As I write this, I’m babysitting my friends’ children. Now, before you send me heated emails or comments about how irresponsible I’m being, it’s late and the kids are all asleep. As I sit in the quiet, sipping my nice hot cuppa tea, I can’t help but reflect on how much life without a safety net can wear you down; and how as moms, women and friends in general, we are all woven together, each story affecting the others.
We have lived in Ireland for nearly 3 years now, but before that we lived in the States 18 hours (by car; 4 by plane) from our closest family. Since having children, we have been forced to rely on the kindness of “strangers” to be our support, help and encouragement. Don’t get me wrong, we had loads of support and encouragement from our families, but let’s face it: sometimes a girl needs to get out of the house either alone, or alone with her man! So, what I’m talking about it tangible support and help.
I was blessed during that time with several friends, and teenage girls, who offered that support to me through free babysitting, play dates, and dinner swaps. One friend in particular even let me come over every other day to use her washer and dryer after we’d sold ours but we weren’t moving to Ireland for another 2 months! She has 4 girls, people! Now that’s friendship!!
Since moving here, however, we’ve not had near the strength in numbers for that tangible support. I have a dear, dear friend here without whom I’m quite certain I would go crazy. She is tangible support for me (and my family) through play dates, cups of tea made, carpools, and even verbal slaps upside the head when needed. But we’ve really been lacking in the way of someone who can routinely bless us by helping with our kids, babysitting for free, and helping us get some much needed quality time together. You see, when you work from home and are around each other and the children basically 24/7, romance and creativity have a way of fading to a severe shade of gray and blending in with all the lone socks and dust bunnies lurking under every piece of furniture. And while I love my children more than life itself, not getting time to refresh and bond with my husband, outside the four walls of our home where I-really-should-be… is lurking around every corner and under every sippy cup, takes a toll on our marriage, our friendship, my soul, and ultimately those children we are so lovingly trying to raise in grace.
That brings me to tonight. We met this family through some dear friends of ours and we have worked out a regular baby sitting swap. They, too, are far from family (blood relations, that is) and it just so happens our schedules work out that we can help each other out in this way. And that is no small feat, mind you, since between us we have seven children ages 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1!!
I say all of that to say this: as friends, moms, and especially sisters in the family of God, what affects me affects you, and vice verse.
The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance. 1 Corinthians 12:25-26 as paraphrased in The Message
So, take a look at all the women in your life, particularly if they have children. What can you do to bless them? Bring them a dinner? Drop off or collect their child from school or practice or club? Babysit so she can go out with her husband? Babysit so she can take a nap? I read somewhere recently that discouragement is the poison of the soul. If that’s true, then encouragement is the vitamin of the soul. So, if you have friends you can encourage and support either through swapping kids or taking her kids if you don’t have kids yourself, do it. You won’t regret it, and you may even find that she returns the blessing in a way that feeds your soul… And if, like me, you feel as though you are working without a safety net, reach out to your friends and ask for help! Chances are, they need it just as much as you!