Every working mom needs a support system. We often think in straight-jackets of a maid, a nanny, crèche or after-school. But if we give a deeper thought to it, our support system can be wider and richer than that. For instance, in an area of Lagos I once lived, I visited with a neighbor who just had her first child and was newly back from the hospital. We spent the entire evening talking about how to find good nannies. She told me that she was looking for one like the one who worked with *Tomi (not real name) who was also a neighbor.
When I asked why, she told me she spied secretly on *Tomi’s nanny. The nanny had no clue. But these friendly neighbours had worked out a means that ensured discreet oversight, and it proved useful. An hairdresser in a neighborhood I know, watched diligently over the children of one of her client living across the street, and was able to report cases of the children being beaten by their aunt incessantly – even while one of the children was ill and was staying home from school in order to recuperate. Yes, this one was family, not a maid.
It is very important and reassuring for every mom to know that their kids are doing very well with their care-givers. This is a foundation that we need to take on the world. We need to have a plan. We cannot haphazardly leave the children to whatever is available while we go on with our lives. Our plans may cost us some more money, or it may mean that we may not take every opportunity that comes our way. Our plans may involve painful sacrifices for the now, but these precious destinies are not to be compared with fame out there or the ‘things’ that we crave money in order to buy.
Thoughtfully map out your support system. This may include neighbours, friends, family, the church/mosque, even colleagues. Please notice I did not say ‘all’ friends or even ‘all’ family. It is not good to assume that everyone is happy to help, or obligated to your family or owes you something anyway. It does not work that way. This one too is about relationships. I realize sometimes we have emergencies and we must take the options we find. For instance you may be stuck in the traffic and the school is closing. You may have no choice than to call on that neighbour you are not so friendly with. If your nanny quits on you without notice, you may have to crash into someone else’s plans in order to survive the day.
These are exceptions, and we have to take care that they do not become the norm. But as a matter of daily living, there should be that trusted friend, neighbour or cousin living close-by enough and always delighted to keep an eye on our kids on the days our meetings are running late. You do not have to leave your children alone with someone or people you do not completely trust. Some people are really comfortable with their maids and nannies and completely trust them though, and I have heard of even family members physically, emotionally and sexually abusing children. Whatever the case, it is always good to have a system of checks and balances. Someone who can drop by, check on the kids and be your eyes on the ground is always a very good idea.
There are no formulas except for prayers. Yes; girlfriend you heard me. You must pray. Keeping your children right on the altar in the church does not guarantee their safety from the wickedness of this world. You have to be their mom first of all, doing all that you can; then you have to constantly pray over them. Support system is not about shirking your responsibility or mixing up your priorities. It is very important that we do not let our work replace our children. But it is also very important that we do not make decisions only out of guilty feelings. Our children can thrive while we are at work, as we find and utilize our unique support systems!