I remember having many doubts and questions while raising my children. I can remember thinking, “I have no idea what I’m doing” and, “This is too much. I’m overwhelmed.” On many occasions, I was exhausted, uncertain, overwhelmed. Have you ever felt that way? Have you made similar statements to yourself as a parent? Parenting can “take it out of us.”
So how do we get through those periods of doubt and confusion? We seek help. I don’t mean seeking a therapist (although that may prove helpful at times). I mean seeking out friends or family members. A healthy parent needs a support system, a village to provide support and answers to the many questions we encounter.
Supportive friends and family help us recognize the normalcy in the struggle of parenthood. I remember wondering (no, I remember worrying) about the normalcy of various behaviors my children engaged in while growing up. Every time, a friend whose children were much older than my children, would talk about times his children did the same things. It was a relief to learn my children’s behaviors were normal and I “wasn’t ruining them.” Supportive friends and family also taught me what types of activities and interactions with their children they found helpful. In addition, we could share our frustrations together, differentiate typical behavior from atypical behavior, behavior to worry about from typical behavior, and support one another in the journey of parenthood.
Supportive friends and family offer us time for self-care. We can turn to friends and family for periods of child-care that free us up to “take care of ourselves.” That may simply mean grocery shopping without an infant in arms or going on a date with our spouse. Knowing other couples with children may provide opportunities to share time watching children so each couple can go out as a couple. Or you might take turns with rides to school, practices, or activities, freeing one another up to take care of other things.
Supportive friends and family foster resilience and a sense of confidence. Having support strengthens us and empowers us to continue growing, even when we feel tired. They also can help assure we maintain a healthy balance in our parenting, pointing out ways we can improve in our parenting and ways in which we are doing well.
You can foster supportive friends and families in several ways.
- Be the support you’re seeking. Offer to help a friend with their children, to take their children on an outing with your children. It can turn into an opportunity to do the same for one another. Encourage other parents you know.
- Get involved in groups that include other families. That may include community groups, sports groups, music groups, dance groups, or MOPS to name a few. Church also provides an excellent source for family and parent support.
- Meet your neighbors. I know it can prove difficult in today’s environment, but get to know your neighbors. Many neighbors become wonderful supports in helping raise children.
All parents need a village of support to empower and energize them in the task of parenthood. Who makes up your supportive village?