Where do we go today to find genuine in-person connection, support, and community? How do we build that village that was such a natural part of the way we lived our lives just a couple of generations ago? Becoming a parent for the first time led Gabrielle Nancarrow to ponder these questions. Here, Gabrielle explores the ways you can find your ‘village’ in this modern world.
When my first daughter was born, I was living in New York. I remember spending countless hours at the park trying to pluck up the courage to chat to other parents or nannies for a little adult conversation and connection amidst the long days of newborn and babyhood.
The postpartum days are exhausting, and person-to-person connection is vital for your mental and physical well-being. Beyond this period, having a community and network of family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors close by who you can rely on in times of need is so important. So, how and where do we find our ‘village’?
Start with family
Your family is your original village and if you are lucky to be close to them both physically and emotionally, hold tight to those relationships and call on them when you need them.
Widen your friendship network
Old friends are the best, but new friends can be pretty amazing too. I’ve met some of my closest friends in my 30s and am so glad I opened myself up to those possibilities. You can meet potential friends anywhere—coffee shops, parks, exercise classes, neighbors, through existing friends, and even through online apps like Peanut. Take a chance — it’ll be worth it.
Talk to your colleagues
I mean, really talk. If you feel a connection with someone beyond the usual office friendship, ask if they want to catch up for dinner or a weekend walk. Put yourself out there. Some of the best relationships begin at work.
Embrace your parents’ group
If you’re lucky enough to have been placed in a nurturing, non-judgmental parents’ group, hold tight to those people as they will become your second family. If you haven’t felt a connection with anyone in your group — which, don’t worry, is totally normal and happens all the time — look for local groups or spaces to connect with other new parents who are more on your wavelength.
In 2018 I founded a women’s space in Seddon, Melbourne called Gather, and our purpose is to connect and nurture women and help them build their village. Check us out and if you’re local, feel free to email or drop in any time to learn more.
Join a playgroup
Playgroups are great. They give you a chance to get out of the house, socialize your baby and chat to other new parents on a weekly basis. Take a look at your local council’s website or speak to your postnatal nurse for more info.
Chat to parents at the park
As a new parent you find yourself at the park a lot. The park is honestly one of the best places to connect with other parents, and most of the time they are more than willing to engage in some adult conversation. Some of the best friendships are formed on the playground.
Ask for help
Why is it so hard for parents to ask for help? Is it because we feel like we’ve failed by doing so? Possibly. We all put so much pressure on ourselves to appear as if we have it all together when the truth is, most of us do not. So, try asking for help. Most people enjoy the feeling they get from helping others. You might actually be doing someone a good turn by providing the opportunity for them to feel good about themselves.
Whether you’re a soon-to-be parent and looking to set yourself up for a healthy postpartum, you or someone in your family is unwell, or you just don’t feel good and need to talk, please reach out to those in your community. Opening up to other people can be difficult, but the benefits of friendship and connection far outweigh any short-term nerves or shyness you may feel. Remember to be yourself. We are all here for you.
Written by Gabrielle Nancarrow. Gabrielle is a parent, birth and loss doula, and the founder of Gather, a space for women to come together, connect and build a community free of judgment. She is passionate about speaking our truths, sharing our stories, and celebrating honest motherhood. Gather is located in Seddon, Melbourne (Australia), and offers workshops, doulas, yoga, meditation, and sharing circles.