As a parent, whether you are single or married, have one kid or ten, it’s not uncommon to feel totally isolated. Your only hope for managing the job comes from building a village of people with whom you can share the journey of being a parent. That includes practical support, like sharing carpool duties and pediatrician recommendations, and also emotional support, like empathizing through difficult processes like potty training and college applications. Your village becomes an invisible safety net of support that surrounds you and your family in good and bad times.
After my marriage ended, I found an apartment in a neighborhood that had great public schools and lots of families. I probably had the least money of anyone on the block (and often struggled to pay my rent for the first couple of years post-divorce) but being there connected me to a community of people that eased the loneliness and burden of being a single parent. I joined the PTA to show my daughter that even though I was a single parent, I could be involved with her school like her friends’ parents were. But the PTA gave me much more, it delivered me a circle of friends who become my village. We took turns walking kids to and from school; the older kids babysat the younger ones; we celebrated New Year’s, Fourth of July, Memorial and Labor Day together. I’m sure I’d have been a lesser parent without their friendship and support.
When researching for my book, TIME TO PARENT, I had the amazing opportunity to interview the renowned sociologist Melissa Milkie, who has studied and published on how families spend their time for decades. Milke told me that this generation of parents are perhaps the most conscientious in history about being there for their kids, but that sense of intense responsibility is often accompanied by a belief that they must do it all on their own. I asked what one piece of advice she would offer today’s parents. Her answer was beautiful: “Think of your family unit as beyond the people who live in your house.” In other words, build your village.
You may not think you have time to connect with others, until you realize that a couple of hours per week invested in building your network will buy you back hundreds of hours in time, support, and peace of mind. It truly does take a village to balance raising, and being a human. No family should be an island.