Find Your Parenting Villagers

mom walking with preschool daughter

You’re a working parent. You might live far away from family. And you probably need help from time to time. How will you find support when you have to take a business trip or the caregiver is sick? These are questions many working parents face — and the answer is to build yourself a parenting village.

When you’re looking for pinch hitters and wondering where to begin, other than paying a sitter, follow this advice from Daisy Dowling, HR and work-life expert.

Think about who your “third parents” are. Who knows your family well and has good judgment? Who could you rely on to take your child to the pediatrician if you were away from home? Think of a few people you trust to build the pillars of your village.

Then, use the six Cs to find your villagers.
Career: Who, among your past and present managers, formal and informal mentors, and professional connections can you look to for support, job flexibility, and advice on how to do your job more efficiently? Chances are: many in your professional network are also working parents and can offer guidance.

Colleagues: Within your organization, who can say “been there, done that” when it comes to working parenthood? These colleagues will be an invaluable resource — they understand the company’s culture, personalities, dynamics, time pressures related to the job, and how to advance. They can offer both advice and practical support, such as collaboration on projects or even a ride to work when your car breaks down.

Corporate Resources: If you are looking for work-life relief, your employer may be able to help. Check out your company intranet and ask your HR rep or manager about what’s available to help support working parents, such as back-up care, flexible schedule options, and an employee assistance program.

Care: Cast your net as wide as possible, even if you already have a few people providing consistent care for your child, and think about who you can count on when you need someone to watch your child on a Saturday morning: the babysitter down the street, family members and family friends, a nearby friend from college, and the list goes on.

Couple: Be direct about what you need with your spouse or partner, and be willing to hear what your partner needs as well.

Community: Ask for help from neighbors, members of your church or synagogue, and extended family.Help your child get to know your village.
If you have many different people you might rely on in any given situation, help your child get comfortable with them. If you intend to ask the neighbor to care for your child when you have to run an errand, make sure you schedule play dates at his or her house.

Avoid feeling like you’re being a burden. People want to help. You might be hesitant to ask — but you can’t do it all. Be sure to ask your villagers to let you know if it gets to be too much; if someone doesn’t want to or can’t help, they’ll likely tell you. Remember, it’s a two-way street: you can be helpful, too! If some of your fellow villagers are working parents, too, create a culture of mutual aid and support. And, of course, say thank you.Smart working parents don’t try to do it all — they try to figure out how to get it all done. So stop beating yourself up, get comfortable asking for help, and start building your village.Hear more from Daisy in “Parenting Takes a Village,” an episode from the Work-Life Equation podcast series.

Written by: Bright Horizons Education Team