Families With Grace

Helping Christian moms create homes filled with grace, love & faith

Don’t be a mom martyr

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.

Motherhood is important work, but we don't have to be mom martyrs. We can ask for help or time off and still be good moms.

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.

Being tempted to be a mom martyr

However, even knowing 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. In no time, 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.

My pity party continued. 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.

Motherhood is important work, but we don't have to be mom martyrs. We can ask for help or time off and still be good moms.

The thing about motherhood is that we don’t get days off — not truly. Even when my kids were with my in-laws, my mom brain 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.

Good moms can ask for help

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 we don’t 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!

It’s OK to let go and ask for help!

Asking for help is hard. It goes against our human pride and desire to be independent and strong. We don’t want to ever admit that we can’t do it all or are weak. We like to take the weight of the world on our shoulders and plaster on a smile as we stumble around under its crushing load.

There is definitely a spiritual lesson in this about how God didn’t design us to carry that weight but to let Him. And another one about how admitting we are weak makes Him all that much stronger. But there is also a literal lesson. Sometimes we just plain need help.

Asking for help in the past

About six years ago, my mom and mother-in-law came to my house daily while I was recovering from surgery. I had a 3-year-old and 8-month-old. I couldn’t lift the baby for six weeks post-op. That same baby caused me to be on modified bedrest for my final trimester. And the months in between his birth and my surgery were so incredibly hard physically that I spent 3 months “sleeping” in a recliner, got shingles, had two bouts of the stomach flu and strep throat.

Cleaning my house during all of that was impossible. Sure once the baby was born, I was able to do a few things, but my head was barely above water. While my mom and mother-in-law came to help with the kids on different days after my surgery, they also saw my drowning need for help at my house.

I remember them each doing tasks like scrubbing my bathroom and my kitchen. I remember the great amount of relief and gratitude I felt that such seemingly simple tasks were getting done for me, in spite of the reality that I couldn’t do them myself. While my body wasn’t cooperating, my eyes were still able to see all that was undone.

I mentioned this to a group of mom friends online. One of the first comments I got was one saying she could never imagine letting someone else clean her bathroom. Ouch! That hurt my feelings. She didn’t seem to understand that I literally had no other choice. I couldn’t do it. My husband was struggling to keep all of us going plus work full-time in another city. He couldn’t do it. My preschooler and baby certainly couldn’t do it.

This wasn’t my first time feeling shame over housework. I realized very early on in our marriage that I felt the most responsible for housework and how our home appeared to others. I saw it as a personal failure when things were in disarray — and they were more often than not! Adding in my health issues and later two kids didn’t help a bit.

I had to learn to let go of my pride and ask for help. Many, many times I asked my husband for help with a task I wasn’t able to do. Other times, my parents or in-laws helped us with large tasks.

Asking for help in the present

That brings us to the present. This month marks our one-year anniversary in our new home. We had the house built and moved in to a clean, sparkling new everything. While I’ve kept up better on housework in this home than in any other I’ve ever had before thanks to some cleaning lessons I’ve learned along the way combined with better health, I also still have physical limitations. I saw all the deep cleaning work needed around here from scrubbing the bathtubs to mopping the floors to cleaning the windows to wiping down baseboards and knew I couldn’t do it.

With fibromyalgia, my back, hands and arms (and everything else!) have limited use each day. I have to work in small spurts to avoid sending myself into a total flare. I knew that I could start all the spring cleaning tasks and take until fall to complete them, even with help from my husband and kiddos. So, I asked for help.

As I’m typing this, I can hear the vacuum cleaning going upstairs. I can smell the cleaning products used in my kitchen. And I’ve done none of that. Yes, I decluttered. I cleared out spaces, but I hired help to do the actual deep cleaning.

I have been hesitant to share this information with anyone for a few reasons. First, the day I called and had someone come give me an estimate for cleaning is the same day I had such a bad day at physical therapy I cried the whole way home. Adding insult to injury was realizing that while I was thankful to have funds to pay someone to help me clean I didn’t have a choice in the matter. I couldn’t do it otherwise. That’s a hard pill to swallow.

Second, I still am not a fan of judgment about who is cleaning my house. Third, I don’t want to give anyone the impression that I have lots of disposable income to hire out regular household tasks. That most certainly isn’t the case.

Fourth, I don’t want anyone to think that this is my norm. The tips I share on here are my everyday cleaning tips that I do all the time! I definitely don’t have a regular housekeeper or assistant in any way. It’s the hard-core scrubbing that is a physical challenge for me.

While having my house cleaned is a complete relief to me on one level mentally, it’s also a bit shameful on another level. I don’t want to ask for help — whether it’s free or paid help. I want to be able to do it all. But, the reality is I can’t.

I have shared a few posts about cleaning and maintaining my home. I want to also make sure that I am being transparent to tell you that deep cleaning isn’t something I can do right now. Maybe one day I’ll be able to do that again. And maybe I won’t. Chronic pain and illness is so unpredictable.

Yes, I work hard to stay on top of tasks at my home on a regular basis. I keep up with small tasks as I go. I follow the ABC rule to Always Be Cleaning so it doesn’t build up too much or else I wouldn’t be able to ever get on top of it. Those things I will continue to do, especially because right now I can. I do have days where I can’t keep up, but right now those days are rare, and I’m thankful because that hasn’t always been the case.

Continuing to learn to accept help

However, I also still need help. I cannot do everything. I feel weird to have someone cleaning my house. Of course, I would rather be able to do it myself. It’s hard on my pride to have to have help. But I’ve learned that I can either ask for help, hurt myself trying to do it all or just leave it undone and be upset about it.

I choose to be proactive. I choose to ask for help so things don’t get to be more than I can handle. I choose to not be ashamed because I can’t do it all. I choose to let go the things I can’t do and be thankful for the things I can do.

You may not be in the same situation as me. You may be able to clean your house and enjoy cleaning your house. That’s fine, but I’d bet there is something somewhere in your life that you could use help with for whatever reason. That’s OK. You don’t have to do it all. It’s OK to ask for help sometimes. You don’t have to be ashamed. Anyone who makes you feel otherwise is just plain wrong (and I’d daresay not a good friend to you anyway!).

Sometimes you just have to let go and ask for help. It doesn’t mean you are weak; it just means you are human. And that is not only OK but beautiful. What do you need to ask for help with? Do it today!

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