Hiring help for my kids made me a better mom whether I liked it or not
To hire or not to hire: this was the argument that plagued my home for weeks when it came to considering letting a nanny into our home to help with my two active, dirt-loving little boys. My husband, a Marine, supported it. You need assistance, he said. You can't keep up anymore without running the risk of hurting yourself, he said. And blah, blah, BLAH! His comments, I felt, were insulting. What did he mean exactly? Did he think I had become weak?
Flippantly, I responded, who did we look like, the Vanderbilts?
For the first time since our entire relationship, I wondered if he viewed me as incapable? A poor mother, even. You see, hiring a nanny wasn't about making life easier. To me, hiring a nanny meant admitting defeat. It meant I had become a total failure. Ask for help? It goes against the very fabric of my being.
See, despite having dwarfism (and one of the rarest forms, called Diastrophic dysplasia), I have always prided myself on being and remaining independent. It's this let-me-do-it-myself attitude that prompted me to undergo a bone-lengthening procedure, a controversial surgery that lengthens the long bones and is frowned upon by many within the Dwarf community. At 15, I left high school and endured hell to be able to accomplish the simple tasks in life without the use of devices or adaptive tools: reaching light switches, driving a car, even cleaning my own body. Four years and 14 grueling inches later, I accomplished my dream and could finally do all those aforementioned things.
When I welcomed my first son, Titan, in April of 2012, my confidence grew even more. It took time, but eventually I realized the gap between what I could do because of bone lengthening versus what I couldn't was even smaller than I originally dreamed. I was delighted! I could reach into the crib and pick up my baby on my own. I could reach all the diapers and baby wipes and change him on the tall changing table. And I could grab the baby food off the shelves at the grocery store — you guessed it — on my own.
Three years later, my husband and I welcomed Tristan into our family. Suddenly, I entered a whole new ball game.
There were more toys on the floor for me to trip on, step over and struggle to bend down and pick up (Play-Doh became the bane of my existence). There was more laundry for me to lift, haul across the house and fold. More meals to make, dishes to wash and spills to sop up. And the amount of bodily fluids to deal with — yeah, that wasn't in the brochure, either. On top of all this, my husband was promoted to staff sergeant, which is a great accomplishment but also meant longer hours away from his family. There were days I felt like I barely made it out of the trenches alive. My body hated to cooperate. Welcome to the fabulous life of Dwarfdom, where chronic pain, inflammation and stiff joints and muscles worsen with age.
Call me if you need anything, my neighbors and fellow military wives would say.
Let me know if you want help, said others. It takes a village, you know.
I appreciated it, but never called. Never asked. I wanted to do it on my own.
One night, after Titan's bath, I settled him into bed with his LeapFrog tablet. I double-checked on Tristan to make sure he was sleeping soundly, then made my way back into the bathroom to clean up. The porcelain tub was slick and spotted with suds along the edges. More floated on the surface of the water. Slowly, I bent down as far as my body allowed to snatch an octopus, seal, shark and toy lobster. Then I aimed for the stainless-steel stopper to drain the water. Without warning at all — not a shiver, a muscle spasm or twinge — my body just quit. I fell into the tub.
I sat there, crying, soaked and with bubbles clinging to the ends of my hair. I wondered, Why me? Why was it so damn hard to ask for help? Did my problem go beyond pride and encompass an even deeper issue: trust? Letting a stranger into my home seemed awkward, strange and intimidating. Did other moms, handicapped or not, fear the same? Or act this obstinate? Care.com, printing out an ad, background checks, interviews, references... It all seemed so overwhelming!
When my husband came home from work, he found me still sobbing in the tub. Still in his green cammies and combat boots, he asked one question, "What makes you look worse: asking for help or sitting in a tub, cold and saturated while wearing your pajamas?"
I found Shynise about a month later. She entered my life just as the U.S. Marine Corps ordered my husband overseas. She, too, has experience in the military, and is currently going to college part-time to become a psychologist.
Shy (as my son lovingly calls her) arrives every day, stays late and always has a smile. She brings arts and crafts, runs the boys ragged outside and picks up all the grocery items we could possibly need. I don't even mind Play-Doh as much anymore. Thanks to her, I've been able to enroll Titan into t-ball and gymnastics, and even write this very essay without screaming WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?!
And my husband? He can focus on work, too. Shynise literally picks up where my body drops off.
Asking for help is a hard, thick pill to swallow, and it leaves a nasty aftertaste sometimes (at least for me). I'm getting used to it, though. Growing up, whining was practically a crime punishable by death. Complaining was worse than cursing in public. And whenever I felt like giving up, my mom would leave the room, come back and hand me a straw so I could suck it up.
In my office, I have a mason jar full of multicolored straws. It reminds me that hiring a nanny and asking for help isn't about me. Emergency trips to the hospital, immunizations, preschool... having a nanny is about doing what's right for my children. True strength comes from having humility, asking for help when it's needed and recognizing this makes me not just a capable mother, but unstoppable, too.
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