Strengthening parent connections in Charlotte, NC

By Ailen Arreaza

Whenever I talk to other parents about the work I’m doing with ParentsTogether, I explain that we are building a national organization that supports the needs of parents and families — sort of like AARP supports seniors. And then, I always get the same exact response from everyone, “Wow, I can’t believe that something like this doesn’t already exist!”

I can’t believe it either; that’s why I do this work.

As a mom of two boys, ages 5 and 2, I can say, without a doubt in my mind, that parenting is the hardest job I have ever had. Most parents I know feel the same way. Having children is a huge responsibility — one that brings moments of the most profound joy and pride, but also some of our biggest frustrations and challenges. We need more support, from each other and from policymakers at the local and national level.

We hear it over and over again — the biggest challenge parents face is “juggling it all.” Well, what if it was just a little bit easier to ask for and receive help from the other parents on your block, at your school, in your community? What if we all pitched in with things like carpooling and babysitting? And then, once we were all connected in ways that improved our day-to-day lives, what if we banded together for even bigger causes? What if we became a united force that could sway policies around parental leave or teacher pay? What kind of impact would that have on parenting in the United States?

This is our vision for what ParentsTogether can build nationally and it all starts with parent to parent connections at the local level. We are launching our first pilot in Charlotte, where we are working to build a tightly knit community of parents.

They say that one of the hardest things to find in Charlotte is a native Charlottean. From our growing immigrant population to the young professionals who come to work for the big banks, Charlotte is full of transplants. Many of us don’t have the strong support network of extended family to help us navigate through parenthood and need better ways to connect to other families in our community.

In my case, my children have grandmothers living in Africa and Venezuela and aunts and uncles everywhere in between. My husband Tony and I often rely on friends to help with emergency childcare or school drop-off, but we desperately wish we had a wider network of support — other parents with whom we could trade babysitting for date-nights, organize play dates, or share information about things like magnet programs and Little League.

ParentsTogether wants to facilitate that process. We want to make it easy to reach out to other parents in your child’s class for homework help or a get-together outside of school. We want to create communities of new parents who can support each other during the often isolating and confusing first year of life with a baby. We believe that these connections have the power to transform the lives of parents and children.

We are just getting started and our goal is to build this community alongside parents. We want your input, your thoughts, your ideas. We want to hear about your challenges and successes. How are you already connecting to other parent in your community? Where do you wish you could have better connections? What are the issues you really care about?

Join us as we build this community, first in Charlotte and, eventually, at a national level. Join us so that, in a few years, when I talk to parents about my work at ParentsTogether, their response is, “Of course. I’m already a member.”



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