When I Helped Another Mom, I Actually Helped Myself

One day, my daughter brought home a book called, Have You Filled a Bucket Today? We read it together, and I honestly thought it would make me roll my eyes. Instead, I loved its message: everybody has an invisible bucket. When it's full, you feel happy, and when it's empty, you feel sad. You can fill somebody's bucket with acts of kindness, and by doing so, you fill your bucket, too. I loved it, because it's true. There are so many ways I've helped myself when I chose to help another mom.

I've always loved helping others. It's the main reason I chose a career in the nonprofit sector. I've never really expected anything in return, but so many times when I've helped other others, I have been rewarded with a bucket full of good feelings. I try to live intentionally, both in my professional life and as a mom, teaching my kids to be helpers, to think about how their actions impact other people, to fill each other's buckets, and to call out bullies. Now that I have a few years of parenting under my belt, I love helping other moms, so much so that I write about being a mom every day.

In addition to the warm fuzzies I have received from supporting other moms. I've also had some pretty freaking cool things happen as a result. I've made new friends (which is actually really hard for me), learned new skills, have been able to cope with really tough situations, and have grown my network of parent friends who are helping me to raise my kids. How cool is that? Here are just some of the surprising and wonderful ways I have helped myself when I've helped another mom.

I Forgave Myself

I am way more forgiving of other people, than I am of myself. A couple of years ago, a close friend of mine was struggling with breastfeeding. I was quick to offer her nonjudgmental support, advice, and commiseration. I told her that it wasn't her fault and that she should be kind to herself. In the course of our many conversations, I realized that I was terrible at taking my own advice. Helping her made me realize I could and should forgive myself for my undersupply.

I Found A Workout Buddy

As a busy new mom, one of my coworkers was really struggling to fit exercise into her schedule, and asked me if I would hold her accountable and be her work out buddy. We walked together over lunch every day, through rain, shine, snow, and wind. It felt great and helped me lose weight and stay motivated, too.

I Got A New Client

It's a hobby of mine to help friends find new jobs. When a stay-at-home mom friend of mine wanted help returning to the workforce, I helped her redo her resume and write an awesome cover letter. A couple of months later, I received an email from someone she knew, asking if they could hire me to help them make a career change. I took the job, not realizing that my new client was a Under Secretary of United States cabinet department. She was also a mom and has also referred several people to me for writing services, including a U.S. Senator and a former Governor.

I Tried Something New & Scary

I had just started a new job when one of my coworkers asked me if I would go to kickboxing class with her. My first response was, "Ummm, I'm not sure if I can make it." What I really meant was, "I'm scared and nervous that I will suck." Her face fell. I quickly added, "I will check with my husband." I went. It was scary and I did, in fact, suck, at least at first. However, it was also really fun. I'm so glad I went.

I Got Help For Prenatal Depression

When I was pregnant with my youngest child, I started an advice column for science-based pregnancy. One of the first questions I got was if it was OK to take anti-depressants during pregnancy. I wanted to find answers for her, but her question also motivated me to talk to my OB-GYN about my own depression. We ended up having a great conversation, and she wrote me a prescription for anti-depressants. It made a huge difference.

I Learned New Things

Courtesy of Kat Shriver

A couple of years ago, a mom friend of mine was having trouble finding answers to parenting questions that made sense for her and her family. We are a lot alike — kind of scrunchy. On one hand, we are peaceful parents, against circumcision, and vegetarians. On the other hand, we are science geeks, feminists, and trust evidence to lead the way. So, when she asked me to help her run an evidence-based peaceful parenting group on Facebook, I was happy to. Our group started with fewer than 100 people, and now has almost 5,000 people from all over the world. We are definitely filling a need and, as an added bonus, I learn something new from other parents there every day.

I Stayed Sane During Bed Rest

I was fortunate to meet a few other pregnant people in an online support group last summer. Our due dates lined up in a row, and we all ended up having complex, high-risk pregnancies. By providing support and advice to these other moms, I built solid friendships with people whom I wouldn't have been likely have met otherwise. When I had to go on bed rest, and was hospitalized, one of them was always around to chat.

I Found My Calling

It started in a natural parenting group during my crunchy mom days, when a woman asked for advice about birth control and a hundred people jumped in and told her how dangerous chemicals were and how birth control was wrong. I remember thinking, "Not on my watch," and jumped in with thinks to unbiased information about contraception. Then there was a post about undersupply. The people who responded gave her some pretty bad advice and said that formula was poison. I commented with some real information about undersupply, too. I realized that helping other parents — as a writer, an advocate, and someone who is willing to stand up to bullies — is totally my calling.

I Processed My Assault

As a trauma professional and a survivor, other survivors often ask me for help, advice, and support. While, I have to work hard to maintain boundaries, so that I don't get burnt out, I have been able to confront so many of my own demons and fears by helping other people face theirs.

I Found My Village

Courtesy of Kylie

By helping other moms, I've totally built a community that helps me. Every time I offer support to another mom online, write about my experiences, or advocate for issues that are important for moms and families, someone connects with me, saying, "Me, too" or, "Thank you." Many of these people have become friends, connecting me with a village of parents across the globe, who are helping me to raise my kids. This amazing village of diverse people fills my bucket every day.