Asking for (hiring?) helpMarch 10, 2010 at 10:46 am | Posted in little bug, Little O, SAHM, Starbucks | 4 Comments
Tags: childcare, HIring a babysitter, maternity leave
I have an unflattering admission: I judge people. Remember how I judged those women sitting around the table at Starbucks? I immediately labeled them stay-at-home moms whiling away their mornings at Pilates and coffee while their kids were at school. Nothing wrong with this, of course, but they made me feel uneasy because while I felt slightly superior that I, a busy and important lawyer, normally had no time for sitting around at coffee* I also really wanted to be one of them. Similarly, when I lived in the city, I’d go to the playground and I’d see nannies chasing after children whose mothers I knew did not work. I can’t believe so-and-so has a full-time nanny, I’d think to myself. Almost like, why have children if you’re not going to work and yet you’re not going to take care of them? But I suspect some of my judgment masked an underlying jealousy.
Judgment isn’t pretty. Ever. And when I judge, I do so because something about the situation makes me uneasy and insecure about my own choices. Perhaps these women had nannies for an extra set of hands, enabling them, as a mother, to focus on one child at a time. Or maybe these mothers knew they were not the most patient of souls, and the nanny helped them be more calm and present. Or perhaps they just spent their days at the gym and shopping, who knows. But I get it now: if you can afford some help with your small children, why not have an extra set of eyes and hands around? An extra lap for reading stories? An extra pair of arms for hugs?
Case in point: Last night, at 6 p.m., I was wrangling Little Bug from the table to the bath, while the baby, who has in general “woken up” and now at five weeks is somewhat colicky at the end of the day, wailed away. I handed the baby to Lisa, our graduate student babysitter, who rocked and bounced him while I washed Buggy’s hair and let her linger in the tub and then got her ready for bed. Lisa then read Buggy a book while I nursed the baby, and then she burped the baby while I read to the toddler. And then it was 6:30, and everyone was relatively calm: I had not snapped at Little Bug nor sent her to time out for restless behavior. I did not spend the earlier part of the day dreading dinner and bathtime. It had been a pretty good day.
And yet, I feel a tinge of guilt. It’s not the expense — I have a very generous maternity leave and am getting paid for several months still, not to mention that the cost of a babysitter a few hours a week is literally a fraction of what we paid our wonderful, full-time nanny. It’s the admission that I can’t do myself without feeling overwhelmed. It’s the realization that I judged so many other women’s choices without knowing their backstories.
Let’s be honest: if I had all the money in the world, I wouldn’t work and I’d hire a lot of childcare help.
Or would I? As I drove home from Starbucks the other day — solo, because Lisa was at home — I saw a young mother pushing an infant in a stroller and dragging along two other small children, both under 3. I was overcome with guilt and sadness — why wasn’t I out strolling my babies in the spring sun? Was grabbing a chai and writing a few thank-you notes at Starbucks while someone else held my baby the right thing?
I know a lot of people reading this will offer support for hiring babysitting help. Indeed, many of my coworkers were surprised that we were not keeping our nanny through my maternity leave. But I’d also love to hear from others who feel as torn and guilty about hiring help as I do — or who perhaps have not hired (for whatever reason) some help while staying at home with children. I keep thinking: my mother did it without babysitters (she might argue that her sanity suffered?); my mother-in-law hired help only when her twins, my husband and his sister, were born — but I should add here that she already had SIX OTHER CHILDREN, the oldest of who at that point was 8 (she might argue that her sanity suffered as well!)
As I write this, Little Buggy is at preschool. Little O is home for two hours with the sitter. I have edited the resumes of my sister and aunt, signed up to be an alumni mentor at my law school, answered a dozen emails, skimmed the Times, and have written this post. Were I not doing this now, I’d be thinking for the rest of the day of getting these little tasks done. And I wouldn’t have had the chance to write. Arguably, this time will make me more focused and present this afternoon. But do I deserve this? Are the other women at Starbucks judging me?
*This is of course not entirely true because as any regular reader knows, I hit Starbucks with my colleagues all the time.