8 years ago I was a mother of one. I had just started my small business and I was really dipping my toe back into the working world after taking 6 months of unpaid maternity leave. I was eager to make a living, but I was not eager to leave my baby. So I didn’t.
I would take meetings with potential partners and at first everyone would ooooh and aaaawww over my infant. I was so proud—she was so sweet and beautiful, just sitting in her car seat at the table at lunch cooing and smiling and sitting still. But before long, she was crawling, then she was walking. Then she was talking (loudly!). Within a year I found myself in a major business growth spurt, while my child was growing up simultaneously in front of my eyes, and I could no longer get away with schlepping her to business events. I was scheduling calls in between naps, and then the naps shortened and the calls lengthened and all efficiency went out the window (as did my sanity!). I still wasn’t quite ready to leave my baby.
My work uniform, ie pajamas all day.
So a few more months went by and I was making it work. My husband’s work hours were reasonable and I was getting a lot done at night. And so what if I wasn’t sleeping much? I had barely slept the first three months of my daughter’s life and sleep isn’t really necessary, is it? Parenthood is survival mode, we just figure it out. And then all of a sudden things got tricky. My husband’s job was in it’s busy season and he was getting home later. I was working more hours, AND now I was needing to travel for work. At that moment, I cried. I felt sad. It hit me that I couldn’t do it all. But something else came out of that moment.
I realized I felt guilty about needing help. It wasn’t that I was overly attached to my child (you can never be TOO attached to your child, in my opinion, anyway), it was more so that I was attached to the idea that I had to do it all myself or I wouldn’t be a good mother. I simply had an epiphany one day: I can’t do THIS anymore like THIS. Something had to give as I was focusing on the baby while I was working, and work while I was playing with the baby. I wasn’t giving my undivided attention to anyone at any one time and it was making me unproductive, impatient, exhausted and unhappy. So I decided that day to hire a babysitter.
I knew I was ready to hire a babysitter when I admitted that I was a working mother. It didn’t matter that I worked from home and wasn’t commuting to an office. I was working hard and building a business from scratch. The point was that I could not work AND take care of a baby at the same time. I was not able to do both simultaneously in an effective manner, and I finally had to admit it and not feel like an awful person about it. I had to accept that in order to be successful at working and parenting, I had to divide my time appropriately and seek out help to care for my child.
I also knew I was ready because I could afford the expense. Unfortunately, I did not have close family or friends in the area at the time, so I had to rely on paying someone. That meant that I had to be making enough money to cover the cost of childcare. And let me tell you, it started very slow. I would hire someone for maybe 2-3 days a week for 2-3 hours a day. It was what I could afford. But let me tell you this, I accomplished 2-3x as much when my babysitter was there. It was worth every penny (and by penny I mean $12/hour on average!).
And finally, I knew I was ready to hire a babysitter when I found the right person. I interviewed a lot of people, talked to a lot of friends and ultimately found the right person with the appropriate experience. Personality mattered too, as sometimes I would just jive well with a sitter and feel more comfortable quicker. I felt comforted knowing that I was close by to check on my child and my sitter, so that of course made it easier. But, after a short time, I would leave the house to take calls and meetings and feel at ease. I knew my child was in good hands.
My son Jude with our amazing sitter Debbie who we miss so much!
I want parents to know that you absolutely should not feel guilty about asking for help. Sometimes you need a break from attending to your baby’s 10 different diaper and outfit changes, other sometimes you need a stiff drink with your partner to escape toddler tantrums, and still other times you just need a breath of fresh air away from homework. Whether you are a working or stay-at-home mother or father, you deserve time for yourself. You deserve the space to pursue personal hobbies and professional endeavors, whatever you choose. Do not feel guilty. Remember, before you were a mother or father, you were YOU and YOU are awesome and should continue to develop YOU as the person, not just the parent.