Our Mom Fears Are Not Always in Our Best Interest

babyYesterday at swim class with my boys, I saw a mom arrive with a baby and a toddler. She had that frazzled mom look. If you're a mom, you know the frazzled look of which I speak. It's a look so palpable, it sent me right back to the days when I had to juggle an almost-walking baby with an energetic toddler dead set on plummeting into the pool -- just one of the many physically demanding motherhood feats that no one warns you about.

As the mom and her kids came out of the restroom, she looked spent. God help her, I thought, because I know how motherhood goes. There was, no doubt, a bad diaper, a lost pacifier, or a grisly "wiping" session that added to her pained look.

And no sooner was she seated, her son safely in the pool with the coach and her baby content in her carrier, did her son climb out of the pool, needing to pee. That's when she exhaled big and turned to me, a complete stranger, and asked if I could watch her baby while she took her son to the bathroom. I was shocked.


No, I wasn't shocked in a judgmental way. I was shocked in a happy way. Because I could help! I could be helpful to a mom in need! I could save her a moment of mommy grief! And wow, do I know what a moment of mommy grief relieve is worth! There were hundreds of times when I could have used some help even in small ways, which would have made my tougher days so much easier, but I was too afraid to ask, too afraid to put anyone out or look crazy for asking a stranger for help.

It clearly wasn't a simple decision for this mom to make either. I could see it in her face when she asked me. It was more of an "I really need to ask for help" kind of decision. And frankly, I was as happy to be asked as I was proud of her for asking. Asking for help is awesome. Knowing your limits is life altering.

This mom's small request made me ponder, though, why this kind of reaching out to another mom or another human being is extremely rare. Most moms would NEVER ask a stranger (and by stranger, I obviously mean a well-assessed person you don't know, like another parent, as in the situation above, not just any random freak on the street) to keep an eye on their kids, not even for a second. And that's just sad. What's our problem?

Partly, it's that we've all become completely paranoid by scary news headlines and a fear of becoming the next scary news headline. In fact, I once met a mom who said, "I don't even trust God with my kids," and that, to me, pretty much captured the extremely sad and fear-dominated state of modern parenthood I witness a lot of the time.

Of course, it is also our need to act like we've got it all under control all the time. We don't want to look like we're in need or can't handle our kids in any way. We want pretend we've got it under control -- when how can we? Impossible! Parenthood is so full of wild curve balls, gritty bombshells, and not-so-pleasant surprises, there's no way anyone can be prepared to take them all on every minute.

These fears, ranging from fear of kidnappers lurking around every corner to a fear of simply asking for help, are just creating another exhausting, if not debilitating, feat in motherhood. And simply put, this fear really isn't in the best interest of anyone.

Maybe we ought to start a revolution. Let's all ask one another for help next time we need it. Try it at home first, and when you get really brave, ask outside your comfort zone -- at mommy group, in the park, at soccer practice. Perhaps that's when the world will really start changing, one frazzled mom look at a time.

Would you let a trustworthy-looking stranger watch your baby in a case like this? Why or why not?


Image via efleming/Flickr

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