When I was pregnant with my son, friends and family showered me with gifts as well as opinions about the must-have gear. Some even tossed in their best general advice on raising kids, too. My Cuban mother in particular had plenty to say. But one of the things no one told me is that who you have on hand is as important — if not more so — as what you have on hand, especially at critical moments.
That’s why I’m a huge advocate for what I like to call The Entourage, the crew of go-to people whom you can rely on when faced with unforeseen circumstances. You’ve heard of celebrity entourages, right? Well, I’m talking about the mum version. They don’t have to share your DNA. In fact, sometimes the only criteria are that they’re licensed to drive. But they will prove key to your success as a parent nonetheless. Not all mums will have the same entourage. The right mix depends on your lifestyle, schedule, and preferences, but here’s a general rundown of the people I believe every mum needs to have in her corner:
1. A neighbour with a key to your house. This is in case you lock yourself out while your baby is inside, which happened to me when my boy was a toddler. If you think you’re way too responsible to have this happen to you, I have news for you. It happens. I went outside to do some gardening, maybe make a phone call or two. The next thing I knew I was pulling desperately on the doorknob, convinced my kid was going to fall out of his cot and I wouldn’t be there to catch him. Instead of calling a locksmith, I first called my mother, who lives 250 kilometres away. (I’m not sure what I was thinking. It must have been the mama’s girl in me.) After giving me her two cents (“Tu estås loca?!”) I finally called a locksmith. It turns out they’re not allowed to unlock doors if there are unsupervised children inside, so the police were called — yikes! The officers arrived accompanied by a social worker whose job was to confirm that I was neither crazy nor ill-intentioned. When I was given the seal of approval and rushed into my son’s room, I found him standing in his cot, amused at the crowd of people gathered around him. Do yourself a favour and hand a trusty neighbour a house key to avoid this scenario.
2. The mum who came before you. I’m not talking about your mum. Mine was certainly helpful, but she had her babies decades before I had my son. A lot had changed. She also had the benefit of having my live-in grandparents at her beck and call, armed with a slew of Cuban remedies for everything from nappy rash to discipline. When my son was a baby we lived far from family, but luckily I had a colleague, Stephanie, who turned out to be a godsend. Her kids were just far enough ahead of mine that I was able to benefit from her experience. Yet she wasn’t so far removed from things like potty training and picky eating that she couldn’t recall the tricks that worked. This slot can be filled with a sister if you have one (I didn’t). Just make sure she’s not going to turn judgy if you don’t take her advice.
3. The mum who’s in it with you. One of my friends had her firstborn within two months of mine. So, she had the same deer-in-headlights look I did because everything about babies was new to her, too. Sure there were times when I wanted someone with experience, but there were definitely times when I welcomed the rookie ears of someone who was in the trenches right along with me!
4. An “in case of emergency” contact. The right person may not necessarily be the most obvious. Twice I’ve placed coworkers on the list of emergency contacts at my son’s school because our office was so close, it was easy for them to reach him in a pinch. Just make sure your go-to is willing to drop everything and rush to your child’s daycare if, say, your meeting runs late or you simply, ahem, forget to pick him up. If the administrator can’t reach you or you’re stuck in traffic, having this person on hand can be a lifesaver.
5. The friend without children. Sometimes I want to go out without worrying that the conversation will turn to preschools, picky eaters or baby poo. This is where my friend, Erin, comes in. She recently had a son of her own, but for years she was the only person in my inner circle who could more or less drop everything and meet me for coffee — or cocktails — on a moment’s notice, unlike my other pals with screaming kiddos attached to their bodies. Find someone who’s always up for something when you suddenly need to clear your head. So long as she’s game and childless, she’s perfect!
6. The in-a-pinch babysitter. Like I said before, every mum’s needs are different. I have two of these in my entourage. The first is my mother. Despite living two hours away, she (thankfully) hops on a bus on a moment’s notice to come stay with my son when a business trip suddenly pops up. She is all too happy to spend time alone with Javier, so she can malcriar her grandson without having to deal with my disapproving looks. My second in-a-pinch babysitter is my neighbour’s daughter. She’s 16 and always willing to walk down the street and help me out on a moment’s notice.
More friendship truths:
- How to Make New Friends When You’re Shy
- The Mums I Couldn’t Get By Without (& Why I’m So Thankful for Them)
- 7 Rules for Being My Mum Friend