The realization hit: Having a baby means never being alone again.
15) Offer to babysit for a busy mom to go out and have a couple of hours to herself.—“56 Ways to Be Merciful During the Jubilee Year of Mercy,” Aleteia
I always wanted to be a mom. Always. I’m sure I scared off many potential suitors by openly admitting I wanted a gaggle of kids. Or if not a gaggle, I’d say, at least enough for a competitive baseball team.
When my first child was born, I was the ripe old age of 30 and was overjoyed. Finally, I felt like my life had purpose. At long last I could take my place with the other moms at the playground and join in their banter about little Johnny’s lose tooth and Janey’s first words. As a champion babysitter in my youth, I was confident in my skills at calming even the most difficult baby and was sure I’d be a natural at child rearing.
And then we ran out of toilet paper.
I knew I had to go buy some, but I also knew it would mean taking this little bundle out into the world for the first time on my own. Alone. I looked at the car seat and back at the baby. At the baby and back at the car seat. I sat a while longer and contemplated other household items that could substitute for toilet paper. Though I did muster up some creative options, I knew the inevitable was unavoidable. So the long journey to Target, a whole five blocks away, began.
Almost immediately my son began to whimper. Soon the whimper was full-on crying. This was quickly followed by hysterical and unrelenting wailing. The level of anxiety I felt was astronomical. Every minute felt like an eternity. I just couldn’t bear the cries of urgency. And when my six-minute journey of torture was over, I found myself holding a screaming baby, in a full parking lot, sweating. Overwhelmed by the realization that my situation was permanent: wherever I went, whatever I did, I would have this child with me. Forever. Gone were my carefree days of wandering in and out of stores at my leisure, of changing plans at a moment’s notice and on a whim. I would never be alone again.
I remember vividly the first time a friend offered to take my baby. It took some coaxing, but I finally relented, dropped off my precious bundle and ventured into the world. Although I had some trepidation when I drove away, I soon felt invigorated; I blasted “Free Fallin’” on the radio, bought a coffee and wandered around aimlessly. It was refreshing to feel like myself again. And when the hour passed, I was sweetly surprised by how excited I was to reunite with my little sidekick and resume my position as his everything.
Fast forward 10 years and add three more kids. Yes, the love has joyfully multiplied, but so have the demands on my time and attention. And while I do have hours away from my crew on occasion, babysitters are usually hired as a matter of necessity due to school or work obligations. Yet those rare times that I have been blessed with a friend or sibling who has thoughtfully offered this (oftentimes) burned-out mother some time away on her own have lasting effects on my demeanor and outlook. My whole family feels the benefits provided by these breathers. Helping a mom recharge her emotional batteries is a gift that always gives back.
In this Year of Mercy, giving a busy mom some unscheduled time on her own is actually a gift to her entire family. Don’t let her refuse, and don’t wait for her to ask.
Maria Garabis Davisholds a Juris Doctor degree and a BA in theology. A former youth minister and now practicing attorney, she resides in Columbus, Ohio, with her husband and four children.