One of my little treasured blessings was born at the cusp of the Arab Spring. We were living in Libya, and I was just finishing up an online course with Kim West (The Sleeplady, author of the revolutionary book on baby sleep). I had my hands full with a busy home, a very large extended family, an online condensed course, an infant, two adventurous toddlers, and a first grader “going on 14.”
I’ll spare you the details of everything that happened between the birth of my baby and our evacuation. The crux of the matter is that I became the primary and sole care taker of my little munchkins. Despite their age our kids had to contend with the reality in which they found themselves. They were simultaneously scared to death that their dad stayed behind in a war-zone, and super proud that he was courageous enough to take that very difficult decision.
We were in a new country, with different customs, a different language, and we were the only Muslims, or Arabs within a 20 mile radius. The community was very welcoming and supportive, and my kids were treated like heroes themselves.
I don’t have to tell you how difficult it was to juggle all the changes, the attention, the responsibilities, the uncertainty with four very young, impressionable kids. Suffice it to say that I was insanely busy.
We took many walks to parks, fed the goats and horses along the way, stopped to smell the roses (literally), and ventured into the woods as often as I could bring myself to do so outside of everything that needed tending to.
But let’s face it, although all this granted us endless opportunities to feel grateful, I honestly believe that the only thing that kept me from loosing my mind (other than the Grace of God), was my infant’s constant need of me.
This might puzzle you, especially if you’re a new mom, and are feeling overwhelmed at the neediness of your little treasure. Well, let me explain myself, then.
I was busy… Schmoozing with the locals to welcome us into their tightly knit community, running all the errands and trying to get the most out of what we knew would be a short term stay. Exposing our kids to all the amazing things they had never seen before and probably wouldn’t get to experience again outside of this unusually plentiful environment. I was always on the go: go take one kid here, the other over there, get all of them ready for the journey, because no matter where we went, it would inevitably be an adventurous expedition… Go shop, go to the doctor’s, go to soccer, hockey, swimming lessons, crafts, play, walk, do this, that, and the other thing.
Even if a few of moms volunteered to drive one kid to hockey, and one to soccer, or one for a regular playdate at her place, I still had the other three to keep occupied and ready in case something came up. I was constantly worried: are my kids safe, are they healthy, are they happy, are they getting everything they can out of this experience, how are they coping with the knowledge that much of their family was in harm’s way?
Every opportunity called for more: more effort, more time, more attention, more care. I used to be a clean freak, but for the first time in my adult life I went to sleep with my clothes on, dishes unwashed. I drank more coffee than anyone should, to ensure I wouldn’t miss a beat. I was always on my toes.
I needed time to calm down. But I had none. Except… When I nursed my infant. I had to sit, lie down, free my hands, and tune everything out, for 10-15 minutes, several times a day. I took this time to teach my other kids quietude, self reliance, respect for boundaries, and love for each other, by simply making it clear that I needed them to be patient and quiet so the baby could eat and sleep. My duty to feed my infant became our only down time, certainly mine.
So although it might feel like a tremendous responsibility and an infant’s needs seemingly endless, even this busy time can turn into a blessing. If I hadn’t had to feed my infant child at regular intervals, I never would have allowed myself the opportunity to slow down, be still, and let go of everything else.