Guest blogger Carolyn Brinkman knows parents need support, and many of them aren’t getting it!
More and more, I have met parents who say that they have few friends in their life… and more and more I hear parents talk about feeling lonely or alone. Today I talked to a preschool teacher who reported that several parents have confided in her that they truly have no one they call a friend. And I can’t help but wonder… is this something new or have parents been feeling this way all along?
I honestly don’t remember my mom ever saying that she was lonely – although as she was home with 5 children, maybe she didn’t have the time to say it! I remember many talks she had with family members and neighborhood friends, I remember her church friends and I definitely remember that during emergencies, the neighbors, my mom’s friends or my grandparents were there in a pinch to take care of us kids. With my generation, it seems that friends have changed. We have more work friends than neighborhood friends, church friends remain intact and family supports are non-wavering. But this is my experience, is everyone as fortunate as I? And what about younger parents, do they have friends to lean on for support, especially parenting support?
As I think about our neighborhoods, our lifestyle and our society, I can honestly say that lonely parents don’t surprise me. They dishearten me, but they don’t surprise me. From what I am hearing and seeing, it is clear that many parents are in need of friendship. And yet, we are more closed off from others around us. We get busy, we try to keep up with our schedule and our daily expectations. Communications are fast- paced and often non-personal. I have a longtime friend whose brother is very ill and I sent her a text message today, and though I am sure she appreciated the message I did not really get to convey all my feelings and thoughts for her. It was a five word message!
And so I am struck, not only with what our values and culture may be doing to the concept of friendship, but also struck with the choices and decisions I make. Who do I want to be in my relationships and who do I want to reach out to? I am fortunate, I do have friends and family who support me, so what I chose to do to honor those relationships is critical. The ways in which I communicate, the time I take to ensure that not only are those friends there for me but I am there for them is important. I need to be as intentional in these actions as I am in exercising each day or watching my favorite television show. Also, am I aware of others in my life who are lonely or isolated? If so, I can take steps to reach out more, to be more inclusive, to open up my circle of friends to others.
There are lonely parents out there, parents trying to care for their families with little support. Maybe we can figure out a way to ensure those supports are in place for more parents, maybe it is worth a little bit of our time.