This blog is twofold: to explain to moms why help matters (to both you and your kids) and to freak you out about childcare. Because I wish I knew what I know now.
Let’s start at the beginning: I am fiercely independent. I still insist on lugging all of the groceries up 22 steps to our front door despite a very big and strong husband who can carry twice as much as me with half the strain. I rarely ask for help, I think I can do everything by myself, I never share to even my closest friends what’s going on in my life. And all this didn’t change when I had a baby. In fact, it may have gotten worse.
I waved off offers to help me, especially in the first few weeks when it was obvious I needed it. I wasn’t sleeping, I wasn’t eating, I wasn’t taking care of myself at all. I had girlfriends who remembered that first month (some in very specific detail), how much it hurt to breastfeed, to get around after a C-section, to feel completely defeated. They insisting on helping, they came over with food and advice, and I said I was fine.
Then, months later, when I was returning to work, I needed help watching Landon. I had lined up my parents for a couple of days and had planned to work from home the other two. It all worked out until my mom hurt her shoulder and needed surgery, which left me without childcare during the week.
I had never considered getting outside help, always assuming our families would be there. But I didn’t think about things like injuries or scheduling conflicts or the fact that maybe my mother-in-law really did want to keep working full time.
And, just like that, I was stuck.
I panicked, calling every mom I knew, signing up for Care.com and browsing Patch online, looking desperately for someone — anyone! — to watch Landon while I went back to work.
Over the next few weeks, I called, emailed or texted more than 50 different sitters, daycare facilities, friends, friends of friends — anyone I could use. To no avail. What I needed and what was out there didn’t line up. I was put on two-year waitlists (behind women who are still pregnant!) and never heard back from potential sitters. In the meantime, I struggled to work from home while watching an infant, doing phone interviews while he napped or writing while he played in a bouncer. I never had a stretch of longer than 30 minutes to work, and that’s been tough.
I realized how much I needed help, even just to run to the grocery store or go to the bank. I felt bad dragging this poor kid along with me, taking him to interviews or on errands. And it’s not easy. You can just run out of the house with your wallet and keys. There’s an entire bag to prepare, with diapers and formula (in case you’re stuck in traffic), a stroller or Ergo in which to lug him around, a heavy car seat to carry up and down those aforementioned 22 steps. It’s a production!
On those rare days when I was in the office, it was sheer bliss. I could sit and work and not worry about whether Landon needed his diaper changed or stop in the middle of a story to make his bottle or stop him eating the remote control. It was weird, to be honest, but nice, too.
I did find a sitter — finally — and, so far, the adjustment’s been harder on me than him. I worry all the time about whether he’s happy and safe, that he’s loved and not neglected, that he won’t remember this and grow up to resent me. (Seriously, I can’t afford any more therapy!)
But, at the same time, I’m starting to realize the importance of having time to do what I need to do to be a happy human, which, in turn, makes me a happy (and better) mom.
A friend of mine whose son is around the same age as Landon confided in me, saying she feels guilty that she hires a sitter just so she can go to yoga or meet up with friends for lunch. But I totally get it. We all need to feel normal sometimes, to make ourselves happy and healthy. My mother-in-law watches Landon on Sundays so my husband and I can surf, hike, shop for groceries, clean the house, or sometimes just take a nap. We all need a break.
I used to wonder how my mom did it, raise four kids. It sounds nightmarish. But I forgot my grandma lived with us and helped my mom, who didn’t go back to work until I started preschool. And my younger sister went to a sitter when she was just a couple of months old.
See? We all need help. And our kids are better for it.
Just make sure you secure that help soon and not wait. Otherwise, you’ll end up like me and not have a choice!