A Reader Writes:
I often hear women who have large families talk about getting help around the house, and I was just wondering what sort of “help” people get. I have all small children now (5, 3, & 1), and our homeschooling is still in the really informal stages, but I already struggle with getting everything done and still having time to do things with the kids. I have tried teenaged girls as mother’s helpers, but it just never worked out – I found that I wasn’t comfortable asking them to do the things I really needed help with (house work, laundry, cooking, etc). I have tried cleaning ladies, but it was just not a good fit with personalities. My husband keeps telling me to “get some help!” but I can’t figure out how to go about it. I have to admit that I get a little tired of reading books/articles/advice about having your older kids help out. I don’t have any older kids! I know someday I will be the one telling younger moms that it gets easier, but I really need advice for right now.
I’m just going to hazard a little bit of a guess here. Are you, by any chance, a … perfectionist? About your housekeeping? About your parenting? About your kids’ schooling (which in my humble opinion you should not be doing in any formal kind of way really at all yet)?
I can feel the frustration in your words. I can feel it and I know it because I have been there myself. I won’t tell you that things will be easier when your kids are older. Of course it’s true, but I think you’ve heard that enough by now. You want to know about how to handle the right now. And, if you will listen to me, I will tell you how:
Let it go.
Accept the fact that this passing season of your life is a uniquely challenging one. One in which your house might never be cleaned according to your standards. One in which your days will be a hazy blur of endless cleaning up, disciplining, changing diapers, reading Curious George, and then cleaning up again. One in which you will collapse exhausted in your bed at the end of the day and wonder “Who am I and what on earth did I accomplish today?”
But if you can accept it for what it is — if you can let it all go for just a minute — you will see: This is a beautiful time too. A fleeting time. And it is a gift. It is a lovely time of freedom and of completely losing yourself to the world of wooden puzzles and coloring pages and picture books that will never come again. Is your bathroom wiped down and your laundry caught up enough to meet health code standards? Do you give your kids hugs and kisses, do you read aloud to them every day? Are they building with blocks and counting the number of cups of flour they dump into the mixing bowl for the muffins you are baking?
Yes? Then good for you. You are a good mom. And you are doing an outstanding job. And as for the rest of it?
Let it go.
Hire a helper if you want to. Hire a professional helper if you want to. But your satisfaction in these things will hinge on one thing: Do you accept this season in your life for what it is? Do you recognize that your challenging circumstances are temporary — that today is not forever? Do you embrace this moment — this very moment of your motherhood that will never come again — and accept it for what it is? Perfectly impossible, perfectly grueling, and perfectly sweet in its simplicity?
I wish that for you. And for every young mother who struggles as you do. It does get easier. But does it get sweeter? Does it get simpler? I don’t think so. It’s just hard to see that from the trenches.