Recently, I had to have a trip to our local health visitor as we have just moved into a new area. She made me do a questionnaire that they give new mums which they use to assess how much they need to keep an eye on you, essentially. One of the questions was “how much support do you have from friends and family?”
To my surprise my instinctive answer was “none”. Then I had to think about what kind of support was she talking about? Did she mean emotional? If so, then my family is, of course, a great support. I talk to my parents most days and I know my mum feels like she wishes she could be here to give me a hug and make me a cup of tea most of the time.
Emotionally, in terms of friends it is a bit trickier. Despite being the age that I am, none of my good friends from home have kids yet. They are still in the “go out and party every weekend” mode. We talk on the phone once in a while and try to meet up but it usually involves them having to trek all the way to where I live and spend the afternoon entertaining the kids. There isn’t common ground when it comes to kids and to be honest, unless you have had kids then it probably doesn’t pop into your mind to offer to babysit for the afternoon! A couple of my uni friends have kids but they all live far away. Email is good for catching up and sharing stories but we don’t get to see each other that much.
In terms of support, i.e. actual help, to be honest we don’t have that from our old friends and family. This is not through lack of willingness on the part of our families at all. It is purely geographic. My parents live in Northern Ireland, as does my brother and his family. Jer’s parents and sisters live in Oregon. We get to see each our families all to rarely. All of my mum friends have had weekends away or nights out because they have been able to drop the kids with their families. Jer and I haven’t had a night away together since Munchkin was born, 2 years and 4 months ago.
And so, we have had to adapt to a new means of support. These are threefold.
One is a new group of friends I have made. These are the wonderful girls I was fortunate enough to meet when I did my NCT class when pregnant with Munchkin. 5 of us have stuck together through thick and thin of not having a clue what to do with a baby or a toddler or two. These are the girls I would turn to if I needed someone to look after Munchkin or Cupcake in an emergency situation. I know they would be there if I needed them. They are the ones I ring or turn up at their house when I need an adult to talk to and someone to laugh at the craziness that is motherhood. I am lucky and very grateful for them.
The other rock in our lives is our nanny. She has been with us since Munchkin was 7 months old and I went back to work. She doesn’t live with us but is a constant presence in our lives and the person who keeps me sane (apart from Jer!). I trust her implicitly with my children and know that when I go back to work when Cupcake is a bit older that it will be safe in the knowledge that she will take excellent care of my children. Munchkin loves her and she has helped me learn how to be a good parent. Since I have been on maternity leave with Cupcake I have had the opportunity to get to know her a lot better and I think we have become pretty good friends. We are even planning to leave Jer with the kids in a few weeks so we can go and watch the new Twilight film together (sssshhhh….)
She was there for us when we had to go into hospital when Cupcake was born. She took Munchkin pretty much for the weekend and was one of the first people who met Cupcake after she was born. It is a strange feeling at the beginning letting another woman take care of your kids and I was terrified that Munchkin would “love” her more than me. He does love her but he loves her for her. I am still his mummy and she goes out of her way to make sure that is the way it is.
I feel so fortunate that she is in our lives and the lives of our children. She means that I can continue to do the job I love whilst knowing that my kids are safe and loved all the time. She means that I can sometimes have an hour to myself during the day to go for a swim. She means that I always have food in the house for my kids and that they have clean clothes to wear (not to be underestimated).
She is having a well deserved break this week and I have realised how much I have come to rely on her.
Being a parent is such a strange and wonderful experience. The internet has been the final way of getting support from people. On bad days, I have always received lovely comments on my blog and on facebook both from people I know well and those I have never met. This is perhaps the strangest and yet most amazing means of support out there. I appreciate any time someone takes to make a comment or lend some advice to me.
So in the end, it is true that we aren’t able to have the more traditional means of support with our small children but modern life has allowed us to have new and equally valuable ones. I really don’t know how people do it on their own.
I hope all of you get the support you need.