Don’t have a village? How to create one

Occasionally I speak in summits like this one, and the conversation is lively. Dr. Laura Markham talked about giving ourselves permission to be less productive. Lori Petro talked about healing ourselves if we didn’t grow up with good role models for communication. I talked about letting our kids do things for themselves — and asking for help for ourselves. To that last point, one mom commented on Facebook, “What if [the support network] just isn’t there? There’s no village.”

This is such a big issue for nearly all of us, I think. The village isn’t there. We have to work to create it. I talk about this issue in my book, Zero to Five: 70 Essential Parenting Tips Based on Science (“Ask for help”). But here’s a more complete list of the things I did to create a village for myself:

  • Following up with a retired neighbor who said she’d love to watch my baby any time. Texting her with a specific date and time (including “Can you take her for 60 min right now?) and not waiting for her to come up with one.
  • Joining a new-parent support group (, for those in Seattle) to meet people with babies the same age
  • Going to places where other new moms were, like mom & baby yoga or library story time or music class or the playground or the grocery store. Going for walks. Walking instead of driving.
  • Getting over my introverted personality to talk to these other moms and say something real. AND saying “Let me give you my number.” AND actually texting.
  • Taking it upon myself to text a few neighbors whenever I was going for a walk or to the playground or to the farmers market or whatever, so they could join (knowing it often wouldn’t work out, since it was so spontaneous too hard to plan ahead in those early months but continuing to offer).
  • Sending invites for pajama playdates or early dinners, and not getting fancy about it, so no one felt like we had to look nice or prepare amazing food or clean the house to have each other over.
  • Asking a close friend (without kids) to set aside the third Thursday of every month to babysit, so my husband and I could have a date night. Doing this with a couple other people!
  • When people would ask over e-mail or social media how I’m doing, I’d say, Let’s get coffee. (Let’s actually see each other. Build that real relationship.)
  • Even just wandering around the grocery store and talking to the person doing the food demo, whenever you need to get out of the house, can help save your sanity with a newborn.
  • Attempting to create a neighborhood babysitting co-op (this didn’t pan out, though).
  • Offering to watch other people’s kids whenever they needed help. Offering again. (We often have trouble accepting help, yes?) Offering to just bring a friend’s kid with me when I was going to the children’s museum or the beach (this was probably after a year old).
  • Getting it on my calendar that I would go to a weekly yoga class or a monthly girls night out while my husband watched the babe.

I really took this seriously. Even if you have family nearby — my mom lives an hour away — you still need people literally next door, and you still need friends with kids going through the same stuff you are.

This village usually doesn’t just exist. Building it, though, definitely pays off!

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