Finding Your Village: Connecting to the Parent Network
It takes a village to raise a child. But where do you find that village?
Facebook helps. So do online communities for moms, such as Green Lake Moms. Melissa Benaroya founded the Green Lake Moms in 2005. Originally a Yahoo group, it has since grown into a large email network and website with resources for local parents. A mother to two children, she is also a clinical social worker and co-author of the book The Childproof Parent.
“We moved to Seattle when my firstborn was two weeks old, and I didn't know a soul,” says Benaroya. Within weeks, she had started the online group, which now has over 3,000 members.
Benaroya feels that creating community and connections for moms is crucial. “Many moms are not aware of resources available to support them: doulas, play groups, parenting groups, lactation services, nanny services, baby-sitter resources and therapists,” she says.
Online networking groups like Green Lake Moms have become a one-stop shop for local mothers. As a member myself, I’ve found a nanny; bought a ride-on truck and a secondhand couch; gotten advice on weaning; loaned someone a reindeer costume; sold a maternity dress; shared advice on fertility, night terrors and sexy nursing bras; met moms for coffee; arranged a playdate; got the inside scoop on local preschools; and discovered my kid’s favorite band (hello, Caspar Babypants).
“As an only parent with my family on the other side of the country, this group is like a pseudo-family to me, and therefore my son,” says Casey Kennedy, a Seattle mom. “Finding sitters on here is critical to mommy happiness! This group really is my ‘village’ in many ways.”
While members of the group buy and sell everything from maternity jeans to Seahawks tickets—one member called it “craigslist for moms”—it’s more than that. It’s a friend in the middle of the night when you’re up worrying about a sick kid; it’s objective advice on playground etiquette; it’s a community of friends who reassure you that you’re normal, warn you about creepy guys at the playground and share resources. You can email the group and instantly get dozens of responses from moms just like you.
Groups like this are proliferating all over the Seattle area, from Columbia City to North Seattle to the Eastside (see our list of regional resources for the group nearest you). Benaroya has helped moms start similar groups in cities across the country.
While the group hosts a few annual get-togethers, Green Lake Moms connect mostly online. The most popular local resource for in-person support is the Program for Early Parent Support (PEPS).
PEPS has offered neighborhood-based, volunteer-facilitated parenting groups since 1983, including groups all over King and south Snohomish counties, and more than 225 parenting groups each year.
Sara Roberts, a Seattle mom of two young boys, says, “PEPS was a lifeline for the first six months. This group of women shared their souls, and I shared mine. We shared stories, tricks and shortcuts for housework and baby gear and tending to baby; we had our first time away from our babies with each other; and we still get together regularly five years later.”
Support from other moms makes you a better parent, says Kali Sakai. “There is a gripping fear that you’re ‘doing something wrong.’ Seeing other parents go through similar challenges and feeling that you are not alone helps get past wanting to be perfect and instead wanting to bring out what intrinsically makes you a unique person and good parent.”
Tabitha Burns, a Seattle mother to three (including infant twins) found herself searching for her “village” as a new parent. “I unconsciously networked with other moms with babies and young kids. I would accost them at the playground, coffee shops and grocery stores, asking about strollers or a toy they had, complimenting a cute hat— anything to get a conversation started.”
She found that village attending The First Weeks class through Beyond Birth Seattle.
“Ann Keppler (the nurse practitioner who moderates First Weeks) recognizes how challenging and precious the first few weeks and months of parenting is. She actively fosters an environment of non-judgment— a rarity if you follow many other parenting blogs.”
Social media also makes it easier for parents to stay connected. “When we were beginning to "age out" of the First Weeks series with our one-year olds, one of our members put together a Google group so we could remain in touch… the amazing women I met there five years ago are some of my best friends,” says Burns.
Another popular social networking site for parents looking to connect is Meetup.com, which offers a diverse array of groups for people based on their zip code or city. A quick search for Seattle parenting groups yields everything from parenting book clubs and neighborhood play groups to groups for divorced parents and multiracial families.
Resources for moms are plentiful, but what about dads? Guthrie reports that PEPS worked well for her and her husband. “He got to see other babies Oliver’s age, and we made great friends doing it.”
But just as moms sometimes need to be around other moms, dads need their own parenting peers. Redmond stay-at-home dad Bruce Reynolds started a stay-at-home dads group for this very reason. The group scheduled playdates just for dads and their kids. In addition, NorthWest Dads, like Green Lake Moms, is a Yahoo group, with a small but active community. And the Seattle “Day Out With Dad” group organizes local hikes and outdoor adventures for fathers of toddler-age children.
Whether it’s online groups, in-person get-togethers, formal classes or informal playdates, it’s not how you connect, it’s that you connect that makes the difference.
Seattle Parent Networking Resources
Eastside Parent Networking Resources
South Sound Parent Networking Resources
North Sound Parent Networking Resources