We like to say that it takes a village to raise a child, but sometimes that village looks pretty sparsely populated. We often don’t live in our hometowns, surrounded by extended family members and friends we’ve had since elementary school. Our attached garages allow for extra privacy from—and less interaction with—our neighbours. We rely, mostly, on ourselves.
What we all need, writes Alison Beard for the Harvard Business Review, is a “parenting posse”:
In the past, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, or cousins might have played this role. But as David Brooks recently noted in The Atlantic, most of us live and work too far away from our extended families for that to happen anymore. Friends must become family. When you’re a working parent, especially one whose kids have grown out of simple daycare or nanny situations but can’t yet drive or take the subway or train on their own, that network—your posse—is how you survive.
I don’t think this only applies to working parents. Every parent needs help from time to time—and who better to provide that help than those who might need a little assistance in return? People who don’t have kids likely don’t understand why we’re so frazzled all the time and people who have grown kids have long since blocked out the frenzied nature of the day-to-day with little kids. When you have young children, your most valuable tribe members are going to be other parents of young children.
It’s true that it’s no easy feat to make friends as an adult, but you don’t need to think of these people as long-term besties. That’s not what we’re doing here. Your parenting posse should be composed of people you have a good rapport with—and trust with your children, of course—but being really close with them is not a requirement. You just need to have children of similar ages with similar interests and a similar desire to not do all of the things, all of time.
Here’s how to set forth and find them.
Be a helper
Who is going to most want to help you? Someone you have helped. The easiest way to recruit posse members is to offer to drop off, pick up or otherwise entertain their kids first. One mum in my neighbourhood definitely recruited me into her posse using this tactic. When our elementary school hosted a movie night, she offered to pick up my son and take him along with her son. It was so novel and lovely that the next time our school held a fundraiser—this time at a local trampoline park—I offered to bring her son along.
For years now, we’ve been taking turns in this unspoken agreement with drop-offs and pick-ups to school functions, the pool and any summer camps they end up in together.
If you help someone a couple of times, though, and they don’t at least offer to reciprocate? Probably not posse material.
Be an organiser
You’re already very busy—hence why you need help in the first place—and it might feel like the last thing you have time for is corralling a few baseball parents to work out a carpool system for practices. But imagine the payoff a little upfront organisation will earn you if you only have to transport kids every third practice instead of every practice. You are not the only parent who doesn’t want to do this every time. There are others who would love to take turns, and you can be the one to get that ball rolling.
Ask at practice if anyone wants to coordinate carpooling, get their phone numbers and set up a group text. From there you can figure out what kind of plan makes the most sense based on where you live and everyone’s work and extracurricular schedules.
Be a lingerer
This one goes against my very nature, but I think it’s key for parents who want to make connections and build a posse. You’ve got to strike up a rapport with other parents, which can only happen if you make an effort to get to events or practices a little early, hang out for a bit afterward and strike up conversation with the other parents. Watch who your kids gravitate to, let them walk back to the cars together and chat with the parents on the way to see if they have posse potential.
Before you know it, you’ll be like those five people in the picture above, arms wrapped around each other, dragging the lot of you toward the daily finish line.