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See our guest post at the New America Foundation: Equality and Justice for All Families.

 

Affirmation, Information and Advocacy

on October 25th, 2012 at 1:30:01 AM

It’s great to Partner with Attachment Parenting International this month to celebrate attachment parenting and focus on the theme of parent support.

Family and Home Network has been supporting parents for almost three decades!  We focus on helping families spend generous amounts of time together and we do this by offering parents affirmation, information and advocacy.

First of all, we affirm the importance of the parent-child relationship and the need for parents and children to spend generous amounts of time together. We offer information about research and experts’ advice on love, nurturing and time: Children’s Needs.

We affirm that choosing to spend time with children—whether cutting back on paid employment, or tag-team parenting by working different hours or choosing to be an at-home parent—can be a great choice. We provide a way for parents to share their thoughts and feelings, their experiences with personal growth. There are many affirmative essays on our website; here are excerpts from just a few:    

"The hardest task that many new mothers face is that of bringing shape and meaning to their day. At home there is no pattern, no schedule, no goal, until you make one. When my first child was an infant I had days when I was virtually paralyzed with indecision." Read more: What about YOU? by Nelia Odom.

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“I loved Liam from the time before he was born. People talk about the “miracle of birth”—and it is truly an amazing thing—but for me the true miracle is watching my son grow each day. Just as he continues to grow and develop, so does my love for him. In the beginning I didn’t realize just how much it would mean to me to spend so much time with Liam and be deeply involved with his care. I have since realized just how wonderful an opportunity I have been given…” Read more: Priority One by Tom Mayer.

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 “[…] I did not realize the two roads would diverge at motherhood, although in retrospect it is the most natural place for this to happen to a woman. Yet diverge they did, and choices have been required. So which is the road less traveled by? Certainly mothering at home is a trodden path if ever there was one. On the other hand, my generation -- the ME generation -- encouraged "having it all," and I am choosing a theme closer to giving it all.” Read more: The Road Less Traveled by Robin Morris.

When we offer parents information, we often look first to parents themselves to let us know what they’re thinking and experiencing. When we wondered about support groups, we asked parents: What are you looking for when you set out to find a group? What can we learn from others’ experiences? More than fifty parents told us about their experiences with support groups, and you can read about some of the many different forms that support comes in: Support Groups for Moms. And then don’t miss the accompanying article: How to Find (or Start) a Mothers’ Support Group. Our resource pages include a listing of national support organizations with local chapters.

Having multiple sources of support is a great strategy, and finding local, person-to-person support is really important. But it isn’t always easy to take those first steps in reaching out, as Gina Riazi recounts in A Brief Moment. And at-home dads face some unique challenges in the community, including “mom-centric customs” as Damon Riley describes in Not an Interloper.

We heard from many parents that an especially difficult time for them was when they were making the transition from the paid workforce to at-home parenting, In response, we developed our six-week Transitioning Home workshops. Using Google+ hangouts, small groups of parents connect online—right from their own homes. There is private access to online readings: informational, science-based readings as well as essays exploring personal experiences and emotions. A participant workbook offers brief assignments and the once-a-week 90-minute group discussion is led by a facilitator. Our waiting list is growing, and we’re working on ways to offer more groups in the near future.

In addition to affirmation and information, we believe that a crucial aspect of our work is advocacy: paying attention to the media and to public policies. We speak up about misleading information or stereotyping of at-home parents as well as about the widespread misuse of statistics. Our Campaign for Inclusive Family Policies calls on policymakers to support parents regardless of the ways in which they meet their income-earning and caregiving responsibilities. Our advocacy efforts have grown out of the concerns parents share with us; advocacy is a vital aspect of our support for parents.

When Family and Home Network was founded in 1984, it printed an award-winning monthly journal—Welcome Home—and mailed it to subscribers. The organization also printed books and special publications. But like many publishers, in recent years FAHN has had to give up printing on paper and rethink its communication strategy. Our all-volunteer team faced a very limited budget and a very big learning curve. Today, thanks to open source technology tools, FAHN is rebuilding and growing again. FAHN connects with parents via our website, with our Transitioning Home workshops, as well as social media, including our Facebook page, Google+ page, and Twitter account.  

In spite of all the changes in how we reach out to parents, the three pillars of support we offer to parents remain constant: affirmation, information and advocacy. 

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