My Complicated Feelings About Having Help, And The One Sentence That Changed Everything.
“I do the things with my kids that bring me joy.”
This simple sentence, spoken by my friend Sarah as we sat on her couch this past Sunday while our girls made up endless dances in her basement, struck me hard, in the best way possible.
Mom guilt is REAL- and for me, much of what drives the guilt is my own insecurities about having “help”- childcare, housekeeping, any sort of extra hands to handle tasks that, in my brain, I feel I shouldn’t really need were I to manage my time better/give up mid-day workouts/focus more on revenue-generating work/let the passion projects go on hiatus.
A little context- Sarah runs a large, internationally recognized travel public relations agency called JPR with offices in NYC and San Diego, CA. She goes into her office daily, and travels a TON. Her husband travels for his work as well. She is currently home on maternity leave (they had a 3rd daughter about 3 months ago), and we got to chatting about what it feels like being at home, having help taking care of your kids, when you are under the same roof.
Her approach to the whole topic couldn’t have been more different than mine.
Even talking about having help made me want to jump out of my skin- “I feel like an a-hole playing with beauty products and testing travel gadgets up in my office while someone else is trying to corral my kids into the bath or to the dinner table.” / “I hide in the bathroom or sneak out the back door.” / “I don’t want to go down and eat lunch when our housekeeper is there unless I have time to fully clean up after myself because I feel bad”/ “I create extra work for myself just to make sure it looks like I deserve to have help” — and never even stopping to realize NOBODY IS LOOKING BUT ME.
Sarah simply said “I do the things with my kids that bring me joy.” She spoke about feeling so lucky to be in a position to have the help she currently has, and instead of it being a source of guilt and stress, she sees it as a tool that allows her to be the best mom she can possibly be. And that is as far as the conversation goes in her head- uncomplicated and grateful.
Driving home that day, Brian mentioned that I should be sure to get the number the woman Sarah uses to keep her home perfectly organized.
Any other day, were he to suggest this, I would spiral into a psychotic monologue about how “I can do it myself, sorry the house isn’t PERFECT, we have young kids, some day we will get rid of all the toys and clutter but for now it is what it is, when I can find a chunk of time in the near future I will go through everything and buy new tape for the label maker and our house will be an Instagram-worthy shrine to my ability to do it all, IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT?! SORRY YOU MARRIED ME AND NOT SO AND SO WHO NEVER HAS A SPECK OF MAIL OR STRAY GOLDFISH ON HER COUNTERTOP…"
But, as I reflected back on our afternoon- the sense of calm in Sarah’s house, her authentic appreciation for being in a position where she was able to have help, and how those two things surely had to be related- I replied “Yes, great idea- I’ll text her now for the number and see if she can come by this week.” Without a hint of sarcasm or an eye roll!
Since Sunday, I have played our conversation over and over again in my head- always with a smile on my face. I booked a sitter for the afternoon today (our au pair left this week- her year in America has come to a close), and instead of lingering around the house so I didn’t feel guilty about not seeing my girls after school (and subsequently playing head games with myself over if I really deserved to have a babysitter come in the first place), I packed up my stuff, and parked myself at the library to write and reply to emails and BREATHE. I have my workout gear in the car so I can head to my favorite 6:30pm SoulCycle class, and be home in time to kiss Goldie goodnight, read with Alexa and cuddle up to watch a show with her before bed.
Because those things bring me joy. So do productive afternoons writing at the library and gasping my way through spin class. And now, for the first time in my adult life, I am able to acknowledge that I am lucky to be able to do all of the above.
I am grateful for a husband that encourages my non-revenue-generating interests, who is a staunch believer in outsourcing things that can be delegated in the name of a calmer home and happier family. I appreciate the help, and I will own up to the fact that I don’t NEED it, but, well, I need it.
Does any of this resonate? I would love to know your thoughts on this topic- I know it stirs up a lot of emotion for a lot of people, would be so interested to know where you guys land on it- please leave a comment and let’s get the conversation rolling… xo JF