Cultivating friendships in the community



This post is an excerpt from MomSpeak blogger Erin Flynn Jay's new book, Mastering the Mommy Track: Juggling Career and Kids In Uncertain Times.

 I believe it’s important to cultivate friendships within your neighborhood or community. We have lived in our area for five years, so we have developed friendships with some of the neighbors. One of my neighbors has a young son close in age to Emma; we try to go out once every five weeks or so for a few hours. We check out different restaurants in the city, places we can walk to, and talk about our hectic schedules.

Emma is in daycare only three days a week, so I needed to find additional care for her to prospect for new clients and complete my work assignments. A neighbor has been watching her the other two days in the morning. Relying on a neighbor to babysit has been key. This woman has three kids of her own, two of whom are with Emma when she watches her. She has a son who is Emma’s age so they enjoy playing together. She can also watch both girls if I have to attend a late afternoon or evening event.

Connections

I am also a member of Philly Social Media Moms, a place for Philadelphia-area mom bloggers to network and socialize. This has been an important vehicle for me to connect with other local mom bloggers, learn more about the blogging world, and the challenges these moms face.

So after five years living here, I have developed friendships with other working moms and stay-at-home moms. Jason and I are happy to be living in Philadelphia, close to all Center City has to offer, but not right in the immediate center. It is a community — and we are here to help each other. I have also connected with parents at the girls’ schools on Facebook — this is a good way to stay in contact and updated on activities despite our hectic schedules.

Serena Wadhwa, PsyD, LCPC, CADC, a licensed clinical professional counselor in Chicago, agrees that technology has made it a bit easier to develop a support network. Here are Wadhwa’s suggestions:

  • Do Internet searches, check out groups on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or other social media, or even post what you are seeking and see what you get.
  • Meetup groups offer supportive networks as well.
  • There are groups you can check out at the YMCA, the library, or park districts.
  • Check with your local chamber of commerce, hospitals, and social agencies to see what groups they offer.
  • Neighbors, friends, and moms with whom you carpool or whose children have play dates with your children — these are all potential network sources.

Reach out for support

Find Mom's Clubs and other support in the MetroKids Support Guide.

The point is to figure out what you want support for, and then reach out. "Most women, in particular, tend to discuss and talk about things on their mind, but do not necessarily seek out solutions or ideas. The opportunity to vent and express themselves is also good. For example, if you are struggling with personal issues, you may want a group where others may be going through something similar, and you feel understood and not alone. You want a network that can offer support," said Wadhwa.

"Some groups are facilitated by a professional and some are not, so this is something to also consider. Maybe you want a group that offers suggestions and strategies about work or family situations that you’re uncertain how to handle. Maybe you’re seeking support for your marriage or relationships."

Another support network to consider is a mentor. "Mentors offer specific advice or suggestions on certain things based on their experience or specialization. Maybe you want to find new resources or connections, thus a networking event may be more what you seek," said Wadhwa. "So it really depends what you want and what you need. The main point is that you feel you are getting something from it, whether it’s connection, an opportunity to vent, a chance to share, get ideas or whatever."

With the advantage of social media, there are ways to connect with others and receive support in whatever capacity a person seeks, added Wadhwa. "Most of us can catch a few minutes during the day to connect with others, and that’s important. Of course if you are the only person who is initiating this, that may be a different issue."

Erin Flynn Jay is a Philadelphia writer, public relations executive and mom of two toddler girls. Check out her blog, Mastering the Mommy Track.

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