The garage door and I are back on track.

I am feeling pretty awesome, not because I personally, at 5 months pregnant, wrestled the garage door from its jammed state, but because I, terrified of our neighbors and more likely to sit in our air-conditioned home with blinds drawn than venture around the neighborhood where I might have to make small talk, asked for help.  When I got back from a Salvation Army drop-off, depositing old clothes and crap my mother has brought, I walked immediately to the home of the block’s resident handyman, a middle-aged, hard-of-hearing Native American.  And. I. Asked. For. Help.

Since we don’t have a regular handyman, the easier way would have been to ask my in-laws for a handyman’s number, or to call Sears or something, but Mr. Apron is working a 12-hour day today, and both of my obligations today – a meeting with a friend to pick up some maternity clothes, and a SAT test-prep appointment – were canceled on account of sickness (theirs, not mine).  So here I am, at home, straightening up the house, listening absent-mindedly to “Teen Mom” while I sweep up copious amounts of dog fur, and what’s a girl to do?

Sometimes I get tired of waiting for things to happen, or I get tired of waiting for other people to do things for me.  I take matters into my own hands.  Traditionally, though, this has manifest itself as “If you want something done, you have to do it yourself.”  Well, garage doors are not my forte. Luckily, they are our neighbor’s.

Neither is finding affordable, safe, trusted child care for my impending offspring.  Sure, I can do all the research I want on Keystone Stars, and check out Better Business Bureau ratings.  I can go to daycare centers, make my own observations and collect brochures with unaffordable rates, but I cannot find the gems myself. I cannot find the surrogate grandmothers, stay-at-home moms, and Mary Poppinses who want to watch my children solely because they love babies.  At least, I cannot find them by myself.  As the slow panic about childcare ramps up in this second half of my pregnancy, I find myself doing something I have never done before – reaching out and asking for help.

I ask everyone I run into if they know people who watch children in their home.  When random neighbors suddenly notice my burgeoning abdomen and inquire how my pregnancy has been, I mutter the usual about how great I’ve been feeling, about how grateful I am not to have had morning sickness, how I’m hot and tired, but, given the summer’s heat waves, so is everyone else.  When they ask how/if they’ll be able to help, I pass the word along that we’re looking for child care, and do they know anyone?

It was just this kind of off-the-cuff, purposeful networking that landed me in the home of a Miss Sherry last Friday after my haircut.  Casually chatting with my hairstylist revealed that she knew someone right around the corner from the salon who had watched her children, now 20 and 24, some years ago.  Seizing the momentum, I called, and found myself in her living room an hour later.

Her home was clean, safe, and full of toys.  She has a large backyard full of toddler play equipment.  Her rates are affordable.  And she loves babies.  While I didn’t sign my 1lb fetuses up on the spot, I did feel a huge measure of relief as I left, knowing that if Miss Sherry is out there, there are others.  There are other rates to compare, other centers to compare, other babysitters to compare.  And if I found her by a random connection on a Friday morning, who knows who else will turn up with the other networking I’ve been trying to do.

My mother-in-law called this morning with the e-mail address of another contact Mr. Apron knew from his last job – a stay-at-home mother of four who might do child-care.  She lives around the corner from our house, and I’ve seen her baby-wearing.  Both positive points in her favor.

But if she doesn’t do child care, she might know someone who does.

Because I’m not in the mommy-network yet, I have to seek out the well-connected women who are.  No one can be a mommy in a vacuum, even those who work full-time and don’t attend Wednesday morning Mommy & Me yoga.  If I keep asking around, I’ll eventually worm my way into the network.  I’ll learn all the resources for the moms in my neighborhood that no book, no Craiglist posting, and no thebump.com message board can yet replace.

I’m really proud of myself for opening my mouth and asking for help.  I’m pleased with myself for asking for what I need rather than trying to do it all myself.  I’m discovering the rewards and satisfaction of the very beginnings of building community close to home.  Though Mr. Apron and I have largely kept to ourselves in the 2.5 years since we bought this house, I hope that the babies will serve as an irresistible (and necessary) ice-breaker not only for the curious somebodies next door, but also for me, the shy pregnant lady in the house with the overgrown flower beds.

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