The weekend before Ramadan my parents were in town. Taking advantage of an opportunity rarer than lunar eclipses, we put the babe to bed and snuck out to our first movie in years. We saw Crazy Stupid Love but quite frankly would've watched Zoo Keeper if it was the only available movie playing. [Though I did feel a bit like Encino Man when I balked at the ticket prices- $22 for two movie tickets? I could just buy the DVD for that much!] Still, it was the price for an outing- and it was awesome to get to do it knowing he was safe and sound asleep at home.
We need to do this more often, we agreed as we drove home. Some fresh night air and time out without worrying about diaper bags and booster seats- every couple needs that once in a while. That night I e-mailed my parent listserv, a completely awesome support group through K's work that gives me advice on all things parenting, for advice on how to procure babysitters, costs, and recommendations for any in our area. I got great responses with tons of advice and some recommendations for baby sitters.
But then I got one e-mail that made me pause. That hasn't left me yet: I don't get it. How about your friends or family? You can always ask someone to watch him and then return the favor when they want to go out sans kid? That's the best way to do it, you save money, build community. Don't you have anyone?
No, I don't.
I have friends. Friends I love. Friends who would happily babysit. But many either have kids beyond the babysitting ages, or don't have kids yet, or live too far away. And I don't feel comfortable asking anyone hey can you give up a Saturday night to watch our kid so we can get dinner even though the favor can't be returned? I can't do that.
This morning I woke up under the weather. It started off mild enough, K went to work, and as soon as breakfast finished, I felt so nauseous I was incapacitated. Like, on-the-couch-hugging-a-bucket incapacitated. Except, I can't afford to be this sick when I have a toddler to look after. One whose needs do not abate simply because I can't physically get up. I never felt so alone. It took every ounce of strength to force myself off the couch, to feed him a snack, prep his bottle, and give him a nap before collapsing into bed. Luckily, the one hour nap helped. I woke up feeling better. Not so great that I planned to do a scrub down of our house just yet, but good enough to provide basic attention to my son without feeling like I would literally not make it through the day.
In the books set back in the day in the US, or other cultures abroad, I read about parents sending their kids to the neighbors when they were sick or had a doctor's appointment. For me, parenting is done in an island, an enclosed vacuum of space. And it shouldn't be this way. Research shows time and again that children need community, that the more loved ones who interact in helping raise your child, the better the child is for it. I'm lucky to have family in driving range who he gets to see and chat with on Skype, and who if I needed would take time off work and make the drive up to be here for me. [My sweet youngest brother, who stayed with me for nearly three weeks when my son was born to help around the house is proof positive of this] I see my blessings and recognize them. Still, I wonder what it would be like to have someone just down the street. I wonder what it would be like to have my brothers or parents in the same city. I wonder what it would be like to have community.
In the meantime, I guess a babysitter will do.
Can you relate? Do you have a strong community that you can turn to when the going gets tough or you just want to go out or like me, are you turning to babysitting?