Encourage more parents to adopt the parent swap

Let’s face it, asking for help is not the easiest thing to do as a parent. For some reason, our inner voice tells us that this is a sign of weakness and we are not able to handle this whole motherhood thing. I am sure everyone has had that moment when a friend asks how you are, only to reply with ‘great’! Yet, deep down, you would prefer to respond with, ‘I am actually pretty crap. Not coping with the juggle, kids driving me crazy and no time to myself. I am about to lose it.’

So, yes, I am renowned for the ‘I’m great’ comment and pretending all is going very smoothly in our household. Deep down, I know I should ask for help more, but I don’t and I can’t. But a few weekends ago I reached out and accepted help. And trust me, it felt so good.

Of late I haven’t been handling things well. I am struggling with our eldest who has a number of behavioural issues. I’m embarrassed to say that it has gone on for a very long time and I haven’t asked for help enough or reached out to my closest friends. Each weekend I push through and try to tell myself that this will be the last weekend and things will get better.

So, this is what happened a few weekends ago. I was at swimming one Sunday morning and I am usually up for the social chat with other mothers. But given my emotional state, I tried to escape quickly, only to be caught at the last minute by my closest friend. When she asked how I was, my eyes filled with tears and I headed straight for the car. I didn’t want her to see me upset and know that my struggles were much worse than imagined.

And then it happened. The suggested parent swap.

Hon, you need a break. Drop the kids over and we will look after them for a few hours.

At first, I felt uncomfortable and guilty that she would be caring for four children that afternoon. How could I drop them off, walk away child-free and feel OK? Was I supposed to go and relax or spend the time doing chores? (You will be happy to do know I did the first!)

When we debriefed later that day, it was a conversation I was not expecting. She seemed so happy and amazed at how much easier her afternoon was because the kids had each other to play with. They were busy, stimulated and having fun with their friends. And because they had each other, her time was in fact, a little easier too. Overall it was a success.

As for us, it enabled my husband and I to have the break we so needed. To enjoy each other’s company, to have some ‘me time’ and to recharge our batteries ready for another week. It was the three-hour break we needed more than we knew. It was the best three hours we have shared in so long.

So, it’s a simple concept but one that I want to do more of. I want to encourage more mothers to speak up when they need help. Encourage more parents to adopt the parent swap. I can’t wait to reciprocate the gesture to my friend who helped me when I really needed it. In fact, a common trend popping up of late is mini babysitting groups to help parents have some time for themselves.

So, do you need help or do you know someone that could do with some help? Reach out and offer the parent swap. I bet you both will love it.

Written by Jodi Geddes, Co-founder of Circle In.

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