By Bethany Robertson
My three-year-old son is an only child, but if you ask him, he’ll tell you that he has a sister.
A few months before Zachary was born, my partner and I recruited some friends to move into our apartment building with their daughter, Julia. Little did I know, this was one of the best moves I would make as an expectant mom.
Zach and Julia have grown up together in a daily way, as siblings. And just as importantly, we as parents have banded together to create an incredible support network.
Our two families regularly trade childcare, cooking, school pick-ups, sick day coverage, and date night babysitting. These are all things that immediate family might have shared before, but now with so many of us living far away from where we grew up, we have to create new support networks.
At ParentsTogether, we are challenging ourselves to develop programs, services, and benefits that truly transform the experience of parenting in this country.
When I consider my own family’s experience – what’s been most transformative is having the support of other families in my community – a release valve when the weight of work-life-family becomes too much and I need a little back-up.
For me, it’s not just our relationship with Julia’s family, but with many other parents in our community as well. This winter, for example, we banded together with two other families in our building to trade childcare on the endless school snow days. Other parents at Zach’s school have helped us navigate camps and summer care. Moms from my birth group continue to provide guidance on the many “is this normal” developmental questions. A parent from my neighborhood has been great to talk with about raising moral kids with a sense of justice.
At ParentsTogether, we are driven by this question: How can we make it even easier for you to connect with other parents in your community to share resources and support? How can we connect you with parents you may not yet know who might actually have just the information or experience that would be helpful to you? And how can we do this in ways that embrace the changes happening in American families?
In the past ten years alone, there have been tremendous shifts in the number of moms in the workplace, as well as significant increases in the number of moms raising kids on their own. At the same time, many of the new generation of Millennial dads are taking a very different approach to fatherhood, and like my partner, Peter, they are looking for parenting communities and resources that speak to not just to mothers, but to fathers as well.
At ParentsTogether, we embrace all of these changing definitions of parenting and families. Our goal is to meet parents where they are and provide support around their everyday needs.
In addition to giving and getting personal support, we also see incredible value and power in connecting parents to take action on issues that matter to them. One thing we know for sure: There is no one better positioned to speak up on issues around great schools, supportive work-family policies, affordable health care, and strong early childhood programs than parents.
To help raise all of our voices, ParentsTogether aims to help parents connect both locally and nationally with others who share our concerns on issues affecting our families. Can you imagine what it would be like if parents became a force for change and transformed “family friendly” rhetoric into tangible policies and funding that support our families?
Like all new social movements, we’re starting with the personal – the one to one, the community connections that make a difference in the day to day, and growing from there.
For our family, I feel incredibly lucky to have such a strong support network just a few floors away. I know not everyone can move into the same building or the house next door. But I also know that none of us need to go it alone. Sometimes we just need a little nudge to put ourselves out there – to ask for what we need, or to enlist others around the issues that move us.
That extra support isn’t just good for us as parents, but for our kids as well– just ask Zachary and his sister.