The Pod Squad

By Jillian Lankford

One thing that came out of becoming a stay at home mom I am enormously grateful for is my squad. I mean I have had a squad or squads. Friends and friend groups. There are groups of people that have been in my life for ages. People I can rely on and cry to when I have the courage. Those groups did not transition with me into motherhood and joblessness and they were unreachable during the pandemic.

I remember when my friend Denise welcomed her first child three years before I conceived my own. It was evident she could no longer be my go to night out homie. This forced me to focus on me, alone. I lost 85 lbs, started dating online, and moved into a condo with my older brother. My career was fast tracking, my self confidence blossomed; I was at my peak. Meanwhile, Denise was changing diapers at home, alone, 24/7. I rarely checked in on her though I tried to schedule girl’s nights to help her out of the baby blinders. Looking back, we were no longer “useful” to each other.

I married, moved across town (a short but long 30 minute drive), and soon after welcomed my first child. I was showered with one-time visits from my people while on a glorious 3 month leave from work. When my leave was over I returned to work and found that seeing anyone other than my little one and husband was the very last desire on my long list of things to do. Before the end of that year I found out I was pregnant.

When my second child arrived, I unexpectedly lost my job of 11 years and was forced to become a stay at home mom. The closeness of any squad was now far gone despite how much I needed it. In one day I lost half the household income, a vehicle, the babysitter and the house cleaner. The weight of the world and my unemployment crushed my soul.

Baby number 2 cried All. The. Time. Baby number 1 was only 1 ½. A joyful, loving, easy spirit that only came second to number 2. I was miserable. Stuck in an exhausting, sleep deprived mess every single day. It wasn’t until I found myself at the OBGYN office crying uncontrollably begging them to fix my post partum depression I realized I need help. But I had no one “useful” to count on.

Things got worse and after a short hospital stay and some antidepressants I was finally seeing clear, ­I need to find a new squad. A support group in this new life role.

Raising two under two has its challenges. Long days fueled by sleepless nights. Catastrophic blowouts of poop and tempers. Breastfeeding. Not enough hands. Some weeks were give and take. Some weeks felt like they would never end. I was darned if I didn’t develop a routine that encompassed sleep, health and wellness. Once I did, we flourished. This included daily trips to the corner park. There I was able to run into other stay at home moms and working parents with children the same age. The more spontaneously we met, the less we talked about the kids. The more we talked about ourselves, our lifestyle, our current situations. Then meet ups became scheduled play dates. The kids became friends that repeatedly asked for one another. We became friends that regularly needed each other.

These individuals aren’t friends I would have selected in high school. I may not have been on their radar in our teenager years either. They also aren’t the type I would have come across later in life. We are all on different courses. Yet, we gel. We are jelly. You can spread us on toast and eat us for breakfast.

The need for our bond was cemented once the pandemic hit. We were secluded to our homes with nowhere to go. We saw each other on walks and strengthened our bond through text messages and video chats that kept the kids socialized. When the playgrounds opened and we got to see each other’s faces again, we realized how blessed we are to be neighbors and vowed to keep our families safe during the pandemic so we could continuously enjoy each other’s company.

Phot o Credit: Jillian Lankford

While the world was going crazy we established trust, courage to survive and value in each other’s lives. We can speak openly about our political views, race, gender, marriage, and even the dark secrets we wouldn’t tell our closest friends out of fear of judgment. And if we run out of butter, the pod has it covered. When our kids need a beak from us, a door is open to let them in.

Having formed our very own pod for the kids to safely play in, we blanket ourselves in support. Denise may be jealous, but I would not have survived without these families. They have made me whole in my new role and have inspired my actions and thoughts in so many ways. The kids enjoy the jelly too.

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