It’s easy when you have a baby to turn to loved ones for guidance and support. Luckily for me, my own mom is like a baby nurse (I swear guys…she should charge) and was able to get me through the first few weeks. She made sure I was comfortable feeding, changing, bathing, pumping, and getting the baby out of the house on my own (I think she was scared I might become a recluse when faced with the idea of the whole car seat/stroller thing. It’s scary for first time moms!) But soon the honeymoon ended and my parents had to return home, which just happens to be across the U N I T E D S T A T E S O F A M E R I C A. Written this way to emphasize just how far away it feels. Don’t get me wrong, Levi and I were rock stars (even when I broke my foot the day after they left…a story for another day) but having a baby without any family close by is tough!
Being that this was my first, I was super wary about leaving him with anyone, and that’s how it stayed… for two years! I put feelers out there for a date night sitter but could never pull the trigger. Besides, my husband Rich and I love eating pizza on the couch and watching a movie as much as we love going out (yes, folks, it’s called denial).
A few months before baby number two, Rich started bringing up the idea again of an occasional sitter. We knew two would be a whole different ballgame and going to the grocery store would pretty much not be happening anymore. And then… the strangest and most life-changing thing happened. (It always hits you when you least expect it, right?) My hubby was getting a haircut while Levi and I played outside waiting for him. (It hadn’t been planned but we were about to travel and he had forgotten to make an appointment so in he went as a walk-in.) When Levi and I popped in to check out the progress (speed it up people…I’ve got a toddler here and it’s a men’s haircut), the stylist mentioned how she and Rich had been chatting about sitters. It just so happened that her mom was a nanny and just might be willing to take on another family for a few hours a week in the evening. I took a good hard look at this stylist. She was adorable and so sweet and just seemed like a kind soul. Something about her told me to do it… call her mom.
I can’t say I still wasn’t nervous but I did it. And it’s the second best phone call I ever made! (The first was to my now husband back when we were family friends and I needed him to help me build a website for a college class… sucker did the whole thing.) Just from speaking over the phone, I knew I liked her so we decided to meet up. She immediately put me at ease and after checking her references (she was so incredible that I swear I only did it to feel like I did my due diligence as a “good mommy”), she started!
I suddenly had time to run to the grocery store by myself, get a manicure, or just catch up on bills and emails. And what I found happening is that I became a much better mommy. I had always thought that being with my son 24/7 made me the perfect mom but after two years, I was beginning to burn out. My husband was really only there to help on the weekends and I had forgotten what it was like to just be a woman…not a mom or a wife but an individual who needs time to herself every once in awhile.
My Ana, my guardian angel, had given me back to myself.. the greatest gift of all. She became like a second mom to me and I soon realized that she brought just as much happiness to me as she did to my son (and later to my daughter). I found that I was able to be more present with the kids during the day knowing that twice a week, I could take care of all of the other things that needed my attention. I saw that having another person that loved them unconditionally added to their sense of security.
It didn’t happen overnight. Nothing great ever does. At first I did stuff around the house while Levi played outside, then I ran a quick errand here and there. But over time, we all became comfortable and by the time Everly was born, we had two new family members… baby sister and Nanna, as Levi so lovingly calls them. Although nothing takes the place of family, making someone a part of yours is a close second and a decision I am forever grateful for. To all of the moms out there, new or old, this is my greatest piece of advice. Try to find time for yourself… whether you have a partner that can watch the kids, a family member, close friend, or a sitter. If it means swapping turns with a fellow mommy friend, that’s awesome as well! I promise that your kids will be fine without you for a few hours. But you will come back a happier, healthier version of yourself. And there’s only one irreplaceable you!
Authors Note: We have since moved to Los Angeles and although we tried to persuade her, could not bring our Ana with us. Although we can never replace her, if anyone knows of a guardian angel in LA, please send her our way.