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I haven’t taught any of my children to ride a bike. Not one of the four.


I’ve helped, for sure. I’ve held on to the seat and steadied them while they will their bodies to balance and their feet to push the pedals, but my husband has always been the one to let go of the seat and enable their independence.

This never even occurred to me until I was working with my youngest on riding sans training wheels last month. My husband had been gone for the weekend and sensing my little guy was ready, I took the training wheels off and started coaching him along. When my husband arrived home he put one steady hand on the back of my son’s bicycle seat, lingered for a mere second and sent him on his way. Just like that, he was riding a bike.

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And I realized, it was the letting go that was hard for me.

If my husband hadn’t come home, I might still be scampering along behind that little boy’s bike—holding him back, rather than watching him soar.

Ever wonder how to teach your kids to do hard things? How to fight fear, to live brave and overcome hard things? Here are some great ideas to get you started.

Life is full of hard things. Full of them. Learning to walk is tough. Growing up is challenging. Learning to become a good spouse is no easy feat, settling into the role of mother is hard. Hard. Hard. Hard. So why wouldn’t we want to prepare our kids to handle hard things well—to not balk at the pressure? Why shouldn’t we seek to give them eyes that see beyond what’s right in front of them, intentionally training them and equipping them with the tools to handle hard things?

Here are 5 things I want to be intentional about in raising kids who can do hard things, kids who are overcomers.

1. Let them fail

Really. Our home is a training ground for life. And so is yours. It’s a place where our children are loved no matter what, a place where their worth is not based on performance, and the safest place for them trip and fall and learn about what it takes to get back up again.

As the supplier of band-aids and ice packs this can be hard for a mama to do. My natural tendency is to smooth out all the rough spots, champion my children to success and just continue holding on to their bicycle seats for a good long while. But this does not help them in the long run.

A cut-throat workplace or college class are not the best place for our kids to be learning these lessons for the first time. Be intentional about giving your children a safe place to mess it all up, to crash and burn, to learn consequences and forgiveness and exactly what it takes to get back up and try again.

2. Equip them

Watching our children deal with hard things give us the opportunity to teach them how to respond well. Recently my daughter took two weeks of group swimming lessons—something that was new to her. Although she was scared, she made it through the first week quite well. She conquered some fears and by the end of the week she was having all kinds of fun.

However, after a long weekend she began to fear swimming lessons again and didn’t want to return for the second week. Through tears she told me how much she hated swimming. And I quickly understood this wasn’t really about swimming anymore. She was being seized by fear. She loved swimming just a few days earlier and now she was believing a lie, believing her fears.

One thing I’m learning is that no matter how irrational, improbable, or ridiculous it may seem to someone else, fear is real. We all fear different things, but when you are in the midst of it, it becomes your reality. Minimizing someone else’s fear is not helpful.

I remember having a math teacher once who seemed to think all of math was easy. Which was great for him, but it did not change the fact that it was NOT easy for me. Ever. I fought for every good math grade I got. It never got easy, but I was able to learn the principals well enough to get through it and avoid it for the rest of my adult life. (I’m kidding…partly.)

The same strategy applied to my scared swimmer. Telling her swimming is fun and not scary would not be helpful, but teaching her how we handle fear, how we fight lies that can eat away at our hearts, is quite useful.

3. Talk truth

While we try to re-shape hearts and complaining attitudes around here we don’t shy away from calling things hard. Learning to swim is hard. Pulling weeds is hard. Keeping a tidy home is hard. Sure it is, but that doesn’t mean we don’t do it.

As my kids get older we talk more and more about the hard things of life, because they don’t ever magically go away. We talk about their dad’s job and the hard things he does there. We talk about paying bills and taxes, we talk about being treated unfairly or unkindly.

Opportunities abound—that grumpy grocery store clerk who seems to be having a hard day, discuss it with your kids. That construction worker who is sweating up a storm in his hard hat, talk about it with your kids. Talking truth with your children, rather than sugar-coating life lessons, conditions them to understanding that hard work is a part of life and not something we shy away from.

4. Start training them

Have you ever considered intentionally training your children to do hard things, to push past their will and what they see right in front of them in order to learn the value of perseverance? You can be intentional about helping your children develop faithfulness and tenacity.

Try taking on a big challenge as a family. Help your kids engage in conversations outside of their comfort zone or offer an apology even when it feels awkward. Show them how to serve others or what it might look like to give sacrificially. These things don’t come naturally for most children, or adults for that matter. Walk them through it intentionally and give them opportunities and new environments in which to practice it. Make sure they see you doing the same.

You can practice hard things at home as well. If your home is like ours there are plenty of jobs and chores my husband and I do out of habit or because it’s quicker and cleaner if we do them ourselves, but allowing our children to do the work grows and shapes them.

Let them fold their clothes, let them weed the flower beds, teach them to clean up the kitchen, to sweep the steps and wash the windows. The tasks will grow with age, of course, and you can even make some of the bigger and more challenging chores paid jobs, but only pay for a job well done. It all takes effort and oversight on your part, but slowly they will begin to learn the value of hard work and doing hard things. And, hopefully, your house will be getting cleaner in the process!

5. Follow through

Similar to discipline, follow through is key and is often the hardest part as a parent. Recently, my husband was working on training my son in the area of responsibility and before leaving for work one morning he said to me, “We had a talk last night about responsibility and I told Tyler that I expect his chores to be completed by the time I get home from work. Please don’t give him any reminders today.” No reminders. Can I tell you how that about killed me as mama?

9:00: Chores weren’t done.

11:00: Chores weren’t done. And I may have developed a nervous tick trying to keep my mouth shut. Thankfully, by the time my husband got home the chores were finally done and I can honestly say I did not give any reminders. But it doesn’t always work out that way.

This parenting gig, this training kids thing, is hard. It’s work.

You love those kids like crazy and if you’re anything like me, you tend to let them off the hook too easy at times. But that is not parenting brave. Parenting brave requires the very same thing of us that we are trying to train in our kids, making decisions not based solely on what is right in front of us, but with the end result in mind. In this case that would be responsible and capable adults.


A version of this article was originally published on I Choose Brave.


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More people work from home than ever. (A full third of the US workforce.) Companies are getting comfy with jobs for stay-at-home-moms and other at-home jobs. The best part? Google's work-at-home job search recently evolved to Einstein status. Simple Google "remote" + [JOB TITLE] + "jobs." Click "search." Then click the blue jobs bar.

You'll find dozens of the best side jobs for stay-at-home moms (and jobs for pregnant women). We pulled 61 amazing opportunities. The pay info comes from Glassdoor. If you're good you'll earn more. If you're looking for a mom-friendly side gig that can help you bring in extra income, start here.

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Here are 61 of the best side jobs for stay-at-home moms.

Daycare

One of the most popular and best jobs for moms with young kids? In-home day care. If you love coming up with activities and more kids means more fun, this isn't a bad option.

1. In-Home Day Care. In rural areas, these jobs for stay-at-home-moms pay $20+ per kid per day. It's more in cities. Pay: $27,430

2. Babysitter. Not into full-fledged day care? Give a shout on Facebook for these part-time jobs for moms. Pay: $18,000

Typing

If you can type, you can probably do lots more. But, typing jobs for stay-at-home-moms are easy if you've got the skills.

3. Typist. You'll need at least 40 WPM for these jobs for stay-at-home moms. Test your speed free at KeyHero. Pay: $27,430

4. Data Entry. These stay-at-home-mom jobs need good 10-Key and Qwerty skills. Pay: $31,153

5. Legal Transcriptionist. Type dispositions and legal terms for these SAHM jobs. Pay: $28,570

6. Law Enforcement Transcriptionist. Learn police codes and terms on the fly for these legit work-from-home jobs for moms. Pay: $28,570

7. Medical Transcriptionist. You can find good mom jobs typing doctorspeak if you can learn the terms. Pay: $28,570

Phone

These are easy to get and do.

8. Phone Survey Conductor. Call people at home and ask questions. Pay: $27,099

9. Telemarketer. You'll need a phone and grit. And you've got both. Pay: $25,969

10. Call Center Representative. You know those radio ads with the 800-numbers? These part-time jobs for moms answer them. Pay: $32,214

11. Customer Service. More fun than call-center work. Requires product knowledge. Pay: $34,780

12. Dispatcher. Taxis, trucks, and cop cars need to know where to go. That means more stay-at-home-mom jobs for you. Pay: $37,112

Teaching

If you're a good teacher, you can find well-paying teaching and tutoring jobs online.

13. Online Tutor. If you're good at any subject, these make solid home jobs for moms. If you're good you'll make more than the median. Pay: $25,500

14. Test Scorer. You won't find these flexible jobs for moms in search sites. Contact schools and teachers directly instead. Pay: $24,380

15. ESL Teacher. There are lots of good online jobs for stay-at-home moms teaching English. Pay: $54,337

Writing

Do you have grammar and writing skills? These writer/editor/blogger stay-at-home jobs for moms might be your next chapter.

16. Proofreader. Checking spelling and grammar. Plus, you'll make your kids spelling bee champs. Pay: $36,290

17. Copy Editor. Check grammar, spelling, facts, and research with these online jobs for moms. Pay: $45,506

18. Content Creator. Jobs for moms who can blog and write. Pay: $54,455

19. Editor. Google has tons of remote jobs for moms who can manage writers. Pay: $61,655

20. Journalist. This one takes a long time to develop and you won't find it in the job sites. Join a pro association like the ASJA. Pay: $45,925

Computer science

If you've got a head for code, these might be for you.

21. Help Desk Worker/Desktop Support. Help non-techies jump through hoops. Pay: $43,835

22. Computer Scientist. As a CS, you can do any of the stay-at-home-mom jobs below. Pay: $109,075

23. Computer Programmer. Can you write code, or learn to? These are great stay-at-home jobs online. Pay: $64,719

24. Software Engineer. Also "software developer". This is more than programming because you design the apps. Pay: $104,463

25. Web Developer. Jobs for stay-at-home-moms who build website back-ends pay massive money. Pay: $88,488

26. Web Designer. Create the shape of sites and apps for these work-at-home jobs for moms. Pay: $56,143

27. UX Designer & UI Developer. Make websites play nice with users. Pay: $97,460

28. SQL Developer. Write code to store and retrieve data for websites. Pay: $81,714

29. DevOps Engineer. Someone needs to drive the great web development wagon train westward. That could be you. Pay: $138,378

Artistic roles

Are you an artistic mama? Try these creative stay-at-home-mom jobs.

30. Graphic Designer. If you're good with graphics, you'll find lots of work-from-home jobs for moms here. Pay: $48,256

31. Video Editor. Cook raw footage into gorgeous product with Adobe Premiere. Pay: $46,274

32. Musician. If you've got skills, you can find these jobs for stay-at-home moms in Google. Pay: $40,000

33. Computer Animator. These work-from-home jobs for moms come from networking, not job search websites. Pay: $61,000

Marketing

Many marketing teams rely on remote talent like you.

34. Social Media Specialist/Manager. If you can handle Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook, you can be a work-at-home mom. Pay: $54,500

35. SEO Specialist. This is all about keywords and search intent. Pay: $66,848

36. Marketing Specialist. These at-home jobs for moms turn heads to bring in bucks. Pay: $42,153

37. Marketing Manager. If you can lead a marketing team, you can find hundreds of work-from-home moms jobs online. Pay: $93,125

Research

Are you a top-notch internet detective who can pull it all together?

38. Researcher. Dig in, pull facts, and help your boss see forest through the decision trees. Pay: $61,085

39. Research Assistant. Just starting out? Try jobs for stay-at-home-moms helping the main researcher. Pay: $30,647

Accounting + finance

Have you got a CPA license or are you good with numbers? Try these stay-at-home-mom jobs.

40. Accountant. These SAHM jobs need a CPA license. If you don't have one already, move along. Pay: $55,202

41. Bookkeeper. No license. Keep track of the money. These work-at-home jobs for moms are everywhere. Pay: $34,677

Analyst

If you're really good at massaging data, these jobs for stay-at-home-moms may fit.

42. Business Analyst. For these stay-at-home-mom jobs, speak truth to power with hard data skills. Pay: $70,170

43. Data Analyst. Use big data tools like Hadoop or Cloudera to see what's really going on amid a world of figures. Pay: $65,470

44. Financial Analyst. If you don't already have a CFA certification, this one's off-limits. Pay: $63,829

45. Actuary. Insurance companies hire stay-at-home moms who make numbers sit up and beg. Pay: $107,598

46. Biostatistician. Health care needs statisticians too. Lots of SAHM jobs here. Some do it with less. Pay: $92,426

Engineering

If you're not already an engineer, you won't find many work-at-home jobs for moms in this part. Already got a degree? Try these.

47. Assistant Engineer. Do you understand the way things work? You can get SAHM jobs here with an associate's degree. Pay: $68,000

48. Engineer. Search a specific engineer job + "remote" in Google to find tons of these jobs for stay-at-home-moms. Pay: $77,182

49. Mechanical Engineer. Got your mechanical engineering degree but want to be a work-at-home mom? Pay: $73,016

50. Civil Engineer. Yes, there's tons of remote CE positions that work as stay-at-home-mom jobs. Pay: $68,638

51. Electrical Engineer. If you've got the training, you can find at-home-jobs for moms here too. Pay: $83,088

Healthcare

You need a license for these.

52. Telework Nurse/Doctor. If you're licensed, you can do these as a work-at-home mom. Pay: $76,710–$300,000

53. Massage Therapist. Welcome clients to your home and work your magic if you have a state license. Also try reiki practitioner and aromatherapist. Pay: $45,408

54. Mental Health Counselor. Online therapy's a thing, and works as SAHM jobs. Pay: $45,449

55. Addiction Counselor. Plenty of work-from-home jobs for moms online in this field. Pay: $37,762

56. Marriage Counselor. Rural couples love not driving. That creates online jobs for moms. Pay: $53,000

Other

Need a few more SAHM jobs with minimal training?

57. Virtual Assistant. Basically an online secretary. Good unskilled stay-at-home-mom jobs. Pay: $22,000

58. Recruiter. Many are underhanded, but you don't have to be. Pay: $49,712

59. Translator. If you're fluent, Google, "remote translator jobs" to find lots of legit SAHM jobs. Pay: $44,190

60. Amazon Top Work From Home Jobs. Amazon has stacks of jobs for stay-at-home-moms. Pay: Variable

61. Network Marketer. Multi-level marketing (MLM) has detractors and proponents. Research heavily before you jump. Pay: Variable

Originally posted on Zety.

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Work + Money

I am burned out. My house is a mess. My hair is dirty. My kids are napping, and I know I need to take a shower, but instead, I'm going to clean the kitchen so that the piled-up dishes stop frowning at me from the sink. I'll feel better starting the afternoon with a clean kitchen and state of mind that actually brings me peace. And this is okay. For me.

I see those beautifully written and curated posts about self-care that are meant to encourage me to set aside other's needs and tend to my own. Sometimes these posts do their job and I make a plan to "do something" to recharge. But I recharge by doing things for others and feeling satisfied in having met their needs as only I can.

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The way we are conditioned to think about self-care affects what we do and how we feel about it. For me, it's not a choice between sacrificing enough to validate myself as a 'good enough' mom, or believing that self-care is integral to my wellbeing. It is a matter of knowing I deserve it—in my way—and that should be okay.

Our culture values and glorifies self-sacrifice. "We promote the employee who works 80-plus hours a week; we idolize the mom who never seems to need a break," according to clinical psychologist, Dr. Jessica Michaelson. "This belief that self-sacrifice is best creates a great deal of shame when we feel like we need something different."

And too often there are barriers that prevent us from practicing self-care. In a recent study published in Midwifery, researchers examined mothers' perceptions regarding the role of self-care, their ways of self-care, and the barriers to doing it. The findings? Whether the mothers thought self-care was essential or not, barriers like time and other limited resources—money, social support, and difficulty accepting help and setting boundaries—prevented them from actually practicing it.

But worrying that needing self-care makes you selfish or weak should not be the barrier that prevents you from obtaining it. "Self-care absolutely is not the same as selfishness. Selfishness is lacking any consideration about others and profiting by this. Self-care is about making sure that we are well and healthy so that we are more available to help others," explained author, therapist and Silicon Valley health coach, Drew Coster.

Self-care can be as simple as a shift in perspective that leads to a better quality of life.

Self-care can mean many different things, but knowing what self-care is *not* might be even more important. Self-care is not something you force yourself to do or something you don't enjoy doing, either. Clinical psychologist, Agnes Wainman, explains that caring for yourself is doing "something that refuels us, rather than takes from us." That means whatever works for you, works for you. Even if that means letting others do something for you.

So if a spa day or binging on Netflix aren't your thing, that's okay, because self-care actually might not be what you add, but what you take away. You can give yourself permission *not* to do something, or eliminate tasks that are draining.

One tiny bit of self-care can make all the difference.

"In a perfect world, most of us would love to get an hour-long massage every day, take a bubble bath every night, and enjoy a relaxing gourmet meal each day. Is that possible for most of us? No," says Jacqueline Getchius, MA, LPCC, licensed professional clinical counselor and owner of Wellspring Women's Counseling based in Minnesota. "Instead, we need to take a good look at what actually is possible. Start small."

Some examples of small acts of self-care that can refuel you just as much as that hour-long massage:

  • Allow yourself to worry about something tomorrow
  • Sit down and put up your feet instead of sorting the socks
  • Let your partner do an extra chore
  • Go for a short walk without the dog
  • Skip a workout for once and have a cup of tea
  • Instead of doing a whole meditation, take five deep breaths
  • Turn your phone off for 30 minutes
  • Throw something out
  • Don't stay up late—let all the things wait
  • Unfollow someone on social media who brings you down
Bottom line: Self-care is as unique as you, mama. However you identify it, the key is that it refuels you in *your* way, however that looks.
Life

I love being a mother...and sometimes it swallows me up whole. There is no "but" in my love of motherhood—it is 100% the most incredible thing I've ever done and my most favorite job in the world. And it is the hardest work in the world, the most suffocating at times and it can break me down like no other.

Motherhood is all and, which can make it all the harder.

So when my youngest was 14 months—and we had officially ended our breastfeeding journey—and I was offered a press trip to Steamboat Springs, CO to go on a snowmobiling trip no less, I jumped at the chance.

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It would be my first trip away from both my girls—my first trip away from my youngest ever. It would also be my first time to Steamboat, my first time snowmobiling (or doing any kind of extreme snow activity. It would be a bonafide adventure.

But when I first read the snowmobiling itinerary, a tiny, niggling voice whispered at the back of my brain: I can't do that. I will be too scared.

I ignored the voice as I packed my bags, kissed my babies goodbye and made my way west. I reveled in the simplest things—the single carry-on suitcase, with room left around my clothes that would normally be stuffed to the gills with blankets, tiny rolled socks tucked between miniature pairs of pants and extra diapers. I basked in the decadence of a light handbag, packed with only my own things instead of extra snacks and sippy cups and extra diapers (always extra diapers). I delighted in the breezy way I moved through the airport, the only thing disturbing my peace was the thought that I must be forgetting something. I can't possibly be holding enough things right now.

I love motherhood, and it is a constant weight in my life. Sometimes born lightly, tiring me to a deep satisfaction. But sometimes a heavier burden, threatening to pull me under. In either case, there is always so much to hold and carry.

Ironically, I missed my girls already. Found myself sneaking peeks at photos on my phone, wondering when the next time they would call or send me a Marco Polo. After all, I love being a mother.

But there were also near constant reminders of how much I had needed a break. When my flights were boarded and then delayed, I breathed a sigh of relief that they weren't here, imagining my anxiety levels rising at the thought of entertaining a whiny toddler and a super mobile baby for any extra time in this tiny space. I watched two movies (one of which I had wanted to see for over a year). I read one and a half books. (For context, in the last year since my second daughter was born, I had probably read...zero.) Enjoying these things I rarely had time for anymore felt like catching up with old friends, people who knew me way back when.

Later, after settling into my room (with my own bed! And my own bathroom! And no one asking me to wipe their butt in it!), I met my fellow travelers at the house next door for dinner. I ate appetizers without anyone asking me for a bite. I drank a glass of wine and sat in a chair for 20 minutes before I stood up—of my own volition—to sit at the dinner table. No one commented that the food looked "yucky!" or asked how many bites they had to take to get dessert.

Irony alive and well, it was me who kept bringing my girls back to the table, telling stories of the funny things my 4-year-old says. The way my 1-year-old squishes her face and snorts to look "tough."

I love motherhood, and it is the constant thread of my life. It affects everything, tints everything, changes everything—and I wouldn't change that for the world.

The next morning, I woke before the sun for the excursion, drank a cup of coffee (that I finished before it got cold, thank you very much), and boarded a shuttle to the meeting site. I again had to shake that feeling that I was forgetting something, but there was relief in knowing that anything forgotten was mine alone. I could deal with a forgotten hat (my toddler would throw a tantrum). I could shake off a cold wind on my neck (my baby would scream, and we would have to go home).

The other riders and me shivered slightly in our snowsuits while the guides demonstrated the ignition and the kill switch and the proper way to whap whap whap the gas. They told us we would start on trails and then go off the trail if we were comfortable. The old voice resurrected in my brain and whispered again: I can't do that. I will be too scared.

After our (incredibly short, to me) training, the guides broke us into groups of five and started to lead us out of the lot where we had met onto the trail. Just like that—here's how to turn it on and away we go!

I should have felt more nervous, but strangely, motherhood had prepared me for steep learning curves. Just four years ago, hadn't I been wheeled to the doors of the hospital, tiny baby wrapped in my arms, sent home and told to have at it?

I could handle motherhood—I could handle this.

I was pleasantly surprised to find snowmobiling was much easier than I thought. Flying down the trail, I felt myself relaxing into the ride, able to take in the stunning surroundings and hearing only the roar of my motor and the whistle of the wind under my helmet. I felt brave and strong and exciting—things that maybe I had forgotten I could be. That I already was.

At lunch, perched on the edge of an alcove of trees and overlooking a snow covered meadow, our guides told us we could "play around" as soon as we were done eating. They pointed to the wide open stretch below us, off-trail and unmarked by anything. I stared at the expanse of white and mountain and heard the voice say again (though perhaps a bit quieter): I can't do that. I will be too scared.

I lingered by the fire a few minutes after I finished eating, my eyes not leaving that meadow. I couldn't do it. But then...what if I could? I pushed myself up from the drift, grabbed my helmet and hopped on my sled.

"I can just go?" I asked one of the guides.

He grinned at me. "Just go!"

In seconds, I was flying down the hill, the waist-deep powder cascading behind me. I crested a hill and paused for a second. It was so cold, the mountains were so beautiful and I was so alone. More alone than I had felt in years. I took a long, deep breath, realizing for the first time how much I had really needed this.

Once you are a mother, you are a mother forever. It's as sure as your bones—and as wholly part of you. You can't lose the part of you that is a mother. But you can lose the rest.

I had thrown myself into motherhood willingly, like so many other endeavors in my life, wanting—needing—to give my children my very best. My all. But somewhere along the way, I had forgotten to reserve a little bit for myself. This trip was a reminder: It was okay to prioritize myself now and then. It was necessary.

I missed my babies, but I felt now how much I missed this part of myself.

When you choose to make your first post-baby vacation an adventure, you pay homage to the woman you were before. The one who did things for the first time, who had a world of opportunity before her. But you honor something else too, something perhaps even better: the woman you are now.

Because, truthfully, I never want to go back to who I was before. It would be disingenuous, and it would devalue all the work I had put in since then. The woman I am now is so much more empathetic, so much stronger, so much more confident—she's the woman the old me would go to for advice and counsel and to be built up when she needed it.

By choosing an adventure, it was a permanent reminder to me—and to that tiny, doubting voice—that I have no idea what I can't do. But I knew now that I can do so much more than I ever thought.

As I started to turn back from the meadow to head toward the group, I took a turn too sharply and tipped my sled, wedging it firmly in a deep bank. I was totally fine—the snow was so deep, it was exactly like landing in a fluffy pillow—but I couldn't right the sled myself. I radioed the guides for help, and one of them came speeding up within minutes. In a second, he had the sled dislodged and I climbed back aboard.

"You good?" he asked. And I grinned.

"Never been better."

Life

Like so many women of my generation, I didn't have a built-in village when I became a mom. My folks were 3,000 miles away on the opposite coast. My friends were out of sync with me, either parenting much older kids or child-free. And my husband was at work 10 hours a day, leaving me home alone with a helpless newborn who came with no instruction manual.

When are her real parents coming back to get her? I remember thinking. How could I possibly be solely responsible for the health and well-being of this adorable but terrifying little person?

I had many new-mom questions and precious few answers.

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Was it strange that my baby seemed to get hungry every 45 minutes?

Why couldn't my baby fall asleep unless she was on top of me?

Would I ever feel normal again?

Between baby blues, sleep deprivation and loneliness, normal felt very far away.

Then one day, I bumped into a neighbor—let's call her "Neighbor Mom"—pushing a stroller. She was new to our building, but not new to parenting, ably balancing an 18-month-old toddler and an 8-year-old school kid. She must have sensed my neediness, because she invited me, a fragile stranger, into her apartment. It was cozy and inviting, strewn with kid stuff and safely baby-proofed. I lay my little one on a blanket on the floor and took a deep breath in, relaxing for the first time in ages.

Neighbor Mom and I developed an easy friendship, casual and convenient. We kept our doors open and could drop by any time the other was home. I tagged along on walks to her older daughter's elementary school, just to have someplace to go and someone to talk to. We introduced our husbands and made simple family dinners together, arriving not with wine and flowers but with a highchair wheeled from next door.

As I got more comfortable with my new friend, I confided in her about my mom worries. At the top of my list: my baby wouldn't sleep without being in my arms. If I tried to put her in the crib, she woke hourly, screaming. I was a walking zombie. Everyone from the pediatrician to my college roommate was imploring me to sleep train. I knew they meant well, but I felt pushed around, and I resisted.

Unlike, say, my own mother, this kind, gentle mama next door never criticized me or made me feel like I was doing it wrong. Instead, she talked about what worked for her. She shared her dog-eared copy of Dr. Sears' Attachment Parenting book. I didn't become an attachment parenting convert, but I took up baby-wearing and it helped so much.

I also learned a ton just by watching Neighbor Mom in action. She was masterful at setting limits without flying off the handle. If her toddler misbehaved, she crouched down, made eye contact and offered a firm "no" before redirecting to safer activities. It's one thing to read about these techniques in books. Seeing them in action was much more helpful. I swear, my kids owe the fact that I'm not a screamer to Neighbor Mom.

Another important habit Neighbor Mom modeled for me was self-care. Here was a totally hands-on, devoted and present stay-at-home mom, yet I'd see her jogging out the door every morning before her husband left for work, getting her cardio while she could. She did yoga on a mat next to her toddler. She took a night class at the college. I saw that it was not just possible but smart to take care of yourself so that you'll have the energy and enthusiasm needed for your children.

About a year after moving into my building, Neighbor Mom and her family relocated up north. I keep tabs on them through social media and loved seeing their family expand to include a third child. Although I was sad when they moved, I keep Neighbor Mom in my heart. Her example has helped me remember to be patient with the baby mamas I meet—to listen to them, support them and not judge them. New moms have enough busybodies telling them their baby ought to be wearing socks. I try instead to be the cheerleader who says, "All your baby needs is love and you're doing a great job."

Some time after Neighbor Mom left, a very pregnant woman walked past my building and paused so her dog could watch the squirrels. We got to talking and I learned she was expecting her first, and she had lots of questions. It felt good to be the one who had answers, or at least experience, to share. I wound up telling her about the wonderful preschool I'd found for my daughter, and a few years later I bumped into there. We're still friends today.

I can never thank Neighbor Mom enough for all she gave me, but I can pay it forward—every chance I get.

[This was originally published on Apparently]

Love + Village
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