Help is (not) a Four-Letter Word

The door opens every morning at the same time. Monday through Friday, 7am. It's Tamara. She hugs me and then she takes the babies and until 2pm it is she who takes them on walks and feeds them their meals. It is she who puts them down for their naps and rocks them to sleep. It is she who follows them through the halls giggling.
And they love her. They love her like family and I love her like family and together we make it work on weekdays when Hal has to be at work at 6:30am. We divide and conquer. She makes breakfast for the babies while I make lunches for the big kids and when I come home after taking Archer and Fable to school, I kiss my girls goodbye, go into my office and close the door.

And yes, I'm here. But mostly I'm not. And I try to go about my business as if I can't hear their voices echoing through the halls. And I work because I have to. Because I want to and I have to and I want to and that means listening to headphones to block out their voices.

Even though I want to hear them.

It means locking the door so that they can't see me.

Even though I want to see them.

It means writing about their first birthday while someone else takes them for a walk.

That's weird, right?

It's kind of weird.

But this is work, strange as it sounds. This is part of my job. And I can't do it all.

But with help...

I can do some of it and Tamara can do some of it and Hal can do some of it and we can do most of it. We can take care of everyone and fix dinner and clean the bathroom and work on all of the things we must work on in order to support each other and ourselves.


Sometimes on this blog and elsewhere, I refer to Tamara as our "sitter" because a sitter sounds... something temporary, perhaps. Because "nannies" are what people who don't have time for their kids have. They're for celebrities and rich people and rich people who are also celebrities.

When Archer was a baby I wrote about being the only mother at the park without a nanny. I wrote about feeling inadequate about being young and broke and home. I cracked jokes about nanny pimps and the neighborhood moms who clucked in the park corners as their nannies did the parenting. I judged HARD. I was a better mother because I was home. Because I was home and I was raising my kid ALL BY MYSELF WITH NO HELP SO THERE. I was feeding my kid and putting my kid down for naps and dressing my kid. I was his mother and his caretaker and I was better.

Not that I ever wrote those things exactly (ed: I refuse to link back to those early posts because they're horrible and I was kind of the worst) or even said them out loud. But a superiority complex is still a superiority complex. And I had one. And for the last several years I've been at war with myself because of it.

Every time I read a post about any "mommy war" I'm struck by the transparency of the conversation. I know that my own holier-than-though(ness) stemmed (and still stems) from a lack of confidence in the decisions I make or have made. The times I felt like I was "better than them" were also the times I HAD to in order to feel good enough.

It's the same reason anyone is ever at odds with someone else. It's the reason we fight with our spouses and our children. It's the reason ALL mothers fight with themselves. Regardless of how many people we've hired to help us or how many jobs we're working to pay the bills or how many children we have, we are divided inside.

We are so divided inside that we have no choice but to roll up our sleeves and take it outside. 

So we push through back doors and divide each other. We create enemies out of our own insecurity and punch strangers in the face. We pick a side and spew vitriol from across the room because we are entitled to. Because "talking shit" is our god given right. Because "taking shit" is part of the job description.

Because it's hard to look at ourselves in the mirror when we aren't happy with the way we look. It's hard to see ourselves in photographs.

I was recently with a group of very well established work-from-home women who have nannies that help while they work. I had no idea that any of them had help because nobody ever said anything. Nobody felt comfortable saying anything.

Nobody talks about hiring help because nobody is supposed to. Because it insinuates privilege. Because it suggests weakness. Because it's strange for women to be at home with children, and also working jobs. Because it's strange for women to be at home working jobs that don't seem very job-like.

And it is strange.

Why does your house always look so clean?

How do you have time to work?

How do you do it all?

I have help, that's how. I have an incredible woman who works here from 7am to 2pm five days a week. And she helps me with my kids and she helps me with the house and she helps she helps she helps. And I pay her a large part of my salary to do that. So that I can work. So that I can write things that may or not go anywhere. So that I can write this post that may or may not matter. So that I can do what I love and feel sane and happy and myself.

And there is nothing wrong with that.

"There's nothing wrong with that," I say to myself.

So why has "nanny" become such a loaded word? Why are we, as women, so reluctant to talk about the people we hire to help us so that we can do what we do? What are we afraid of? People thinking we CAN'T do it all?

Well, duh.

We fucking can't.

So what's this big secret we're trying to keep and who do we think we're fooling?

And what is it doing to people who read our blogs and books and pin our how-tos and think that all of these projects are being finished while children sit quietly on the sidelines with their hands in their laps.

What is it doing to you?

We write disclosure copy on posts that are sponsored, giveaways that are donated. We are contractually obligated to label and link but where is the disclosure copy stating how we work from home with small children? How we shoot videos and meet deadlines and go to meetings and travel around the country attending conventions and conferences.

We have help, that's how!

We have INCREDIBLE and much beloved (worshipped, actually) help!

Thirty five hours a week for the last fifteen months.


A knock at my office door at 2:00. It's time for Tamara to leave.

She fills me in on last naps and who-ate-what-whens as I walk her to the door. And then with a kiss and a hug and a "see you tomorrow" she's off to her next job and I'm off to mine.
Today, instead of caring for my babies, I sent six emails, participated in a conference call that (fingers crossed) will lead to work, scribbled a few notes on things to post next week. I said yes to something and no to something and cancelled a lunch date I made that I totally forgot about. I also wrote this post. Instead of feeding my babies their lunch and taking them on their morning walk and playing with their feet during diaper changes, I wrote this post.

It was worth it.

It wasn't worth it.

It's always worth it.

It never is.

This is an argument I have had with myself for years. This is an argument I'll never stop having. This is an argument we have had with each other for years. This is an argument we'll never stop having.


This post was inspired by comments as well as emails asking how I manage to update a blog regularly while at the same time caring for four children. I thought I was being pretty candid, here, about having daily help, but apparently not candid enough. So? I thought it important to address one of the least blogged about topics out there: the people we hire so that we have the time to blog. And create and run businesses, and support our families and our sanities and ourselves. 

Do you work from home with small children? Do you have help? What has your experience been like as a work from home parent? As a stay at home parent? As a work out of the home parent? Why do you think "help" is such a difficult thing to talk about? Why are we so reluctant to admit we need it? I look forward to your thoughts on this in a major way. Thank you in advance for being respectful of each other's stories and situations. With love... 



--ggm | 10:13 AM

I've been a nanny for five years. I never had any intention of becoming a nanny; I met a family and fell in love with all of them. They have five kids, and more often than not, I feel more at home in the chaos of their home than my own. I feel so lucky to have met them, and that I have become such an integral part of their family. Every member of this family makes me feel loved, needed, and appreciated. Nannies get a bad rap, that's undeniable. I feel judged on a regular basis. No, I don't have health insurance. No, this isn't a 'forever' gig. But I'm happy. I can easily say that I'm happier in this line of work than a majority of my stable, nine to five friends are in theirs. Also, I hate being called a babysitter. What I do is above and beyond babysitting, it's hard to describe. I need them as much as they need me. It's so bizarre, but so wonderful.