Do you have help?”
It’s a question I have been asked frequently these last three years. In fact, as I neared the end of my pregnancy with the twins I was asked repeatedly how I was going to do it. Is your mom coming? You will need help caring for two babies.
Now that I have three kids ages three and under, I get asked the same question. You really should consider putting them in a Mother’s Day Out program, well meaning people say to me. Usually I smile and nod, saying something about the fact that I like having them all home with me, or that they seem so young to be sending away for a few hours a week. But something else is going on in my response. For a long time, I didn’t want to admit the pride in my own heart.
The truth is I liked being able to say that I had it all together. I liked being able to say that I didn’t put them in any program, that they were with me all of the time. I liked being able to say that I could handle all the little people in my life.
Until I couldn’t.
As I’ve been working on a book about the work of the home, the common theme that keeps coming up in my research is that this work is not meant to be done in isolation. But in the West, especially America, it is. We are a nation of independent, self-sufficient people. I mean, we talk about whether or not women can “have it all” all of the time. It seems so elusive, yet it is so longed for. We marvel at the mother who can work outside the home, care for her kids, and do it all with joy. And while we might scoff at the woman who tries to have it all in the marketplace, while we stay home with our children, the reality is we can’t have it all at home either. We stay-at-home moms are contributors to the pressure to have it all just as much as the working mom.
Everyone will be confronted with their finiteness, their limitations, at some point. Mine has come in the form of three children ages three and under. So I’m going to wave my white flag of surrender as a testimony to the fact that I cannot do it all, I am not super mom, and I need help. There. I said it. It takes a village to raise a child and to make a home. And sometimes that village includes Mother’s Day Out. At least in my case it does. If our work is for the good of the world, and I believe it is, then I also believe that the work is done with the world, in community with others. I need the help of others to do my work well. I need friends who watch my kids so I can go to the dentist. I need friends who are willing to do a date swap with my husband and me so we can get a night out. I need friends to run to the store for me when one of my sons is sick. And I hope I am able, and willing, to do the same for others when it’s my turn to lend a helping hand.
As I sent them off to Mother’s Day Out a few weeks ago, my heart ached for them. I really do enjoy being with them. And I know that in some small way my sending them off was the beginning of a long line of goodbyes I’m going to have to do over the next 15 years. But I also hope that by sending them off they will see a mom who embraces her limitations in her work, who acknowledges her need for community, and who accepts what it means to live as a woman who can’t have it all.