“Your life will never be the same.” “It will change everything.” “Get ready.”
Are you launching into orbit on a groundbreaking human expedition to Mars? No, you’re having a baby.
Fast-forward somewhere between four weeks and four years and you’ll be saying, “Wow. People told me but I just didn’t get it until I was living it.” We have to admit that parenthood really does change everything.
If you were launching into orbit, you could expect at least a psychological evaluation or maybe even some counseling sessions to emotionally prepare you. New parents can feel overwhelmed, unsure and stressed. But what is the very worst? New parents can feel isolated. When life changes so abruptly, everything else shifts too – daily schedules, social plans, work projects, partner relationships, friendships and more. The changes leave parents in need of support.
Many are lucky to have nearby family to lean on, but even then, parents often need support from other parents. You know, the ones also walking in the same clunky impossible Mars boots. But when you are living on Mars, how can you possibly find time (or the language) to reach out and find support?
- Plan ahead. If you are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant, consider this your red-light, blaring whistle warning: you will need help. You will need help with food in the first few weeks, sanity breaks in the first few months and solid reassurance as you go (never underestimate the power of “It’s normal. You’re doing a great job.”) So plan ahead and try to build a support system before your bundle of joy arrives.
- Churches and religious organizations often have many groups designed to support young parents. Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) reaches out to moms of kids birth-PreK and MOMSnexxt connects moms of school aged children (contact Grace Community Church at MOPS@graceb3.org). Small groups or bible studies area great way to connect regularly with other families. Being such an important need, parent connection is often a staple of many churches’ men’s and women’s ministries.
- You’re thinking, “Yeah right, I don’t even have time to shower. How could I spend time volunteering?” Trust us, it’s worth it. Sometimes serving alongside others in with a common goal bonds you and can strike a spark of friendship. Reach out to join committees like Ray of Hope’s h’ART of a Child, school parent groups or workplace service projects. They can all provide connection and purpose together. Your small time investment can be well worth it.
- Look in your own neighborhood (unless you live totally alone on Mars). Sometimes in the hustle and bustle of daily life, we don’t even notice the people right around us. Get to know your neighbors. Friends and support systems do not have to be peers – they come in all ages and backgrounds. Strike up a conversation in the yard. Take some cookies over. Invite a few neighbors over for a barbeque. When you need help, trusted neighbors can be an amazing, speedy resource.
- Check out your local YMCA. With programs for all ages and a family focus, you are sure to find other families and parents there.
- If you have older children, get involved in their school. Remember the volunteer bonding? Consider connecting over bettering your children’s education the Gorilla Glue of bonding. Schools are always looking for volunteers. The office secretary can guide you in the right direction.
- Use social media. Nothing can replace in-person support (especially when you need an emergency babysitter), but social media groups can provide specialized connection depending on your interests. It also serves as a wonderful research tool when you’re exploring groups to join. Connecting with a few people online prior to your first gathering can ease some newby jitters.
Let’s be honest – isolation can be scary and lead to unsafe situations for you and your children. After you get your new parent feet under you, blast off back from Mars. Your whole world may have changed, but you are still a major part of THE world. Finding your tribe may have some trial and error, but keep going. They are out there. Seek out the support you need and deserve then be sure to return the favor to your fellow Martians.