I'm currently on a high. Why, you ask? For the simple reason that after soccer, my darling bolt of lightning went to go play at a teammate's house until lunchtime. In a move that calls to mind the verse about "cup running over with blessings", the teammate's mom AGREED to this without any hint of hesitation and is even dropping my child off for me around noon!
Which brings me to my point on this post: if you are a mom, you've mostly likely been a mom of small children at some time or another. Even if you didn't journal every detail of the experience or scrapbook it in multi-layered, bejeweled and bestickered splendor, you remember.
You remember that feeling of understanding some days why animals crawl off into the woods to die alone. You remember when whatever food you ate was dictated by what food your children didn't finish. You remember uttering some of your most fervent prayers for just 2 hours -- less than 150 minutes! -- of uninterrupted sleep, when even your mom-dar doesn't have to be turned on for a baby monitor. The memory of changing three diapers in quick succession on the same child, only to have them vomit their hard-fought latest meal all over your shoulder (the day you still, decades later, think of as That Day) -- that memory is still present in your conscious mind.
SO. Instead of giving another mom the stink-eye because her child is acting out at the store in a such a way that the tri-state area hears what's going on, instead of "encouraging" a mom to enjoy every moment because they're over so quickly (which Steve Wiens addresses marvelously here), here are some ways to truly help a mom who has small kids:
1. 1 hour of your time: whether you come to her house or she drops them off at yours (and trust me, she won't mind dropping them off and picking them up), getting time by herself is nirvana. In just 30 minutes, most moms I know could run several errands and possibly even make a grocery run! We're frighteningly efficient when we're operating solo. 'Vacation' means getting groceries alone. Truly.
2. If you know her family's dietary restrictions (depending on allergies, etc.), call her some morning around 10 and ask if she has plans for supper yet; if not, tell her you're taking her supper to her. Better yet, make it something she could use or freeze for later. I nearly weep tears of joy when I know what supper is going to be and it isn't noon yet.
3. In a busy check-out area if you have the time (and no groceries of your own that might melt), offer to hold her baby or watch her kids in the family fun area so she doesn't have to try remembering her PIN number in the midst of questions, tantrums, and pleading. Caveat: this is best reserved for families you know who also know you. It's a little freaky from a stranger.
4. If you have kids who are similar ages, work out a swap with another mom. You both get a time once a week, and no one has to pay a babysitter. Win-win!
5. If hands-on feels more uncomfortable for you (introverts are godly, too), get her a gift card to a local coffee place or non-fast food restaurant (though a gift certificate to a pizza place would certainly work nicely for #2!). She will almost always appreciate more caffeine or a fresh fruit smoothie. Trust me. If the business has a drive-through window, so much the better.
6. If time and money are both tight for you (which I understand and she does, too), seize that moment you see her and say, "You're doing a great job; you really are." Know why you can say this and have it be true? Her kids are likely with her, and she, more than any other person in their little lives, has kept them alive (and allowed them to live) to this point. She's doing a good job. Most moms I've said this to look at me in disbelief, and I see in their eyes the protests that, "You didn't see how loud I yelled this morning over breakfast!" or "I've never made ANYTHING off pinterest for ANY of my kids!" That's another reason you can know that she's doing a great job: she beats herself up regularly most days, worried that she's not doing enough or could be doing more to give each kid their best shot. Many moms I've said this to start crying. God has a way of crossing your path with someone in desperate need of that word you chose to say just that day.
God bless my friend who casually took my hurricane off my hands this morning. I, too, want to train my eyes to see more of these opportunities around me.