"These days, people come to the task of parenting with more experience in the work force, where they're used to being proactive and strategic, and they apply those approaches to networking as a parent," says Joanne Brundage, executive director of Mothers & More, a nonprofit organization based in Elmhurst, IL. With 8,000 members and 180 chapters around the world, Mothers & More supports "sequencing" women -- the increasing number of mothers who altered their careers to care for their children by choosing a variety of flexible work arrangements. "If they're lonely, they consciously set out to find like-minded men and women rather than just hoping that the next-door neighbor will be a good fit."
And we are lonely. Many parents, regardless of our circumstances, are caught off-guard by how much we need the company of fellow parents. Many of us are alone on our adventure, or we find ourselves out of sync with our existing friends. "The choices that I've made in balancing working and parenting have seldom been the same ones, at the same time, that my friends and family have made," says Brundage.
The trick is finding the right group for you. "Because so many of us are currently working, we're able to relax and not feel the need to defend the decisions we've made," says writer Pam Rosenzweig, 40, of her New Jersey based mothers' group, which is made up of professional writers. She adds, "It's becoming increasingly difficult to separate the mom issues from the work issues, since they're so closely interconnected. If you've had a bad day at work or your babysitter quits, it can start a chain of events that only people in a similar situation can appreciate."