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A Thank You to the Babysitters, from a Mom Who Couldn’t Survive Without You

“A Thank You to the Babysitters, from a Mom Who Couldn’t Survive Without You” originally appeared on Laura Harris Writes under the title, “To the Babysitters: You’ve Helped Me More Than You Know,” and was reprinted here with permission.

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My two kids are at the babysitter’s today. They’re running around in the watchful and loving care of my friend, Seyly, while I sit in a cafe and type on my laptop, listening to movie soundtracks in my earbuds. This is my one full day outside of the home to work as a freelance writer. My one day to chase my dream.

The rest of the week, I chase my other two little dreams. One has my laugh; the other has his daddy’s. For a long time, I felt guilty about doing something like this for myself. Then, I realized, it really does take a village. You, the babysitters, helped me overcome some pretty difficult stuff, and it’s time I shared my thanks with you.

Soon, I’ll pull into my friend’s driveway, and feel a flutter of excitement at the thought of seeing my children. I’ll open the door and find them both, safe and sound, racing around the house. It’s possible that they’ll react to my entrance by running away and sobbing, but I’ve come to take that as a good sign. They had a good time.

There’s no telling what kind of day my friend had, however. No telling how many bodily excretions she had to smell or wipe up. No telling how much food my kids spilled on her table or floor. I’ve been that sitter, as many of us have, and I just want to say,”Thanks.”

To all the sitters: You’re awesome and you probably don’t get paid enough. Some of you even choose not to get paid at all. You love our kids and keep ’em safe while we, the parents, try to remember the basic functions of adulthood sans babies.

Warriors. The lot of you.

You may think you’re just spreading some peanut butter and jelly on a few slices of bread, or breaking up some cases of sibling rivalry, but you
re doing something far greater. You’re giving us, moms, the opportunity to enjoy some time off. It’s kind of a big deal.

I come from a corporate background, punching in at 8:00 AM and out at 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday. Lunch breaks were an hour long, and I had every weekend and holiday off.

As a stay-at-home mom, my lunch breaks have basically vanished. Weekends and holidays are now my busiest times. I’m on call every night, and am also the primary janitor, in-house chef, chaperone, nurse, and scraped-knee kisser of the house.

And I love it. I would never trade my time at home with the kids to be in a stuffy office.

But, sometimes, I need to recharge. That’s why corporations establish regulations. Truck drivers cannot drive longer than a set number of hours without endangering their safety. We’ve all watched Cars. We know what happens.

Moms don’t have that same built-in regulation, so they have to set those boundaries themselves. Except, we suck at it. We’re fantastic at putting ourselves last, and feeling guilty about any other alternative.

Here’s just one example. When my kids were two-years-old and one-year-old, they conspired against me. They stopped sleeping. My beautiful babies just stopped sleeping. Sure, my one-year-old would nap in the afternoons, but big sis wasn’t having it at all. She dropped her nap like Kehlani drops a mic.

Both kids took turns waking my husband and I up multiple times each night, whether it was from teething or wanting breakfast at 4:00 AM or just simply crying in our doorway.

Meanwhile, I’d begun my first efforts of freelance writing from home. Sleep deprivation turned my brain into a candle that someone had accidentally left to burn overnight. What was once a cylinder with swirls of intricate, wax designs had become one big blackened lump.

My friend, Nirup, who’s very smart, came up with this powerful breakdown of what happened to me (and what happens to so many other parents): I’d expected the kids to sleep more (or at all). Therefore, my unmet expectations led to disappointment. Disappointment led to discouragement. Discouragement was knocking on the door of depression. I was starting to believe the lie that things would never change. That I should shut my laptop, and toss my writing career in the trash.

Even still, I felt guilty asking for help. I kept thinking, there’s always someone who has it worse than me. What do I have to complain about? After all, I signed up for this, I’d tell myself. I need to be able to handle my own life without help.

Well, guess how well that worked out? So yeah, I got to a breaking point. One day, with weariness in my heart, I finally asked for help. And it turned out to be the best thing I could have done.

I finally addressed by struggle and shattered the glass of silent suffering that I had encased around myself. Turns out, glass is easier to break than you think. My tool of choice was a message I wrote to my husband. That message later became a published article. I’ve now met, and heard, from literally hundreds of moms who have read my story and experienced this same struggle.

In those early days, climbing back towards the light — just those few hours of recharge without feeling any guilt — meant the world to me.
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The second layer of glass was shattered the day I asked for a sitter. In the past, when the kids were with the sitter, I would guiltily load up my schedule with running errands, cleaning the house, and doing “stuff.” Because of this, I never felt recharged when I picked them up. The morning after I broke the silence with my husband, I picked up the phone and asked my mom if she could emergency babysit the kids for the afternoon. She had an opening in her schedule, and a ray of sun peaked through the clouds. I wrote. And then I woke up two hours later.

In those early days, climbing back towards the light — just those few hours of recharge without feeling any guilt — meant the world to me. In fact, once I gave myself permission for one guilt-free morning to myself each week, other changes happened. I soon embraced my daughter’s new afternoon routine by teaching her all about quiet time. We also enjoyed tea parties and coloring together; we even snuggled together on the couch while baby brother napped. Afternoons transformed into a sweet time for the two of us rather than a window of time that I would loathe each day.

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I was also able to recognize how few hours my husband was home to help me out or be with the kids. Since he worked such long hours and we lived far from town, he missed nearly every meal and a fair share of good night hugs and kisses. After that conversation, we actively began looking for a house closer to his work and discussed restructuring our weekly commitments to allow more time for family. Translation: I asked for more help with the kids and around the house.

To my fantastic sitters, I close with this: I’m a better mom because of you. Clearly, this thank you is long overdue.  You watch the kids, clean up their puke, deal with their attitudes, feed them half your pantry, and change their diapers. Your generosity and love are so appreciated. I’ve become a more positive and balanced person because of your days of baking with them, your play dates together, and those golf cart rides around the yard (yes, dad, I’m looking at you). I’ve been able to launch a part-time writing business, and can now even take turns watching other moms’ little ones from time to time. And that’s truly a win-win for all of us.

If you think what you do is small, just know — from my heart — it’s not. So, thank you.

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