Just an Idea

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The babies were crying. The dog was barking. My son had just smacked me across the back with a snapped off, quarter-inch thick tree branch from the yard. My husband was unreachable. I cried. I held the babies, all three of us crying, and walked aimlessly around strewn toys in the living room, trying to come up with a plan, or just the first step of a plan. And the best I could think to do was walk out to my front yard and wait and hope a neighbor would hear or see me and come help. Nobody did.

After a few minutes, I took the babies to the back yard instead. They calmed down, but soon mosquitoes drove us back inside. I changed their diapers. I put on a smile and did wild jazz hands and sang cheerfully to keep them from falling apart again. Eventually my husband came home.

This is what having twins and a three-year-old has been like for me. Not always, of course. But often enough, I am out of energy, out of ideas, and out of my mind. When I took the babies to the front yard, I thought someone would happen to be out watering their lawn and, without commenting on my emotional state, say, “Oh, what beautiful babies. Could I hold one?” Soon after I walked out there, though, I saw myself from a different perspective. I realized how ridiculous I looked. No one was going to help me. They were going stare curiously from their window, wondering what on earth I was doing and why I wasn’t containing the screaming voices to my own home. Or I don’t know. That’s what I would have done.

I’ve said this before, but it feels more urgent than ever: there should be parenting centers within a reasonable drive where people with babies and young kids can go in their desperate moments. At these centers, there should be a staff who can calm an anxious parent, offer arms for a colicky or stressed baby, or simply be a presence exuding solidarity, support, and safety. There could be free or affordable classes on parenting. There could be consultants on sleep, breastfeeding, and nutrition. There could be groups for people struggling with postnatal mood issues and more. But the important thing is that it would be a safe place to go, an answer, the first step of a plan.

I realize this is a pipe dream. We don’t care nearly enough about the practical needs of mothers and families, especially those for whom hiring help is a hardship. We expect people to manage on their own. It’s hard to find a sense of community among parents of young children because we are less connected in general, and we don’t feel responsible for other people’s kids. We feel judged. We worry when our babies cry or our toddlers scream at Target. Or I do anyway. So I wouldn’t expect to actually see these kinds of centers pop up, and certainly not ones that are funded and, therefore, accessible to people who need them.

But wouldn’t that be amazing? Wouldn’t it be a shining hope in the darkest day? How many people would grip their steering wheels to the sound of a screaming baby, knowing they just had to get there, instead of the walls closing in at their home, their bodies trembling from feeling out of control? Maybe a caregiver would not shake or hit a baby. Maybe a parent’s anxiety or depression would be caught sooner and alleviated.

In Houston, there is a place called The Motherhood Center. I came across it while pregnant and again recently as I searched for a postpartum support group. It’s a center where one can find sleep trainers and doulas, take a newborn or breastfeeding class, get a massage, and do mommy and baby yoga. It’s the only place I’ve stumbled upon that sounds sort of like what I’ve imagined. But there’s a price for the services there. It is self-described as a “mommy country club” located in River Oaks, a famously wealthy part of the city. You can buy gift packages for services in the range of $350. To me, it feels like a spa, like a lovely luxury. Find your lactation consultant the same place where you do Pilates and get a deep-tissue massage. ┬áSo I guess there are places where parents can find resources, but if you can afford a mommy country club, you probably have the means to hire help, to pay for classes, to have a plan B. I’m not trashing this place. I’d love to be able to go there. But it’s not the kind of accessible resource I’m talking about. As far as I know, that place doesn’t exist.

Am I only person who sees the need for this kind of thing? I mean, we still need support for families in the form of stronger maternity and paternity leave, better rights in workplaces for women who need to pump, affordable and regulated child care… I just wish this kind of place existed. Because instead of standing helplessly on my driveway crying, and then going back inside feeling lost and just trying to wait it out until my husband came home, I’d have gone there, and I think it would have helped.

 

Comments

  1. says

    In New Olreans there is a parenting center through Children’s Hospital that offers a free support group for parents of babies. In addition for a small annual fee a parent can join and have a safe contained indoor and outdoor play space to take children and meet other parents. They offer weekly art and music classes for kids and classes such as infant massage, infant cpr, and others. I have twins that are 7 now and it really helped me through the early years having somewhere to go that was safe where I could and the babies could play and talk to other parents.

  2. Erin Wiggle says

    I love this place you talk of. It sounds lovely, and they should have one in every town. I understand your feelings 100%. I’m a mom of 10, yes 10. See I’m a foster mom for special needs infants and toddlers, on top of bio mom. It’s a job I love and hate. Days where everyone is bad or crying. That moment you went pee, only to come back to a tube of diaper rash cream being smeared all over 4 of the kids. That noise of a bin of toys being dumped on the floor after you just cleaned for the 5th time that morning. That time where one baby cried and the others join in for support. It happens to all of us, you are not alone. It feels like it some days that’s for sure!
    Some days Doritos before breakfast will be ok. A glass of wine before 5 will be ok. Turning on cartoons while you shower will be ok. It will be ok. Your kids are loved, now take time to love you, even if you lock yourself in the bathroom and little fingers are coming at under the door. My point is, it’s ok to cry, it’s ok for them to cry. They can’t cry forever. Altho I have some that love to challenge that statement.
    Your not alone. We all have these days. Choose your battles. Before you know it They will be ignoring you and asking for money.

  3. Tasha Rye says

    I live in Lee’s Summit, MO and I have a group who will be starting a center exactly like the one you described. It all started out as a Facebook playgroup, strangers converging so their kids can meet other kids to play with, and at least for an hour or two, the mom (or dad or both) can have interaction with other big human beings. Then the group started to get larger and larger and larger, and members come not just from Lee’s Summit, but also from surrounding/border cities. Relationships were formed, friendships were made, and then there became the proverbial village. Last October 2, we closed a Kickstarter Campaign for our PLAY Headquarters. It also started as a pipe dream of one awesome lady named Jessica Jackson, but an entire community came together, held a fundraiser and contributed to the campaign and made it happen. We are very excited and cannot wait to be operational so we can be that center for other moms just like you, just like me. It does take a village, and if your village isn’t quite making the cut, you and your family are more than welcome in ours. :)

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