SG-404-AWho knew a sarong collection could save the sanity of two struggling young single moms? Liz and Melanie had taken different paths after high school, but both found themselves unexpectedly single, each raising two young children.

Liz had gone straight to college, intent on a career and independence. Marrying her college sweetie wasn’t in the plan, nor was having two children in quick succession. But that’s what happened, and when Prince Charming decided that a life of changing diapers was not for him, Liz struggled to find her way.

Melanie, meanwhile, decided to travel the world. She’d work just long enough to earn money for the next lap of her trip, and then be on the road again. Boyfriends came and went. Her focus was on seeing the world.

But in the city of Brescia in northern Italy, she met Agostino, impossibly exotic and attractive. It seemed unbelievably romantic to get married in a tiny old stone church and settle down to raise a family in Italy. But changing diapers wasn’t for Agostino, either, and cultural differences that seemed insignificant before babies were huge after.

Melanie sought refuge with her parents while she regrouped. At a Mommy and Me gathering, she met Liz. Their kids were close in age. They were struggling to be great moms while supporting their children. Liz was the first to say what they were both thinking. “Teaming up and doing this together would be so much easier.” They could each work part-time while the other watched all four kids. They could split the cooking, shopping, cleaning, and driving. They could give each other breaks so that they weren’t “on” constantly.

They could afford a roomy two-bedroom apartment with a tiny yard. It would have to do. It was more important to have time with the kids than to have a big place. Melanie had traveled enough to know that in most countries, there was no expectation that each child have his own room. Four kids in a room was not unusual. “Let’s pretend we’re in an exotic foreign country,” she suggested. And they did.

Western ways were ingrained enough that they all felt the need for a bit of privacy. That’s when Melanie remembered her sarong collection. Traveling through Asia, she had purchased a dozen beautiful sarongs in vibrant colors. These now livened up the stark white walls of their apartment and served as room dividers in both bedrooms. The kids and the adults could claim a bit of space as their own, surrounded by cheerful patterns and colors. “I need a break!” someone would proclaim, and dive behind a sarong to chill out.

“Those sarongs certainly saved our sanity,” Liz and Melanie agree.