Michelle from Homemade Mimi is here today. And as nearly all of my guest posters do, she strikes a chord.
Why is it so hard for many women to ask for help?
I explored this issue in my own life just last week from the angle of why I seem to not be able to relax. And I think I’m not alone in this. Some of us struggle with the belief that we need to do it all..but as Michelle asks, who *really* imposes that belief upon us?
Read Michelle’s Perspective On Asking For Help
The Writer’s Guild was on strike when our first daughter was born. It was stressful not knowing when my husband would get back to work, but at the same time I was grateful to have him home. I’ll never forget those early days when he made me breakfast every morning (blueberry waffles! omelets with sriracha stripes!) He also changed a lot of diapers, did loads of laundry, and when the baby couldn’t sleep he’d bust out the guitar at any hour and make it happen. But one day, the writer’s guild and the network executives reached an agreement. After three months of family bonding he went back to work. I was left with a choice: Do it by myself or hire help?
At the time, I had no intention of working outside the home. I had always been a freelance writer or worked at low-paying jobs; any full time job I got would pay me less than the cost for full time childcare. And at the time, motherhood appealed to my inner homebody. Our financial situation, though not ideal, allows me to be a stay-at-home mom and have part-time help. Five years and counting.
But accepting the help was surprisingly difficult. Even though we had hired a completely loving and skilled nanny, it took months before I felt comfortable leaving the house without my baby. Guilt consumed me. I was supposed to do it by myself like any good middle class mother does, right? And who has a “nanny” anyway? People who never fly coach and send wine back at restaurants. I was terrified that I’d be judged as lazy or selfish. But who was going to judge me? My friends? My family? Nope. Just me. I was judging myself for needing help. I’m not sure why. Something out there in the universe– the media, the collective unconscious– had told me my whole life that I was supposed to do it alone. But the truth is nobody really can.
Well, actually there is one person who can. There’s a Chinese acrobat who performs at an open market by my house. He can balance a teacup on his head and a teapot on top of a stick on top of a bowl on top of his nose, then he can pour the tea into the teacup while standing on one foot and jumping up and down. This guy can probably do it on his own. But no one else.
In my husband’s television-writing world, it takes the collective talents of an entire group of people to write a show, and that show is often referred to as, well, a baby. It only makes sense that it would require a group of people to raise a real baby. In the past this group was your family. Multi-generational living brought many helping hands together under one roof. But the modern world (at least the one I live in) is structured much differently– my mom’s too busy canoeing and canning blueberries clear across the country, she can’t take my kids to school.As an only child I don’t have siblings to cover for me while I work on my blog. And my in-laws live 6 hours away and have a kid of their own, they can’t really give me a break so I can get my teeth cleaned.
So I took the awkward first step and hired help. 16 hours a week, 4 hours a day 4 days a week. Slowly, I learned to have confidence in this choice. In the beginning I used nanny time to do domestic tasks. Then I started to venture out of the house, taking care of myself, exercising, reading. Eventually I started writing again. And I started to really appreciate the choice I had made to hire help. I didn’t feel like a bad parent. In fact, I felt like my parenting skills were improving. There was still plenty of quality time left over for me and the kids. (152 in fact.) By the time we had our second kid I had it down: hand them off at 1:30 and return 4 hours later refreshed, enriched, accomplished and available. I still struggle with guilt sometimes, but the truth is if you offered me 4 more hours a week I’d probably take it. A blog doesn’t just write itself.
I actually ended up hiring two nannies– a dynamic sister duo who work for us interchangeably. But help comes in many forms. I take the kids to the playroom at the YMCA when I need an extra hour of work. Neighborhood teenage girls entertain the kids during birthday parties. When I’m cooking dinner, Sesame Street can be the greatest help of all and comes at no cost.
I wish my current self could go back and tell my former self that it was OK to hire a nanny. And not to waste time judging the decision. But that was my parenting journey. I had to go through it. To parents out there who are like me I say: We can’t all balance everything on our noses. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. And if you’re fortunate enough to be able to pay for it, know that it’s some of the best money you can spend.
Watch Moms Chat About Asking For Help
Today at 10 a.m. PST, Michelle and a few other moms will join me on The Spill as we discuss this topic in greater depth.
To RSVP, watch the live broadcast or for more details, check out The Spill’s event page: