I’ll share with you my secret frustration these days. It’s my failure to get a household help, a nanny, a yaya. Finding a helper is a constant item in my weekly to-do list that I can never check. It’s a task that neither my online searching nor my husband’s exceptional networking skills can achieve.
Having a helper is a luxury nowadays. It’s frustrating how I find it more difficult to find a helper than to find a sale for a roundtrip airfare. Gone were the days when hiring household helpers was easy and days when helpers in our family were as long-term as our family car. Nowadays, my friends who have helpers who lasted for at least 10 months are considered lucky.
To be honest about it, it’s not easy to be a working mom without a helper. My typical work day includes waking up before 5 in the morning to prepare for work, bringing our toddler to grandparents’ house, traveling to work, doing marketing work for 8 hours, doing a quick grocery shopping, picking up our child from grannies, cleaning and sterilizing the feeding bottles, thinking of what my family will eat, cleaning my toddler’s mess, playing with my toddler, taking care of my child until she goes to sleep.
During weekends, I still wake up early to wash my daughter’s clothes together with mine, clean the house, feed my child, and be up and about for some family bonding.
Sometimes I wish I have the superpower to clone myself so I get to take care of my child at home and work in the office at the same time. If only I have a household help, then maybe I can squeeze a few more hours in a day for the much needed rest, more playtime with my child or even just a proper bath time. And yes, I can go on wishing for the impossible, but that won’t change the fact that I have to continue working while desperately looking for a household help.
So rather than feeling frustrated and guilty every single day, I choose to pick up whatever valuable lesson I can take from this phase of my awesome motherhood journey.
Live in the moment
One profound lesson I learned from being a helper-less working mom is to live in the moment. Since my time is limited but my roles are aplenty, life forced me to learn the art of the now, to make the most of the present.
According to Ellen Langer, a social psychologist from Harvard University, we become mindless because once we think we know something, we stop paying attention to it. Surely, being mindful of the present was a struggle for me. During the first few months since my maternity leave ended, I worried a lot while at work about what’s happening to my child whom I left with my parents. It was easy for me to lose focus doing the things I’m familiar with. While I knew it was normal for any mother to react that way, I soon realized it’s not getting me anywhere.
Similarly, when I was at home with my child, I’d be preoccupied with other things like when to do the laundry or what to include in the article I was writing at work.
Giving our full attention in what we are presently doing is not an easy task, but mindfulness can do a lot in our effectiveness and productivity whether at work or when we’re with our family. Letting my thoughts wander while at work will neither meet my deadlines nor make my child feel taken cared of.
I know I’m still a work in progress, but I am now more conscious in focusing on the present. When I play with my toddler, I know I have to do my best not to worry about the dishes to be washed just so I can be her best playmate for that moment. When it’s family time, I do my best not to think about work. When I’m at work, I try my best not to worry about what my child is eating now just so I can focus on finishing my tasks on time.
Find the parenting style that will work for you
I was guilty of comparing myself with other moms. So I felt bad that I bought my daughter ready-to-eat food while other moms always have the time to cook their child’s meals. I felt bad that I allowed my child to watch videos on my cellphone just so I could keep her in one place while I washed her feeding bottles and clothes. I felt bad that our breastfeeding journey just lasted for a year because I wasn’t able to sustain pumping milk while I was at work.
Nowadays, there’s just so much pressure on parents to conform. You need to exclusively breastfeed, feed your kid only organic stuff, be strict with zero screen time, and the list goes on. Now, do I bury myself in shame if I can’t meet every single detail of the “Best Parent Ever” guidebook?
Being a working mom without a household help made me realize that it doesn’t make me less of a parent if I’m not like every other mom I see on my Instagram feed. I know there’s no excuse to settle for less, but circumstances are different for every parent. What may work for my other mom friends may not work for me, and vice-versa. As long as our children are growing up safe, healthy and happy, it should not really matter what parenting strategy we use.
The support of family members will always be your strength
I will not survive being a helper-less working mom without my parents. In my case, it’s the doting grandparents who take care of my child while my husband and I work, and we will forever be grateful for that. Working parents in the Philippines are truly blessed that we have a family-centric culture. Whether it’s our parents, siblings, aunts, or cousins, there are family members who are willing to have our backs when it’s finally our turn to raise a family. Of course, the primary responsibility of raising a child still rests on the parents, but it’s comforting to know that there are people who are willing to help us, especially when an external help isn’t available.
Don’t let the guilt stop you from being a supermom
What makes being yaya-less even more frustrating is when work needs me to be out of town or out of the country for a couple of days. The mom guilt is real, and it becomes even worse when I have to leave my child to her grandparents without any household help. However, if I let my guilt rule my decisions, I will probably resign even if I know that our family’s budget will suffer. If I allow my guilt to overpower me, I will miss the opportunity of knowing what I am capable of doing. It’s normal to feel guilty once in a while, but this guilt should not stop us from growing as a parent, as a professional, as a person.
To all helper-less working moms out there, you are not alone in this challenging phase of motherhood. It may feel insane most of the time, but it will surely shape us to be the moms that our families need us to be.