I wish I could act as a strong, fearless mother who is able to do all things all the time. I wish I could make copies of myself to be in all places for my daughters all the time. I dream of being the mother who easily copes with work trips, book reports, after school activities and a social life. I wish I could do everything on my own. But I can not.
When I started my doctorate I called myself crazy! How on earth would I do this while working full time and raising two girls alone? I was in a city without a family and with two daughters under the age of 5. From this experience I learned that I needed help.
I realized that when I was proud of my ability to do everything on my own, I lacked support.
I enrolled my eldest daughter in a cheerleading camp. The camp made her a competitive cheerleader. While in the camp, I met a lady who hovered so effortlessly that I thought she owned the place. Anyway, without asking me, she started to enter my room – but in a good way. Suddenly she helped me drop off, pick me up, and gave me time to write while watching my other daughter. She gave me encouraging words, a smile and even listened to how I kept talking about boring dissertation topics.
At the same time, I was connected to a mother from my youngest daughter’s daycare center. Your middle name must be helpful. She never waited for me to ask. You would only offer. I had gone to my own mini village from lack of support. But if you’re like me, it’s not as easy to start a village as it sounds. I learned the following:
We carry our ability to roll solo like a badge of honor. We refuse to ask for help. After all, there is a trophy for the mother who can do it all, right? Not correct! Everything we end up with if we don’t humble ourselves and ask for help is overwhelmed, tired and snappy. It takes a lot to say that I need help. However, if you ask for help, you will find that there are many other mothers who also need help.
To get a village, be a village
I am a very private person. I raise my daughters quietly and without disturbance. After I decided it was okay to ask for help, my mother asked me to ask for help too. I had to be open to help with pickup, drop off, and overnight. I really felt valued. These mothers would give everything for me and I could reciprocate if they needed it.
Using your village doesn’t make you a bad mother
I am traveling to work. On a trip when I got on my plane, my eldest daughter called hysterically because she had a stomach ache. I wasn’t sure what was going on, so I started my village. I had a mother go to the store to buy pain relievers and take her to school, while another mother took the phone to calm my daughter when my plane took off.
For a brief moment I felt like a bad mother. My daughter needed me and I couldn’t be there. But then I had a revelation. My daughter was in the hands of two women to whom I entrusted everything within me. When I landed, one mother texted me bit by bit, while the other mother sent me a selfie picture of her and my smiling daughter when she got to school.
“As iron sharpens iron, one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17)
Your village is right there. Open your kimono and let it in. Be ready to build relationships that fit into the support system you need. If you surround yourself with other mothers who understand what you are dealing with and can support you with things that only a mother can understand, you will be strengthened as a mother. In addition, you will not only build support, but also gain valuable friendships that will last a lifetime.
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