I’m probably going to get some slack for writing this article, but I want to discuss a parenting phenomenon I’ve observed too often lately. Why is it so much easier for dads to hire help and make their lives easier when watching their children? Why don’t they appear to feel guilty about this? And why do we, as moms judge and criticize them for it?
I know lots of moms, that when they make plans with friends for an afternoon or evening, their husbands often call a nanny, babysitter, or family member to come over and help with the kids. And when mom hears this, she responds with anger and frustration, complaining that she doesn’t understand why her husband can’t handle taking care of all the children alone, something she does every single day of the week.
I want to first differentiate between the men who are literally never alone with their children and refuse to be, forcing their wives to never be able to take a trip, attend a special event, or a night off with the girls unless they arrange for their own child care. I’m not talking about these men. That topic deserves its own post. I’m referring to the average hands-on, involved dad who likes an extra set of hand with his kids when mom isn’t home. Why shouldn’t these dads ask for help if they believe it will make their afternoon or evening easier?
Why don’t we ask for help more often (if we can afford it) to make our mornings, afternoons or evenings easier? And when we do, why are we always explaining it to everyone else? We spend so much time justifying our need to have a part-time nanny or ask the babysitter to work extra hours when our partners travel or work long hours rather than just accepting that we don’t need to do everything by ourselves and it’s perfectly okay to have a team to help make the experience of parenting solo less exhausting and overwhelming.
Some moms might want their husbands to experience exactly what they go through every day with their children—the feedings, the diaper-changing, the wiping, the cleaning up of snot and spit up, the neediness, the nagging, the questions, the laundry, the cleaning, the negotiating, the constant entertaining, the nap refusals, the cooking, the being a tiny human’s “snack bitch.” They want them to feel what it’s like to sometimes want to lock yourself in a closet and pretend you can’t hear anyone calling out for you. I get it. There are many times when my husband returns from a business trip and I want him to know about and greatly appreciate everything I have done for and with his child while he was away, but is it right that I want him to feel the miserable parts in addition to the good ones?
Shouldn’t we want our spouse’s lives to be easier if it’s possible? Aren’t we entitled to make our own lives easier if possible? I have a feeling our spouses want to make our lives easier when they can. And don’t we often benefit when they call for help? I bet there is a better chance all that laundry is getting done, folded and put away if the nanny comes over. Perhaps when you get home your children’s lunches will be made for school the next day because the babysitter did it. The house might look a little cleaner and a bit more organized because your mother-in-law was there while you were out. Is any of that really so bad? Does it really deserve that eye-roll you gave when you left?
Moms, are you telling me honestly, that if offered and it can be afforded from time to time, that you wouldn’t say yes to an extra hand to help with the kids in favor of just doing it all by yourself? I know you can do it by yourself. You’re a woman and a mom. You’re amazing. Of course you can, but why should you have to? What do you think you have to prove? Does it bring you joy? Or would you rather be able to achieve a balance on some days that allows you to take care of your own needs, which might include letting someone else tend to the kids and household chores for once.
It really does take a village. Having someone come over to help us and give us a break doesn’t make us terrible mothers or mean we don’t love and want to spend time with our children. It just means that we are tired and are taking some well-deserved time-off, even if it’s only for a few hours. We have nothing to feel guilty about. I can almost guarantee that your partner is not rolling his eyes or complaining to his friends about this.
So why do we, as women struggle so much with this? Why do we think we have to do it all and without any assistance? Why do we care what others think about the team we employ to help us take care of our children? A good friend of mine who works as an executive and life coach once told me that she believes the main thing holding women back in business is permission. It’s almost as if they are waiting for someone else to give them permission to do something. Men don’t generally have that issue. They just go out make it happen, ask for what they need and keep moving forward without too much concern. If they bump into a roadblock, they figure out how to get around whatever has gotten in their way.
The same could possibly be applied to motherhood in many ways, especially with this concept of having a team of some sort that makes our lives just a little more manageable. It’s as if we need permission to have heIp. We need someone else to tell us it’s okay before we ask. And when we get overwhelmed and need it, we would rather do everything by ourselves than figure out how to navigate around our roadblocks like these men in business do, often the same men we are married to who don’t hesitate when making that call to the sitter.
I am a stay at home mom who is fortunate enough and beyond grateful to have a part-time nanny. My husband travels a lot for business and neither of our mothers live close by (I’m still justifying the fact that I have help even as I write this article). When my son was younger and my husband was away for days at a time, I would often ask our nanny to stay later to help me with the bath and bedtime routine. I still ask her to stay later sometimes when he travels for more than a few days at a time, especially when it’s over a weekend.
While I still sometimes find myself explaining and justifying to other people why I have part-time help when I don’t work, I stopped feeling guilty about my choices a long time ago. I don’t need to ask permission. I’m comfortable admitting that parenting is hard and I don’t always want to do it by myself. It doesn’t make me a less capable mother because I hire help or a horrible one because I want to make my life easier. I don’t resent my husband when he wants make his life easier as well. And we both want to make the other’s life easier when possible.
Moms, let’s stop criticizing our husbands for asking for what they want and start imitating their behavior. Let’s put an end to measuring our worth as mothers by how much we do and giving into the belief that we have to do it all by ourselves. If anyone deserves to have the nanny or babysitter come over for a few hours when you’re home alone with all the kids, have endless piles of laundry to sort through, lunches to be made, and dinners to be prepared, it’s you. You absolutely don’t need it, but you have my permission to call and ask for help!