Single Parents: You Don’t Have to Do It Alone

Find your village, because networking with other single parents can make life easier.

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When I was 10, after my parents divorced, my mother became a single parent, raising four kids practically on her own. I still don’t know how she managed at times, but she wasn’t without help.

The one thing I can say that made a huge difference was the fact that, even before Hillary Clinton spoke about “It takes a village,” we had a village. It seemed as though everyone on our street pitched in to help everyone else out. There were other single-parent households, where at any given moment you could find parents baby-sitting neighborhood kids. There were times when random parents would take us out with their children to give my mother a break, and my mother would do the same in return.

Next month will mark 12 years since I packed up my car, my son and our belongings and left the comfort of our home in New Jersey to see what life would have to offer us in Maryland. I was a 26-year-old single mother, leaving my security blanket of family and friends for the first time.

A job opportunity had arisen in Maryland, and I literally had days after I was hired to move. Was I scared? Of course, but I knew that if I passed on the opportunity, I might regret it for the rest of my life. The pros outweighed the cons, but not by much.

The biggest con was not having a support system in place in Maryland. In New Jersey, I had family and friends at my disposal. After my son’s birth, I hadn’t been afforded the opportunity to take an extended maternity leave, so I was back to work in a matter of weeks. But I didn’t have to worry about having strangers watch my infant, because my village consisted of my sisters, my mother and even my brother. Everyone pitched in.

Would I have that once I moved to Maryland? This is what I constantly asked.

As I settled in, I realized that being in a new place wasn’t easy. Did I pick the right area to live in? Where were the good schools? In 2002, social networking wasn’t at the height it is now. MySpace? Facebook? There was none of that.

But there was BlackPlanet. That site was where I was able to connect with other parents in the Maryland area. I had both mothers and fathers offering me advice about where to live, which areas had the best schools and which support groups I could join. Eventually I had my circle of parents to depend on. Some were single parents, some were not. But we all shared one interest: our children.

For a single parent, the village doesn’t always have to be a family member or close friend. With social networking, your village might be at your fingertips. Currently, one of the best sources out there for single parents is Meetups. Whether you’re a single mother or father, a “meetup” can be a valuable tool when you need to find parents with whom to network.

Meetup is the world’s largest network of local groups. According to the site, “Meetup makes it easy for anyone to organize a local group or find one of the thousands already meeting up face-to-face. More than 9,000 groups get together in local communities each day, each one with the goal of improving themselves or their communities.” With just a simple search, a single mom can find groups in or close to where she lives.