The second you become a parent you start analyzing how the things you do, or don’t do will affect your child long-term. Everything, from how you communicate with your partner (or anyone) in front of them, to whether the zoo is teaching them to respect or disrespect animals. Or even how being all over their mom’s instagram and blog, for example, will affect their sense of self (will he be a narcissist, a shut-in or just totally normal??).
Click through to read the whole post and see some photos of our day off.
I don’t freak out about it, certainly, and I’m not striving towards perfection, but I’m just more aware of my actions now that we have a little one running around soaking up everything around him. One thing that I’ve consistently been concerned with is making sure that Charlie grows up with very good work ethic and, well, not like an entitled LA kid. Maybe it’s because I live here (I don’t think I would have these same fears if I lived in Portland), maybe it’s because we weren’t raised with any help around the house and because of that always had to work hard. Or maybe it’s because I’m scared of me making my own life easier for me which in turn makes his life easier – so somehow he becomes the beneficiary of my hard work while being the victim of my lazy parenting.
I know that life is full of slippery slopes and in many ways it’s just easier to do something for your children rather than have them help or teach them to do it themselves. When Charlie ‘helps’ me clean up the floor under his high chair after meals he literally just smashes salmon into our beautiful wood. When he helps me ‘sweep’ all he accomplishes is scattering my piles of dirt all over the room. But, I love and appreciate his help because I know that in his heart and mind he is doing it just as mom is doing it, and that somehow he is learning the importance of picking up after yourself.
When it comes to parenting philosophies, there are two very simple ones that I think we subconsciously follow, and too often they seem to be at war: 1. Teach and lead by example and, 2. Happy parents = Happy kids.
This all leads me to the often very tricky subject of asking, hiring and paying for personal help. More specifically, hiring help for things that most of us can do ourselves, like cleaning our own house.
The last few years we’ve had someone come every other week, but a couple months ago that ended (she left) and I thought to myself, ‘This is actually perfect! I can clean the house and then Charlie can watch me work hard, then he’ll learn to help and he’ll grow up to be a smart, well-rounded, funny, man with an enviable work ethic, a bang-up sense of humor and kindness for all!!!!!’ It’s called ‘modeling behavior’ and Charlie was going to watch and learn!
I think you all know where this story is headed. It didn’t work out.
Not for lack of trying. I’d clean for hours on Sundays, but didn’t do a particularly good job of it, so the house was never very clean. Meanwhile, I suffered multiple mini-breakdowns about how stressed I was, not even realizing that a lot of it had to do with coming home to a dirty house.
One Sunday (when I was hormonal and exhausted – my two nightly states of being since I’m preggo) I was trying to clean during Charlie’s nap when I was overwhelmed by self-pity. I’m pregnant. I work a lot. I get two days off to spend time with my baby and husband, and in those two days I get 4 precious hours while he’s napping to spend relaxing and watching the CW. But those four hours are now spent scrubbing the scuff marks off the white cement stairs with a towel whilst bawling – AND HE WASN’T EVEN AWAKE TO SEE ME CLEAN!!!!! Also whose idea was it to paint those stairs white???!!!!! Thank god he was asleep so he didn’t have to witness it. Brian had been pushing for help and it wasn’t that I was opposed to it, I just wanted us to give it a shot, to not get so used to someone else literally cleaning up our messes.
Sometimes our own self-righteousness can really make us blind idiots.
So I started searching for new help, and found it through friendly recommendations. And it’s great.
By hiring someone else to solve this problem and clean my house, I got to take a day off. And it was WONDERFUL. Brian, Charlie and I went to Travel Town, one of Charlie’s favorite places on the planet, where you can climb all over vintage ‘choo choos’ and even ride a small one yourself. Brian and I take him separately on the days that we split childcare but we rarely go as a family – all three of us.
Charlie, like most 1 1/2 year olds is obsessed with trains, and to be able to climb all over the tracks and trains makes him so happy. Even just playing with rocks. Sidenote, last week when Charlie was there with Brian, he was haphazardly tossing rocks onto some guys feet. So, Brian apologized to who he thought was a vagrant, but when he actually looked at the ‘vagrant’, it was casually Leonardo Dicaprio – with a 7 foot tall model. They all played it cool and Charlie moved on to toss rocks at some less famous feet.
I love that picture so much. I know objectively that every parent/child bond is so special and that most parents love their kids as much as we love Charlie, but sometimes my brain gets filled with emotion and tries to convince me that what we have is just abnormally wonderful.
I’m very jealous of that hug, but so happy for Brian. How can I possibly love this new one as much??? My heart might explode!
I think one of the things that I kinda forgot about during this whole 2 -month long, self-righteous spell, was that I’ve always believed first and foremost that happy parents make happy children. And while its impossible to be happy every single second of the day, and while I don’t want to slide down the slippery slope of paying people to take all my problems away (nor can we afford it), paying a professional to clean my house makes me wildly more calm, and allows me to focus on the things which directly make life better for Charlie, which means I can be a better parent. Times have changed. Growing up this seemed like a total luxury and for just rich people, but now it’s simply for busy people – which is most people I know.
What I had to remind myself of is that Charlie watches me work really hard all the time – at work and home. It’s not like we are paying someone else to make his bed or clean our dishes after dinner, although honestly even if we were, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he will be entitled and not know how to work. I think I just got paranoid because growing up my siblings and I we were the non-affluent kids in a very affluent suburb, and I promised my future self that I wouldn’t just give it all to my kids, that they would work hard no matter what. Man, I sound like a 50-year-old man in the 1940’s, kids these days just don’t know how to put in a hard days work anymore….
We spent an hour and half here playing on the trains, and then we picnicked and attempted to blow bubbles with a ghetto bubble blower that we bought for .33 cents at the liquor store on the way. Two points: 1. Bubbles are the key to all toddler happiness and 2. It’s totally creepy that they sell bubbles at the liquor store and even weirder that Brian knew about it.
After an hour and a half Charlie was very tuckered out, so we went home and he napped while I chilled on the deck, and when he woke up we went out for a playdate with friends (sans photographer – we don’t need our entire lives documented:)).
When we came home at the end of the day the house was totally clean, put together and there were even mints on our pillows and paper protectors on our toothbrushes. I know a lot of you know the feeling of coming home to a better house than you left it (whether you pay someone to do this, or another member of your family handles it) – but man, it can be life changing on a very basic level.
So, go take a day off. Maybe your problem isn’t keeping your house clean, maybe that’s something that you can handle on your own because you are some sort of genius or something. But I hereby give you permission to pay a professional to help you with something that consistently stresses you out and makes you less happy, whatever that task may be. Maybe its hiring someone to come once a month to organize all your closets and drawers, or hiring a service to sell all the things on Craigslist that are piling up in your garage. You can’t throw money at all of your problems, especially when you have kids because there are some things you need to do yourself so they learn, too. But you are allowed to and should take the day off to enjoy your life and your family. That is far more important than spending two hours using a magic eraser to get scuff marks off your walls. It just is.
Family photos by Stephanie Todaro who I can’t say enough good things about. Her energy and the way she captures our energy (especially a toddlers!!!) is pretty incredible. Thank you Steph.
My outfit: Linen jacket by EmersonFry (I wear this daily), maternity shorts from Target, very comfortable shoes from Paul Green, leather bag from Madewell. Charlie is wearing an H & M sweater, Zara skinny pants (similar) and Target shoes.