While I was on maternity leave with my son, I struggled to find a balance between caring for my kids, managing the household, and caring for myself. I know. “Caring for myself.” I’ll wait while you laugh. More than anyone, moms know that “caring for yourself” falls so far down the priority list, that it never really becomes a reality. For the moms of today, it’s not unlikely to wear multiple hats. Thanks to the influence of social media, we all face an insurmountable pressure to be Super Moms or Mom Bosses. Raising our kids, throwing birthday parties, planning family get-togethers, getting our kids to fun activities, participating in said fun activities, all while excelling in our jobs and running a side-hustle like it ain’t no thang. Those are the expectations we place on ourselves as moms today. But unlike the generations before us, we’re lacking the support to do it all. We’re moving around more frequently and further away from our families, leaving mothers feeling more isolated than ever before.
Although I’m lucky to have my in-laws live only a half-hour away, support calls are usually saved for the “important” things like dentist/doctors appointments, focusing on work, job interviews, parent-teacher meetings, or the occasional date night. These are all things that we can easily justify. It’s like there’s an unspoken list of acceptable reasons to use a babysitter and self-care is not one of them.
Isn’t that crazy? I think there’s enough evidence out there today that demonstrates the benefits of taking care of ourselves. Yet, as mothers, we don’t ask for help when we’re feeling overwhelmed, depressed, or anxious. Asking for help would mean admitting we can’t actually do it all ourselves. It would open us up to judgement. What if people think we’re being bad mothers, needy or high maintenance? What if they think we’re being selfish for wanting to care for ourselves? After all, we chose to have kids, we should be able to take care of them. These are all very common reasons why mother’s don’t ask for help. But what we don’t tell ourselves enough is that self-care is fundamental to being a good mother. If we don’t take care of ourselves, we become irritable, stressed and overwhelmed, which inevitably has an impact on the rest of our family.
At about 4 months postpartum, I was struggling. I had a very difficult delivery with my son, which resulted in an emergency c-section, three surgeries and 5 days in ICU. The recovery was tough, both physically and mentally. Being a stay-at-home mom with two kids and a partner who travelled frequently was also tough. One morning, while I was dropping my daughter off at school, I got into a conversation with another mom about the challenges of finding occasional childcare. To my surprise, this mom offered to help. It’s hard to put into words how much her offer of support really meant. In that moment, I decided to push my pride aside and take her up on her offer. We then made an arrangement for her to take my son for an hour twice a week, while I went to a gym close by. Those two hours to myself each week allowed me to catch my breath, sweat out my stress and anxiety, recharge mentally and miss my baby. After each hour, I couldn’t wait to see my son again.
This mom in my community sparked something. She worked part time and had a daughter that was already attending school. We got to know each other because our girls were in the same class and had become good friends. However, I never would have thought to ask her for help for all the reasons I listed earlier. Through that experience, I realized that there are parents in our communities who are willing to provide their support, but we don’t ask! We were missing a space where parents could offer their support and where parents seeking support could connect with them. So I created Sitterhood.
Sitterhood is a community of parents who understand the demands and pressures parenthood brings. It allows parents seeking occasional childcare to connect with parents offering occasional childcare. There’s no judgement or guilt. There’s only support. There are parents in our communities who can help, and now it’s a lot easier to ask.