On Tuesday, I took my daughter to pick up her schedule and books for school. While she was in line, someone suggested that I start working on some of those endless forms we parents get every year when school starts. I jumped at the chance to avoid some of the first-day-of-school mom homework, and dived in.
Name, address, insurance information…all the standards. And then I came to the emergency contact forms. And I was stumped.
When we moved to Austin, we left our extended family and life-long friends behind. Those names that would have quickly been listed were gone. And now, two years later, the void largely remains. I listed my daughter’s local best friend’s mom’s name and contact information, and then walked back up to the counter.
“I only have one person for this section,” I told the receptionist.
“Don’t worry about it”, she said. “Most people only have one. Some don’t have any. That’s life these days. No support network.”
I went on to the rest of the forms, but I couldn’t get that comment out of my mind. Most of us enrolling kids in school have no support network.
Of course, odds are, no one will ever need to pull out that piece of paper and call an emergency number. Thank goodness. But I started to think about all kinds of support networks that might help us as moms during the school year. And I thought it might be a good list to share. How many of these do you have?
1) Emergency contacts – Two or three people who really know you and your kids and could act in an emergency (or a pinch) to pick up a sick child from school, answer questions about you or your child, or know how to contact other family members. Make sure your contacts know that you’ve listed them, and are okay with it. Once you have their permission, provide them with a list of numbers and other information they might need if you couldn’t be reached. Giving them a signed “permission to treat” is a good idea, too.
2) Academic help – By the time kids need help in math or English, you might not have the time to look for a tutoring service. Spending time now checking out the various academic help services will allow you to address any problems quickly and efficently.
3) Health care – If you’ve moved recently, you might not have picked out a new pediatrician yet. Or your child’s records might not have been transferred yet. Before school starts, or as soon as possible, make sure you’ve selected a medical professional, and that they have complete information about your child’s health needs and medical history.
4) Parents of your kids’ friends – As much as your kids need their friends, you need to get to know their friends’ parents. Even if none of those people never make it into your list of BFFs, they’re an important part of your support network. Chatting with another mom at the grocery store or while waiting for the kids after school can be a great way to find out about that field trip your child didn’t mention or an upcoming book fair you forgot about.
5) Your own friends – You might not think about your friends as part of a school year support network, but they truly are. These are the people who will understand your frustration when science fair time rolls around (how can a 3rd grade science fair project cost $150?!) or you don’t think you can face one more bedtime battle. Even if they don’t have kids, spending time with your friends helps you de-stress and relax. And that can be exactly what a busy mom needs when she hears “But I need it tomorrow!” just one time too many!
Other moms might add other catagories to their list. Work friends who could cover for you if you needed to run to pick up a sick child. Spiritual leaders who could provide guidance. Household help to pick up the slack when work and the school year leave you running too much to handle cleaning or other chores.
Add whoever you need to feel covered. And maybe, just maybe, less of us will fit in that sad statement of parents having no support network.