You Don't Have To Do It All... Or Alone
I recently came across an Instagram post from one of my followers, asking how people felt about hiring help for domestic chores. I don’t remember the exact responses she shared, but I do recall many people expressing the same sentiment she initially felt - a fear that hiring help would make them feel or appear inadequate as wives and mothers. Days later, a separate conversation ignited on Twitter about doulas and new mothers who seek out their assistance in the weeks after giving birth. The tone and revelations were similar - many women expressed the same trepidation, while others firmly and unapologetically advocated for women getting whatever help they required and could afford.
It’s an unspoken universal understanding that a woman’s worth is often measured in terms of how well she can care for her home, husband and children. Women are judged by how well their son’s school uniform is ironed, how neatly their daughter’s hair is styled, the lunches they pack, the kitchen curtains they choose…. and countless other indicators that revolve around the roles society has assigned them as mothers and wives.
This is perhaps emphasized to a greater degree for women of colour, especially women from the Caribbean, where traditional gender roles are still largely upheld. We know that our mothers and brood of aunts and inlaws would shake their heads and cluck disapprovingly at the very idea of hiring someone else to clean, cook and care for our homes and families. We would be judged, spoken about in disparaging tones over those long phone calls where our womanhood is appraised and scornfully dismissed with a failing grade.
But while many women are able to balance it all -the career, childcare responsibilities and a full life - the reality is that many wives and mothers are stretched thin and holding on by a thread. We all know someone who fits that description. On some days it may very well be you. Many women wake up early and scramble to prepare breakfast, get children ready for school, then rush off to a full day of work. They return home drained but with virtually no time to rest because there’s laundry, cooking, dishes, cleaning and homework waiting to be done. It becomes a cycle of fulfilling perceived obligations while running on empty.
I don’t believe there’s any measure of a good woman, wife or mother. But if there was, I don’t imagine that constantly being stressed, overworked or exhausted would make the criteria. I do think being present would be high on that list. Allowing yourself to receive the help you need around your home can create time, energy and opportunity for you to properly give your loved ones the gift of your company, affection and attention. Think about it - the possibility of coming home to an already clean house, laundry and dishes done, food cooked. Imagine taking a long shower, relaxing and having a few precious moments to yourself. Or watching a movie with your kids where you actually follow the plot and laugh at the jokes without silently agonizing about the long list of chores waiting to be juggled. To enjoy a warm home cooked meal without being preoccupied with the things you’ve been taught you need to clean, fix, iron or wash to be a good mother or wife.
Of course, acts of service is the love language of many. Some people enjoy catering to the needs of our loved ones. You can still do all these things - the cooking, laundry and cleaning - for your loved ones, even if you’ve made the decision to hire someone to help. You can choose to make dinner two or three times a week when you’re able and feel that desire. The difference is that now when you choose to do these things it will be rooted in a genuine desire to make the ones you love smile, rather than out of a sense of obligation. You also now have the security of knowing that your family’s needs are catered to and that help is there when you need it, on your terms.
Sadly, many women still fear that allowing someone else to help care for their children makes them less of a mother. They’ve been conditioned into thinking that letting someone else into their home to cook for their husbands makes them less of a wife, at least in the eyes of others. We need to dismantle this perception and start viewing a woman’s decision to get domestic help as an act of empowerment, rather than a sign of inadequacy. It must be seen as a woman consciously choosing to prioritize rest, health and peace of mind over being overworked and distracted. It is not laziness. It is not selfishness. It is an act of self-love. And if prioritizing yourself isn’t a good enough reason to convince you to take that leap, look at it this way… being a mother and wife who is present, rested and at peace is truly the best gift you can give your loved ones.
Written by Amanie Mathurin
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