Welcome to our new series, Mom-to-Mom!
Being a mother is exhausting, rewarding, validating, isolating, intimidating, and beautiful. It is all of these things, often all at once, combined with the rest of the feelings that go with modern womanhood (and adulthood, in general). It means you are a part of something huge, but often alone; you are empowered, but often brought down by tiny hands or tiny words that haven’t learned gentleness yet; you are strong, but find more than ever the need to rely on others for support. Welcome to Mom-to-Mom, our series written by moms, for moms. Grab a coffee or tea (because if you’re anything like us, you could really use one), and read on to learn more about how to build a support system.
How to Build a Support System
Now, more than ever before, our family communities are shaped in ways our ancestors would have never imagined. For instance, modern technology enables us to travel around the world and make new homes in amazing places with security and family-ready resources, without losing touch with loved ones. On the other hand, that flexibility and freedom can come with a cost: they say it takes a village to raise a child, and you have got to find yourself a whole new village. So what’s a mom to do when she needs a support system?
1. Take online friendships off the screen.
Use social networking sites to make local connections, but don’t let it stop in the virtual world. Set playdates at safe, public spaces like parks or zoos to meet up with parents and families who share not only your geographic area, but also your values.
2. Partner up with a preschool
Whether your kids are enrolled half time or full time, preschool is a place to build connections. Ask the teacher if you can send introductory notes home to the other families, sharing your name, phone number, and a sweet message to start a new friendship. Your child will tell you about their friends— don’t hesitate to send a note home to see if the other family is open for a playdate!
3. Create space for loved ones to visit and spend time with your kids.
If you have a spare bedroom to use as a guest space, incredible. But if you don’t? Don’t let that stop you. Set up the kids on folding futons or roll-out mattresses in your room, and offer the kids room to your guests. (If your guest is a happy couch-surfer, that works too!) Invite your loved ones to visit and use it as an excuse to play tourist in your own town. Plan special but simple activities (like baking a cake, going to an aquarium, or potting some fresh flowers) for your children to connect with your loved ones.
4. Ask your kids!
Children preschool age and older have strong opinions about a lot of things, and what they say might surprise you. Start with the following prompts and see where they lead you:
- Who do you want to see for a playdate?
- Let’s talk to someone on the phone. Who should we call?
- Tell me about your most fun friends at school.
- We are going to make some art and send it to people we love. Who should we send it to?
5. Leave babysitter guilt behind.
You need time to yourself. Or time with a spouse. Or time to walk the dog. Just time in general! Find a babysitter you love and trust, then leave the guilt about sitters behind. At our house, we hype up our sitter. “Ella is coming to play with you today! Can you believe it? She gets to have dinner at our house and then play the whole time!” When she comes in the house, it’s like a rockstar has arrived.
6. Talk to a close friend about a childwatch swap.
Instead of paying for a babysitter, talk to a close, trusted friend about setting up a childwatch swap. There are a few different ways to try it:
- Option 1: Both parents and kids are in the same house, but the resident parent is freed up to do chores or other tasks while the non-resident parent babysits on site. (This is a great option for breastfeeding moms, who may need to stay close but still have freedom to finish other work.)
- Option 2: Trade off babysitting for each other (the resident parent is the sitter).
We want to hear from you!
Do you have other ideas on how to build a community or support system, especially in a new place? Send us a message and you could be featured in Mom-to-Mom!
Until next time—
The Moms of Little Scholar