help

When Family Is Far Away, Learning to Rely on Our Friends

friends

This past weekend, I was hanging out with one of my dear friends–a working mom with two kids who is completing an advanced degree at a school an hour away. I could just tell was in desperate need of some solo time. Her husband was out of town with one kiddo, and she had a huge work project due Monday. I told her to send her daughter down the street to our house the next morning for a couple hours so she could work or recharge with some “me” time.

“Are you sure?! You’re alone with both your kids, too!” she protested. (My husband was out of the country visiting his family).

I shut her protest down right away–having been in her shoes before and knowing that helpless feeling that only a mom at a breaking point can understand. “Absolutely! You need a break. Promise, it’s no biggie; the kids entertain themselves. And, my kids are less likely to fight with her there. Seriously, enjoy the solo time.”

The gratitude on her face meant everything to me. “Ugh, why is it so hard for us moms to ask for help?” she asked.

“I know, I know. It is, but it shouldn’t be; that’s what friends–and especially mom friends–are for,” I said. “Friends like family. Anytime, I’m here.”

Asking for help is one of the hardest parts of motherhood. We all need a break, but no one wants to impose on our friends, or we don’t want to appear we can’t “handle” it, or we feel like we aren’t “deserving” of a respite. But if we don’t treat our friends like family, asking them for help—or offering help when they seem desperate, we’re in trouble. Because in our spread-out world, friends are often the only family we’ve got.

When we moved to Michigan for my husband’s job nearly 11 years ago, we had just gotten married, had no kids, and knew not a soul save for our realtor. The new friends we met through work or activities became our “family,” and as we have become entrenched in the early years of parenting, those friendships have strengthened and new friends have joined the clan. This incredible group of men and women are the people we turn to, we rely on, and cherish.

These friendships have become increasingly important as our kids have gotten older. Between my husband’s and my own work schedules and travel schedules, we’ve been in countless last-minute situations where it was too late to get a sitter or none were available. We’ve had to ask for help–and, as a result, it’s gotten easier.

In fact, we’ve got a system down with our makeshift family. Grandparents, aunts and uncles may not be around the corner, but these friends are. And for as willing as they have been to help us, we have helped them, in pinches and otherwise.

For example, we trade off date nights. It’s win/win for everyone: the kids get to play and have sleep-overs, and as a couple, we get a breather that doesn’t cost us a ton of sitting money. After this many years of friendship we have a deep enough trust that we can ask one another for help and not feel uncomfortable. We know our kids are in good hands, and because we’re so close, we can love on or discipline each other’s kids like our own.

But let’s be honest. As close as we may be to our friends, sometimes we don’t know we need the help until one gives us a nudge–a green light to say “I’m drowning!”

Sometimes we need the reminder to fasten our own oxygen masks first–and sometimes we need to do the reminding when we see someone else struggling to breathe. It doesn’t make us weak or incapable to ask for help, and it certainly doesn’t make us less of a mom if we accept said help. It makes us a better mom, and a better friend.

As moms, we are so often entrenched in our own little worlds that we don’t think to offer help to another mom–but we should. Because while we may not need the help today, we may need it tomorrow. And knowing we have friends we can count on–and who count on us–is a glorious thing.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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