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“You’re so spoiled,” a friend said to me over the phone. She was referring to the fact that my husband and I had hired a part-time nanny to help us with our infant daughter.
I didn’t have time to ponder her judgy words for very long. I had a deadline to meet by lunchtime and then a drive across town to a meeting during rush hour. But her words stung and I hated her for making me feel guilty for trying to provide for my family in the best way I knew how. I made a mental note to cross her off the first-birthday celebration list. No cake for her.
The decision to hire a nanny didn’t come easy. I was running my own design studio when I got pregnant, but I thought that by scaling down the business and moving it into our home I could still change diapers, feed my baby, design ads, meet with clients, oversee freelancers, attend photo shoots, have some personal hygiene and make time for my husband. What could possibly go wrong?
I remember the exact moment the world came crashing down. I was on the phone with a client, holding the receiver in one hand and a Pantone book in the other. I was also leaning over my screaming daughter, attempting to breastfeed her as she lay on her back on my office floor. I looked like a crazy person who was trying to smother her baby in a bizarre ritual involving some color swatches and a handset.
“I can’t do it!” I wailed to my husband when he walked in the door that night. I was wearing only a T-shirt and house slippers and rocking back and forth on the living room floor.
I didn’t have to tell him what “it” was. For weeks, he’d been suggesting we get some help, but I was determined to do it all, and do it alone. After all, isn’t that what all the women’s magazines told us we should be doing? We weren’t successful or virtuous women if we didn’t bring home some bacon, fry it up in a pan and then use that bacon and a glue gun to make a set of nifty kitchen curtains. All on our own, of course.
There’s such a stigma attached with bringing in outside help. You’re obviously too rich or too lazy or too spoiled. Or maybe you’re just trying to get some support to keep yourself sane and your kids safe, because for the time being you’re a two-income family by necessity and you just came to the crushing realization that you truly can’t do it all alone without losing your marbles while on a business call.
Work-at-home and stay-at-home parents get the brunt of the judgment when it comes to bringing in help. If you’re working outside the home, it’s understood you’ll need to drop your kids off at daycare or with a babysitter, and do takeout for dinner at the end of the day. But, if you’re at home, shouldn’t you just be doing everything yourself? Working, cooking, cleaning, childcare – I mean, c’mon, how hard could it be to do the work of five people on three hours sleep?
Either way, we could all use a hand with watching our kids, running errands, tidying our home, cleaning our yard. Sure, it’s an extra expense, but for the price of a dinner out, you could hire someone for a few hours to make your life a little bit easier. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a mom outsourcing some parts of her never-ending to-do list. I had a co-worker who for years bartered her babysitting hours for the skills of her neighbor, a landscaper who in return kept her yard trimmed and mowed.
As I scaled back my business even further, we eventually stopped being able to afford our part-time nanny, but I still to this day splurge every couple of months on a cleaning service to come in and help me do some heavy cleaning. And those two hours that my house stays spotless are still some of the happiest hours of my life.
If I could, I’d go back in time and tell that friend who called me “spoiled” that sometimes help is a necessity, not a luxury. That I was working a full-time job and raising my kids and decided that I wasn’t a robot and needed some assistance.
I’d also tell her that as a mom herself, she should know what it’s like to be exhausted, at the end of your rope and needing the hands and the heart of another to make it through the day.
Lastly, I’d tell her not to judge, at least not until she’d walked a few feet in the other person’s house slippers.
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