Posted: Sep 09, 2013 10:00 AM
 
Let’s face it — raising kids is tough. Whether you are a WAHM, a SAHM or you work outside the home, being present and available for every milestone and event is nearly impossible. We all have those who we rely on to help us in a pinch, or just cover our back when we falter. Who do you count on?

Got kids? Then you understand — there is a lot that goes into keeping them healthy, happy and thriving. It gets even harder when they are school-aged, with homework, tutors, after-school activities and various other commitments looming every afternoon. Ever wonder how your neighbors seem to do all the things? We asked some of our favorite moms how they use their "village" to keep their families running smoothly.

All in this together

Forming a bond with other moms who also need a little helping hand is a great way to share the load.

Christina Daves and her best friend were the co-owners of a shop for almost 10 years — and raising families at the same time. "We had a complete carpool system down, from preschool through elementary school," she recalls. "We had friends and neighbors who helped us out during peak seasons, like Christmas and Mother's Day." Forming a bond with other moms who also need a little helping hand is a great way to share the load. Daves is now a successful entrepreneur who frequently speaks to groups of women entrepreneurs and recommends that they too find their support group. "With my current business, I travel occasionally and don't hesitate to ask friends or neighbors to help out," she shares. "Of course, I reciprocate as often as possible — and when I am here and the kids all want to go somewhere, I always volunteer to take them so I don't feel badly when asking for it when I need it."

Start early

Start building your network of friends, neighbors and family members when your child is just a baby. Often these early relationships continue throughout childhood — and beyond. "When my youngest son graduated from college this past May, his best friend's father, someone who is now like a brother to me, was there at Sean's graduation — just as proud as if he was his own son," shares author Jean Ellen Whatley.

More recent research informs us that yes, babies and young children are capable of attaching to around seven or eight key figures who are able to provide them with consistent, loving, attentive care.

Elly Taylor is a relationship specialist, researcher and author of the book Becoming Us: Loving, Learning and Growing Together. "Our original understanding of attachment research was that babies attached only to their mothers. Later we thought attachments were hierarchical (mother, father, other caregivers), but more recent research informs us that yes, babies and young children are capable of attaching to around seven or eight key figures who are able to provide them with consistent, loving, attentive care," she says.

Juggling balance

When writing her book Mogul, Mom & Maid, author Liz O'Donnell spoke with more than 100 working mothers to find out how they balance their lives. "These women absolutely confirmed that it takes a village," she says. O'Donnell shared with us how she helps keep her daily life in balance. "For me personally, I rely on the friends I've made among the parents at my children's school," she shares. "For example, when I couldn't chaperone a field trip, my friend — who did accompany the class — sent me pictures of my daughter throughout the day. It brightened my day knowing what my daughter was up to and seeing her having such a fun day."

Expert's take

Relationships during childhood and adolescence are the first examples of how all relationships are likely to operate. They provide practice for the development of proper interpersonal skills.

Can these other adults we come to rely on actually have a positive impact on our children's lives? Tamara Hill, MS, is a child and adolescent therapist. She not only works with families, but she was also a caregiver for her nephews during the first years of their lives. "As a child therapist who works with multiple parents and families, I see the importance of allowing children and adolescents access to more than their own parents during early developmental years," she says. "Relationships during childhood and adolescence are the first examples of how all relationships are likely to operate. They provide practice for the development of proper interpersonal skills."

While parents like to feel that they are the best teachers for their child, they get a much broader scope of knowledge when we include others. "When kids experience relationships with others — grandparents, aunts, uncles, extended family, good friends, close family friends — they can come to understand that there are different rules or expectations and levels of affection in their interactions with others. Kids not only learn more from others, but also learn how to interact positively in various relationships. This is essential in helping them determine how to interact in adult relationships," Hill adds.

Find your village

Even if you aren't juggling raising your family with a career, your kids — and you — will benefit from an extended network of caring adults that they feel comfortable with. See someone in need? Offer to help. You never know what an impact you could have on another family's life.

More on raising your family

Single dads speak out
Should you have another kid?
The sitter swap

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