I was working on a piece the other day about how to survive as a work-at-home parent when it occurred to me that I was barely surviving myself. As I pored through releases from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and tried to put together cohesive sentences, my daughter read out loud behind me or begged me to read to her or futzed with one singing toy or another. "I can't even hear myself think!" I shouted, clenching my fists and raising them to the ceiling like a character in some made-for-TV melodrama.
"Mama done? Mama shut the computer?" Em asked me, drawing close and reaching for my hand.
"No, sweetheart. You're done," I said. And then I put her down for a nap out of desperation.
There are those who would say that if I'm having so much trouble, I should ask for help, whether in the form of grandparents, babysitters, or daycare. Those people include my husband, my parents, my in-laws, my writing partner, and the owner of my yoga studio, among others.
But I have never been good at asking for help.
Why is it so hard for me to ask for help when it comes to my daughter in particular? Welcome to my warped mind:
1. I am a cheapskate.
Child care is expensive as hell. And it seems so silly to pay for child care when I am already at home. Especially when there are so many other fabulous things on which I could spend my money. (Books, yoga leggings, planner stickers, pretty dresses, and s'mores supplies.)
2. I am neurotic.
Do you remember that tragic story from late 2015 wherein a 3-month-old baby died at a daycare facility on his very first day there? These are the stories that keep me up at night... the ones that make me despair over all of the things I can't control. One thing I can control, however, is who Em spends her days with. And I feel lucky to have that choice, because I know not many mothers do.
3. Separation anxiety. My own.
The experts say that separation anxiety can start as early as 6 or 7 months, perhaps finally easing up at the age of 2. The experts are referring to the separation anxiety of babies, of course. But what about my separation anxiety? Never leeeeavvvveee meeeeeeeee!!!
4. Her grandparent already raised their own kids.
Though both sets of grandparents insist that they love any excuse to spend time with their only grandchild, I'm also hyper-aware of the fact that they already raised their own kids, and they have lives that are separate from ours, and I don't want to be presumptuous. Especially in light of this 2013 survey wherein the majority of grandparents agreed with the statement: "I love being part of my grandchild's life, but it’s not the center of my life."
5. I am a control freak.
I have rules about nap time. Meal times. What she can eat for dessert (usually fruit). What she can drink (milk or water). How much TV she can watch (only one show per day, at most). Don't get me wrong. I'm very laid-back about a lot of things. Em can roll around in the dirt if she wants. I'll do the laundry eventually. She can eat food that fell onto the deck. It'll build her immunity. She can have entire meals that consist only of bread and blueberries. But the rules I do have in place are there in order to help her develop healthy habits. And when she's not with me, I can't ensure that those rules will still be enforced.
6. I resent my husband's willingness to allow other people to pick up the slack instead of picking up the slack himself.
If my husband goes away on a week-long business trip, I continue to manage everything singlehandedly. If I go away to a professional conference for a long weekend, he has Em's grandparents take her off his hands for 90 percent of the time I'm gone. This infuriates me. But when I share my feelings with my husband, he insists that there's no reason I can't ask for help, too. He's right, and that infuriates me even more.
7. I feel as if I should be able to do it all and that, if I don't, it is a sign of failure.
How like a woman to take the lean in imperative seriously. Am I right? But seriously. I often feel that I have it so much easier than other moms. I work from home as a full-time freelancer. I have a flexible schedule because I don't answer to one, single employer. My husband also works from home, allowing me to run out to the market without having to take Em with me. My daughter sleeps through the night and allows me to sleep in until 7 or 8 a.m. She is fairly even-tempered and well-behaved. What the hell do I have to complain about? How dare I find the juggling act of work and motherhood and housewifery to be the slightest bit difficult!
8. I know that I can do it all.
Sure, it's stressful. But it's also possible. Which means I will never let myself off the hook. EVER.