Okay, so this is probably going to start a firestorm, but after thinking about the comments to the babysitting post, I wanted to talk a little bit more about what it is that we moms are doing to ourselves, and what we are expecting of our families, and why.
I think that, for at home mothers, there is a lot of guilt about the fact that we are not bringing in an income, so it is hard to hire help for personal time. It may also be hard to convince our husbands that we need it.
I see, too, that amoung my working friends, most have help for just the hours that they work. Especially for those who use day care, help just covers the hours that mom is actually at work somewhere. I bring this up because it means that when it comes to a need for some personal time, at home mothers and working mothers are really in the same boat.
I want us all to stop and read this comment:
When it comes to men who have more regular hours, who sleep at night, who get to leave work and actually leave it behind, it is usually not impossible for them to make some adjustments to accomodate an overtired wife and mother who does not get to make her own hours or get a "lunch break" or even a shower.
Now, with due respect to the commenter, because I think that many of us feel just as she does, I think anyone who gave this an initial "amen, sister" needs to stop and think for a moment.
Unless your husband has a job where he punches the clock, he keeps his hours based on his work load and his time management. There are many days when my husband does not get a lunch break, or does not get to go the gym as planned, because something at work gets out of control for a while. Mostly, though, he gets those breaks because he stays focused and tackles each task efficiently as it comes his way. And, he gets the shower because he gets up in time to shower every single day. The only thing preventing me from being up to shower is my own lack of dicipline. He has the added incentive that he needs to shower in order to work, whereas I can totally let myself go and still do my job, but can I really? Not if it makes me all bitter and burnt out.
Mostly, my husband can get finished with his work by 10 and relax some in time to get to bed by eleven. He gets up about 7.5 hours later when his alarm goes off and hits the shower, then dresses and has a nice breakfast. In our house, the older kids dress themselves and the younger ones often come to breakfast in PJ's. When he leaves the house there are just the toddler and baby to dress, and I can easily do that myself, it takes less than ten minutes. I can get up early and shower or I can throw on "sid the science kid" and buy myself a half hour from 8-8:30 if I want to blow dry my hair, or one evening I can shower while the laundry is running.
On to the next point, I don't have a lunch break per-se, but I can make the lunch and then sit down and eat with the children and most days have a pretty nice time. I can give the baby some cheerios while I eat my lunch and then feed him while the other guys help clear the table. Then, all of my kids have a nap or quiet time and I can use that time wisely by resting in bed while nursing and doing some spiritual reading, intellectual reading or even pleasure reading.
I can throw in a load of laundry in the morning and another one right after the kids go to bed, put them to bed at a decent hour and then clean up the kitchen and be fully done with my housework by 9:30, which is usually when my husband walks in the door from his work.
I am really lucky and glad that I have a cleaning service twice a month, but if I didn't I would set aside a time for housework and do it all in one intense bout every other week, so that the shower scum would not nag me on a daily basis. Also, in times that I have not been able to have a cleaner, I have let a lot go and we have been fine.
My days are not always smooth, it is super hard when everyone gets the flu, or is over tired from a trip, or we have a baby who is not yet sleeping through the night. My husband is a great help to me, and at those desperate times, I expect my husband to step it up physically and emotionally as much as he can.
But I want to say this, loud and clear: if the default mode in your house is that you do not have time to shower, that you eat standing up in the kitchen, that you don't get much exercise and you don't get enough sleep, you are headed for disaster and you need to get a household routine under control.
When we live like this, we are doing damage to ourselves and to our families. When we add bitterness towards our husbands we are making the situation even worse, but we have to take responsibility for ourselves. You might well want to hire help or arrange for dad to take Saturdays until noon, and this might be a great break for you, but this should not be the only time all week you shower, rest, exercise or eat properly.
The key here is good use of time, some planning and also expecting some respect from the kids. We used to be constantly getting up from breakfast to pour kids more juice, etc. Now, when we are at meals we tell them we will not get up for things until after we have eaten ourselves.
I have been blessed to have my husband home on paternity leave twice now and I have learned so much from him -- he does not take nearly as much infringing on personhood from the kids as I do. They cannot steal food off his plate, and he makes them wait to do the next activity until he has taken off his coat and put it away properly. Too often I make myself a slave to my kids and then resent them.
We need to assert ourselves and take care of our own needs for the sake of ourselves and, by extension, our families. This means that we need time to meet our physical, personal and spiritual needs each day, and we need to work that time into our routines and then follow those routines with a balance of discipline and flexibility.
Now, I will add one more thing about the idea of having some outside help -- once you have a good routine in place, the help may feel like an indulgence on the good weeks. When I have had regular babysitting I have found that there were days when I did not know what to do with myself (mass and confession are a good choice, BTW) because things at home were manageable. The mistake I have made, however, is that we do not know when the routine will be thrown for a bit, and when husband's work gets crazy or the baby is teething or your best friend could really use a friend, your regular sitter can be the cushion which will allow your family to get over the little bumps without being thrown off for weeks at a time or having mom become a terror. When I had four kids ages four and under I used to nap when the sitter came. she must have thought I was so lazy, but what I really needed was sleep. We were in survival mode. I worry, though, that those who consider large families might get too used to survival mode and might not ever be getting back to what we builders call "maintenance" mode, which is where things are basically running smoothly.
Okay,feel free to discuss: Whether you work outside the home or stay home, do you make time to take care of yourself? If you already do, what advice do you have for others?
This is tough love, ladies, but I really think that it is true.