Tuesday, August 16, 2011

It should take a village. But I guess a babysitter will do.

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?

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

:(

mezba said...

Can't you take your son with you to the movies or restaurants? Is it not allowed?

Jamila said...

I have the same issue sadly. I have friends with babies Rania's age, but I'm not comfortable asking them I guess.I miss my parents sooo much when I'm sick and I have Rania. Thankfully my hubby is great and will take time off if I'm really really sick.

Mezba, it's nice to have some time away from the kiddos. And a movie with a toddler? Um... I can't through an episode of Royal Pains with my little one lol.

Aisha said...

Thanks for the empathy Anonz

Mezba, I do take him to restaurants, but its not that fun since you focus on him and making sure he's comfortable, fed, etc. But we do go with him. As for movies, no way, I'd never take him to a movie. That's just a lot of stimulation and I dont think he could handle that and at least in th eUS I haven't really seen people taking their kids to movies, especially evening movies. Plus, like Jamila said, its nice to have time on your own.

Jamila, sorry to hear you can relate :( I hope we both find a way to resolve this some day. have you got a babysitter?

Anonymous said...

Viktor is so attached to me and my husband....I HATE to leave him with anyone because he cries and gets really upset. We do leave him with his parents everytime we have an appointment and they have watched him a few times when we went out to dinner/movie. I plan to use them A LOT MORE when Riley is born just because I really need to get some ME/US time. As far as people I don't know, I have serious trust issues. I don't know why, but I am terrified that someone is going to mistreat my son. Right now I feel like my sole responsiblity is him and his well being and so I could never trust anyone. I have friends that drop off their babies to people they don't know (babysitters) and I just don' t know how they do it. How do they trust their most prized possession with a stranger? I do want to put my kids in daycare when they are a little older between 2 and 3.

I don't know...I have serious trust issues when it comes to my child. I am going to be heartbroken when he has to spend the night with my parents when I deliver this baby. AFter saying all that, I DO wish I had more help from family. Viktor doesn't like to be held by anyone else but me or my husband and so most of my family tends to just leave him alone instead of trying to "win him over" so to speak.

E Lucky girl who had some unlucky miscarriages

Sadia said...

Another I hear ya! I'd LOVE to have family closer so I could get some alone time with the hubby, or for those days when I'm not feeling well or have an appointment. When I lived in California, my sister (also a lawyer) cancelled her appointments and flew out to help me for a few days when my baby was sick and I was just exhausted (not even sick) and my husband was gone for training. Can't beat the things your family will do for you :)

Ify said...

I can relate to being the friend who doesn't mind and actually enjoys being asked to watch my friends' kids for an afternoon or evening. Fun (usually) interaction with the little people and then get to go home to enjoy life without kids.

The best is having family and community close by that you can rely on.

Aisha said...

E, ugh that's stinky that you have family there but that because they are leaving him alone instead of trying to win him over, you can't leave him with family to get out, like you said when your next baby comes you'll have to rely on them more because that's A LOT of work and you need some help. I hope that by then Viktor will get more warmed up to the rest of his family and can interact more with them. I am also very afraid and nervous of babysitters- my parents never got themf or us- but I think if they come with a lot of references and W likes them it might be worth trying out.

Sadia, that is the one reason we haven't looked at Cali as a place to live, the only reason, fmaily being so far away. That's just tough. But so sweet that your sis came out like that. Family really is awesome :)

Ify, you're a good friend and your friends, I hope realize how lucky they are to have you!!

Lawyer Loves Lunch said...

You should definitely ask your no-kids-yet friends to help or at least hint about it to gauge their reaction :) Before we had babies, we loved hanging out with friends' babies because we liked the idea of babies but weren't ready for our own. Not sure we're any more prepared to have kids of our own as a result but since we have one on the way, I'll report back soon enough :)

mystic said...

I was lucky to have very strong muslim community center and very active. It pays off for my kids. And it has made a huge impact on their skills.

Aisha said...

Azmina, you sound like an awesome friend :) do report once you're on the other side! {squee! so happy for you!!!]

Mystic- that is awesome, and like you said it pays off. Maybe one day. . . insh'allah.

Jenn said...

we have babysat a ton for or next door neighbors, and though you have friends that you can't return the favor for in the form of babysitting, what about something else, maybe cooking a favorite deseret for them or something?

Aisha said...

Jenn, that's a good idea actually. But now you get to cash in on the favor :))

katery said...

hahaha!!! i don't have people i can just drop my kid with at the drop of a hat! whoever the commenter was is VERY lucky.

Aisha said...

Kate, I was thinking of you when I wrote this, you have your dad in town? Does he ever watch Louise?

Kate said...

We're living on a bit of an island here too. Wish we had more friends close by, but most of our friends live overseas, and most have kids much older than ours. My Dad and stepmother recently moved to town, but they're away traveling a lot, as is my Mom who lives 2 hours away. It sucks!

Banshee said...

So with you. It is frustrating at times...not having that village. All of our friends who do have kids, also have families here in town and I see the difference it makes in their lives! As in...they have lives!

I too have trust issues, so that makes it more challenging...

I like hearing that some folks w/o babies yet are open to babysitting and might consider baked goods a favorable trade...hmmm....:)

Aisha said...

Kate, its tough isn't it? I know you've mentioned feeling this way before. Hopefully when thye get older and more friends are made. . .?

Banshee, In theory I'm open to babysitting but like you, I do have trust issues. I hope it works out for both of us whether it be friends via baked goods or otherwse:)

erica @ expatriababy said...

In my former life, I used to go out 3, 4 nights per week. Restaurant openings, special events, ball gowns, they were a regular part of my life. SInce having my daughter 15 months ago, my husband and I have not been out together once. Not a single time. And I've been out for dinner exactly once. And my daughter came too. We too are island dwellers.

I live an ocean away from family - I moved here the week I got pregnant, and haven't found a good social network. I wouldn't feel comfortable imposing on the few friends I do have. It's not ideal, but it's life.

I compensate for this lack of evening fabulousness by blogging (ha!) and build a semblance of a social network for my daughter by taking her to daycare 2x per week for a couple of hours. Again, not ideal, but it's life.

It's fairly unkind someone to assume that you SHOULD rely on friends and family for support. After all, no one ever knows what another person's situation really is.

Aisha said...

Erica, wow, I can imagine this transition was very difficult then? For us we go out with the little guy to restaurants, but the frequency is declining the older he gets and the more he gets bored sitting in the highchair and thus makes us not even notice we're eating and focused entirely on him. Like you said, we make do with what we have and we do the best we can with it. That is life :) Thanks for your comment.

Julia Munroe Martin said...

We were in exactly the same boat when our kids were young -- and even older (for emergency contacts for school, etc.).... I felt the same way that it should be family (too far away) or close friend (not available because of difference in schedule or family situation). I am in a small town but I don't feel that sense of community either -- does it really exist anywhere in today's busy world? I'm not so sure.... (p.s. wish I could help out -- I would LOVE for one of my friends with younger kids to ask me to babysit on a Saturday night! I wonder if your friends are the same? If you're worried about reciprocation, maybe you could offer to cook them a special meal!? Or they might be like me and thrilled to take care of a little guy like Waleed!)

katery said...

my dad does live here, but both he and my step-mom work full-time. my step-mom does take her once a week while i work and ocasionally so we can go to a movie or something, but she has three other grandchildren, so i can't just drop her off at a moment's notice or overnight or anything like that. it's really nice that she takes her once a week though, she's SO good to her.

C said...

You touched a raw nerve here. M & I have not gone out alone in a very long time. We don't have baby sitters here and MIL is busy with my SIL's kids. No matter how ill I feel, I have no option but to drag myself out of bed for D. during the weekend M babysits D at times while I go out but going out as a couple? nope. I so wish I had that support system or a babysitter!

Aisha said...

Julia, that is interesting because I do think of small towns as having that kinship and closeness but your'e right it probably doesn't exist much anywhere anymore. Thanks for the different perspective!

Kate, that is nice to have your step mom and dad there, buty eah, everyone has their own schedules and stuff, you can't just drop off whenever you wish.

C, its funny I thought that in India it might be easier, that there's a bit more collectivist culture so that people would be more open to working as a community- I guess all big cities are the same in this regard :( I'm sorry that its so exhausting but know that I can relate. . . and sadly so can many others.

Stacey said...

My daughter just spent 4 days in the hospital with pneumonia. We live in NC. All of our family is in MI. We had not one visitor the whole time we were there. It makes for long days...

I understand your pain.

Anonymous said...

I am glad I stumbled upon your blog. I am Muslim also, an attorney, and have a son who is almost 3.

We are in the same situation!!! Our son has never been with a babysitter. My mother has watched him a handful of times while we go out. However, she lives an hour away and doesn't drive on the highway so it's not convenient. We are trying to take advantage of her help more, though.

As far as babysitters, we wouldn't know who to find and don't trust anyone. My coworker offered to babysit and we might take her up on the offer since I have known her for 2 years. Friends have never offered to babysit. I tried just setting up playdates with friends but no one can ever make it. I wish there was a Muslim community near us.

Aisha said...

Stacey, thanks for leaving a comment and welcome to the blog! I am glad your daughter is doing better- I'm so sorry that you had to endure that alone. It is a struggle to find connections in an increasingly isolated world.

Anon, thanks for your comment and welcome to the blog :) It's so difficult isn't it? I would wholeheartedly start helping your mom navigate those roads and get her to come by more often, lol,. I think its great your coworker offered to babysit- I think as desis and our culture of "takalaf" we hesitate to take poeple up, but you and I both should do it. Its so important.

Post a Comment

I love to hear from you!