I remember coming across the saying “it takes a village” when I was about two months into new parenthood, and thinking to myself that I couldn’t agree more. This new phase of life is an incredible journey—full of challenges and joys—and I have found that success really can come through the support of a community.

I’m lucky to have an amazing support network of family and friends. They were there for me from the moment we discovered we were pregnant (and well before, too). However, there are ways that community became important that I wasn’t as aware of.

Here are a few that come to mind:

1. Connecting from Afar

Surprisingly, one of the most impactful support systems during my pregnancy and in early motherhood was online community. I joined a variety of groups through various social media channels, mostly with new parents or parents of babies born around the same time as my own.

It took some filtering to figure out which groups jived with my own beliefs and personality (there are some seriously judgy groups out there) but in all honestly, they have been a lifesaver. I’ve been able to pose questions about the various challenges or fears I’m having, and receive quick advice and feedback from people around the world.

I’ve also been able to share my own experiences with other new parents in an effort to help them, as well. And, we all get to share frequent and unfiltered photos of our little ones, which is refreshing and adorable. I even have met a couple of these “online mom friends” in person now, and I’m not sure that I would have ever met them otherwise.

My suggestion to expecting or new parents: start googling parent groups with your due date, and dive in. You might find something great.

2. Face-to-face Connection

We were strongly encouraged to join a weekly parent support group in our baby’s early life, and I am so glad that we got that recommendation. We are lucky to live in a city with a well-developed program like this that has a great reputation.

We were assigned to a group with other parents in our neighborhood with babies that were born around the same time as our own, and met with them once-weekly for twelve weeks. This gave us the chance to be surrounded by other new parents who were experiencing the same or similar highs and lows as we were.

It normalized the parenting experience, gave us people to call or text when we needed to, and gave me a reason to get out of the house during those tiring days of maternity leave (when I had little to no adult interaction all day)! This came with a financial investment, but it was well worth every penny.

3. Meals & More

A friend of mine set up a meal train for us when we were close to our due date so that friends and colleagues could sign up to bring meals to us for the first few months after baby was born. I admittedly felt a little odd “asking” for food; after all, I was going to be home all day and we had the means to get some meals together.

My friend assured me that this would be a great way for folks to feel like they could contribute, and she was right. Not only did we get hot meals delivered to us (when I could never have imagined how hard it would have been to make dinner!), but we also got to schedule out visits from people and make sure that lots of folks had the chance to meet the baby early on. I’m now adamant to set up meal trains for friends of mine who are expecting.

In general, I have learned that parenthood is not a journey that you need to take on your own. Community can look different for everybody, but leaning on others during this time can be incredibly helpful.

Featured Photo Courtesy: Nick Youngson