Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Happy mama = happy family

Yesterday I called the Ogunquit resort our family is going to in a week to ask a simple question, “Do you have babysitting services?”  I was pretty floored by the reply by the front staff.  His response was:

"We don't offer any babysitting. Babysitting is the antithesis of what we do here.  Families come here and rent multiple rooms so they can 'actually' spend time together."

Perhaps it is hard to appreciate the judgmental tone of his reply in writing, but I was completely taken aback and was left speechless for a moment.  Here was a complete stranger, judging my parenting choices.  It seemed to me that it became an "ok" request to make only after I explained that we were planning on spending the entire time with our kids, and were simply inquiring about an evening babysitter to go out for dinner after the kids went to bed at 7pm. After I hung up the phone, I asked myself, why was I justifying myself to this guy anyway?  But to be honest, even if I were to ask for babysitting during the day, wouldn’t that be my prerogative? I mean, it is supposed to be a
vacation after all.  And any “family-friendly” resort should be friendly to everybody in the family, even moms and dads who might need a break.
Incidentally, I had just finished reading an interesting thread on the online parenting group Gardenmoms about the idea of SAHMs hiring extra childcare help.  I admit too, before having children, being puzzled by the idea of SAHMs hiring babysitters or nannies to help.  Like, isn’t that your job? Didn’t you choose to take care of your kids daily?  But that was before I had children, and now that I have two active, busy young children afoot, I completely understand.  I mean, it didn’t occur to me the concept of the 100% responsibility I would have as a parent. And sometimes, doing even very simple things with my kids  is pretty darn hard—say, talking briefly on the telephone.  Or eating my meal (and savoring, rather than inhaling each bite). Or just going to the bathroom to pee.  We’re not even talking about the bigger things in life:  doing housework, running errands, going to work, working out, or going out to dinner.  To do anything without my children in tow (not even to mention to take a break from childrearing itself), I realized quickly I might need some help. Hence the need for a trusted babysitter.

I was happy to see the many supportive replies from other moms, a lot of acceptance of the different paths we take as parents, and validation of different mamas’ needs (and wants) to have a life…that at times might not include their children. This supportiveness just doesn’t happen enough these days. And it isn’t just “mom on mom crime,” (how I love that phrase!), it’s also judgment we can feel from friends, family, from society. I have wondered if the person judging is insecure about their own choices, or maybe envious that another mother has an opportunity they don't have themselves. Recently I heard a mother say about her adult SAHM daughter, an aspiring writer, “You know, I did it [took care of my children] all by myself...I think she should use that babysitting time to get a real job. She gets a babysitter just to write.” Ouch. Annoyed at the implication that there are only certain situations warranting a babysitter, I retorted, “Good for her, doing something for herself!”

A couple of weeks ago, I myself grappled  about the idea of getting back into yoga at my favorite local studio.  It has been…well, too long.  Walking isn’t really doing it for my exercise routine, if you know what I mean.  Looking at the studio schedule, I knocked out most evening and weekend times--prime family time—and found that the best times for my schedule are Wednesday and Friday mornings.  But I couldn’t get over the idea that since I had childcare then, I should be using that time to work.  I even felt guilty letting my husband and our nanny know my plans. Oh dear.

I’ve been turning it over in my mind ever since.  I mean, I wasn't even proposing using that hour to sit on the couch, watch "The View," and eat cheetos.  But even if I were, shouldn't I be entitled to use that time as I want, if it works?  I am an adult, after all. Oh the internal maternal guilt! But in light of the Gardenmoms thread, and conversation I had yesterday on the phone, this morning I packed my yoga mat and headed off to the studio.  And afterwards I did feel refreshed, ready to tackle the world, including the hustle-bustle of caring for two kids. Yes, ladies and gents, it is that simple: Happy mama=happy family.

(And PS: I did email a complaint letter to the resort and got a "humble apology" from the staff member himself.  I hope he'll think twice the next time someone asks him about babysitting and attempt to be helpful and understanding instead.)


  1. You are inside my head! I write at home and feel terribly guilty for using any time I have childcare to workout, even though I know it's important for all sorts of reasons. Would love to connect with more Boston-area mommas in a similar situation!

    1. I'll be thinking of you next time I "show up" on my yoga mat...Yes let's definitely connect! Tell me how.

  2. Mama T! Not sure if you knew or not but I was the one that started that thread on Garden Moms! Weren't the responses amazing? I was sure I was going to get some negative ones, but turns out our Garden Moms are crazy supportive of one another - such a nice feeling. I am actually in the process of writing a post about the whole thing too - from my perspective. This post was so beautifully written! Thanks for all you do for BBM :)

    1. Mama J--I had a feeling "this" Mama J was the one on GMs! I am so glad that you got some great support there. I remember those early days with little miss just a newborn and the dude an energetic toddler...and having some help was a godsend. Our nanny and preschool kept the dude occupied with his "own" thing, leaving me to nurse, rest, and enjoy little miss. As a friend (also a mom of two) recently said, "hey, my older child got all of my undivided attention for 3 years, I can at least give the baby a few months of undivided attention." Not to mention just some time for mama to REST. Good luck with everything, looking forward to hearing how things go for you. Xo Mama T