invisible labels

I don’t embarrass very easily.

Or I should say, I bounce back from embarrassment quickly and without much bruise to my ego.

I mean, really. I do not have TIME to be embarrassed!

I am routinely too loud for a situation.  Just ask Cort. It has been said I don’t have an indoor voice.

I am famous for talking about things that make my mom and dad groan and mumble, “C’mon, Kate.  Sheesh.”

I ask questions that are probably dumb, but I am hoping other people have.  Sometimes this elicits nods of agreement and relief.  Other times I am answered with blank stares and crickets to which I say, “No?  Ok then.  Just me, I guess.”

Yeah, I might turn a little red, but I brush it all off.

It’s fleeting.

It can be laughed off.

But I do feel like there is a label on me that can’t be laughed off.

One that announces to the world that I am a mess of a mother.

It all started with me announcing that this time around, I was going to ask and accept help with my baby, my family, my healing after my c-section.  I was going to do what was best for the family to keep the stress to a minimum.

Everyone seemed to think this was great.  I was finally admitting I couldn’t take everything on all by myself.

But now, 5 weeks after Charlie’s birth, suddenly I am finding shame in those choices.

How is it going being at home with TWO kids instead of just one?

I feel like people ask this question with a smirk.  Because they see my label.

And I start needlessly explaining:

Well, Eddie is still in daycare.  I mean, they do like a curriculum and stuff.  So he will be there until school is out.  He likes it better that way. Not that he doesn’t like to be with me, but you know, it’s boring to be home with mom and a baby who can’t play when he could be with his friends playing and learning and stuff.  I mean, they do crafts and lessons about letters, numbers, colors, shapes…lots of stuff.  Oh and they sing!  Eddie loves to sing!  And they play outdoors more than I would be able to because of Charlie.  And they do Bible stories.  That is important.  Not that I couldn’t do those, I suppose, but you know…it’s a whole curriculum.

Why do I do that?

Because I am ashamed that I send my boy away every day.

I carry shame in my heart that I can’t handle two kids at once.

But I do handle them both by myself.  Frequently.  So why do I feel like this choice puts a label on me saying I can’t?

The other thing I feel shame in admitting is that we have someone clean our house every other week.

The hardest thing is finding time to clean, isn’t it?

Yes. It is. Our house gets picked up and messes get cleaned, but this is not the same as “cleaning the house.”

And when my house feels yuck, so do I.  And it consumes me.

So we hire someone to do the “all at once, all over” cleaning.

Twice a month I have my bathroom and kitchen and floors cleaned GOOD.  My house gets a much needed dusting and the vacuum gets run in EVERY room at the same time.

I am very organized and I love neatness, but I let my choice to hire a cleaning lady stick a label to me saying I am incapable of keeping house.

These labels laugh in my face.

“She can’t handle motherhood.  She is a mess.  Her poor husband and kids.”

And since I am labeled a mess, my husband and boys must be labeled as needing pity.

This weighs so heavily on me, in fact, that it was the subject of a long, difficult therapy session last week.

This idea that I let my paranoia about what people think of my choices label me and my family.

But I have learned that these are invisible labels that I have stuck on us.

They are not reality.

I am not a mess.

Yup, I'm THAT friend.

I am a great mom who does what is best for myself and in turn for my husband and children.

I am a teacher who loves this time home with my new son, but can’t wait to get back to the classroom in the fall for a new adventure with new students.

I am a writer who shares the good, the bad, and the super bad because it is who I am…and maybe it will help someone else accept who he/she is.

I am a friend who might be an awkward hugger, but who will always do anything to see you smile.

I am a daughter, sister, sister-in-law, aunt who would go out of my way for my family (not always without grumbles, but still).

I am a wife who still gets butterflies when I see her husband’s truck pull in because it means I get to see him soon.

I am enough.

Today I am linking up at Just. Be. Enough. about what we are beyond labels.
This post has been on my mind a lot and I got the push from Julie when she posted about shame.
I realized that I was keeping my shame inside and I needed to let it go.
Thank you, Julie.

*************

Another way I am enough is in how I delivered my sons into this world.
My stories of emergency C-section and then a planned repeat C-section are featured on The Mom Pledge Today.
I’d love if you would hop on over there.

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About Katie Sluiter

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a high school English teacher, college adjunct instructor, freelance writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.

Comments

  1. Yes, you are putting those labels on you. It’s funny (in a not haha sort of way) how we demean ourselves for hiring a housekeeper twice a week or simply ask for help. Somewhere along the way, we learned that women are supposed to do it all, all the time, all by oneself. I hope by the time I’m writing this, you are feeling much better about your decisions. You seem to be a wonderful mom and good for you for getting your house cleaned twice a month. It’s something you value, and it’s important that you listen to what you want. I love your honesty!

  2. I’m glad you wrote this. Because it made me realize that I too, have let myself get weighed down by labels – not always slapped on me by other people, but are self-imposed. I don’t talk much about the weekly cleaning crew who comes to my house to do deep cleans. I don’t really talk about the 3-4 hours a day my toddler goes to his grandparents place so I can get a break. Because I don’t want people thinking, oh she’s a stay-at-home mom, why does she need someone to deep clean for her, and why does she need her in laws to help out? She can’t be very good then.

    I still struggle with this. I think it’s because I expect too much of myself. That I allow myself to compare my situation with others, who are not as privileged and I feel guilty. That I don’t think I deserve it.

    So thank you for this. For letting my come face to face with those admissions. I need to tell myself I am enough. Even though I need the help.

  3. Beautiful post. And I am glad that you are getting what you need, because it allows you to be you, without being weighed down even more. And I think daycare can be a greeeeat choice. How nice that Charlie gets some one-on-one time with you every day for awhile. How nice for both of you!!!

  4. I too would send mine to daycare instead of keeping them home because they DO get bored being home 24/7..I DO TOO! Even if they didn’t have curriculum, they have their freinds there to play with all day long.

    And I work full time and have to little ones so yes I pay somebody twice a month to clean the house. No shame in it…I love cleaning lady day more than I love cake! We do.not.have.time so if you’d rather be scrubbing a toilet than playing with your children then stop feeling guilty!

  5. Not that my opinion matters, but I think you’re doing awesome! And I love that you wrote this & shared it, because it got me thinking… I think it’s time for me to hire some help cleaning my house! I don’t think that’s anything to feel ashamed of. I think it’s the mark of a smart lady, who is using her time wisely! And about the daycare thing, I wrestle with my tremendous guilt over sending Jax to daycare on my days off from work. But I need some time to myself, and Jax really does enjoy seeing his best friend and singing songs all day. He gets a great nap there (he no longer will nap at home), and everyone’s happy. I compromise by sending him to daycare a little later than usual and then picking him up early. Isn’t it awful how harshly we judge ourselves?!

  6. Look, honestly, I don’t know if you’re a lousy mom/wife or not. I’m just jealous that you have a cleaning service. Yes, I’m sure I totally miss the point of your post. ha!
    Your Friend, m.

  7. Samantha says:

    The timing of this post is funny because I’m reading it as I’m sitting in my home office, while my son is at daycare, and I’m waiting for my cleaning service to show up!

    I work at home. And now that my son is 2.5 I could possibly keep him home with me while I work instead of sending him to daycare. But then he would end up watching so much TV, wouldn’t get any socialization, and would have to play by himself more often than not. Sending him to his small in-home daycare is better for him because he can play with kids his own age, do preschool curriculum with someone that has 10x more patience than I do, and I can get more work done and be present when I’m with him rather than trying to do both at the same time. Same goes for the cleaning service. I would rather hang out with my little family on my down-time than on my hands and knees scrubbing the floor. I would rather spend my time making nutritious meals or excising than scrubbing my toilets.

    I’m done feeling bad for my priorities. I used to look at moms that stayed at home and did activities with their kids and cooked 3 homemade meals every day, had a vegetable garden and made their own diapers and I felt bad. But now I know that our priorities as a family aren’t worse or better than theirs. They are just different. And that’s ok.

    By the way, if we had another kid, we would continue to send our first to daycare. Not only is keeping the normal schedule good for the older one during the transition period, it’s also good for you and the new baby because you get more bonding time. Just my 2 cents :-)

  8. I pay my SIL to come clean our house twice a month, too. I can’t do it as well as she can, and I sure as heck can’t do it all at once with the kids around. There’s not shame in that! And there’s no shame in your son getting social/learning time and you getting quiet time with the baby (although, how quiet, I have no idea!).

  9. this post is why I adore you Katie, because it’s true and honest and real.
    (Plus I don’t have an indoor voice either…;)

    I like what Alison said, that we put the labels on ourselves sometimes. I know that most of the things I believe people think about me, come from my own guilt and judgment of MYSELF. The mom who has kids in daycare, the mom who didn’t EVEN consider breastfeeding, the mom who dresses everyone the same. Sure people may talk, but it’s ME who makes it more than it has to be. My decisions don’t have to be my labels.

    The moment we can stop judging ourselves will the moment that we stop doing it to other people. The measuring stick doesn’t have to brought out every single moment to see how we’re doing…some days I really feel like if I got us all to bed in pajamas and not a single tear filled eye, I’ve done a spectacular job.

    I hope you feel that too.You’re a great mom, friend, teacher, wife and writer. Own all that.

  10. I truly think if people judge you for hiring help around the house they are just jealous.
    Next kid I am asking for more help too… I did OK by myself with a newborn but if I can’t keep the house clean now and feel busy it will be so much harder. And that’s what grandparents are for right? ;)

  11. You are just doing what you think is best for your family, Katie. We all make decisions based on our very personal circumstances. No need to hold that shame inside. It needs to come out and then be chased away :)

  12. Yes. The cleaning of the entire house at one time—does remarkable things for my sanity. The quiet time when my daughter is still in school age child care and my meeting got out early–that I spend at home, doing what I need to do—is selfish but good for everyone. You are so many things Katie–brilliant being one that I would add, that you know how and when to take care of you. Not many people are good at that. xo

  13. It’s amazing the labels we put on ourselves and how we deal with them… and how they contrast with what others think of us and how they see us. You ARE a great mom and doing what is best for both Eddie & Charlie – and yourself. :)

  14. You are a smart mom, taking care of yourself so that you can be the best mom you can. I forgot to mention one more privilege in my post — I have a cleaner too and I am so grateful for her every time she comes. Does this make me, you or anyone a lesser mom? No, of course not! Just as asking for help and taking kids to childcare does not mean we are any less worthy.
    I think it is wise for us to remember that traditionally kids were always bought up with a support network from the extended family. Modern life has many advantages. The lack of a built-in support network for moms is definitely a disadvantage that we shouldn’t fee ashamed to compensate for in other ways.

  15. TheNextMartha says:

    I loved this. And you are enough. I had a cleaning person when I only had one kid. That rocked. Pretty sure my house hasn’t been all clean at the same time since. Oh, and that was like 8 years ago.

  16. My indoor voice, much like your indoor voice, is mostly absent. I also find that she grows louder with libations. Ahem.

    Anyway, Joshua’s still going to daycare. Some days, I hate it. Especially when he comes home with a stomach flu from Hell and I think “If only I’d just kept him home with me and had just been okay with juggling both kids at once.” But that’s crazy. 1) because I’ve paid for April already and 2) because we’d drive each other nuts fighting all day along about what to watch or what to eat or fortheloveofGod a nap.

    Things are better this way even if my heart hurts a little bit admitting that.

  17. Want to know how many times I’ve taken both kids to the grocery store by myself? Once. One little time. Because usually Craig does that shopping and my mother in law lives next door and frankly, when I do have to shop, I just don’t have to take both kids with me. I have someone clean my house every other week. And when Cole was a newborn I had someone with me for the first three weeks. Then I had a mother in law who stopped over as often as she could (she had shoulder surgery so she wasn’t available all the time) or took the toddler and let her play at her house. Oh! And, I had one of Craig’s students who came to the house for a few hours a couple days a week to just give me a hand.

    My point? I get a lot of help. And sometimes I feel bad saying that. Or I feel bad when I see other people struggling in areas where I don’t simply because I’m lucky to have the help. But it’s not a scorecard or a checklist. There’s not a quota of help and I”m taking someone elses share.

    My point, no for real this time, is that you (we) have to do what’s best for our families. There are a lot of positives that come in the decisions we make. You’re getting one on one time with Charlie, Eddie gets to play with his friends and your house is clean. Win! Win! Win! Who cares how it all gets done as long as your family is happy? Chin up, beautiful. You’re doing great.

  18. AMEN! Katie, you are awesome. I struggle with the same shame; you’ve really put things into perspective.

    Thank you for that.

  19. Isn’t it funny how other people look at us because of the choices we make. I can completely understand letting your oldest stay in daycare. I don’t think it’s so much about not being able to take care of two but about him having his own thing and having fun and not feeling as though all you do is take care of a baby. And believe me, if I could I would hire a cleaning service in a heart beat. This is a brave post…

  20. I’m exactly the same about my c-sections, about my daycare choices, about everything. I never feel like I’m enough. I always feel like I have to explain myself. I always feel like everyone else is doing it right and I’m doing it oh so wrong.

    Totally get it.

  21. i’m sure you could handle having both kids at home all day and that you could probably keep your house clean, but entertaining a two year old with a new baby while keeping the house spotless is hard, if you don’t have to do it, then why do it? my daughter is in daycare and i happen to think that she enjoys playing with the other kids and getting away from my boring face for a little while. and as far as having a housekeeper, who the heck WOULDN’T have one if they could afford it, a crazy person i say!

  22. I think that the labels we put on ourselves are often so much harsher than any label someone else would put on us. Be kind to yourself! You’re doing great, you’re doing what’s best for your family, and there’s no shame in that! :)

  23. There should never be shame in recognising our priorities and our limits and in choosing where our best strengths lie. :)

  24. It’s so sad that we all put these labels on ourselves and then feel the need to justify every little decision. You’re doing what is best for you and your family. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Eddie is getting the socialization that he needs and you are able to spend some quality time with Charlie to bond and ease into your new role as a mother of 2. And honestly? I am SO jealous that you have someone who cleans your house. I’ve been thinking of ways to convince my husband that we need this too. I can’t keep up with 3 kids plus being hugely pregnant. It’s not working!

  25. If I have a second kid, Ryan will totally still go to daycare while I’m on maternity leave. Here’s the thing (and you know this already, it just gets lost in the shadow of mom guilt): It is the best thing for Eddie to not have his schedule totally disrupted. The curriculum IS good for him. Playing with his friends IS good for him. Welcoming a new sibling into your home and losing your spot as Top Dog must be hard for a kid… I think having the stability of daycare is probably very beneficial for him right now. This doesn’t mean you CAN’T do it. It just means it’s best for everyone right now that Eddie has his own time away from home and you have your own bonding time with Charlie and Charlie gets one-on-one time with Mom.

    And I say all of this to you now, and I know I will still feel the same guilt when I do it… The vast majority of moms make the decisions they do because it’s what is best for the kids and the family unit as a whole and yet we still desperately want other moms to know that our motivations are pure. It’s no wonder we get so stressed — we overthink it too much. I wish I could be more like my husband and just not care what other people think, ha.

  26. Sister, if I could afford it, I’d pay somebody to clean MY house. (Did I mention that I don’t have any children? Just a messy husband and four cats.) Seriously, if someone would come remove the constant cat fur tumbleweeds from the corners of my house, I would roll out the red carpet for them Every. Single. Week. Take pride in it, my friend!! And chuck off those labels so we can see your Super Mommy Cape!!! :0)

  27. I like that you talk about the invisibility of the labels, and the way you remind yourself about the true things that define you. Maybe not all of them are positive, but accepting ourselves is so important. Am I a great dancer? Not at all, but I am the girl you want to find if your favorite song comes on at a wedding because I’ve never met a dance floor I didn’t like :)

    You are so many wonderful things, and you have made thoughtful decisions about what works best for your family. You don’t have to defend them; do what works for you, and the people who love you won’t be disappointed.

  28. OK! Every mom I know sends their toddler to daycare when they are on maternity leave with a new infant. I’m not sure where you’re getting the idea that no one else does this. The only people who don’t, are stay at home moms who don’t already have daycare. Also, I have zero children and am about to hire someone to clean for me every other week. To anyone who has a problem with this, I’d say shove it in you pie whole. If anyone thinks they have better time management than me, they are welcome to clean my place. I guess they are just more awesome than me and I can absolutely live with that. I know you’re an awkward hugger and next time I see you, I’m going to squeeze the crap out of you. LOOK OUT! Love you darling!

  29. Frankly, I think you’re brilliant. If I were in your shoes, I would for sure have C continue at daycare. It IS better for Eddie to go, and better for you and Charlie too. What’s wrong with that?!

    And house cleaning? Yes please. Good moms don’t have dirty ovens and sticky floors – they have cleaners and they’re good moms because they’re sane. ;)

  30. You are a good mother. No question. All it takes is love and a little bit of food and shelter. You definitely have that covered!

    We put such high expectations on ourselves. I’m of the opinion that sometimes those who smirk at our alleged shortcomings are just better actors. They’ve got the same shortcomings, but cover it better.

    As for you (and me) we just don’t do a great job of “covering it up” — we’re authentic and real and loving and messy. But we’re absolutely positively completely real. Just like the Velveteen Rabbit!

  31. Hey, girl! Give yourself a hug! A good mom know what tools she has in her toolbox (housekeepers, babysitters, frozen pizzas) and uses them to make the best, happiest life for HER family. It is clear that you love your kids like crazy. It is clear that you are a great role model for them of how to be honest, how to find a life (including work) that you enjoy, and how to love one another. If you pay someone to mop your floors? That’s great! Let it work for you.

  32. While I don’t think you are a bad mom, it definitely isn’t the norm around here to send the older kid to daycare. I think you are very lucky and blessed to have that option, because about 5 minutes after we got home from the hospital with Kenley, B left to go to work and I was it. Recovering from a c-section, getting to know a new baby, and dealing with a slightly confused toddler was no easy task. But I had no choice. Brandon was working 16+ hour days and I was being mom. That’s just how it had to be. And I don’t regret it for an instant, because since I had no choice, my anxiety couldn’t come creeping up. I didn’t have time for it. And now that I am getting more comfortable with two, it’s easier for me to do all of the things I want and need to do.

    Don’t let others get to you. It just takes up WAY too much energy that you need to just be mom! :)

  33. P.S. Who is that sexy redhead in the photo with you? She looks like a kickass good time!

  34. I think have someone clean your house like that every once in a while is good home management. I have often thought about having someone come and do the things I can’t ever seem to get to. the baseboards, the air vents, and down and dirty stuff that seems to always get pushed aside. Good for you!

    I also do not embarrass easily. It’s sort of a problem, because I often mortify my kids in public with the stuff that flies out of my mouth.

    We have to stop making excuses for the choices that we make for our kids. We are their mothers and we know what’s best for them, and everyone else can go-well, you get the idea.

  35. So much of what you said hit home for me. Not only was i ashamed that I couldnt handle my kids and homeschooling and cooking and cleaning, but I heard routinely from my now-ex that I couldnt do all those things and that I should feel ashamed. Im so glad you have Cort, and Im so glad you can find perspective in the necessity to outsource some things. We arent made to do it all, all the time. And Im glad youre writing about it. Thank you.