Many parents today are struggling just to get by. The high cost of living often requires both parents to work, which means long commutes, high childcare costs, little quality family time, high stress, and often times no family nearby to help out. These are just a few of the challenges that parents face today.
Furthermore, with the breakdown of our communities, if parents don't have the extra income for expensive childcare services and programs, they don't have many options. While we may not have the immediate power to change our country's economics and political policies, there are things we can do. Our fellow parents, neighbors and community members are a largely untapped resource today, and can provide collaborative services, support and relief for each other.
PARENTING SOLUTIONS IN THESE TOUGH ECONOMIC TIMES
Become aware of these challenges and initiate change
Once we become aware that our communities need to be strengthened, we can do our part in our own unique way. Most of our grandparents or parents lived in much stronger communities than we do today: many families lived near each other and helped with the children, neighbors watched out for one another, and civic life was valued more. Once we become aware that change is needed, we can reinvent the strong communities of America's past.
Don't be afraid to reach out and collaborate
People often feel like failures when they ask for help, but strength, meaning and purpose are in collaboration and community. Many of us have gotten comfortable in our own cocoons, but studies show that people are happier when they are contributing to the well-being of others, and feel that they belong to something larger than themselves. Reaching out to others to collaborate can help us break the habit of cocooning, remedy civic apathy, and initiate the creation of stronger social structures in our communities and country.
Build community with neighbors
Talk with your neighbors and find out how you can help each other. People used to sit on their front porches and talk with their neighbors, borrow a cup of sugar, or in our pioneering days, raise a barn. Our neighbors are a largely untapped resource in most regions of America today. The creative ways we can come together are unlimited. You can collaborate with your neighbors when it comes to babysitting, childcare, carpools, and gardening.
Network with children's schools
Collaborate with other parents from your children's schools and discover ways to support each other. Helping other families with carpools or after school childcare are examples of ways you can collaborate. These parents from your children's schools are a ready-made community of people who share your basic family life stages, objectives and needs.
Access mother's clubs and community groups
These groups offer access to local services, resources, and parenting advice. They are also a great way to alleviate the isolation that many new mother's experience when they stay home with their children. If you don't have a mother's club in your city, you might consider starting one with a few friends.
Form childcare or babysitting coops
Coops save money and allow you to create your own flexible schedule around your family's needs. Coops are not just for hippies who are stuck in the sixties, but can be a viable solution to today's economic challenges. Coops present another option for parents trying to find childcare, and they are an excellent alternative to expensive nannies and daycares.
Exchange services and get creative
Think outside the box and exchanges services with other parents such as childcare, babysitting, meals, gardening, and projects. Our communities and social systems need to adapt to the challenges and needs of the times, while prioritizing the wellbeing of our families. As an increasingly mobile and nomadic society, where families are often fragmented or unable to offer support, we have to find new ways of collaborating and supporting one another. If we are not affluent, paying for all the services it requires to raise a family is challenging. When we open up to the possibility that we can get creative and exchange services and expertise, we open up a whole new world of options.
Alloparent.org is a new social networking website that provides a forum for parents to exchange services and support. Especially during this difficult economic period, Alloparent.org offers a valuable service to parents who need support, but may not have the funds to pay for expensive services.
SUGGESTED HELPFUL WEBSITES
Free social networking site for parents to exchange services and support
Has 150 things you can do to build community (Harvard University)
About Lisa Nave:
Lisa Nave is a psychotherapist with a private practice in Mill Valley, California. She is also a writer, workshop facilitator, speaker, and the mother of two boys. Lisa began studying and writing about the social fragmentation of our culture after seeing so many of her clients struggle with this modern challenge. Alloparent.org is one of the solutions that came to Lisa in her quest to bring support and connection to parents, families and communities everywhere.
For more information, visit www.lisanavemft.com.