Monday, March 23, 2009

A neighborhood like they "used to be"

This morning I found myself in a pickle. Part of what keeps me feeling fulfilled and balanced is the volunteer work I do for The Tiny Miracles Foundation (TTMF). If I had the ability to tack on a couple extra hours a day to complete the PR work I do for them I’d be golden. But, since my magic wand is on the fritz, I am dealing with the regular 24 and sometimes pulling very late nights juggling normal motherhood with the needs of this non-profit. Sometimes it’s such a juggling act that I wonder if I can do it all, and do it well? But I do not give up this volunteer role because the women I volunteer with inspire me. The strategic thinking and passion that my fellow board members exhibit is a reminder that in addition to taking good care of my family and myself, it is also very healthy to look outside of my immediate circle and help others. The added bonus is that this volunteer work keeps me sharp. Whether you completely dig all the facets of motherhood, or you have days when you long to go back to work full-time we can all relate to the need for occasional adult interaction…and a brief respite from diapers, dinner and coloring.

Anyway, back to my pickle: I want to be able to do my volunteer work, but I also have two young children to consider. Since I cut out all week day babysitting (as a cost saver) and didn’t trust that they’d stay put across the street at Cosi for 2 hours (that’s a joke folks…), it was time to get creative. Solution for those of us without family living locally, or a live in au pair? I asked a friend to watch my children along with her child (translation: playdate) and to thank her, I offered to make dinner (win-win all around, right?). Sure, making dinner may end up costing as much as you’d pay a sitter, but the swapping of dinner for a brief reprieve so you can go and do something for yourself is just such a nice idea. One mom gets a little time off during the day, and the other gets time off at dinner time. Instead of the “mommy guilt” I used to feel at shelling out $30-$60 for a couple of hours of “me” time, I now look forward to swapping childcare with my friends and neighbors.

While I’d like for this blog entry to break out into a loud “halleluiah” song at this point, it bears mentioning that unfortunately the original friend who generously offered to watch my kids woke up to a sick toddler. This is absolutely going to be a fact of life when relying upon our fellow mom friends. Our lives are wonderful, but not necessarily our own! I’m not going to lie….my first instinct was to let Tiny Miracles know I couldn't make it after all. But after shooting off a couple of emails, a third generous neighbor (affectionately called “Auntie Shell” by my children) was more than willing to help out. Knowing she would appreciate something pretty versus edible for her help, we stopped to pick up beautiful quince branches en route to say thank you.

In these times where we’re all watching our wallet a little more closely I am really thankful that I can still get my “me” time…it just takes a little more creativity, and generosity on the part of my fellow moms. I am grateful to have friends who operate like a neighborhood "used to be", moms who look out for and support one another.

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