Asking for a break doesn’t make you a bad mom
My kids have spent most of this week with my in-laws. It started on Monday afternoon when I sent a message to my mother-in-law asking if she and my father-in-law could possibly pick up the kids from school, do homework, feed them dinner and even make lunches for the next day.
That’s a lot to ask of anyone, but I could barely be upright, let alone functional thanks to sickness. My husband is operating at half capacity still with broken ribs from a fall in mid December. (He still can’t lie down in bed.) We were a mess.
That one day turned into a few days. Finally, on Thursday evening the kids came back home. And, honestly, I didn’t even miss them until Wednesday, because I was just too sick on Monday and Tuesday to think very straight.
Here’s the thing. I know if needed, I could have managed with the kids at home. I’ve done it before. As someone with multiple chronic illnesses who has had three major surgeries since having my two kiddos, I know how to manage while not feeling my best.
I can push myself, but I also know my limits. And I am incredibly blessed to have both my parents and my in-laws in town and retired. They all love a chance to have our kids over. Both sets raised two children themselves and are no strangers to homework, dinner, lunchboxes and bedtime routines. I do not for one minute take that for granted.
I’d say this week has gone much better for my kiddos in being with their Nana and Papaw. I certainly haven’t been up to cooking. I know my temper would have been short from sheer exhaustion, because I have been utterly exhausted every day even without two children in my care.
In fact, on Tuesday evening, my husband took our son to his Ninja Zone class and then returned him to Nana and Papaw’s just in time for bed. My husband heard his mother instruct our son to get ready for bed and then he could choose a snack between ice-cream and a Nutty Buddy. I mean, what kid wouldn’t love that?!
(And I am upset at the late sugary snack? Nope. It’s not what I do and won’t happen at home, but sugary snacks before bed with grandparents on occasion is just fun when you’re a kid. Not to mention, I can’t be upset with the people who are helping me out by taking care of my children during a school week!)
They came home with backpacks full of clean clothes and lunchboxes already packed for Friday, complete with notes from my mother-in-law. It was such a blessing to me.
However, even knowing that I have help readily available that my children would prefer, I still struggle to ask for it sometimes. When I realized I was getting sick, I suspected it was the same bug my husband had previously. While he was sick, I managed the kids, puppy and everything else.
I knew he’d do the same for me in usual circumstances, but with broken ribs and crummy sleep, he isn’t up to par right now. I started in on a pity party for myself as I dragged around the house on Monday morning making sure the puppy and kids were fed and ready for the day. I was bemoaning in my head about how even though I was sick, I couldn’t have the luxury to stop. I was a mom, for goodness sake, and we don’t get days off.
I was really getting going about how no matter how bad I felt, my family wouldn’t care and would still need things done.
And then I realized it didn’t have to be that way. I DO have help available. I do NOT have to be a mom martyr. Sometimes I have no choice. For example, a year ago, my husband and his parents were out of town for a funeral. My parents were in Florida visiting my brother. I was dog-sitting for my in-laws. I got a stomach bug. It was just the kids and me. We survived. They ate peanut butter and Hawaiian rolls and way too many chocolate granola bars. They got to stay home from school an extra day because I was sick, but we survived.
The thing about motherhood is that we don’t get days off — not truly. Even when my kids were with my in-laws, I was thinking about them and what they needed. I wanted to make sure my daughter had her school library book to return and my son practiced his spelling words. I can never turn off my mom brain.
But sometimes being a good mother means you realize that asking for help is what is best for your kids, even if it hurts your pride. Even if you don’t want to admit to other mothers that you had days without your kids to recover. (And, honestly, this has been an exceptional sickness that has required days. I’m still out of sorts.)
Motherhood is a calling. It’s important work, but it also doesn’t mean we have to be mom martyrs. We can ask for help and still be good moms. We can ask for time off (even when we aren’t sick!) and still be good moms.
Our foremothers understood this even more back when families lived closer together and neighbors watched out for each other’s kids. We weren’t meant to raise our kids on an island alone. Embrace the community you have whether it is family or friends. Ask for help when you need it. It really does take a village to raise our children!