It doesn’t always have to be you

By Brett Baker, Core Writer

My husband travels a lot. Not so much that I could even come close to being compared to a military wife but he definitely travels more than your average hubby.

Often, when I take out the trash, and a neighbor or two will pop their heads out to ask, “Where’s Nathaniel this week?”

It’s enough that the neighbors notice.

I have three kiddos, ages 5, 3 and 9 months. So come dinner and bedtime, I’ve used up all my patience, energy and could really use that hubby-helping-hand.

Also, wine.

Let me pause here and say to single moms: I so admire you. You are the definition of strength and nothing short of inspirational.

I spent a season powering through, spending every ounce of energy “doing it myself” (is that where my three year old gets her stubbornness??) and instead of feeling empowered, I felt resentful. I found myself snapping at my husband and dwelling on all the things I was doing by myself instead of appreciating how hard he was working for our family. When he travelled, he would send me pictures of his hotel rooms, his meals, selfies from the airport where his plane was delayed for 6 hours and instead acknowledging his attempt at connecting, I felt jealous and I let that jealousy reign.

What I would give for a night alone in a hotel room!
I thought I was being strong, but I was actually playing the victim.
And y’all, nobody likes a victim.

So when the opportunity came up for me to have someone help me in the evenings while my husband travelled or worked late, my first instinct was to play the martyr.

“No. These are MY kids and I will take care of them. By myself,” I said at first. My knee-jerk reaction had become defensiveness.

Then my mother-in-law suggested I pray about what this season could look like.

So I did.

And as I prayed over several days, I began to realize that my defenses went up because I am so very afraid of feeling shame: shame that I couldn’t do this on my own, shame that I’m not strong enough.

And, Mamas, I am no stranger to shame. What I’ve learned about shame is that it is a strong motivator but not a truth-teller.

Shame told me that allowing someone to help me means I wasn’t cut out for being a mama of three after all.

Truth told me that everyone needs help sometimes, and that I would be a better mother and wife if I just let go and let someone in.

Enter: Emily.

Emily is an energetic, loving young woman who loves my kids and brings light to our house. She shows up at 4pm a couple nights a week and helps me through the drudgery that is dinner, bath and bedtime. She has become a dear friend.

At first, I wanted to have my house “ready” when she got there—laundry put away, floor cleaned, but something inside me said, “If you want her to help, then you have to let her IN.”

So, reluctantly, I let my guard down and the pee stains on the toilet stay. The laundry remained on the kitchen table. I didn’t rush to help when a kid was giving her a hard time. She was always capable of rising to the occasion and I needed to accept that it didn’t always have to be me.

It doesn’t always have to be me.

 Let me say that to you, Mama, because this realization changed my life:

It doesn’t always have to be you.

 There is a weight that’s been lifted from me now that I have my Emily. My pride took a hit, but only briefly. Soon, relief replaced my shame and my body thanked me for lightening its load.

Mamas, if you can resonate this my story in this season, please: get yourself some help, whatever that may look like for you. Maybe you could work out some sort of trade if you can’t fit it in your budget.

It may be uncomfortable at first. Admitting you can’t do it on your own is never an easy process, but I promise you it’s worth it to find an Emily.

Just not mine. She’s taken.

5 Comments

  1. Meghan

    I can relate to this! My husband and I have two kids (ages 3 and 1) and he is currently in Afghanistan for a month for work, and over the past year he has travelled frequently to domestic sites. Solo parenting is really hard, but it can also be hard to accept help from others (i.e. feeling guilty that they are giving up their time to give me a break from my own children). Also, single moms and military wives are my heroes!

  2. Mary Margaret Gardiner

    Brett, this was a wonderful blog post, even if it wasn’t about Em. Thanks for your honesty and letting her become a part of your lives. It is something we both treasure! May I share?

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