Written for Daily Hive by Alex Turner, a journalist turned stay at home mom living the (chaotic) dream keeping two kiddos, a puppy, husband and way too many plants alive.
I had just had my first child. It was overwhelming, exhilarating and freaking exhausting.
This new kid of mine would breastfeed for hours on end. So I spent a lot of time sitting on my couch, watching nature shows for the first few weeks of his life.
What I didn’t expect, was while I was sitting there as a hormonal pile of goo, I had an epiphany that would change the way I mother. And really — change the way I live.
I was watching a show about elephants. A mama had just birthed her calf. It was beautiful, I cried (although honestly it didn’t take much for me to cry in those early days). Then, right after the birth, the elephants went on their way to trek across the desert.
WHAT? Trek across the desert?!
I was in shock. I looked down at my useless little infant and questioned him: “How come you can’t walk across the desert yet?” Then I looked down at myself. I hadn’t showered in days, my boobs were engorged, my cheeks were stained with tears and my incision from my C-section was still raw. I realized, sure, my newborn was useless. But so was I! There was no way I could walk across the desert. Heck, I couldn’t even walk across the room!
I tuned back into the program and watched in awe, realizing just how this mother-child pair survived the arduous migration.
When the baby elephant stumbled, the nearest adult picked it up. When lions came lurking, the elephants banded together to protect their young. Every single member of the herd helped the baby and mother at some point. They were a big team (like, literally they were huge but metaphorically speaking too).
Flash back to me and my tiny treasure curled up on my chest in the living room.
I whispered to him: “We can’t do this alone.”
I had been taught from a young age to be fiercely independent, to work hard and do everything myself. But at that moment a switch went off and I realized life was no longer just about me and my husband. Yes, I would be sufficient and I am certainly enough for my child. But I don’t have to do everything. I don’t have to BE everything.
And I started asking for help.
And whoa boy, was that ever contagious. And absurdly satisfying. And honestly, it was the greatest gift I ever could’ve ever given myself. The gift of letting go of the idea that my husband and I were in this alone.
I stopped cleaning my house before my mom arrived, and said yes to her offer to do the dishes. I called over to my gardening neighbour to help me unload the kids from the car. I said yes, yes, YES to every offer for help that came my way.
Over the last 2.5 years (and 2 kids and a puppy later) we’ve built up our community and built it strong. There’s no straw or wood here, all bricks.
From family, friends, neighbours and every person in between, we’ve laid the foundation to our herd.
It may sound corny. It may sound weak. But it is in fact, completely life changing.
If you are a mother, give yourself this gift today. Let go of expectations and ask for help. Then when the help comes and it doesn’t look perfect, accept it anyway. Your children will be better for it, trust me.
And if you know a mother, give her the greatest gift you can. It’s not flowers, jewellery or chocolate (although those things aren’t bad too). Be her brick. Be a piece of the foundation that holds her family’s life together.
Because every mama needs her herd, even if there’s no desert.