Raising small kids is harder than I thought it would be, mostly because there’s not a lot of back-up help—it’s me on duty, every day, for years. And our country doesn’t provide a lot of structural support: You get maternity and sick leave only if you’re lucky, there’s no subsidized day care, and one or both parents often work long hours that don’t match up with the school schedule. Add that to the fact that family help is often far away and finances are often too strained for paid help, and, well, we mothers often find ourselves entirely on our own, praying that we don’t ever get sick or sprain an ankle. I’ve found that in the midst of what can be the lonely, exhausting, and stressful experience of child-rearing, other moms have been a godsend. I suspect that other parents feel this way too, and it’s important to give a shout out to the moms who are filling in the gaps in their communities. Below, the seven times other mothers will save your ass.
1. When you have a newborn. When you’ve just your first baby and you’re delirious with pain and fatigue, and you don’t think you can survive one more night, some terrific friend will come over and do night shift with the baby so you can get a block of sleep. And when you can’t really even get some sleep, because of breast pain or pumping or whatever hellish insomnia this is, at least you’ll have someone to talk to in the middle of the night.
2. When you have a newborn, part II. Let’s say you suddenly decide, on day 10 of your baby’s life, that you need to assemble some complex piece of machinery like a co-sleeper or a Mamaroo. This is impossible, because you’re too tired to even remember the second half of “Righty-tighty…” Some angel of a parent who has the benefit of a full night’s sleep will come over and snap that thing together in 2 minutes.
3. When you realize that you have a terrible sleeper on your hands. At first, when you’re praying that someone will have the solution for you, they’ll swoop in with their “secret weapon,” like a sling or a yoga ball or the sleep book that saved them. When that doesn’t work, because, yeah, nothing is going to work with this kid, they’ll offer comforting advice about whatever you’re considering, like the co-sleeping, sleep-training, or crying it out.
4. When you have a second kid. When your second baby arrives, they’ll organize a meal drop, so you don’t have to cook for two weeks. They’ll take #1 out to play so you can nap with the baby.
5. When your kid falls off the jungle gym. When you need to run one kid to the ER in the middle of the day, they’ll watch the other kid for the 6 hours it takes to see the orthopedist.
6. When you space out. When you’re at the park and have no wipes, at the playground and have no snack, or at a playdate with no change of toddler clothes, other moms will help you out.
7. When you go back to work and feel totally out of the loop. If you’re working and can’t make the kindergarten orientation, conveniently scheduled for right in the middle of the workday, they’ll snap a pic of all the handouts and email it to you. They’ll give you the dish on the new teacher, what the after-school options are, and throw in a few lunch ideas to boot.
Our country has a way to go in providing formal support for families. Lucky parents have extended family nearly, flexible work schedules, devoted partners, housekeepers and babysitters. In other words, lots of help. But help comes in many forms, and a neighbor who’ll drop off a tray of lasagna when you’re post-partum is a huge asset. She’s totally saving your ass.