Each week, despite my discomfort, I push against the belief that I must be self-sufficient. I get by with a lot of help from my parents, my brother and the angels I pay, like childcare educators and babysitters. More occasionally, I ask friends. Another mother is watching my son so I can write these words.
It goes without saying that the task of parenting falls mostly, squarely upon the aching backs of mothers. And beyond that, to other women, who work for paltry wages to care for our children or wipe our kitchen benches.
As New Yorker columnist Jia Tolentino writes: “Many of the modern rituals of motherhood – the all-female baby shower, the all-mommy WhatsApp group … teach that caregiving is a project for women to figure out with other women.” But what if we all saw ourselves as parents, no matter our gender or our parental status?
As a single parent, I’m not the only one who could benefit from more support. Married straights, queer couples, single dads, foster parents, grandparents – all of us gain from raising our children collectively.
At this point you might be thinking: I’m here, I’m willing to help. Let me tell you how. Offer to carry shopping inside. Put a child into a car seat. Lift a pram up the stairs. Ask a mother if she needs to go to the bathroom (alone, without a child-barnacle) before you part ways. Pick up some groceries or coffee on your way over (we’ll pay you back, we promise).
If you’re sitting at home scrolling away your evening then relocate your screen time to my place so that I can step into the night air as my child sleeps. Make concrete suggestions: food or furniture assemblage or taking my son to the playground for an hour. Know that I’m capable as hell, but I’m also constantly tired and often stretched thin.
Know that I can’t drive across town to meet you for a social outing as my child will whine all the way there. Take the emotional load of finding a cafe with a playground attached that is between our homes so we can meet there. Come over and make me dinner.
What will you get out of it? You will get the giggling hilarity of my toddler as he hurls himself onto your back; you will gain a sense that we are all part of a messy, connected family. You will be inoculated against loneliness. You’ll know that you’re needed and required and loved; that you have a purpose, a part, in this sacred and shit-smeared job.
You are here to raise a child, to teach it about words and weather and the crime of double-dipping. You can show a kid how to be in the world – to teach him to be a person who stands up from his porch and asks, “Need a hand?”
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