Sunday, August 25, 2013

Countdown to TTC: Week 49

Celebrating with 101 Play Group and Bob the Builder

Meet Some Families in Your Community

 As a fairly young prospective parent and a graduate student whose peers are still fairly unsettled in terms of career and family, I have found it somewhat difficult to get to know people who are parents.  I suspect that most people naturally meet other parents when they are expecting a first child and continue to develop those relationships as their kids grow, but I think it could also be helpful to begin incorporating parents and children into my social network before I have baby #1.  With that end in mind, I incorporated two challenges into this week of my countdown.  

First, I agreed to babysit.  It can be difficult as a non-parent to mingle with families with kids because of the limited shared social opportunities that are available.  Since it doesn't seem like a great idea to be the creepy stranger who shows up at parks or kid's soccer games (for good reason), I realized the best way for me personally to meet parents around me is to serve them.  This can be especially easy if you are part of a church or a student--just put the word out there that you are available to help and you are likely to start getting requests.  This weekend, DH and I agreed to watch two kids for a family that we know from naptime to bedtime.  Admittedly, we have been babysitting for this family for a couple of years now so it wasn't a completely new item for my countdown, but lately I have started to look at these experiences as an opportunity to learn about and prepare for future parenting situations.  If you decide to try this too in your prep for TTC, bonus points if you can get your significant other to go with you.  It is always great for me to see DH interacting with children and imagine what a wonderful father he will be.  Babysitting can have the added benefit of reminding you to appreciate your current life stage.  The kids are adorable and fun, of course, but it's a good reminder of how much work it is to care for little ones full time. 

Of course, not everyone has opportunities to babysit and some people may worry that they aren't prepared to care for someone else's children because of their lack of experience.   If that describes you, it may be especially beneficial for you to seek out some parents for your social network and there are other ways to connect with them besides child care.  My second challenge for the week meets those criteria: in addition to babysitting, I decided to volunteer for the meals ministry at my church.  This group provides a service to new parents and others in our congregation who are currently in need of some extra help getting meals together for their family.  It's a new experience for me and the first informational meeting hasn't happened yet, but I'm sure I will feel good meeting others' immediate needs and may even have a chance to develop friendship with some of the families.  There will probably be plenty of opportunities to offer help and to listen in addition to just dropping off food.  Plus, I will be getting a chance to contribute to a service I plan to use in the future and will be inspired to start perfecting some healthy family recipes.

Here are the benefits (as I see them) of getting to know some families before you have kids:
  1.  Becoming a first-time parent can be stressful and it is nice to know you have some experienced guides to support you.
  2. Pregnancy and the early parenting days might be at least slightly less intimidating when you know what to expect and have some clue what you're doing.  You might never be totally prepared, but interacting with and observing other kids can definitely provide some perspective and confidence.
  3. Helping out parents in whatever way you can is a good way to figure out what kinds of help might be available to you when you become a parent.  New parents can miss out on valuable community resources if they don't know about them or aren't sure how to request assistance.
  4. Pregnancy isn't the best time to completely overhaul your social network.  You want to have support from people you know and have build lasting relationships with when you are starting a family.  Incorporating some parents into your group of friends before it's a practical necessity might not totally solve this problem, but could help you get used to balancing friendships with people at different life stages.  It might also help you figure out how to plan activities that friends with and without kids both enjoy, so you don't drift away from your non-parent friends after having a baby.  
  5. It never hurts to help someone out!  Even if you don't become best buddies with any of the families you meet, you'll have made some new acquaintances, established some goodwill, and made a positive difference in your community. 
What about you?  Do you know a lot of parents, or did you before you had your first child?  Do you think there are any benefits?  Do you struggle with maintaining friendships with people who are in a different stage of life?  How can people maintain a thriving social network regardless of their current marital or parental status?     

For more in this countdown series, see last week's challenge about Saving.

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