Mothers Helping Mothers – “The Lone Ranger Mom”
by: Donna Partow
The Lone Ranger Mom. That’s who I used to be, hunkered down behind my four walls, fighting the good fight for faith and family. But behind my mask of self-sufficiency, I struggled with loneliness, low self-esteem and the host of insecurities that most new moms face.
When the daily grind and prolonged isolation turned into depression, I knew I had to do something. So I reached out to the other women in my neighborhood. To my surprise, they were feeling the same way.
We formed a mothers’ co-op to give each other practical and emotional support. In addition to winning my personal battle with loneliness, I discovered an unexpected benefit: When moms help moms in the practical everyday happenings of life, we can save lots of money. If you would like to see how, join me for a week in the life of a former Lone Ranger mom.
MONDAY, 5:30 A.M. My walking partner, Charlene, and I cover 4.5 miles. We’ve discovered fitness is free, once you have invested in good walking shoes. All you need is a faithful friend.
6:30 P.M. My husband, Cameron, returns from work and is amazed to find a composed, cheerful woman. Then he remembers: It’s Mom’s night out! After dinner I pick up Diane and Cathy, and we head for our homeschool co-op meeting. We exchange teaching tools, books, magazines, newsletters and more.
TUESDAY, 8.40 A.M. It’s my turn to carpool the girls from our weekly play group to Vacation Bible School. The other moms don’t attend church, but are giving VBS a try. As I pull into the parking lot, I notice that other mothers have come alone. Leading a string of five children, I’m glad I’m not alone anymore.
I am looking forward to a full day of concentrated work. Susie has offered to pick up my daughter, Leah, from VBS and take her to Nancy’s house for play group.
3:10 P.M. Susie drops Leah off at my home. I thank her profusely. She has really come through for me today, as she has so many times before. It’s been hard being away from Leah for nearly seven hours, but thanks to my home business (made possible by the support of my mothers’ co-op), I don’t have to do this often. My earnings are pure profit since I didn’t need a baby-sitter.
WEDNESDAY, 6:45 A.M. Breakfast as usual. I put a cup of orange juice, a banana and a quart of strawberries in the blender, press puree, and the day is off to a nutritious start. Impressed? Don’t be. It took 18 months of constant cajoling by the women in my co-op before I repented of my junk-food addiction.
Our grocery bill last week was $40; it used to be $150 per week. Once a month, our health-food co-op places a group order. By buying in bulk, we get better-quality food at a sharp discount.
5:30 P.M. Charlene stops by to pick up Leah, so Cameron and I can enjoy a romantic candlelight dinner at home for our anniversary. The dress I’m wearing tonight is one of six I picked out at the church clothing exchange.
THURSDAY, 12:30 P.M. My neighbor Gayle calls. Her sister is visiting from out of town with her three children. Gayle and her sister would like to enjoy adult conversation over lunch, so I tell her to send over the children. It’s a wild and crazy afternoon with a house full of kids, but since Leah is an only child, it’s a welcome change of pace.
4:00 P.M. When Gayle returns, she takes the whole gang-including Leah – to the local swim club. Since we cannot afford the $1,000 membership, we appreciate Gayle’s frequent invitations.
FRIDAY, 5:00 P.M. It’s my turn to baby-sit for Susie. She and her husband, David, attend a “Dinner With Friends” gathering with three other couples. If they hired a baby-sitter and went to a restaurant, it would cost $50 or more. With another couple doing the cooking, the evening is essentially free.
The baby-sitting co-op is at the heart of our group. It started when two moms posted flyers around the neighborhood stating, “Do you want to exchange FREE baby-sitting with other moms?” Fourteen women showed up at the first meeting 18 months ago; we now have 30 members.
1. Decide what kind of support you need.
What do you need? Friends for yourself or your children or both? Free baby-sitting? Would you like to save money by exchanging clothes, videos, books or toys? Does a health-food co-op appeal to you? Why not create an alternative to pre-school (or high school, for that matter), where moms take turns teaching?
Your co-op will become a unique reflection of the women who participate. Our group in Mesa, Ariz., enjoys family fun, health and fitness. In Exton, Pa., the women of Emmanuel Presbyterian Church are “big on buckets.” Their motto is, “Greater love has no woman than this, that she lay down her cleanser in the bathroom of a friend.” A group of Colorado moms specialize in projects. Each week they go to a different woman’s house to clean the garage, paint a room, organize a basement-the kind of jobs no woman should face alone.
2. Determine the size We have limited our co-op to 30 members. The Us Madres group in California includes hundreds of women throughout the Bay Area. They occasionally have large events, but normally the women divide into smaller groups based on the age of their children, location or special interests. Whether you connect with I or 100 doesn’t matter. What counts is getting the support you need.
3. Recruit members. once you have determined the size and type of group you would like to create, it’s time to recruit members. You can post flyers around the neighborhood, put a notice in the church bulletin or rely on word of mouth.
Your first order of business might be working through No More Lone Ranger Moms (a 13-week study, including discussion questions, that I wrote). Stay flexible. Each mother will have her own ideas, so the group may take a slightly different form than you originally intended. Usually, a baby-sitting co-op or play group will serve as the starting point. As the women get better acquainted, you can develop special interest groups.
I have tried motherhood both ways – as a Lone Ranger mom and as part of a community. I now realize that many American women have made this motherhood trip much lonelier than God intended. Fortunately, there is a better way. You can be a better wife, mother and friend when you get the practical support you need from other women. So what are you waiting for, Kemo Sabe? Bid farewell to the Lone Ranger mom!
Five Golden Rules for Networking
1. Do Unto Others. If you want other moms to help you, then you must first be willing to help them.
2. Ask and You Shall Receive. If you need help, ask for it – and be very specific.
3. Do Good Work. If you make a casserole, make your best casserole, and bring along a salad and dessert for good measure. Go the extra mile.
4. Give Thanks. We all want to feel appreciated. If someone goes out of her way to help you, show your appreciation. A thank-you note or pretty postcard only takes a couple of minutes.
5. Practice Patience. Here’s the hard part. You may be excited about the power of moms helping moms. That’s terrific. Just remember, though, friendship takes time. Look patiently for the right women to join your network.
Donna Partow is author of No More Lone Ranger Moms. She and her husband, Cameron, are expecting a child in May. Donna participates in the Red Mountain Ranch Mothers’ Co-op in Mesa, Ariz. To request a copy of her book, see pages 8-9.
This material was published in the February 1996 issue of Focus on the Family Magazine, pgs. 6-7. This material is copyrighted and may be used for research and study purposes only.