Stigmas—They’re hard to break. And with asking for help, we can’t seem to win.
Take, for instance, a long-ago play date I had with another mom. We had met randomly: I was buying lunch from a food truck and she was there with her son. “We should totally hang out,” we said to one another, exchanging phone numbers. (I swear, finding mom friends is so much like dating—”What if she turns me down?”)
And so we did. As we got to know one another, we asked the cursory questions: What do you do, whereabouts do you live, how many kids do you have and such. She was a stay-at-home mom, so I was surprised when she said, “My son goes to day care three days a week.”
Huh? And you’re a stay-at-home mom? I wanted to ask. The judgment wheels were already turning.
She used the time he was at day care to run her house, take care of errands and grab a break from 24/7 parenting. “And he gets to hang out with the same kids regularly,” she added, maybe a bit defensively after my reaction.
Asking for help is not failure
In hindsight this all makes sense to me now. But back then, I fell for the stigma that if you weren’t doing everything yourself, then you must not be a good mom. Period.
Thankfully that mindset didn’t last long. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how unfair I was to make assumptions about her. Or to deem myself holier than thou because I didn’t have as many hours to devote to other pursuits. Or that our circumstances should in any way warrant the same solutions.
They don’t. As I say often enough around here: Do what works for you.
Still, that stigma of reaching out for help, heck—paying for help, was my first reaction, and I regret having thought that at all.
After all, I’m a big proponent of asking for help. Yet here I was admonishing a fellow mom because she placed her son in day care when she didn’t have to.
Only later did I realize that I also relied an extended village. In my ignorance, I didn’t think it necessary to call my mom to come to the hospital when my son was born. “We could handle it on our own,” my husband and I believed.
Or the countless of times we’ve asked family to babysit so that we could grab a date night or even take a trip out of town.
And so it was unfair of me to place the stigma on my fellow mom. The stigma that if you’re not sacrificing everything, then you’re not doing enough.
I knew another mom who felt guilty for hiring a babysitter while she was home with her kids. Yes, she didn’t need to. But the sitter could be the one thing keeping her from losing her temper or feeling unhappy.
My husband and I regularly care for our kids on our own. For instance, he’s the only adult with them in the mornings, while I take the shift in the afternoons. This works for us and we haven’t gone crazy with the arrangement.
But a friend asked me one time, “How do you do it? I need to hire a sitter in the evenings and I only have two kids!”
But just because I’m alone with my kids while she’s not doesn’t mean she has failed or is incapable in some way. We all have different thresholds and needs and priorities.
It’s hard enough for two parents to take care of kids. If you’re alone with the kids and you find your situation challenging, it’s okay. You haven’t failed in any way. Maybe lower your standards. Or change your schedule. Or yes, ask for help.
You’re not a parenting failure. You’re simply leaning on your village.
Your turn: How do you feel when you ask or pay for extra help with the kids? Could there ever be an excess of help (e.g. round-the-clock nannies, for instance)? Why do some moms ask for help easily while others refuse to? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!
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