Who’s On Your Team?

I just finished watching the last, heart-stopping Olympic hockey game between the U.S.A and Canada. My youngest is a huge, longtime fan of the sport, and over the years he has taught me to enjoy it too. So there I was, cringing and swearing and cheering over each lightning shot that zoomed across the ice.

Throughout it all, I was struck by the laser-like focus and incontestable dedication to the sport that each one of those athletes brought with him to the game. They were all master players competing at the highest level.

Then I started to think about how much behind-the-scenes support they have gotten throughout their lives. Parents, coaches, trainers, consultants, physical therapists, sports psychologists, friends, girlfriends, wives and fellow players are just some of the many who worked hard to help those athletes make it to the podium when the gold and silver were being handed out.

Without a doubt, each player put in the time, made the sacrifices and worked incredibly hard for many years to make a name and a place for himself. But nobody gets to that lofty level on their own.

At that point, I thought of you and how hard you’re working to be the best mom possible to the little charges that have fallen into your lap and your life. And I was wondering, who have you got in your corner? Ever think about that?

It’s a really important question to ask yourself because being a successful parent has to be the hardest job in the world. Sounds cliche, I know, but I honestly do believe it.

Obviously, anyone can take a shot at parenting, but to really pull it off and do it well takes tremendous long-term focus and commitment. And often, mothers are down there in the trenches with very little outside support.

I’m not demeaning husbands or partners. Clearly their contribution is monumental — hopefully. But to be the mom is something different. You’re usually the one doing most of the nurturing, shlepping, disciplining, feeding, comforting, mind reading, and, of course, worrying.

And just in case it isn’t obvious by now, if you want to be truly successful, you’re going to need back up. You’re going to need a team.

So do yourself a favor and start to put together your own handpicked dream team. Draft members who are neither threatened by, jealous of, nor competitive with you. Mix it up. Get a few who are younger, some your own age  and some who are older. It’s fantastic to have one the age of your grandmother – if your own is alive and a true fan of yours, all the better.

The younger ones will give you a chance to teach and demonstrate what you have learned. You’ll be surprised by how much you know and have already mastered. And they will shore up your confidence by marveling at the skill you show in handling what you might think of as a no-brainer in the how-do-I-do-this department.

The ones your age will be up-to-the minute on all the trials and tribulations that are going on in your day-to-day kid-oriented world. They can offer strategies and information and peer support when you need it.

But be sure you’ve got some same-agers who have no children, as well. They can offer a fresh perspective on life and won’t be overwhelmed by the same problem at the same time.

And then be absolutely sure that you find at least one gem of an older mother whose been there already and has kids way beyond where yours are now. Her insight and guidance in everything from relationships, to what it means to be a mother, to cures for the common cold will be invaluable for you.

You need a core group of supporters who care about and are looking after you. Who love you and won’t mind a late night phone call when you’ve lost your confidence or are scared because your child is really sick or you feel wiped out and alone.

Find people who relate to you and who you feel a connection with. Make sure they are stable and want to share time with you and your kids. Stay in touch and let it grow.

Believe me, if you can find the right people to be in your corner throughout these really tough and often baffling parenting years, they will get you to the finish line with your head held high and a smile on your face. And along the way, don’t forget to pass along the favor and join someone else’s team, too.

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Ellen W. Schrier, LCSW, is a family therapist and the mother of three adolescent/young adult kids.

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