“I just…I mean…it’s just so hard!” I said, choking back tears. “This is the fourth time in two months that one of them has had strep, and now Charlie’s got a rash and the doc said Benny needs tubes ASAP. Between the filthy doctors’ waiting rooms and three different classrooms, these kids are constantly sick!” Tears formed in my eyes, “If I take off work, I don’t get paid and I lose professional credibility, and, even if he is in the country at the time, my husband can never take off! And it just kills me to not be with the kids when they’re suffering!”
The woman sitting across from me, nodded sympathetically and calmly handed me a tissue. She wasn’t a therapist; nor was she my mother or my sister or even my best friend. She was my kids’ babysitter, a fellow mother who I had met through friends, and someone who had eventually become a major part of our family. And at that moment, like she does every single winter by her presence, she was helping to keep me together when I felt like falling apart.
I always say it takes a village. But I don’t simply mean a community is required to raise children right; I also mean that it takes a network of adults, not just one friend or spouse, to adequately support the ones raising the kids.
And for me, every winter, my babysitter is part of that support network. Once, I called her at 8:40 on a Wednesday, after one kid spiked a fever on the way to school, while I had at 8:45 appointment waiting for me at the office, and her response ways, “Bring him over now since my house is closer to your work, and I’ll bring him back to your house.” I was overcome with gratitude and relief.
Her willingness to enter the germ-infested land of tissues and blankets that was my living room, to cuddle my kids and keep them hydrated and medicated, to overlook the mountains of laundry and dishes without judgement, to even drive her SUV through ice and snow to get to my house, has been critical to my sanity in winter.
As a psychologist, there’s something I know to be true. Life is wildly enhanced when we are open to receiving help and to helping one another; And reflecting on how much that support is appreciated powerfully enhances its emotional benefit. That is why I can’t say enough, “my babysitter truly keeps me sane every winter.”