"It Takes A Village:" Friendship in Parenting
We’ve all heard the phrase “It takes a village to raise a child” and it rings just as true today.
As soon as you hold that new baby in your arms, you can sense the internal doubt of being able to do it alone. After all, Christ created us to live in community with one another, to help one another and encourage one another. But as a counselor to new parents, one thing I hear again and again is the loneliness surrounding people during this phase of life. Simply put, friendships in parenthood are difficult.
Parenthood is not meant to be an isolating experience. In fact, in many cultures through the centuries, it has been a life phase filled with bonding and nurturing, forcing relationships to depend upon one another and strengthening their trust in the midst. But in today’s American culture, where you can seek answers online and pass the time with technology, fewer parents are reaching out to their community for support. Why? Because they don’t have one. And by the time the couple surfaces from their six weeks of postpartum survival-mode, they are uncertain of how to find friends who will fit into their new normal.
How do you find friends as new parents? I’m not saying it’s easy, especially when some days are met with very little sleep. But the benefits of gaining and establishing a community of support far outweigh the risks of trying to go it alone. Here are a few steps to encourage you along the way.
- Chin up.
Look around you. I know it sounds simplistic, but it’s true. Especially in the early days of parenthood, your eyes are glued to your baby. You’re worried about nap times, the baby spitting up, or what others might think if they smell or hear your baby. But chances are good that if you stop and look around, you’ll see other nervous parents just as agitated as you are. Here’s your chance! Babies are THE best icebreaker there is, and if you’re open to the opportunity, you may just strike up a conversation with your next best friend. Whether you are at a restaurant, shopping or simply in the waiting room at your pediatrician’s office, start asking other parents about their experiences and go from there. Everyone loves to talk about their own baby, and chances are good you have a lot more in common than horror stories of diaper blowouts. Be brave and go for it.
- Host amidst the chaos.
I get it. I have four daughters who leave toys around the house, laundry on the bathroom floor, and there’s always at least half a dozen sippy cups in my kitchen sink at any given time. If I waited until my house looked like an HGTV show, I would literally never have people over. Instead, I use my home as the perfect testing ground for how honest and real my friendships can be! In other words, invite others over regardless of your house’s condition and you’re likely to actually put them at ease instead of sending them running. If they can’t hang, or if you begin to feel judged in your own home, perhaps this friendship wasn’t meant for the long haul anyway. Besides, if you really hit it off, then there’s nothing better than a good conversation while folding a pile of clothes.
- Extend a spontaneous invite.
Too many parents can get stuck in the “FOMO,” thinking that other parents have figured out a way to hang out without them. False. Most people are waiting for an invitation, yet too insecure to extend an invite themselves. Don’t wait. If you cook too many tacos one night, spontaneously text some friends to see if they’d like to join you for dinner! Feel like a drive? Plop that baby in a car seat and drop by a friend’s house for a quick hello. Free tonight? Let others know you’re up for a visit in case they’re available. The point is, if we wait for the stars (and nap times) to align, we’re missing out on messy moments we could be sharing with others. This is the real grit and beauty of parent-friends who can understand the importance of living in the moment.
As you can see, many of these tips insist on laying down your pride and asking God to grant you grace and bravery in vulnerable moments. But think of how awesome and beautiful this model is for your children to witness. When you don’t wait until you need help to ask for it, you can truly benefit from the fellowship of others actively engaged in your lives. As parents, we’re going to need a lot of help and encouragement to help us in the years ahead. Turns out, it takes a village to raise a parent as well.
Emily Pardy (Biola, ’99) is the Founder of Ready Nest Counseling in Nashville, TN. She is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and one of the first in the country to be Certified in Perinatal Mental Health. Her own journey into motherhood led her to helping couples and individuals transition successfully through the life stages of conception, pregnancy, postpartum, infertility or loss. She now resides in Nashville, TN, with her husband, Josh (Biola ’05 and ’11) and their four rambunctious daughters.