In my work for 4C I am afforded opportunities to work with family serving agencies across Ohio. Most of this work focuses on helping these organizations identify strategies they can use to better support the wellness of families. What has struck me about this work is how frequently I have heard that many families lack a reliable support network: no friends or family that they can count on for support.
We can all agree that parenting can be overwhelming and for parents going at it alone, these feelings are only exacerbated. While there are a variety of reasons parents might feel isolated, it seems to me that there are two major factors. The first is that many parents do not create opportunities to build social networks of support. And the second factor is that we stopped making casseroles!
Parents need to intentionally seek opportunities to make friends. Having friends in your corner can have an incredible impact on your resilience and quality of life. As parents this kind of support can also have an incredible impact on your capacity to be a good parent. A reliable social network means that you have other people to share your parenting challenges and successes with. In addition, this can result in you gaining access to other parents to support your parenting. These parents can offer you ideas on parenting, share child care and connect you to good resources – like schools, doctors and community activities.
You may have to seek opportunities in the community to meet other “like” parents – parents with similar interests and values as you. You may also need to be a bit more forward than you might otherwise be. Next time you’re at the park, put down your cell phone and introduce yourself to others!
It’s not as easy as it sounds, and it’s even harder for parents working multiple jobs, raising children on their own or living in unsafe or extremely rural neighborhoods. For these parents, making connections can seem almost impossible. For these parents we need to make more casseroles!
When I was a kid, my mom frequently made casseroles for other families. Whether it was a new family in the neighborhood or a family experiencing a hard time, my mom’s common practice was to make and give a casserole. These casseroles were a way for her to start a new relationship or show support to an existing one. And for me these casseroles are a symbol of something we are lacking in many of our communities today.
I think we somehow have lost the common practice of reaching out to others – especially others we don’t know. This saddens me. Our fast-paced way of living has created fewer connections with others. And quite frankly as parents we could all use some more support. So if you are fortunate enough to have support networks you can rely on – that is awesome. If not, what can you do to create one? Is there someone in your life who could benefit from a casserole?