Recently, we featured ESME, a site designed to empower and connect solo moms. Having experienced life as a solo mom after a divorce left her parenting her two children on her own, ESME founder Marika Lindholm became aware of the myriad challenges solo moms face every day. Today she’s sharing tips for how to build a support network — something all moms need.
When you hear the word “networking,” you likely think about getting a job or growing a business. But networking is also a huge plus for moms who parent on their own. Divorce, single parenthood, losing a partner and other solo mom realities often shrink your social support circle. Just when you need them the most, friends slip away, take sides or don’t relate to your circumstances. This means that focusing on extending your network becomes all the more important for your well-being.
Sociologists who analyze networks show us that the most effective networks are a blend of people who are closely connected (strong ties) and folks whom you don’t know all that well (weak ties). The result is that you get the support you need from strong ties, while the weak ties provide access to information that you wouldn’t normally get from your group of close friends. For example, a close-knit group of moms might know all the same babysitters and after-school programs, but moms outside your circle know about babysitters and kids’ events that you wouldn’t normally hear about. A dense network of many strong and weak ties provides the most support and information.
For solo moms, I would also make it a goal to connect with people who offer practical and emotional support. This usually isn’t the same person. There might be another mom or dad who’s always willing to help with a school pick-up, but you would never cry on their shoulder. And we all have those friends whose shoulder we cry on, but they’re completely unreliable when it comes to practical support because they are just as overwhelmed as you are. Help can come from unexpected places, so it’s a good idea to establish connections in your day-to-day interactions and online. Whether you’re at a soccer game or an after-school event, accept every business card, exchange phone numbers, take emails and be open to expanding your network. Sociologists have known for years that feeling socially connected is linked to happiness and well-being. With social media and mobile devices it’s easier than ever to find other moms with whom you can connect.
At ESME.com, our community is founded on the principle of connecting with like-minded women with similar challenges and creating opportunity to learn from a diverse group of solo moms you wouldn’t normally meet in your neighborhood or social circle. So get out there and build those strong and weak ties! —Marika Lindholm
Thanks, Marika! It’s so interesting to think about wanting to make “weak” ties, but it makes so much sense! What’s your best tip for making mom friends? —Erin