Becoming a new parent can be one of the most stressful and scary things that can happen to a person. The entire 18 years (and beyond) that you are responsible for raising another human being can be filled with uncertainity, self-doubt, and confusion. These years can also be filled with love, wonder, happiness and confidence. This is where support comes in. When parents have a good support system, the chances of feeling overwhelmed are dramatically reduced. Parents surrounded with love, support, and good information make better choices and are less likely to do things that negatively impact their child's life. But it can go the other direction too. When parents are surrounded with critical, negative people, false or damaging information (although well meaning), and hostile people, parent's tend to feel alone, alienated, or attacked. This, in turn, makes for some bad decision making.
You really need to have a discerning ear and a clear idea what kind of parent you want to be. And when I say a clear idea, I mean detailed. Everyone wants to be a "good" parent. Who in their right mind would say otherwise? So when I ask "What kind of parent do you want to be?", "A good one" is not the answer. No shit sherlock. We all know how much I hate labels, so I am not asking for you to label yourself, just be aware of who you are. What being a good parent means to you is different for everyone. Perhaps you want to be strict, stern, yet loving. Perhaps you want to be an "attachment" parent, or "natural". Maybe your idea of a good parent is just someone that does their best with what they have. That's all that we can all really do. Once you have a clear idea of who you are, then you have a clear idea of how you want to raise your children. Everyone is different. There is no one true path when it comes to parenting. You make your own path. Some people think there's only one way - well, they're wrong in my opinion. Yes, there are some choices that you can make that have fewer negative consequences, but that's for you to figure out on your own. As long as your intentions are good, your love is grand and your mind is open, there's no wrong path.
So where's the support? It's all around you. In the real world and here in the good 'ol world of cyber space. Finding good support is not an easy task sometimes. Once you know who you are and what kind of parent you are, this task can be easier. You can look at advice and know if it lines up with your philosophy or end goal. Remember, in the middle is where the balance is. There is nothing good to be had in the excess or deficient. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. You can look for support in your community, family, and social circles. Just ask around. Sometimes the best support isn't a organized group or service, it's just your friends. If you are a brand new parent, it can be likely you are the first of your friends and you feel alone. Don't panic. You are not alone. This is a prime opportunity to reach out to new people. Broaden your horizions and give new people a chance (especially the ones you wouldn't of considered to be your friend). Sometimes, though, if people aren't an option right now, the internet is a wealth of good information as long as you can discern between good sources and no-so-good sources. Articles, blogs, websites can offer support in the form of knowledge. Knowledge is definitely power when it comes to pregnancy, birth, and parenting.
Unfortunately, sometimes when you find an awesome group of like minded moms or dads, (especially, moms....it's the hormones, I guess) you will see some not-so-good things go on. Recently, in one of the groups I frequent, there were some sad occurences. A mom had posted about making a certain decision and wanted some information and opinions to aid her in making her final choice. What ensued from this was pitiful display of narrow-mindedness, judgement, and quite frankly, bitchiness. I didn't even read all the drama, but from what I saw, this seems to have really tainted the group. I didn't read the entire thread in question but I read the threads that came after. Many moms posted to say that they were leaving because there was too much judgement and drama. Others posted to put their two cents in on what had happened. Whenever a group starts losing people because of disputes like this it means that the support is no longer support at all. I know that we are all human and have things that we get passionate about and everyone has their one subject they don't like to compromise on, but....really? Can we get that close-minded to each other?
From what I did read of the reaction posts, it seemed that no matter what side of the argument the mom was on, the bottom line was the same - they didn't understand why a parent would be attacking other parents, the very people they are supposed to be supporting and/or receiving support from. So, if everyone wants to just get along, why don't they? I don't have the answer to that. It's just human nature to have the occasional dispute. The important part is to just agree to disagree, cool down, and move on. Just change the subject and reconnect on what you do have in common. As people, we just want someone to connect with us and understand us. Emotions can just run high.
Everyone is different, with different sets of values, ideas, and core beliefs. If we were all expected to be the same, where would the fun and freedom be in that? The sooner we all realize and embrace that, the sooner we can put our differences aside and love one another. When looking for support or advice, just take what is useful to you and leave the rest. Find a group or friend with similar ideas and philosophies. You will learn great things from one another.
Here are some places that I have personally found to be useful in my journey (so far):
BabyCenter Community - There are tons of message board groups. You pick the subject, they have it. It's great to read postings from people going through what you are going through or learning about a new parenting aspect. The best thing about boards is that you can talk back and forth but you can remain pretty anonymous if you want to.
Facebook Groups - Use good discernment here. With it being Facebook, they will start to know every detail of your personal life.
MeetUp - A good website to find playgroups or other groups with shared interests.
Churches - If you attend church, many churches have small groups that are organized by interest or age group. Some churches may have a women's group or a small group for people with children.
Those are just to name a few off the top of my head. Check your local yellowbook for parenting organizations or groups. Many times, wherever you had your prenatal care may have a group of moms with babies the same age as yours. Organizations such as the United Way also offer good local programs. And don't forget, you may have friends that are looking for the same exact thing you are!