They say it takes a village to raise a child, and taking steps to build that village means creating a support network that will help your family thrive.
During the transitional phase of early parenthood, not only are we getting to know this little human and how to meet their needs, but we’re also learning so much about ourselves as parents. Having the love and support of a dedicated community can make all the difference as we navigate these tricky waters. As the saying goes, “It takes a village to raise a child,” and in our modern culture where communal living isn’t the norm, we have to be intentional about creating that village ourselves.
Community can look all sorts of ways. It can be made up of blood relatives, long-time friends, co-workers, neighbors, and people we’ve connected with over being new parents. For some, this community comes easily and may already be in place before your child is born, and for others, building this community comes with time. No matter where you are on the journey of finding your people, here are strategies for connecting with like-minded families to build your support network and help your family thrive.
You Do You
Often the best place to start finding meaningful connections is by identifying your own values and interests and holding fast to those things unapologetically.
“The easiest way I’ve found to meet somebody or a friend is just do something you love, like walking in the park,” says Laurel Hess, an Indianapolis-based mom. “When you’re doing something that you enjoy with your kids, turn your head and see if there’s somebody beside you, then introduce yourself.”
Do you enjoy books or music? Is your faith important to you? Do you consider yourself “crunchy”? Are you planning to stay at home or go back to work? Does adhering to a strict nap schedule keep you sane? Knowing what makes you tick can help you find the spaces — either online or in-person — where “your people” hang out.
Meeting your people doesn’t come instantaneously — it does require a bit of effort. Stretching yourself to meet people in ways you may not have considered in the past could mean the difference between doing life solo and finding your parental soul mate. Getting outside of your comfort zone could look different to different parents. Perhaps it means being willing to show up to a MOPS group without makeup and baby spit-up on your shirt, or maybe it looks like striking up a conversation with a parent on the playground or in the toy aisle at the grocery store. The process is a lot like dating: extremely awkward at times.
“I think it’s just a matter of putting yourself out there,” says Andrea Kirschling, a mom based in Indianapolis. “Some people click and some don’t and that’s OK. When you find the ones that click it’s magical.”
Keep It Real
Getting into spaces where you’re likely to find people you connect with is only the first step. To actually make the connection requires a bit of vulnerability. To make those deep connections may mean sharing things about yourself that aren’t necessarily Instagram-worthy and listening without judgement when someone else divulges the messy parts of their life. It could even mean allowing people to help you out — by watching your child or bringing you a meal, for example — when your instinct is to do it all yourself.
Know When To Walk Away
For some, in our eagerness to make meaningful relationships, we end up staying in relationships with people that don’t share our values or with whom we simply don’t click. “Don’t try to force it,” says mom Stacey Savala. “That’s exhausting.” If you’ve been hanging with a family and something doesn’t feel right or you simply don’t vibe, you have permission to let go, move on and trust that that void will be filled with someone with whom you find real kinship.
When You Can’t Find It, Build It
Maybe you’ve tried the mom fitness class, the MOPS group, the neighborhood playgroup; chatted up parents on the playground, at preschool pickup and soccer practice; and you still haven’t found your village. In that case, maybe it’s time to build the community you want from scratch.
“I couldn’t find a mom group so I made one for local moms,” says Kristin Felt of Indianapolis. “We had playdates and parties with kids. Over two years, the group had grown to about 200 women locally that were all connected for playdates.”
While building your village won’t happen overnight, working toward making those connections while your children are young will give you people you can lean on as your family grows.