I Am A Mom, And I Need Help

I live with my mother-in-law.  It is true-  I am not just trying to scare you.

For financial reasons we needed to live with family when we moved back to California.  I thought it would be horrible.  And it has admittedly had its issues, emotions, breakdowns, hurt feelings, and the like.  Last week though we had even more family come to stay with us.  I was a little surprised at the result.

Let me first say that I have always had difficulty and felt inadequate in my dealings with family.  In fact it was one of my biggest fears about getting married.  How could I possibly function in a marriage relationship if I couldn't even manage it with my own parents?

So, moving back to my home town and in with my mother-in-law was a little scary for me.

I have three young children now and I stay home with them.  My husband is gone much of the day and has been for the last few years, especially when he was in school.  I often felt deeply inadequate because I was so frequently tired, overwhelmed, frustrated, and basically feeling like I was getting nothing done even though I was home all day with my kids.  How did women do this 100 years ago without birth control and even more kids?!

Guess what- I am not the only mom who feels like this!  Being a full time mom is overwhelming.  It is a monetary sacrifice to start, not to mention the sacrifice of your time, talents, desires, and needs.  Plus, people in the grocery story look at you like you are insane or incapable of figuring out how a condom works.

But back to my point.  Last week we had more family stay with us.  A mother and father and their three kids, 16, 12 and 9.  My kids are 5, 2 and 9 months.  Instead of being totally overwhelming, everybody was pretty happy.  The kids loved playing with their older cousins.  My kids did not fight with each other at all.  They did not give me any grief over anything.  They had constant stimulation and play companions.  Somebody was always there to play or entertain or teach them something.

And that was not even the best part!  My baby is a sweet heart but likes to be held a lot.  I don't mind this, but I just can't hold her all the time.  She is too big to put in a sling 24/7 and I have to feed the rest of the household and keep some degree of order, and try to fill some of my own needs for human contact and intellectual stimulation.

So- I am a fan of attachment parenting, but in reality, it is very difficult to do all the time with lots of little ones and only one person to care for them and little or no help.

Not so when there is lots of family around!  That baby never got put down.  She was played with, fed, loved, walked, talked to, kissed, and just basically spoiled the entire week.  Aunt and uncle loved to hold a little one again.  All her older cousins soaked up every minute they got with their littlest cousin.  She was such a happy baby.  She hardly fussed at all.

All of this got me thinking about what stay at home mom's and attachment parenting advocates expect from mothers these days.

We expect a mom to hold and love her baby.  We (those involved in natural parenting) expect that mom to not let her baby cry it out.  We expect her to breastfeed.  We expect her to be a good wife and mother.  We expect her to carry her baby when needed.  We expect her to avoid all these artificial baby soothing devices.  I myself look down on these things.  I want my babies to be comforted by human hands.

But the reality of our modern nuclear family, with dad gone to work much of the day, is that this is a pretty tall order.  Attachment parenting, plus lots of little ones and keeping your sanity is hard to do.  It is simply hard to do it all.  In fact, I think it is impossible to do it all perfectly.

This experience reminded me that not too many years ago, families lived together in larger family units.  There were aunt and uncles, cousins, grandmothers and grandfathers around to love on a baby.

There was no talk that week about letting the baby cry it out.  There was no stress about getting her down for her nap.  There was no listening to her scream while I scrambled to fix dinner.  There was no panic attack when I realized I did not know where my baby had crawled off too.  There is really no need for all these baby gadgets when there are simply more people around to help.

I realized that part of the reason some of our modern parenting techniques exist (the cruel and unusual ones) is because we place a huge burden on mothers who are doing it mostly on their own.  Frankly, I am not surprised that mom's are tempted to just let the baby cry at the end of the day.  By then they are exhausted.  They don't have anybody to help them during the day and they don't even  have anybody to teach them how to parent.

We need a little family help.  If we don't have that we need to reach out to each other.  Being a stay at home mom right now is incredibly isolating.  On top of that, those who want to do it really well, hold a high standard for themselves that is difficult to reach

I hate to say it, but it does take a village.  We need each other.  We need to show up and take that new mama dinner.  We need to pamper her.  We need to hold her baby for a minute.  We need to take her older kids to the park.  We need to share our mama wisdom or just a listening ear.  And, we need to let others do the same for us.


L said…
GREAT post!! Thank you so much. I am a sahm to only one child and I often wonder, 'how can I possibly hold our next child as much as I did ds, and lay down with them for every nap, and, and and...' It seems so overwhelming. I absolutely believe that we need family support. (And more education on not only how to parent, but how babies *really* develop...so many mothers still truly believe that, i.e., babies develop independence by CIO.) We live far from my family but very close to my in-laws. However, my MIL has the attitude that she is *not* a baby-sitter and only wants to take grandchildren when she wants to have fun with them. I understand that, but it would be SO nice to have some help when I need it, especially when she and my FIL are the only family we have close. I don't believe I've ever called and asked her to watch our son...dh has, but I won't. When her children were young, they lived far from all family and if she "had to do it all on her own so should we." Its sad, really.
Barbara said…
Beautiful words! I have some friends with small children and I always ask if they need help, anything, really. I could send food for them, watch their kids so the couple could go out for a date or even in a saturday afternoon so the mom could spend some time doing whatever she needs... but, inspite we're close friends they never accept any help - from me or other friends (even family). The mom - especially the sahm - thinks that she have to take care of the child on her own. And this idea breaks my heart. It's hard to see what our society did with parent's minds... To be a sahm is the hardest task of the universe and it should be recognize it like that. And it should be ok to ask for help and to accept help when someone offers to us.

Sometimes I just want to hold all mothers into my arms in a big conforting hug...
Mama Birth said…
Thanks for your comments. I think my MIL would help more if she didn't feel like it was an intrusion on my life. I have had a very hard time accepting or asking for help. I am starting to realize that my expectations for myself are not realistic and are part of the reason I feel so overwhelmed so often. Maybe having friends, playgroups, and mothers whose children are grown around is more of a modern answer.
Milburns' said…
FABULOUS! LOVE the post!!!
Theuppercblog said…
Your posts are always great Sarah but this one is the best I have read so far. I could not agree with you more. My wife and I have 5 children and we homeschool also. I am a Chiropractor so I am not home much so she does alot all by herself. It is great to have Grandpa and Grandma right next door and alot of extended family real close though. Again an awesome post. I can definitely relate to what you are saying. Keep up the great work.
January said…
You are so right. I often think, "I totally believe in attachment parenting, but it sure is the hard way". Because I am alone. Well, my hubby helps A LOT, but he's going to be gone much more in about a week and I'll be in a new town and know no one! Ack! I think this post actually makes me depressed. I don't have this kind of family help. And everytime we meet other families with lots of kids that we all get along...we move! :( Great post Sarah!
Mama Birth said…
Thanks so much guys! January- things will work out for you, we all have those rock bottom times though. You are strong and you will find something to make it work easier for you. Lots of love-
Anonymous said…
This was a great post. I am due to have our sixth child any day, and I believe that this post is a great "commercial" for promoting big families! :) My oldest is now 13 and quite capable of taking care of his little brothers and sisters. He changes diapers, tells stories, holds babies, dresses little ones, etc. He's going to be the most amazing dad!! My oldest daughter is 8, and she is going to be a huge help with this baby. I think it's much easier the more you have. I don't have to worry about crying babies when I'm taking a shower or trying to get ready. My husband works 6 days a week--a complete, full day except usually only until 3 or 4 on Saturday. Then he's home trying to take care of our 3 acres of our little "farm." Having the kids and training them to love their family is the only way I could do it.
trish said…
After my son was born, my MIL would come over once a week or so and do our dishes and do our fold our laundry. At first I felt guilty. I mean, I wasn't going to work. All I was doing was taking care of my baby! And my husband was home with me for the first month! How was it possible that we still had dishes in the sink and laundry to fold?

Finally, one day, after feeling guilty and stressed about someone else folding my laundry (and I already had a regular house cleaner coming in once a week), I finally came to the realization that taking care of a baby is really hard -- it's a full time job. If we lived so many years ago, we'd probably be living with my MIL and other family anyway. There would be that support that is so lacking in this day and age. So I finally stopped feeling guilty and accepted it for the gift that it was.
shared path said…
Yep! I've always thought this - we evolved to live in tribes :) You can sense how much pressure is lifted when you go camping with friends, especially when the children are of different ages. Outside of the city environment, the teenagers love to be with younger children, the younger children love to be with the toddlers - and vice versa. Everything takes care of itself and when even the chores are done in company, it's no chore.Great to see this written about, thank you. Shame there is no practical solution that meets the needs of our children and ourselves in this society. Except to move in with friends or family!
Anonymous said…
I was just discussing this a couple of days ago with some girlfriends! Unfortunately, both of them are in the midst of separating from their partners/husbands and we were joking that we should all move into together and form a commune! All jokes aside, it makes so much more sense that the isolation, monotony, boredom and frustration that comes of 1 woman stuck in a home alone. We are now doing the next best thing we can think of and establishing a venue for women of all ages (and yes...WITH CHILDREN) to do craft and wellbeing activities during the day and evening...sort of like an open house scenario. That way, there's always someone to talk to, there's always something new to learn and there's always something or someone who can make everything feel just that little less ALONE AND LONELY. Good luck and big hugs to all the ladies in the same position...maybe we could start a new revolution.
Cruz said…
Enjoyed this post. My husband is in the military and last time he was gone for 8 months I lived with my parents. We didn't have any children. It was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. We are expecting our first in September/October and then he deploys in November for 7 months. This time I will move in with his family since they are closer to where we live now. I am EXTREMELY nervous about this since they both tend to get on my nerves ( No I am not 5 anymore I don't need to be reminded to eat thank you!) We've already encountered having to deal with them wanting feeding schedules/use of bottles and cows milk/formula,ect. How do you share your parenting beliefs with your family? We also have a bit of a language barrier as their primary language is spanish and mine isn't. I've struggled because while they try to be helpful we end up with so much unwanted stuff and somehow I never feel like they completely understand/get the way we want to do things/parent.
My BFF and I were discussing exactly this tonight. This is so true. There's more than 1 person can humanly do!