For almost a month now, I have been involved in some sketchy activity. It feels sketchy, anyway….
Early this summer, after welcoming her fourth baby, a friend of mine realized that she would have four days a week with just two children at home – something she hadn’t experienced in over two years. With her older two headed off to school, she seized the opportunity to engage in some sketchy behavior, which her mom encouraged. I was shocked and immediately drawn to this behavior as well.
We call it “Child Swap.”
This activity happens twice a week. One day, I take her two youngest kids for an entire day while she does whatever she needs or wants. (Yeah, moms can do that. I know it sounds almost illegal. Too good to be true.) Then, another day, she takes my youngest while my big girls are in school. From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. one day a week, I am free.
At first, I felt an immense amount of mom guilt. You only feel guilt when you do something wrong, right? NOPE. Mom guilt is ugly and it shows up, uninvited, frequently.
My son has been attached to me since the day he was born. We have been besties. I don’t push him to go to the nursery at church because he’s my baby, and I totally baby him. This Child Swap experience has opened up opportunities for me to stop babying him and start encouraging him to interact with others – without me around.
He FREAKED out on Day One when I brought him to my friend. Like, clung to me, grabbed my shirt, and cried, “MAMA!!!” After literally five minutes, he had recovered. He played, he sang, he danced, he ate lunch, and he napped for my friend. I picked him up and he was HAPPY and loving and a sight for sore eyes.
Here’s how I’ve spent some of my free days:
Swap Day 1: Once I dried my eyes and reassured myself that I am a good mom, and that he would survive this, I did NOT know what to do with myself. What are these things dangling next to me? Oh, they are FREE HANDS?! What are those?? And, people seriously go outside between the hours of 1:00 and 3:00? But that’s nap time. Whaaaat?! The dishes were done, the laundry was folded, the toys were put away, and it was barely even 10 a.m. So you know what I did? I read a book. A real book with no pictures and more than two sentences on a page. I didn’t know I could still do it, but I did it!
Swap Day 2: I did all my work early so I could play (or sleep) that afternoon. Everything was going well, and then a friend needed some help that afternoon. She asked me to literally come sit in her house full of sleeping kids. DONE. I can do that. I love blessing other mamas. Especially with family so far away from me, I know what a blessing it is to create family here.
Swap Day 3: I decided to be a little more intentional about my time apart from my son. I tackled the toys in the living room, folded the laundry monster in my room, and wiped down all the surfaces in the kitchen. I also got in a workout and a nice looooong hot shower! See what I mean? It seems illegal to be this free.
My friend and I cannot get over what a good idea this has been. Our two-year-olds are adorable and love being together. Before this swap, they probably couldn’t have picked each other out in a crowd; now they are
promised to be married the best of friends. They know when Mom says their friend is coming over, and they are sad when they cannot see their friend every day. I love watching their friendship – and my friendship with this mama friend – grow and grow!
I want to encourage you to take part in this barely legal arrangement. Here are a few things you need to have:
- Another stay-at-home mom friend whom you would trust with your life.
- An aching for some time to yourself.
- A love for others.
It’s really simple. And if committing to a whole day seems scary, start with half-days and go from there. If you find a friend with young children (that still nap), the afternoons are a breeze! I have loved my time with her two littles. I get to snuggle a baby and listen to my son and her daughter chit-chat in their little toddler language. It is hilariously adorable and the highlight of our time together.