Sometimes new mothers show up on the Senate floor in wheelchairs, with their babies, because they have a lot of help and they have a job to do. Sometimes new mothers show up for the paparazzi in full makeup and stilettos, holding their royal babies, because they have a lot of help and they have a job to do. Sometimes new mothers show up at their overnight cleaning jobs, wearing their babies in a sling, because they have no help and they have a job to do. Sometimes new mothers don’t show up anywhere for awhile and stay home unshowered for days or weeks, nurturing their babies, because they have no help and they have a job to do. Mothers are fierce, y’all. —Misha Sanders, soon-to-be UU minister
I loved these words from Misha. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the strategies we employ for getting this job of parenting done.
I have very little contact with my family, and Liesl’s family lives half a continent away in the Midwest. We lived in Alaska when Dub was born, and I think I can count on one hand the number of times we left her with a babysitter in that first year.
When we moved from Alaska to Washington, we eventually found daycare. Not fulltime. Just a few days each week, but even that was a huge relief. Whew! Time to think! Time to get things done!
The daycare didn’t work out, though, so we signed Dub up for the local co-operative preschool. We loved co-op, but it meant volunteering in the classroom one day a week, and it didn’t free up much time.
Five months after Tea was born, we moved. Dub stopped going to co-op until we got settled into our new house; the new co-op required a bit less volunteering (two or three times a month rather than once a week), and met for longer hours, more days each week.
We began looking for additional childcare. We signed up for Care.com, and got nothing. Finally, we found a babysitter through a local Facebook parenting group—and it turned out that her mother was friends with one of our friends from Alaska! Small world.
Our babysitter is young—in high school, just seventeen years old. But in a lot of ways, that means she’s exactly what we need. I’m 47, and most days I feel like I haven’t had a chance to catch my breath since before Tea was born, nineteen months ago. It’s great to have 17-year-old energy chasing our kids around.
So we finally have help. It’s help we pay for. And it makes a real difference.
We’re hoping that Liesl’s mom will move out here to the area, giving us some family in the area. That may or may not happen.
My point is this. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but so many of us don’t have villages. Some of us don’t have family nearby. Some of us don’t have the financial where-with-all to pay for childcare.
The Duchess of Cambridge can have a baby late in the morning, and be home by six o’clock that evening.
Most of us don’t have anywhere near that kind of network of care.
So what do we do? We do the best we can, patching together an ever-shifting strategy for caring for ourselves and our kids, learning to let go what we can’t quite get covered.
There are a lot of mornings when Dub doesn’t get her wild mane of curls combed before she heads off to school. When we catch one of the many germs she brings home from co-op, we don’t eat as well as I’d like. And don’t get me started on the state of the house. Sometimes we invite people over just to motivate ourselves to tidy and clean.
Parenting is a huge job, that it’s all too easy to feel like a failure. The work is never done.
This week I’m solo-parenting, and I have two goals: feed the kids a decent dinner every night, and do something fun every day. Anything else is gravy.
We have help. Not as much as we’d like. More than we’ve had at other times.
What about you? Do you have the help you need? How do you cope when you have less help than you’d like?
However you answer, know this: Mamas are fierce, y’all. We make it through an endless stream of overwhelming days because, well, we have to. We have a job to do.