As a high-energy, type-A, go-getter who comes from a family of high-energy, type-A go-getters, I have always struggled with pride and perfectionism. Pride in the fact that I am (under normal circumstances) able to accomplish a million things in a day and perfectionism in that they will generally be done correctly and in a very particular manner. And then I got married and started having kids- four in five years, to be exact. You can imagine how well my perfectionism has handled this!
Our first-born was (in hindsight) an incredibly easy baby, and about four months in, we were back into a routine and for the most part thriving. For the most part, our dog-hair-covered floors were vacuumed at least three times a week, if not daily, (who DOES that?) well-rounded meals were on the table when my husband walked in the door from work, and life really had not been disrupted much by our bubbly little chunk of happiness. So “easy” did we find our new roles as parents that a year and a half later, her brother arrived in all his glory- undiagnosed milk allergy, literally continual ear-infections, and non-stop hysteria for about ten months. Vacuuming? Ha! Survival was the new name of the game, and my poor sweet husband was lucky if there was food in the house to scrounge up a dinner most nights. Looking back, I can see how much I really struggled with the two-kid scene. Most days I had a healthy serving of humble pie arriving seemingly hourly. Post partum depression that at the time seemed not bad enough to treat added to the mix. However, upon getting tubes in his ears at 10 months and figuring out the milk allergy, he became an incredibly happy (albeit non-stop) baby, and we realized that it might someday be okay to have more kids.
So, here we are, about a month away from adding our fourth. With each pregnancy, it has always surprised me that I haven’t been able to keep going at my normal pace, despite that fact that I’m growing a human being. This pregnancy has been more physically difficult than my previous ones, both due to chasing three other rascals around all day and a few medical concerns. My usual get-it-done mode of operation has ground to a humbling halt over the last couple of months, due to a few factors besides the pregnancy, including a broken dishwasher (how DID our ancestors do it?!), stir-crazy-cabin-fever-stricken kids, including a resident three-year-old bound and determined to get me to heaven, and a husband trying to finish a grueling last semester of grad school in one piece. I have had to learn to live among the mess, and to realize that the dishes truly will always be there, just like everyone says, because we are literally unable to get to it some days.
Shortly after our third child was born, I read the Duggars’ book A Love that Multiplies. As I read Michelle’s account of how she was drowning in the laundry produced by two adults and five children under five, I found myself tearing up in empathy- no doubt hormonal-induced empathy, but empathy nonetheless. Her story went on to recount a night when, while doing laundry in the middle of the night in a vain attempt to keep up, she cried out in anguish to God that she just couldn’t do it anymore and needed help. The very next day, her kids’ piano teacher, I believe it was, noticed how tired she looked and asked if she was okay. As Michelle explained her middle-of-the-night laundry habits, the woman lit up and announced, “I love laundry! Would you like me to come help out with it a few times a week?” For the next couple of years, this woman came and spent a few days a week doing the family’s laundry. I can remember being so touched by this story and hoping that when I someday emerged from the trenches of raising littles that there would be a young mom in my life whom I would be able to bless with a simple yet potentially life-changing service.
Fast forward a little over a year to our current state of zoo-like living. Our home school co-op began our spring semester after a six-week break. This is our second year in the co-op, and my first year teaching fifth grade, which I love. At the end of the class, my classroom monitor, whom I recently learned lives literally around the corner from us, casually mentioned that if I ever needed any help with anything- kids, house, or otherwise, she has a fifteen-year-old daughter who loves adult interaction, cooking, cleaning, and kids. You can imagine it was all I could do not to cue the hysterical sobs of gratefulness. As it was, I had a hard time conveying my gratefulness without coming off like a lunatic.
After calling my husband on the way home to gleefully relay this miraculous turn of events to him, it suddenly hit me that although I have always loved the idea of someone coming to help out with a, b, and c, my pride has always prevented that idea from becoming a reality. Not that I’ve had dozens of wonderful home schooled teenagers beating down my door to help, but I know that had I expressed a need for help, there are many people in my life who would have been more than happy to help.
I began to ponder why this was so. The obvious reason was my pride. I take great pride in running a generally efficient household and raising our kids because it is my job. I don’t work outside of our house, and thus I view the day-to-day affairs as not only my career, but also my vocation. It’s what I’m supposed to do. So to ask someone to do part of my job for me, no matter how small that part may be, makes me feel lazy and unproductive, despite knowing that no one can “do it all” alone.
Even the day before this sweet girl came over for a couple of hours one Sunday afternoon, I wondered if we would be able to “justify” her coming over because I still truly felt like we should be able to function on our own. I was absolutely FLOORED at the difference two hours of help made. In that small time frame, my kids played game after game while my husband wrote a paper, we cleaned our catch-all bedroom, I made dinner for a guest we were having over that night, and even had time to get the dishes done before he arrived. The kids thought it was fantastic, and we were amazed at what a difference starting the week a bit caught up made. To say we have been humbled by the generosity of this sweet girl and her mother (who volunteered to watch my kids on her day off so I could go to my doctor’s appointments sans the crew) is an understatement. While I have always loved making a meal for a new mother, volunteering at our church, etc., it has been overwhelming (in a good way) to be on the receiving end. It has made me realize that no one was ever meant to survive this crazy journey of motherhood alone. What a difference being willing to admit that I can use a little help sometimes has made!
Note: Please use caution if you are sensitive to pictures of babies who have been delivered too early. This post contains such photos. Three years ago, this May, I experienced a second trimester loss of my monoamniotic (MoMo) twin sons. Before this, simply contemplating that 1 in 4 pregnancies ends