A month ago, my husband and I sold our first home and, thanks to the booming Atlanta real estate market, we haven’t yet found a new house to call home. I know they say “you can’t go home again,” but it turns out you can – temporarily, anyway. Until we find our new home, we’re staying at Grandma’s house. Initially, I was a bit nervous about this move and worried how my boys would handle the transition. I was also worried about the lack of space. Would my husband and I feel stifled with my parents hovering around all the time (or, conversely, would our invasion of their space annoy my parents)?
So far, things are going great and I’m starting to believe in the old adage that it “takes a village” to raise a child. Although the downside to our current situation is that my husband and I must commute farther to work, the upside is that we now have an extra set of hands to help with the kids. My mom watches the baby when he wakes up in the morning, allowing my husband and me to get ready for work and wake up our preschooler. She also loves to cook and has dinner on the table when we walk in the door after a long day working and commuting. And to top it off, Grandma encourages us to go on dates so she can spend time with her grandsons. It’s a win-win-win.
I wouldn’t go so far as to advocate moving in with your parents, but I would argue that perhaps we’d all be better off if we lived closer to family and had a helping hand on a regular basis. I mean it is hard to work full-time, raise small children and manage the day-to-day tasks we all need to accomplish. But it’s not practical (or necessarily desirable) for everyone to live close to extended family – and that’s where your support network comes in! Your support network might not look like mine, and I don’t think this is a one-size-fits-all situation, but it’s important to have a system in place for those times when you need a hand. So how do you build a support network? What might it look like? Here are some suggestions:
- Make some mom-friends. If you’re a new mom or find yourself lacking other like-minded mom friends, go out TODAY and meet some other mommas – you already have something huge in common; use your children as a springboard for furthering a connection with that other mom at drop-off or at the playground. Set aside your fear of rejection and just say hello!
- Be honest – parenting is not always easy. Communicate with your colleagues and let them know when you’re having a tough time. I know I may be in the minority here, but I think it’s important to be open and honest about the difficulties we all face as parents. We’re not helping each other by pretending we can “do it all” by ourselves and you might be surprised to find that your coworkers experience many of the same issues that you have been too scared to bring up. Juggling work responsibilities while trying to be there for your child’s important events is difficult – having a work ally can help you make sure you don’t miss any of the important things, both at work and at home.
- Keep a few pinch-hitters on your speed dial. Whether it’s your mom, a nanny, a babysitter or good friend, make sure there are a few people your children know and trust who are available to help out when you need them. If you and your spouse are stuck at work late and can’t pick up the kids from school, having a backup plan will alleviate that panicky feeling we get when we’re being pulled in a hundred directions.
If you have the means, you can take the support network a step further to help knock out every-day tasks when you find yourself especially overwhelmed. There are all sorts of meal delivery and prepping services out there, and some grocery stores will even do your food shopping for you. Most drycleaners provide regular laundry services as well, and house cleaners and lawn services are helpful tools to alleviate those time burdens and allow you to spend more time on other important things. Your support network can be made up of anyone who helps you out in times of need. We’re not all perfect supermoms, and as I’ve said before (and I’m sure I’ll say again), that’s okay.
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