Walking the path together

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by Heather Arnold Renicker

When ParentsTogether recently surveyed parents about how they’d like to connect with other moms or dads, I wasn’t surprised to hear that parents are looking for ways to meet others who share their family’s experiences. Sometimes, there’s nothing better than connecting with another parent who has walked a similar path as your own.

For my family, one of the parenting paths my partner and I have chosen is having an only child. This is not something I have found to be common or readily accepted in my parenting community. Upon discovering this about me, people often say things like, “Really?? The only children I know are weird and grow up to be alone and lonely because they can’t get along with others.” Or, “That’s so sad! Don’t you want to have another so she’ll have someone to play with?” I find this to be a very isolating and hurtful conversation.

I have my own reasons for choosing to have just one child. I believe I will be a better mom and partner. I believe I will be more capable of maintaining my sense of self outside of being a mom, which is important to me. These are things that are true for and personal to me. I respect the choices other parents make on this issue–to each their own!

A little over a year ago, I was introduced to another family in my community who chose to have an only and we often rely on each other for support regarding this particular choice. It’s been extremely helpful for us to talk with another family that has similar reasons for having an only child. We talk about how our kids are doing as onlys, what our worries are about them being the sole focus of our family, how they can learn to be giving and kind (something I’m sure parents of multiples worry about as well).

For my family, one place we needed support was around our decision to have one child. At ParentsTogether, we believe that there’s incredible power in helping all kinds of families connect and creating their own communities of support. Whether you are a single mom having a baby at 45, grandparents raising your grandchildren, a single father adopting a child–ANY kind of family. You should be able to connect to other parents in similar situations for support and guidance.

Our programs over the next year are aimed at learning how we can best help parents connect in their communities – starting with new parents and families whose kids are entering elementary school at the same time. And we’re also interested in making parent connections within neighborhoods and across towns.

Most importantly, we’re creating a “no judgement” zone.

These feelings of isolation, of being alone in our choice, has made my partner and I very aware of how we can be supportive to other parents in our communities, regardless of what their family structure is. We strive to be welcoming to any and all people who are outside of the box of how “traditional” families have been defined.

If you could connect with any group of parents in your local community, what kind of parents would you like to meet? What experience, choices, or preferences would you want to be able to share?

ParentsTogether is a 501 (c)3 nonprofit community of over 3 million parents, caregivers, and advocates working together to make the world a better place for all children and families.

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