This article was originally published on KSL.com in Motherhood Matters.
Cynthia Bee knows firsthand the power that networking can have — especially for stay-at-home mothers.
In 2004, Bee and her sister, Jennifer Scott, had a vision to create an amazing play experience for the children in their rapidly growing West Jordan community. They rallied their friends, who rallied their friends, and they created the “Minivan Mom Brigade.”
Soon politicians, local businesses, religious organizations and even a few Fortune 500 companies joined their ranks and shared the vision of a community-built playground.
One year later — with the help of $425,000 in cash and in-kind donations raised by the group — 6,000 West Jordan residents spent 10 days building what is now the biggest playground in Utah: the Mountain America Credit Union “Wild West Jordan” playground.
“We built a powerful network of dreamers who made something impossible happen. Building a strong network not only provides you with access to amazing people, it inspires you to strive to become one yourself,” Bee said.
Moms need to reach out
No matter what our station in life, mothers can benefit from reaching out to others and networking. We have a lot to gain from each other.
One of the challenges of being a mother — especially a stay-at-home mom — is the tendency to lose yourself in raising your children.
Most of the time that is OK, it’s how it should be. But often we also lose site of our self-worth. The world around us seems smaller and we limit our personal growth and experiences, which might be the worst consequence.
Reaching out to friends and acquaintances expands our circle, provides opportunities to share our talents, and enriches our lives. In turn, the lives of our families are enriched. It’s a ripple effect.
Bee has many lifelong benefits from her playground project. “I didn’t earn a single dime or perk from leading that unimaginably stressful project,” she said, “but the life lessons have enriched me in every possible way since that time. I’ve gained some lifelong friends, and I now know who I can call on and count on in any imaginable situation.”
Find like-minded people
For the most impact, it is important to network with other like-minded people — people who share a common interest but may be in different stages of life. They can provide perspective not available within your usual peer group.
Bee believes that “cultivating a network of friends and acquaintances who share a common interest or goal enables you to continue to challenge yourself in ways that bring joy and satisfaction within the context of your chosen lifestyle.”
Broaden your circle of influence
Research shows that most opportunities are found through personal relationships. It really is “who you know.”
When we increase our network of contacts — even as mothers — we allow access to circles of influence beyond our own making. A larger and more diverse personal network leads to greater access to opportunities of all kinds. It might be future employment, meeting someone special, or just being in the right place at the right time to take advantage of a great opportunity.
Since the “Wild West Jordan” playground, Bee works for a botanical garden near her home. She serves on the fundraising board, writes grants and teaches classes. “I have a job doing meaningful work that fits into the context of our family life. It would never have been possible without the playground, and I love what I do. Getting paid to do it now is just a nice perk.”