This post was also the subject of a story on NewsChannel 8, which is the NBC affiliate in Tampa. Scroll to the bottom of the post to watch the video.
In our culture, moms aren’t encouraged to ask for help. And the result is a lot of unhappy, overwhelmed women who feel like they’re alone. I hope this post changes that.
I’m a stay-at-home mom with full-time help, and it’s still really hard.
I used to be the mom who did it all.
My husband travels, we have no family nearby, and I managed the household and kids all by myself.
Those days are over.
Once we had 3 kids, things changed for me. What was easy with 1 and doable with 2 was just no longer possible with 3. I realized how much I needed alone time. I hired a nanny who came twice a week, from 1pm to 5pm, and I also started having our house cleaned every 2 weeks.
If I’m being honest, at every stage, it was hard for me to admit that I needed help.
In a way, I was embarrassed. I felt like a failure.
Our culture doesn’t encourage moms, especially stay-at-home moms, to ask for help. And when you do, you sometimes feel like you have 3 heads. Sadly, I let this dictate our childcare decisions for a few years, and I wish I hadn’t.
This is why I’m writing this post.
I wish someone had told me that it’s okay to accept help, whether you have 1 kid or 10.
And, just because you can do it all yourself doesn’t mean you need to.
In other cultures, families live together, and babies are handed off to different people up to 20 times a day. Heck, even in our parents’ day, we lived near aunts and grandparents and cousins.
It’s not that parenting was any easier. It’s that the load was lighter because it was shared.
This is how we are designed to raise kids.
And so, if you live away from family (or maybe have family nearby but they aren’t helpful), or if your husband travels, or you don’t have a husband… are you supposed to just suck it up and do it all on your own?
My answer would be, “Heck no!”
This leads me into our current life with 4 kids.
My husband had been asking me to look into getting an au pair for years. (An au pair is someone who goes to another country on a special visa to live with a family for 1 year and help out with the kids, up to 45 hours a week.)
“That is ridiculous!” I’d tell my husband. “I don’t even work! How could I justify that?”
What I really meant was, ‘How could I justify that to myself?’
My real fear was the shame I’d feel in telling friends that I have a live-in helper, when I’m already a stay-at-home mom. ‘Honestly, how hard can this really be?’ I’d ask myself.
In reading the paragraph I just wrote, it saddens me. I feel sad for the person I used to be, who didn’t feel worthy enough to get help, even though it was something we could afford and needed. But that is the honest truth of where I was at with it.
Eventually, I got over it and we found an au pair. Her name is Diana, she’s from Mexico, and she one of the most loving, warm people I’ve ever met. She arrived 2 weeks before our fourth baby was born, and she’ll be here until January unless we choose to extend for 6, 9 or 12 months beyond that.
We have a live-in au pair who helps me with the kids 45 hours per week, does all kid laundry, drives them places and cleans up after them.
What I love about having an au pair is that the hours are flexible. Since Diana lives with us, she can work early and late. For example, today, she worked 5:30am to 9:30am, so that my husband and I could sleep in.
Another thing I love is that we always have a dedicated ‘person.’ She is always the sitter, whether it’s for date nights or carpool line. A couple years ago, I swear, I spent hours a week texting sitters, trying to find someone for this or that. And then they cancel. Or move, or start school, or get a boyfriend. Raise your hand if you know the struggle.
(If you have more questions about having an au pair, let me know and maybe I’ll write another post about it!)
Another way I’ve stepped up my “helper” game since having 4 kids is getting more help cleaning the house.
We get our house cleaned every week.
Let me tell you, this is the best money we’ve ever spent! Something about having a clean house, and never really having to mop or scrub toilets myself is a luxury I will never take for granted! I never would’ve thought of it, but before having our fourth baby, I asked another mom of 4 for advice, and a once-a-week house cleaning was one of the first things she mentioned. I’m sure this won’t last forever in our house, but for this season, it’s been a dream and it’s really helped maintain peace and tranquility in our home.
We have a massage therapist and a marriage counselor, and I have a life coach.
Yes, just roll your eyes now. These may sound like superfluous expenses, but at the same time, they keep Mom and Dad in good working order, and as such, they keep our family running. Can we afford all these things all the time? No, but we bring them in as often as possible. My husband or I go to our massage therapist Vickie every Thursday, and sometimes she even comes to the house. We have a marriage counselor, which has been amazing for us, as we’ve been dealing with a lot of kid-related issues that have been seeping into our marriage lately (imagine that? *wink*). And, it took me a while to feel comfortable writing this, but I have a life coach who I talk to for 1 hour every week. Let me tell you, working with Jody has been life-changing! A life coach is basically like a therapist, but instead of looking at your past and evaluating why this is happening, she looks to the future and what we can do, now, to change the path. Every time we talk, I get off the phone with several action items that I can apply immediately to get the objective I want. It’s totally awesome, and has given me some great tools for tackling this phase of life!
We also have a handyman, a pool guy, a gardener and a bug guy.
I’m getting off a little in the weeds here, but I really want to drive home that we have a lot of help and support. My husband isn’t home much, and isn’t the handiest guy, so when we can hire out for things, we do.
Again, this is only a season. Once I started realizing that this year might be one of the most physically challenging we ever have, it made it easier for me to take the plunge on getting extra help.
I order groceries, diapers and dinner out as often as possible.
Find the apps. We have a grocery delivery service that I use most weeks, Walmart has an order and pickup option, Amazon Prime is amazing for everything else, and we use UberEats way more than we should (*wink*). Whatever you have in your area, use it. It might cost you an extra $5 or $10, but isn’t that worth not having to leave the house with kids? Answer: YES.
Remember, here’s the thing about this stage of parenting: it’s a stage! It’s not forever.
So, if you’re wondering why you’re feeling exhausted and lonely, it’s because you are trying to do a job all alone that most people in the world do as a pack.
Share the load!
And if you have to pay someone to do that, so be it.
If you can’t afford to pay someone, kid swap with a friend like I did for years, and ask around about childcare at local churches. It’s often discounted and the added bonus is your kids get to meet new friends!
(This post contains affiliate links, which means that at no cost to you, I make a few pennies for sharing a link to a product on Amazon. Every bit helps me keep my site up and running, so thank you!)