You’ve heard it before: “It takes a village to raise a child.” In today’s world, with so many demands placed upon modern parents, that phrase is truer than ever. Embarking on the parenthood journey alone will likely be a constant uphill climb. Having friends and family there to support you will make it much easier.
But, how exactly do you build this support system, especially if your choice to parent after an unplanned pregnancy may not be accepted by all of your loved ones?
Remember, supportive family and friends will always be there for you in a time of need. You may be surprised at their reactions when you start creating your personal support system.
Telling your parents about your choice to raise a child, especially as a result of an unplanned pregnancy, can be nerve-wracking. You might worry that they’ll think you’re too young or unprepared to be a parent — but overcoming that fear and asking for help from them shows a maturity that they should positively respond to.
There’s a reason why people tend to go to their parents in crisis situations. No matter your circumstances, good parents will always be there to support you. They want nothing more than to help you succeed. When it comes to parenting, they also have an experience that can be invaluable to you as an expectant parent.
If you do not have a good relationship with your parents, consider other parental figures who can step in for support. Maybe you have older adults that you typically turn to for advice and, although they are technically not your “parents,” they can still be helpful as part of your parenting support system.
Your parents (or parental figures), once they accept the news of your unplanned pregnancy, can answer your questions and offer guidance in a way that few others can. They know you best, and they can help anticipate some of the difficult times of parenting you may experience. After all, they’ve been in your shoes before.
Parents can also offer practical help while you start your parenting journey. Many new parents move in with their own parents early after the birth of the baby, or their parents spend an extended time visiting during the first couple of weeks. Your parents, if they live close, can be great babysitters when you need them to be.
Many parents, once they overcome their surprise, embrace the opportunity to become a doting grandparent, no matter how unexpected it may be.
Your Extended Family
Similarly, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents and other extended family members can provide the same kind of support. To create the best support team, you want to include a variety of loved ones who can meet different needs. You should not rely on one person for all of your support, even your spouse — you can quickly burn them out and wear out their helpfulness.
It’s likely that your extended family has different skills. For example, you may have a cousin who can help with emergency household repairs while you take care of your child. A nearby sibling may be able to help get your child to daycare and school, while another family member can be a great babysitter.
When you start creating your family support system, consider all of the extended family you have and how they can best serve your growing family. And, of course, don’t assume they will be there for your every need — involve them in your pregnancy and parenting even when you don’t need something from them. Having your child grow up with their extended family members is another advantage of building this positive relationship.
Depending on your friends’ personal parenting situation, they may serve different needs in your life. Friends who have children can provide a sounding board for you and a friend group for your child as he or she grows up. Like your parents, these friends have been through what you are going through — but, because they are likely closer to your age, they may have input on modern parenting dilemmas that your own parents didn’t experience.
On the other hand, if you have friends with no children, they can provide a reprieve from your daily life of focusing on your child. They can be there when you need a night out or even just an adults’ night-in (sans children).
The relationships you have with your best friends are unlike any other; they are often willing to listen to you every day, whether or not they have children themselves. They may have known you for years before this unplanned pregnancy, which is why they can be a great person to talk to if you’re still not sure that parenting is right for you. They can offer honest advice and support that others cannot.
When you become a parent, you become a part of a brand-new community of people in your area. You will find yourself connecting with other parents through daycare, school, after-school activities, and more.
Today, there are local community groups for parents facing all kinds of issues: divorce, single parenting, children with special needs, etc. If you are struggling to accept your parenting decision, or you anticipate having a unique parenting path, these local groups can be extremely helpful. They can offer a place for you to air your concerns, share your stories and listen to others dealing with the same issues.
Participating in community groups can also grow your own network of trusted friends. From these meetings, you can find more people to provide different kinds of support as you grow into your parenting confidence.
Online Support Groups
Finally, one of the newest aspects of a successful parenting support system is online support groups. Many current and expecting parents use groups created through social media to share their stories, ask questions and listen to others’ input. These groups allow a way for parents to connect with a wide number of people across the country and even the world.
However, before joining online support groups, a word of advice: They’re not always beneficial. While the majority of parents in these groups are supportive and helpful, there are always people who use these groups to “mommy shame” others. For some reason, commenting on people’s parenting skills is a common thing to do on social media, despite the fact that how you raise your child is no one’s business but your own.
We encourage you to evaluate the pros and cons of online support groups before adding these tools to your parental support system.
No matter who you end up involving in your parenting support team, remember: No one will know to offer help unless you ask for it.
It can be intimidating to admit that you need help. You may feel like you’ve failed as a parent if you can’t handle it all on your own — but that’s not at all true.
Every parent needs help now and then. What separates the good parents from the bad is the ability to be brave and honestly ask for (and accept) help when they need it. A parental support system is a reciprocal relationship; those who you have helped in the past will jump at the chance to help you now. With their help, you can be the kind of parent you’ve always dreamed of being.