Over the past few years I’ve become keenly aware of the social fragmentation in our society. What began as a personal experience of feeling somewhat isolated as a parent trying to make my way quickly evolved into a full time examination of family, community and social structures in our society.
As a psychotherapist in private practice, I also noticed that an increasingly high percentage of my clients were having similar struggles. In many families both parents had to work, which meant that they had little time left for grocery shopping and preparing family dinners, or carpooling their kids after school to soccer practice or ballet, or reviewing homework at night, or getting that house project completed. Most of the parents I talked to felt overwhelmed by their responsibilities, and didn’t know how to improve their situation. They had to work long hours to make ends meet, and they often had no family nearby to help with the kids. I recognized these to be modern challenges that needed new solutions.
Beyond the economic difficulties of social fragmentation, I was concerned about child development. I worried that many children were not getting what they needed from their parents or our society. They needed their parents to be consistently present to form secure attachments from an early age, and to feel that they belonged to something meaningful. Whereas being present with our children used to be the norm, it now seemed like a luxury, reserved for those with enough income to fund a nanny, gardener, and perhaps a home chef or trainer. Parents with these luxuries were certainly not your average Americans trying to raise a family.
I continued to read and write about the topic of social fragmentation, and out of it came a manuscript, a workshop, and Alloparent.org, a social networking website for parents that provides a forum for parents to exchange services and support. The idea behind Alloparent.org is ancient: the idea that communities help each other raise their children. As humans we are wired to parent together as a result of millions of years of evolution. But the industrial revolution, among other events, left the modern family isolated—left to fend for itself in an increasing expensive and fragmented culture.
With Alloparent.org, parents can create a group in their city, or a sub-group on their street. They can also create groups for specific needs, such as childcare or carpools or meal exchanges or gardening. And it’s free. Some parents will be interested in forming on-going groups, and others will choose the a la carte option, where they initiate an exchange on a one-time basis. Alloparent.org is there to help serve the individual needs of each parent and family.
More than anything else, I think Alloparent.org represents a mind-set and an awareness that parents need more support in our society. When people join Alloparent.org, they feel that coming together as a community and wanting to collaborate as parents and families is acceptable. They are not embarrassed as they might otherwise be, because the culture of Alloparent.org supports and advocates for community collaboration.
Lisa Nave is a psychotherapist in private practice in Mill Valley, CA. She is also a writer, speaker, and the mother of two boys.
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