Here's how one woman burned her super-woman cape and realize she needed a village to help raise her children.
Last November, I burned my super-woman cape and made the decision to adopt a second child; a girl this time. Suddenly, my carefully crafted house of cards tumbled into a mass of toys on the floor, Baby Einstein DVDs, and late night diaper changes. How I would juggle a seven year old and a 10-month-old as a single working mother was beyond me.
This precious girl came with strings: weekly social worker visits, monthly court-ordered sibling visits, documented doctors appointments, carefully detailed clothing logs, and charted growth milestones, a paper trail a mile long. It was all so hectic, and yet, I would sign up for our beautiful family again, and again.
Single motherhood times two is hard. I’ve gained a hi-def understanding of words like “spent,” “exhausted,” and “weary.” Most days, it’s up before dawn to feed my two dogs, then to wake my son and listen to him complain about his hurt leg while gently steering him to the bathroom. Then to the kitchen to assemble his lunch while simultaneously getting breakfast ready. That’s in addition to brewing my required morning cup of Joe while listening to the weather report. By now, my daughter’s up and demands to be lifted from her crib. I change her diaper, place her in her highchair, and then shoo her brother off to get dressed. For some reason, boys take their sweet time getting to the table, so I countdown the consequences – no Friday Pinkberry outing with his friends, which always seems to motivate him. By the time the oatmeal, milk, and bacon are on the table, we need to leave or we’ll be late. What happened to the morning? No time to get dressed for work, so it’s a headband for baby girl’s Afro, and yesterday’s sweats and a baseball cap for me. Head nod to the neighbors. No need to share my dragon breath. Three freeways later, my son is safely at school, and the baby is at daycare. Exhale. Back home. Five minutes to shower, get dressed, and get to work on time.
By two o’clock the madness starts again as I grab both kids and depending on the day, jump back into rush hour traffic and head to music or sports lessons on the other side of town. The pace is relentless. And when my job as a college professor begins to suffer – and I miss days -- because I’m stretched beyond capacity, I know I’m in trouble. My “aha” moment occurred while washing the sixth load of soiled bibs, dirty socks, towels and dog blankets. I was broken. After a “come to Jesus” moment I surrendered to the notion that I needed my village.
The first call was to a girlfriend who happily referred her housekeeper who washes and folds like nobody’s business, instantly lowering my stress level. I also reached out to family and friends and accepted offers for school drop offs and pick-ups. Social activities were next on the chopping block. More time at home and less time in traffic became the goal. I stopped accepting every Evite and only signed up for activities in the neighborhood. During the week, while he completes homework, it’s one-on-one time for her. And now, when friends offer to babysit or ask to hold her while I run to the bathroom, it’s a resounding YES!
The best decision, perhaps, has been moving closer to school and our support system. In order for my children to thrive, I finally understand that they do not need a super mom who’s too stressed out to engage them, they need a mother who is emotionally present. When the village is allowed to fully assist it’s a beautiful thing. While this revelation may be a no brainer to some, for me, used to doing it on my own, the thought of asking for help has been both humbling and heart-warming.
Two kids later, I wish I had asked sooner.
Nefertiti Austin is a Los Angeles based writer, college instructor and certified PS-MAPP trainer who co-leads classes for adoptive and foster parents. She blogs about adoption at mommiejonesing.com, and is currently working on a memoir about adopting as a single woman of color. Austin lives with her children in Los Angeles.