Last week an email went out on my neighborhood’s listserve asking for mothers interested in forming a babysitting co-op. Two mothers would be in charge of watching everyone’s kids for a few hours one day a week, and then the next week another two mothers would take over the babysitting shift; with a minimum of four people in the group, each mom would get a few hours off every other week to do as she pleased. The woman trying to organize the co-op lives around the corner, has a daughter the same age as my son, and seems like a nice person. Even better, here, finally, was my chance to foist my beloved but wearying child onto a third party and steal some time for myself (even if I waste it on something dumb like much-belated spring cleaning), and without it costing a penny.
Yes, it sounded like a great solution, so then why was I composing a mental list of all the reasons it was a bad idea for us (the baby would get sick; how could I trust these other mothers I didn’t know?; my schedule changes too much and I wouldn’t want to flake out on anyone; what if my son went missing in someone’s house now that he’s mobile and fast enough to get down the hall and stuck under a table, NOT THAT I WOULD KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT THAT)?
In the end, all of those excuses, valid as some of them are, were really just covering up for my main fear: the possibiliy that I wouldn’t like the mother(s) I’d be “stuck” babysitting with. What if our parenting philosophies were radically different? What if we had nothing to say to each other? What if she was judgmental/nasty/obnoxious/snobby/too quiet/too loud/too “mom-ish”…the list went on and on.
When I took a step back, I realized my trepidation had very little to do with joining a babysitting co-op and everything to do with being nervous about meeting new people—people who could potentially become friends. Was I really afraid of not liking them, or was I afraid of them not liking me?
The more I think about it, the louder I hear the voice that says I should conquer this fear if not for my own good but for the good of my son. (”Grow up!” the voice says. “Sheesh.”) My boy is eight months old now and he needs to get out of our house, he needs to play with other babies, he needs to be comfortable in the care of people other than just me and his dad. It struck me then that this is a new kind of parenting sacrifice for me. We’ve done the sleep deprivation, the hygiene neglect, the turning down social invitations because of naptime, but this was novel: I was considering taking a huge leap outside my comfort zone for the sole benefit of my child. (Not that it wouldn’t also benefit me, although I’m still not entirely convinced…) (That’s the fear speaking, there.)
I think of all the things my parents did for me that they probably didn’t want to do. In particular, I think of my introvert father dressing up like a cowboy to take me to the father-daughter hoe-down at my elementary school. (It still counts, even though we skipped out early and went to the mall instead.) I’m still new to this parenting gig, and sometimes I need these reminders that it really isn’t just about me anymore.
So, tell me your tales. How have you been forced outside your (perfectly rational! and comfortable!) comfort zone in the interest of your kids?