles have diverged? or are your beliefs about other peoples values holding you back, keeping you segregated in your lonely castle? Who do you call to tell about the most recent milestone your baby reached? To vent about dirty diapers or to review your day care options with? Transitioning from child-free to family mode can be tough. Especially for those of use who waited to develop careers and adult lifestyles before starting a family.
The value of connecting with other moms, dads, and their children is immeasurable in my opinion. Providing your child with the opportunity to develop long term friendships, work through personality clashes, accept other childrens differences, celebrate milestones with children of your friends is so enriching. And even better, having mama friends to lean on, to rejoice with, to commiserate with is a necessity for our mental health. (Dads benefit too!)
So how do you begin to create your village? Assess your local resources. What does your community already offer? Story time at the library? Activities at a local community center? Childrens museums? Zoos? Parks? Play gyms? Swap gatherings? Baby play groups? post partum support groups?
What do you value as a parent? Where are you likely to meet like minded parents? Are there volunteer opportunities that will put you in the path of similiar moms? What action can you take to begin organizing get togethers, meet ups etc with moms you do meet and connect with? For example, suggest a picnic in the park playdate, water fun in your backyard playdate? or organize a swap party for childrens clothes and equipment in your neighborhood.
Assess what is getting in the way of you connecting with other moms, other families. Deal with your obstacles. If you are depressed, get help. If you don’t know what is available, get online and research. Re evaluate your work schedule if possible. Even one new mama friend makes a difference, then you can join together to check out resources.
Moving into parenthood is an exciting new chapter, and will bring a wealth of brilliant and inspiring folks into your life one way or another. You will just need to notice them and make some goals around connecting with them!