When we moved to Salt Spring Island, I really wasn’t sure what to expect about the kinds of people we’d be meeting, or the kinds of social things we’d be taking part in. Coming up this summer we will have been here for two years, and I’ve loved every minute of it. The people we’ve come to know have been incredibly helpful and welcoming. In fact, I don’t know what I’d do without a lot of them.
So what kind of social scene is there for new parents on our little island, you ask? One group of friends we’ve come to be a part of has been a particular source of enjoyment and support. We’ve become swingers of a sort. But, instead of swapping partners, we’re constantly swapping kids.
Now, don’t get all excited and start calling social services. There’s nothing inappropriate going on here. What’s happening is that all the mamas (and papas) in this wonderful little circle of friendship we’ve created help each other out when one of us needs a bit of time without our rugrats around to get something done. Or even to just enjoy a bit of peace and quiet.
Having people around that I trust to care for my child as they would their own, who my little one is not only familiar with, but excited to see is so helpful when something comes up where I need someone to watch little Z. For instance, medical appointments and ER trips. I’ve had a lot of problems recovering from my C-section, and a ton of random and unfortunate things come up that needed to be immediately addressed. Since the ER isn’t exactly the kind of place I want my munchkin to be hanging out, licking and touching everything that sick people have been leaving germs on, especially when I’m feeling crummy myself, it’s been a godsend to have these other parents to rely on.
On the other side of things, it also feels great to be able to help another parent out. As often as I can, I try to be there and available to keep an eye on the other children in our circle. It feels lovely to be useful and to give all of our children the benefit of having different people with a variety of skills, ideas and perspectives care for them. I love to spend time together and see these children confidently approaching and interacting with the other children and adults that they have come to know and trust. This experience helps them grow in more ways than I alone can offer. Heck, it helps us all grow to experience these differences and share our perspectives.
New and soon-to-be parents out there, I highly suggest you make an attempt to create for yourselves a circle of other moms and dads for support. It’s been such a blessing to have and be the support of others in our situation. It really does “take a village to raise a child.”
Here are some ideas for where you might find other parents to forge a bond with. As my midwife very intelligently suggested to me, I would also encourage you to make these friendships with others before your baby comes, if possible. Once you have a little one running around, and your hormones, emotions and lack of sleep are running through you making you crazy, it becomes very hard to focus on a conversation, and to be your true, wonderful, social self that shone so brightly before baby came.
But even if baby is already here, don’t let that stop you!
- Prenatal class: This is where we made the strongest connections with people who were in for the same (somewhat nerve-wracking) event of birth, whose children would be born close to ours. It’s been so cool watching all these little ones grow alongside each other at their own pace, and be part of all of their unique journeys.
- Prenatal yoga or other parent and tot exercise groups.
- Walking/Hiking groups for parents.
- Community facilities, like the recreation center (look for “Kindergym” or any other programs where parents stay with their little ones).
- The library: there are often story times for little ones, babies/toddlers included; or just hang out with some board books and see who pops by).
- StrongStart (or your province’s/country’s equivalent program).
- Playgrounds/parks: Even if your baby isn’t moving yet, grab a blanket and a snack, find some shade and hang out.
- The pool: Go to a pool with a kiddie section and let your little one splash while making connections, or take a swimming lesson for parents and young children.
- Parenting workshops: Great information, resources, and some new contacts? Awesome.
- Groups and forums for parents in your community: There are some great websites and resources out there for finding playgroups and parenting support groups.
I looked far and wide for a quote that would fit here to tie this post up, but I could find very little on community parenting. So, I thought I’d just give you my own summation. Who knows? Maybe someone will quote me one day. Here goes.
With one mind to guide a child, the child learns only one way of life. Through community parenting, children learn not only one set of skills and ideas, but a wealth of perspectives and variety of tools to use along their own individual journey.
Swing away, friends, swing away.
Living the island life, this stay-at-home mama and licensed Early Childhood Educator writes about natural and green life solutions, motherhood and parenting, early learning, and the things and ideas that enter into her conscious lifestyle. While perfection is unrealistic, finding balance in everything that life offers is attainable. Including enjoyment and moments that fill the soul are a must on her Big To-Do list.
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