How a Babysitter Saved my sanity, our marriage, and helped me fully enjoy life

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Guest post by Jaclyn Carter:

Why is it so hard to ask for help sometimes?  My name is Jackie and I chose to be a stay-at-home mom.  I decided to make raising our children my fulltime job, so for some reason, in my head, I thought that meant all of it was my responsibility.  What I missed realizing was that it’s ok to ask for help and not feel ashamed for doing so.

Let me start by saying my husband couldn’t be more supportive – both emotionally and financially.  I know I am blessed to be in this situation and I don’t take it for granted one bit.  However, that doesn’t make it easy.  Taking care of another human is exhausting – physically, mentally, and emotionally.  I believe it’s important for all of us to be our own advocates.   It’s not healthy to be a martyr and you should never feel guilty about asking for help. 

That’s so easy to type, yet it took me two years of motherhood to figure it out.  I almost felt like it was something I had to accept, which is sad, because that alone makes it feel like I had failed somehow.  I remember after one particularly exhausting week, thinking to myself…how can I make this better? I don’t want to live a life where all I do is complain.  I know this time is precious.  My children won’t be little forever and I want to enjoy it.  While I was giving our situation some serious thought, trying to find an example of someone who was living their life as a mother and really enjoying it, my friend Shannon popped into my head.  She had help and didn’t apologize for it.  Whenever we got together she was happy.  She didn’t spend the whole time dwelling on all the hardships we were all facing.  We commiserated, but I always left our get-togethers feeling positive about motherhood. 

It was her attitude and outlook that helped me make the decision to get a babysitter in the evenings.  Some people refer to this as a “mother’s helper” because she would come over, but I wouldn’t leave.  I had her arrive right at the “witching hour”….both my children’s witching hour and my own…5pm to 7pm.  I’ll refer to her as Mira – because well, that’s her name…the college student who started out as babysitter to assist me in the evening and quickly became my friend, a member of our family, the person who saved our marriage and allowed me to be the happiest mom I’ve ever been.

My husband works long hours and usually gets home around 7:30pm.  Even when he’d rush to get home, which was stressful for him, the best he could do was maybe 6:30pm.  He would be trying his hardest to help, but it wasn’t helpful.  By 6:30pm I’d already cooked dinner, fed the kids, and was about to start the bath.  The problem wasn’t being solved.  Before we got a “mother’s helper” I found myself getting mad at him for working.  What?!?! I can’t get mad at him for working.  His work allows me to stay home and raise our kids.  But there I was looking at the minutes on the clock tick by from 5pm on.  I would call him around 5:30pm to check-in and see when he thought he’d be leaving.  I really just wanted to know so I could mentally prepare myself for the work ahead.  Unfortunately, what this actually did was stress him out more.  As I said earlier… even if he left then, it wasn’t helping.  By the time he’d walk in the door I was so mad.  Plus, it looked like a bomb went off in our apartment….toys EVERYWHERE, the kitchen ransacked from my dinner prep.  Sometimes, I’d just hand him our baby and go shut myself in my room.  To say this wasn’t good for our marriage would be an understatement.  To say it was bringing down my mental health would be a joke.  This was not the life I wanted to live.  When my husband would ask if I wanted to go back to work, I’d start to cry.  I wanted to be home with my baby.  For the majority of the day I was so happy.  I really loved being a stay-at-home mom.  Then 5pm would creep closer and closer.  We’d all get hungry, I’d feel lonely, and then I’d get angry.  I knew there had to be a way to solve this problem without going to extremes.  Besides, going back to work wouldn’t help me get the kids fed, bathed, and in bed.  The key that led to my happiness was identifying the actual problem and figuring out a way to solve it.

That solution was Mira!  Once I knew someone was coming to tag in at 5pm, I could care less when my husband got home.  That sounds harsh, but I mean it in the nicest way.  I wasn’t expecting him to fulfill something our situation didn’t actually allow him to fulfill.  He could finish up work without rushing and know that there was no pressure to get home by a certain time. 

Mira made it physically possible to cook a meal, enjoy it with my children, have the kitchen cleaned, and jump start the bedtime routine:  the kids bathed, in their pajamas, and teeth brushed.  I would tell my friends she was magic, our own Mary Poppins.  She’d walk in a room and it would be clean.  I’d leave the kitchen a mess, enjoy eating with my children, and magically the kitchen would be spotless.  I’d then get them bathed and by the time the kids were happily running around in their towels, all their toys would be off the floor.  Their pajamas would be laid out and we were ready to enjoy bedtime. 

The contrast between a night with Mira and night without Mira was like having Jekyll and Hyde as your mother.  When Mira was with us, my husband would come home to a spotless house, a happy wife and two excited kids.  On a night Mira wasn’t there, I sometimes think he was scared to walk in the door and rightfully so.

This is something to know about me: I’m not naturally tidy.  My grandma lived with us growing up and she picked up after me all the time.  I do try.  I try really hard, but I don’t enjoy cleaning and it takes a lot of extra effort for me to get it done right.  To make matters worse, on the nights my husband was working late and we didn’t have Mira, I would almost protest by not cleaning.  “Why do I have to be the one to clean up after these kids,” I’d think.  I am fully aware this is not healthy and didn’t help anyone. 

By having Mira at our apartment, I felt supported.  I felt like I wasn’t in this alone.  I was a better mom with Mira in our life.  I was a happier mom.  It’s also kind of hard to lose it on your kids when you have company over.  I would breath slower.  Her presence helped me step up my game and stay accountable.  My children love Mira because she is so good with them and they have fun together.  They may never realize it, but they also have Mira to thank for helping me be calmer and more patient during my witching hour.

When my husband did get home –whatever time it might be - he would still jump right in and take over.  He bathes the kids, brushes their teeth, and loves reading them Bible stories.  By eliminating the unrealistic expectation for him to get home at 5:30, I was able to fully see what a fantastic father he is.  I could truly appreciate him for the man he chooses to be.

I share this story with you because I want you to ask for help guilt-free.  I was able to identify my need.  It’s not black and white… you don’t love life or hate life.  There are aspects of motherhood that are great.  There are parts where I excel.  There are moments that I truly treasure.  And then there are moments I’m not proud of.  There are times I couldn’t keep my cool.  And parts of the day I dreaded.  By identifying the hard moments and asking for specific help, I was able to improve my life.  And I don’t apologize for it.  I think it’s impossible to do this mothering thing alone.  I have yet to find a mom who is doing it all by herself and ends her day completely happy.  That shouldn’t even be a goal. 

I want you to read this and see it is possible to have the life you want.  No, things aren’t perfect now but, overall, I’m happy. I end my day with a smile on my face.  I appreciate all we have and I am able to see all the good there is. 

Ask yourself…where do you struggle?  What parts don’t you enjoy?  Maybe getting out of the house in the morning is the hardest part.  Maybe getting your child to nap is a challenge.  Maybe you hate doing laundry.  Identify that struggle, that moment, that chore…and then see how you can get help.  Can you hire a college or high school student to help?  Can you send out your laundry?  Can your mom or mother-in-law watch the kids so you can go on a date night?  Is there another mom who you can trade off watching each other’s children so each of you can get a break during the day?  Focus on solving that specific struggle. 

It’s always better to get help.  Everyone wins.  It became more than just getting the kids fed and bathed.  Mira is and will always be a part of our family.  My children love her.  My husband loves her.  I love her.  She makes our lives happier.  I also sincerely believe that we increased the happiness in her life while she was so far away from her family.   The old saying, “Happy wife, happy life.” is tenfold when we’re talking about a motherhood.  Making your own happiness a priority will only make everyone around you happier as well, so don’t feel badly about it.

When Mira graduated, I remember casually saying to her, “Mira – what am I going to do without you, I am going to have to learn how to clean-up after all of us.”  Without missing a beat, Mira replied, “Jac, you don’t have to change anything.  You are a fantastic mom.  I will find someone to help you.”  Now that is a girl who knows me!  She had a unique look into the reality of our lives and she knew me trying to do it all wouldn’t benefit our family.  Me having the support I need is what’s best for everyone. 

And that is what’s best for you.  Speak up.  Ask for help.  It might seem little, it might seem enormous, but if you don’t ask it will never get better.  No one knows your true struggles except for yourself.  And it’s up to you to create the happy life you deserve.  I hope this has given you the push you need to ask without hesitation for the help you need. 

A big thank you goes out to Mira and all my other mother’s helpers over the years: Avery, Marcella, Carol, Tamara, Sonja, Josephine, Cassie, Vera and Viktoria.  You will never completely understand the gift you have given me by coming to hang out with our family in the evenings.  You are priceless!

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Jaclyn Carter is a mother of two children, ages 6 and 3, who chose to be a stay-at-home mom and then quickly used naptimes to start her business Love Jac, a creative company which produces greeting cards, teaches art classes, and leads online workshops all focused on helping you stay connected with your friends. Find out more at www.lovejac.com 

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