Why A Strong Parent Community Matters

Eliza Clark
October 12, 2009

We all prepare so well for the arrival of a new baby. We stock up on onesies, diapers, adorable tiny socks, sweaters and hats; we select the perfect crib, stroller, carrier, etc.; we read books about baby care; we line up a pediatrician and…we think we’re just about ready.  

But the thing we may need most of all is the one thing we can’t line up in advance. A community of other parents to whom you can turn for advice, perspective, a laugh, a good cry, a babysitter’s number and so much more – a community like that can only evolve over time.

Why does this kind of community, this fellowship between parents of kids in roughly the same age-group, matter so much? Oh, there are just a few reasons we can think of….

For starters, the primary example we each bring to this whole enterprise of taking care of children is that of our own parents. Of course, if we were lucky, they were lovely parents. But the truth is that not all of us were so lucky.  And even if we consider ourselves very lucky, it’s difficult to try to make parenting choices on the basis of so narrow and loaded a model. We all need more examples, more possibilities in front of us so that we can find our own way. What worked for our own parents may not work for us, and it helps immensely to witness different ways of approaching everything from schedules to meals to discipline to book and toy choices to tone of voice and choice of words, and on and on. It’s called perspective, it’s crucial and we can only get it from other parents. And who benefits the most from parents with perspective? Without a doubt, the little ones.

Parents also very much need each other’s support and friendship. It doesn’t matter who you are or what your children are like -- raising kids is harrowing, thrilling, joyous and sometimes heart-rending. You can’t go through all of those ups and downs alone!  Sharing the rollercoaster with friends who really get it and have their own tales to tell makes all the difference. People say that the friends you make when your kids are young are friends you’ll keep forever, and we understand perfectly why. It’s because becoming a parent is an initiation like no other. Those who have been through the sleep deprivation and temper tantrums and spiking midnight fevers together have a bond like no other. Good friends keep us happy, and happier parents mean happier kids.

Last but hardly least, who else can we call when we need the scoop on local classes and parks, kid-friendly restaurants, a babysitter’s number or a quick rundown on what to do when your kid’s been stricken with stomach flu? Who else will say “of course!” when you ask to drop off your toddler for a few hours because your preschooler needs rushing to the ER for stitches and your spouse is out of town? Who else will watch your child at the playground when you’ve got to run to the bathroom? Who else will come along on your umpteenth trip to the zoo and keep you entertained with gossip as the kiddies zoom around? Who else knows your child and understands whatever odd stage she may be in and loves and accepts her and lets her jump on the couch without flinching? Only your fellow parents friends – and thank goodness for them.

Ahead these next two weeks on Being Savvy, our best ideas on building and sustaining the vibrant parent community we and our families so very much need. Join us!

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