Let’s get one thing straight – superheroes don’t exist (however much my son might beg to differ). Moreover, becoming a parent doesn’t miraculously transform you into a super mum or dad capable of doing lord knows what new challenge is thrown at them. So when friends tell me I’m some kind of super mum, I might smile and accept the compliment gracefully, but what’s going through my mind is “Really?? You’re either lying or it’s nice to know I somehow make it look that easy.”
When all is said and done (or not, as is so often the case once you’re a parent), we need to face the fact that everyone could do with a little help sometimes. Especially when we’re ex-pats living away from the normal support networks we would have access to in our own countries (why oh why does everything seem so much more COMPLICATED here??)
The thing is, if you don’t directly ask for help from friends then the chances are you’re not going to get it. Unlike family who seem to have a sixth sense about these things, other folk tend to presume that if you say you’re OK—whilst you may be looking a bit rough around the edges—you’re doing just fine thank you very much.
Let’s take an example. It’s 11am on a Saturday morning and baby has been awake and pretty much glued to your breast since 5am. You’re lying semi-comatose on the sofa in your pyjamas (in fact you haven’t taken them off for a few days now), when the phone startles you out of your fuzzy sleep-deprived state.
Me: [croaky voice] “Uh hello?”
Friend: “Hey Guapa! How are you? Jesus, I’m soooo hungover, what a night! Come down to the plaza and I’ll tell you all about it!”.
Me: “Oh, really now’s not such a great time, baby’s about to take his nap and I’ve got heaps to be getting on with. Another time, OK?”.
Friend: “Oh OK, maybe later then! Bye!”
Me: “OK… bye….” [WEEPS INTO PYJAMA COLLAR].
Now if I could only turn back the clock the conversation would perhaps go something along the lines of:
Friend: “Hey Guapa! How are you? Oh my god I’m soooo hungover, what a night! Come down to the plaza and I’ll tell you all about it!”.
Me: “I honestly don’t give a toss what you got up to last night it’s so far removed from my life right now, but I promise to indulge you as long as you get yourself over here asap and take this baby off my hands while I take a shower and attempt to make myself look slightly less demented. Oh and pick me up some groceries on the way ‘cos I haven’t left the house for 4 days.”
I know that each and every one of my friends would have been here in a shot had I just given the word, so why is it we find it so difficult to admit we need a bit of help? I’m not saying my friends turned their backs on me. Goodness no, if it hadn’t been for their unwavering support I honestly do not know how I would’ve survived the early years here (big shout out to my girls here, you know who you are!). However, in hindsight I wonder why I didn’t call for help a little more, why did I so often struggle on alone and even sometimes turn down offers of help? Why didn’t I just swallow that big lump of pride and reach out?
So, let me say with all of the wisdom that hindsight has lent me, one of the first rules for ex-pat parents should be:
‘TREAT YOUR FRIENDS AS YOU WOULD FAMILY’.
Don’t be afraid to contact your support network, rope them in to help whenever and wherever possible. Remember, a task which may seems a huge deal to you - the sleep deprived stressed out mum - could probably be done quick as a flash by one of your carefree kid-free mates. And if you really don’t feel like you’ve got the gall to ask them to do something for nothing, offer to pay them back with a home-cooked meal one day. (Note: this works especially well when they’re too hungover to cook for themselves).