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When a Stay-At-Home Mom Needs Hired Help

Mar 17 2014
Three kids, no job, and a nanny: Choosing humility instead of doing it all.

My name is Marie, and I'm a stay-at-home mom with three kids.

And hired help.

Months before the birth of our twins, my husband and I decided we would hire someone to help me care for the kids and manage our home. We knew everyone would be happier for it. I posted a question on a Facebook page set up for twin mothers, asking what hours of the day most moms of a toddler and twins found they would benefit from an extra pair of hands. The overwhelming response? You don't need help. You can do it all by yourself.

While I think most of the responders meant this as encouragement, I still find this reaction to be unfortunate. It reveals our society's general lack of acceptance of a stay-at-home mother's need for help. Stiff upper lip. You must shoulder the burden alone.

We didn't always treat mothers this way. The Daily Beast brings up how starting at birth, colonial Americans allowed mothers a "lying in" period, for new moms to rest and bond with their babies while other women kept up her household. That era has disappeared and not been replaced with anything, other than—if you're lucky—a stream of delicious casseroles from neighbors and friends (thanks for those, by the way). The article went on to say:

"A culturally accepted postpartum period sends a powerful message that's not being sent in this country," said Dr. Margaret Howard, the director of the Day Hospital for Postpartum Depression in Providence, Rhode Island. "American mothers internalize the prevailing attitude—'I should be able to handle this myself; women have babies every day'—and if they're not up and functioning, they feel like there's something wrong with them."

This "you can do it" form of "encouragement" also echoes our culture's overwhelming rejection of help, hired or not, and pervasive sense of pride. I don't need any help. I can do it all on my own. Isn't this attitude the antithesis of the Christian life? The very core of our faith is that we cannot gain admittance to heaven based on our works alone. In the same way, we cannot attain parental perfection by pure solitary effort, no matter what society expects.

When we imagine at-home parents hiring additional help, words like spoiled, lazy, and self-indulgent come to mind. Mommyish blogger Sheri Segal Glick calls hired help her dirty little secret, something she's "ashamed to admit to most people. When [she does] admit it, it comes with a rehearsed monologue of excuses and apologies." When the NC Registerreported on stay-at-home moms with hired help, they barely wanted to talk about it: "One mom admitted that she had a housekeeper come do a deep clean once a month. Two other moms said they had babysitters come a few hours per week. All of them seemed kind of sheepish about their confessions, admitting to having help the way one might admit to smoking a little crack to get through a long day."

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