It says in Pirkei Avot, (Ethics of our Fathers) "… acquire for yourself a friend ". … וקנה לך חבר". From everything I've heard, read and listened to, the biggest problem mothers have, especially single mothers, even more than the sleeplessness, the financial hardship, and the loneliness is asking for help.
It sounds so easy, doesn’t it? Well in theory it is. But, after close to twenty years, of going it alone, we all become quite independent and adept at taking care of ourselves and we are out of practice when it comes to asking for help. After becoming a mother, things can and do easily spiral out of our control. Of course, it always seems to happen whenever you need to do something else critically important; a long scheduled doctor's appointment, an important meeting, a project due at work. Living in Israel does allow more flexibility than some other countries; employers tend to be more understanding and forgiving of family emergencies than in some other countries, but still… there is a limit to the number of times you can leave early, arrive late or not come in at all because your little one is sick.
If you're in a relationship then you and your partner can switch off. But what happens if it is just you? What if your parents and family live far away or out of the country or for other reasons such as sickness or frailty can't help? Then what?
Well, another nice thing about living in Israel is that the neighbors, for good and for bad, become a part of your extended families. This is one of the things I have always loved about living here and one of the main reasons I found living in Manhattan so difficult. But still, can you really knock on a neighbor's door at 2am? Actually, luckily, I can. I have three neighbors who I really do believe I could wake up in the middle of the night for help… But would I??!!!
When I was pregnant I did a lot of things alone, that in retrospect, I shouldn’t have…carried groceries up stairs, prepared holiday meals for fifteen guests, gave up on sleep to talk to a friend in need, because that's who I am and that's what I do. I believe that although I slowed down, as ordered by my doctor, I didn’t slow down enough. I didn’t really get it. I was still operating as I always had just with the slight addition of a baby bump.
Now that I have the girls, I still do things on my own for the most part. Thank Gd, the road thus far has been relatively calm, safe and healthy and I haven’t had to reach out.
But there is another piece. The emotional piece. The drain. The mental exhaustion. You need a friend. Sometimes you just need to get out of the house and have someone listen to you complain and to sympathize. Maybe you're lucky enough to find someone who can actually empathize. I think it is incredibly important to realize that while you may have run a successful business with tens of employees and managed fantastically under pressure, one baby can leave you bewildered and wondering what became of that successful person you once were. I read posts all the time in my mommy groups about new moms who talk about how they are going to figure out how to make their week/month old infant sleep all night so that they can too. This process is humbling and this little 3-4 kilo baby is completely in charge of your entire life. It is mind boggling. Many of us don’t shower, use the facilities, or eat at the beginning for fear of waking the little princess or that the little one will cry for 32 seconds or that the sweet thing will be upset if you aren’t holding him. You need a friend. You need someone to lean on, help you and relieve you, if only for an hour or two.
It gets easier, really. But especially for older moms, in my view, moms who have been single independent women for a long time, it might be hard to reach out. I am suggesting you do it anyway, for your piece of mind and to retain a remnant of the old you. The baby will still be there in an hour….