My husband and I were picking up the house after we finally got the kids in bed for the night. Toys, laundry, cleaning up after dinner, and finally throwing away the hidden snickers wrapper from earlier in the day. Yes, I eat hidden snacks when my toddler isn’t looking. I’m not ashamed to admit that.
By the time we finished picking up the house, it was 9 pm, and I still had work to get done on the computer. We were exhausted. I was an irritated and tired mama. Did I mention I was crabby?
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“I need more time in the day. There is never enough time!! I’m exhausted. The day feels like one exhausting loop of trying to figure out how to tame tempter tantrums and meaningless small tasks that get undone the moment I finish them. That’s what’s wrong!”
Clearly, I was in the midst of a meltdown.
“If you can’t get enough done, then we need to start doing something different.”
I knew exactly what he meant, but I wasn’t ready to admit it.
“Nah. Nah. It’s fine. This is a short season. Let’s just give it a bit more time.”
This is so typical of my perfectionist tendencies. I’m drowning with 10 feet waves pouncing on me and instead of reaching for the life preserver, I insist on swimming against the current. I keep trying to swim, yet with each passing moment, I sink deeper and deeper into the ocean of toys and laundry and overwhelm.
I wanted to do it all because asking for help feels like I failed. I want to manage the household and the kids and work and do it all with a sleep deprived smile on my face.
Related: 9 Quick & Clever Mealtime Hacks for Busy Moms
I wanted to do it all to give myself some sort of bizarre satisfaction that I was capable of being a mom who had her shit together.
Except I didn’t.
I was filling everyone’s cup, except my own. My cup ran dry and then everyone ended up with a crabby woman in oversized yoga pants and a crooked pony tail. Not exactly winning at mother of the year.
Something had to change.
About a month and a half ago, I decided I was so crabby I could barely stand my own self. I was tired of the endless cycle of cooking and cleaning and working and cooking and cleaning and working, which played on repeat like a bad 80s hairband in my car.
My husband continued recommending that “we needed to do something different.” Because hello, I wasn’t all that pleasant to be around.
I decided enough was enough.
Three changes you can start today.
1. Tell your spouse EXACTLY what you need.
Don’t waste your time standing in an hour line at the carnival. Buy the fast pass and skip straight to the front lines of communication. Tell your spouse exactly how they can help you. Use clear and direct communication, which prevents your spouse from guessing and getting it wrong. Here are a few things I said:
“I appreciate it when you help put the kids to bed each night. Can you help put the kids to bed? ”
“I feel happy when you help do the laundry. Will you help do the laundry?”
“It is awesome when you cook dinner on Wednesday nights.”
“I love it when you XYZ. Can you help me?”
2. Cave. Get the cleaning lady.
I never had a cleaning lady in my entire life. Didn’t want one. I am perfectly capable of cleaning my house, right?! Except I wasn’t.
I easily kept up with the day-to-day tasks. Washing the floors and deep cleaning the bathrooms was a completely different story. I’d be washing floors and my toddler would be climbing on top of me thinking he was Curious George. This equates to a ridiculous amount of inefficiency and frustration.
So I finally caved and got the cleaning lady. Dang, she did an amazing job. I realized how happy a clean house made me. And how much happier I was not cleaning. You will not regret a maid—I promise.
3. Cave again. Hire a babysitter.
First, everyone’s family life is different. Maybe you need a babysitter to get a date night with your husband. Maybe you need a babysitter so you can work from home. Maybe you just need a babysitter for a few hours once a week so you can attend a doctor appointment or lunch with a friend.
Seriously. Whatever your situation. Do it. Get the babysitter.
I sat around way too long in the mentality that I was just going to suck it up and do it myself. That I would just skip those doctor appointments. That I would pass on lunch with friends for the next 5 years. That my husband and I could get by with a date night only a few times per year.
Finally, my husband and I found a babysitter and we enrolled our son in pre-school 3 days per week.
We went on a date and had a real adult conversation. I got actual work done during the day instead of trying to work on the computer, while saying “one more minute” 25 times.
The craziest thing happened next.
After all this crazy nonsense of trying to do it all, I finally gave up and asked for help. I told my husband how he could best help me, I hired the cleaning lady, and I put the babysitter on speed dial numero uno.
I suddenly became a really nice person again. I quit acting so irritated with my husband all the time (mostly). I quit feeling upset and angry with my kids over every little thing.
Instead of cleaning my house, I take my kids to the playground, where we spend several hours connecting. Instead of trying to work from home and take care of kids at the same time, we spend the time each day after school snuggling on the couch, reading books and connecting. Instead of laying around in my jammie pants on Friday nights, my husband and I got a babysitter, went on a date, and we started connecting.
It’s pretty amazing how you enable yourself to really shine as a mother when you stop trying to do it all. When we quit wasting time trying to be a maid and a babysitter and a mother and a working woman, we allow ourselves to start seeing what really matters—connecting.
My son looked up at me.
Standing at the kitchen counter chopping vegetables for dinner, my son walked over, tugged at my legs and said, “Mama?”
I looked down, and there were the biggest brown eyes staring back at me. I feel like it was so long since I noticed them. I was too busy before to pay attention.
“Choo choo, mama. Choo choo.”
He wanted me to help him with his favorite train set. Before I would huff and puff and begrudgingly go over to play for a few minutes, then rush back to my endless to-do list.
Today, I looked into his big brown eyes, smiled, and simply said one word: Yes.
Want more on motherhood?
- How I Hurt My Daughter’s Self-Esteem (Before She Had Any)
- What No One Tells You About Parenting Toddler Boys
- 7 Parenting Hacks for an Easier Bedtime With Kids
- 5 Unspoken Truths About Being a Stay-at-Home Mom
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I think these suggestions are well-intended but something is deeply troubling too. Asking one’s partner for help with household responsibilities is implying that it is only one partner’s responsibilities and that is simply not true. Asking a partner how they will share responsibilities seems more fair and honest. Asking a partner to pay to outsource such responsibilities also seems fair and more truthful.