Monday, July 7, 2014

The reality of no help

In all honesty, I am writing this post having had two nights in a row of limited sleep and having been crying for the majority of last night. I have not had any alone time in several months. We attempted to go out on one of our date nights last night which turned out to be disastrous. And I am just wondering how much more of being stressed to the maximum that I can take, without ruining myself or affecting my marriage, simultaneously. 

One of the things that has been a constant struggle for me, as a mother, is the fact that my parents live 10 minutes away from me and are completely disinterested in helping out with the baby. I don't know if it is preoccupation, but it seems a lot like they just can't be bothered. They often have this high and mighty attitude that "they are WORKING" so that excuses them from any family activities, even when they are off.

It breaks my heart to hear from other mums that they get so much help from their parents on a daily/weekly basis or that they feel so much closer to their parents after becoming a parent. I have never felt like that. Instead, I have felt completely disconnected from them and subsequently overwhelmed. When I talk to them about how tired I am, they look at me as if I'm speaking Cantonese.

Many of my readers have suggested to me that I should get a nanny. But I CANNOT. I cannot bring myself to leave my child with some random person who could be doing God-knows-what to her. I often take my daughter to the park and see these nannies, who are either on their mobile phones the entire time or mistreating the children that their parents have paid to take care of. I have heard nannies talking badly about the child's parents right in front of them. If I need a break, I would prefer to leave my daughter with my parents for a few hours because I want to encourage them to bond with their granddaughter.

Hence the problem...I am really in a Catch 22.

My parents only agree to babysit maybe once a month or twice a month (if I'm lucky). They complain a lot and "can't handle" watching Maya, so we only have a few hours alone together before we have to rush back. So we have to pick either dinner OR a movie, since we certainly don't have time to do both. 

You see, my parents are not used to watching a child by themselves. When I was growing up, they had a huge staff and also my doting grandparents. They view child-rearing as if it is some foreign activity, as if it is something that only Filipinos do. 

For example, our disastrous date last night. I had planned it weeks in advance and asked them if they could babysit. I had booked tickets for us to see the Cirque du Soleil and I was so excited. I thought we could have a nice romantic evening seeing the show and hopefully get dinner after. I spent hours getting dolled up and then we go to drop her off and as soon as I get in the door, my father tells me he "is too tired". They begin to start the dramatics as if we are leaving some burden with them and lecturing us to be back "as soon as possible". This automatically puts me in a stressed mood to the point that I can't enjoy the show at all. They call us back immediately after the show, eager to have my daughter out of their hair. I don't know exactly what is more hurtful....is it the fact that they think my daughter is some burden? Is it the fact that they live in the same city and are completely disinterested in their only grandchild? Is it the fact that I can't even rely on them for 90 minutes so I can have some alone time with my husband?

Then, in the car ride on the way back, husband-ji and I get into an awful argument. I start venting about how I hate not having alone time with him, and then his reply is "It's ok, da! I don't mind not having alone time!" as a way of comforting me. But it came across the wrong way and it felt like he was saying that he couldn't care less if we have alone time together and that all my efforts of planning these date nights was for nothing. So I really exploded at him and I said that he doesn't need alone time because he is at work all day having alone time. And then he got offended, and now he is back to his usual looking-at-me-like-I'm-crazy and his annoying I-don't-know-why-you're-so-stressed-all-the-time. Oh, the joys of motherhood.... that nobody tells you!

I am burnt out to the maximum. Yes, I have help from my husband and he is an amazing dad. But I am on duty - 24/7. If my daughter wants something, she comes to me. If I use the washroom or need to change my clothes in the other room, she bangs on the door and screams and cries. Her cries don't affect him like the way they affect me. Even when he is home, somehow I end up doing everything...

My mother often says that I can leave Maya with her whenever I want. Yet when those times come, she accuses me of "just dumping her there" and employing such stealth tactics like delaying me going out the door so that she has less time with her. Meanwhile, my parents constantly berate me for snapping at my husband in public, or my slow weight loss. They want me to do things for myself like lose weight or dress up, completely oblivious to the fact that I have limited time during the day (ONE hour when my daughter is sleeping) and honestly - I'd rather use my measly spare time to catch up on my own sleep.

People say "it takes a village to raise a child", but where the f*** is that village, goddammit?


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38 comments

  1. Im sorry that has happened. Its not fair that you dont have support from your parents. I believe the same thing about not leaving my child with a nanny. Our kids are our gifts and to leave them with any old person is not ok. Forward this to your mom, she needs to know how little help she gives. My mom is amazing and gives us alot of help and I am so thankful. I have been doing it alone for a year now since I moved and its hard!

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    1. It is really hard, everywhere I see grandparents helping out and enjoying, and may be by the comparison I feel like I am missing something from them. I wish they would help more but I cannot force them.

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  2. :( :( :( Maybe you have some friends with children?? Getting close to them would help then you can babysit their children once in a while and they can look after your daughter.
    I know the pain of having exactly this kind of parents. I am not close to them anymore as they put more pain in my heart than any good emotions.

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    1. One of my best mom friends has offered and I think I will be asking her soon. Maya loves it over there and loves playing with her son, so the relationship has already developed. Thank god for mothers helping each other out!

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  3. Befriending other parents in the same situation and taking turns. Hiring a babysitter for date night. Many old people simply don't have the nerves for small children, I've seen that happen a lot even with people that had many children. At some point they are just too irritated and it gets worse the older the grandparents are. It seems to have become normal for 2 year olds to go to preschool or daycare for half a day. But that would depend on the area where you live. Kids usually love the interaction with other kids.

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    1. My hubby thinks my parents are just too old to keep up with her. My parents are 15 years older than my inlaws are. I have been asking some of my mum friends and I hope I can help them out too. A lot of my mum friends live away from parents and they also know some great babysitters too.
      Here in Vancouver all the daycares are booked years in advance, there is an overfilling. I would send her but there is no availability. I think at this age they are ready for socialization. I am sending her to preschool in 6 months though.

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  4. Your parents have made it clear that they do not want to babysit your daughter. You might think it is weird, but I don't think it is strange for old people to not want to care for a toddler, specially if they work and after your father's health scare. It does take a village, but you need to expand beyond your parents and look for help elsewhere. There are all these priorities - alone time, date nights, not wanting nannies. It's up to you decide which one of these you want and prioritize accordingly. Good luck!
    ~Sheetal

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    1. Hi Sheetal,
      Yes I think I just need to accept it. I go over there and visit with them several times a week, and I think that is how they will bond with her, with mommy there too. I will have to look elsewhere to get a break. We will try out some new things in the upcoming months, as scary as it is!

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  5. As a child-less couple who were frequently asked to babysit other couple's kids so that they can have a night out, we sympathize with your parents. Situation was worse for us as half-Indian couple, all Indians coming out of woodwork and asking uncle/aunty can we take care of their brats. We finally gave up. We started handing out $1 bill to couples and told them to go hire a babysitter. And consider $1 as our contribution toward raising their kids.

    Just because your parents got help from their parents doesn't mean you should demand the same from your parents. It is your parents choice whether to babysit your daughter or not. Even with close family members (sister/brother), we consider only once a month for an hour or two more than enough for us to handle other people's brats.

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    1. I do not demand of my parents to watch her. The problem is that they are offering to watch her and then last minute, they are backtracking. I would never demand on them, as my kid is my responsibility 100%.
      I think you should be flattered that other people want you guys to watch their kids. People don't trust their kids with just anyone. It speaks to what they think of your character, they can trust you responsibly to watch their pride and joy. But it is a lot of work and I don't blame you for saying no. It is better to say no than to say yes and then not pull through.

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  6. :( This is a sad news. Usually, I have seen grandparents to be very enthusiastic to be with a grandchild.
    Good Luck!

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    1. Yes, that is what I have seen too. It is hard, but we will figure it out.

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  7. I'm sorry you're going through this Alexandra.

    No offense but your parents seem to put priority over career rather than family. That's definitely not supportive to you at all. It shows what kind of character they have.. and unfortunately it's not something you can change about them.
    I wouldn't expect much help from them anymore. They have clearly shown you that they are not interested in helping much at all. Hopefully you have other family or friends that are more caring and supportive.

    Please, whatever you do, do not take your anger out on your husband. It's OK to rant to him or to get his opinion but don't fight!!! Marriage is a team and you're suppose to be on the same side...seems your redirecting the hurt from your parents onto him. You should be angry with your parents, not to him.

    May I just say you are an amazing person to choose to be a stay at home mom. That is the most loving thing you can do for your child.
    Too many mothers hire nannies because they are more concerned about their career and being equal to men. That's where the feminist movement failed because mothers weren't acting like mothers anymore. They choose to spend less time raising their children and now studies are showing more children have depression and anxiety because of it.

    Maybe no one told you this but what you're feeling right now is completely normal. Mothers can't be perfect and happy all the time.
    Do you have other family that Maya can stay with for a few days? You definitely need some alone time. I would have a talk with your husband,,,seems he loves you very much and will understand.

    Sorry if I offended you in anyway

    All the best

    Katelyn

    p.s I love your writing style and stories. Thank you for sharing

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    1. Thanks Katelyn, this one was a very hard post to write.
      Yes, they do put priority on their career and traveling, and that is just the way they are. I have to accept it and I can't expect anything from them. I am trying to build a support system outside of family, and also focusing on managing my stress levels.
      You are absolutely right, I need to stop snapping at hubby. It is not his fault at all. We have talked a lot about it in the past week or so and that has been great to just talk.
      I just want to be there for my child and bond with my child. It is really hard being a mother full-time. My career can always wait. And plus she will be in school in only 6 months already! Time just flies with these little ones.

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  8. Hi Alexandra! I am very sorry to read that. You sound very stressed in this moment and I can relate to your pain even if I am not a mother.

    About your parents, I wouldn't be that hard on them, you dad was recently ill and maybe he is just regainning energies so he cannot afford right now to take care of a toddler for a long period of time. Or maybe they are just only not patient people. For example, I know my mother is not very patient for children, she likes them and plays with them but I know I couldn't ask her to help me for a long time to take care of my kid if I had one. And I know is not because she is selfish or doesn't care, is just that is her personnality. But I know she will always be there for me as she has been.

    Maybe one thing you can try is to have an aupair. It could be a good option for giving you a help with Maya and since they live in the house you can have a date night sometimes. Plus since most of them are foreigners your daughter can start listening another language.

    I hope you can find a solution, I know is difficult but try to be too hard on your parents. Luckily a good deal for everybody can come.

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    1. Yes, my dad's health is a big factor I think. He is feeling better but he is easily tired out a lot. Now that he is better he is trying to do too much work and running himself down. We are all trying to get him to slow down a bit, but you know that generation is go-go-go. I think Maya is also in a difficult age. Hopefully she will get easier when she is older, only time will tell. We are all very worn out... LOL

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  9. My spouse and I stumbled over here from a different web address and thought I
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    Look forward tto finding out about your web page yet again.

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  10. I just stumbled upon your blog. I'll tell you what I did because I was/am in sort of a similar situation. Firstly, with the exception of cooking food I let the housework go. Only when I have the time and sanity I do it, otherwise if it's messy or dirty I let it go until I can handle it. I don't entertain much because of that, I have greatly reduced that. I am not saying I live in filth but my house is definitely not spotless. If you can afford a maid/cleaning service get one to come over every other week or month.

    The other thing is once she turned 3 something magical happened, it just got easier. She just turned 3 in June so it hasn't been long but somehow it just got easier. She is still clingy but now she plays by herself a lot also, as long as she gets verbal feedback of how nice her drawing is how nice her doll is looking etc. Now she tries to help out in doing chores as well, so it keeps her busy and I can get my stuff done too. Spending time alone with husband is still hard, we stay up later than her to get our time together. When we go out we usually do stuff she enjoys too. Also he takes care of her some weekends so I can have some time by myself outside the house.

    The only thing I can tell you is wait it out a little more, once she gets more independent it will get easier.

    Also if you want to look into putting her into a well reputed in home day care that might be helpful.

    Best of luck!

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    1. Thank god, this is so great to hear. Ahhhh 3, I can't wait! I have heard that a lot too. It's like when she turned 2, she just flipped her lid and all of these Bollywood style tantrums started coming out and we were like WTF?! We are still trying to figure out the best way to deal with these outbursts. Some days I am floored by noon LOL!
      I have hope after reading this comment! Thank you for writing xo

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  11. @Alexandra

    This is a real problem and faced by most couples with children. In India it expected that grand parents would help out the couple at the time of pregnancy and often afterwards. Couples leave their children with their parents, if they live with them. Parents are expected to baby sit. It is often overlooked that many parents are old and probably sick. They just don't have the capacity of running around the children. Some couples are indifferent to the plight of old people. The man appreciates the effort put in by his and mother and is grateful for it but not his wife because it is below her dignity to acknowledge the contribution of her mother in law. Instead of appreciating that someone from the family is looking after her child in her absence, she keeps on finding faults. I am of the firm belief that raising a child is the responsibility of the couple and if they delegate their responsibily to someone else, they might as well acknowlege it.

    Some couples employ a maid who is constantly bickering with the MIL or whoever is looking after the child. The old lady now has to keep an eye of the maid so that she does not hurt the child and also take care of the child. The maid does not listen to the lady because she is not paying her salary, nor to mention that she carries stories from the MIL to the DIL and back, creating more trouble in the household. It is too much to expect from an old person. It is like a 24 hour tension.

    I sometimes feel that the westerns are right. They do not get themselves entangled in these problems. No expectations, no problems. However, it is hard on the couple. If they live nearb,y the parents should help out. I suggest you take a maid. It must expensive and unheard of in your country, but it will relieve you from cooking and cleaning. She can also help you out with your child. You are tiring yourself out. I understand that you want to try out new receipes but it is taking a toil on your health.

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    1. Yes, I have witnessed in India and seen with friends that grandparents take a more active role while many of the mothers return back to work. I think the couple definitely needs to be aware of the grandparents' health - I am only 28 and I am tired taking care of my daughter! I have recently read in the papers an article that said that grandparents taking care of the child 1 day per week can help prevent Alzheimer's. But in the same study, it said that grandparents taking care of the child for 5 days a week has a negative effect on their health. So I think 1 day is probably enough for elders. Then they get to bond, and can rest for the rest of the 6 days. It all depends on their age and health, plus the age of the child.
      I am trying to rewire my brain wherein I have no expectations. Sometimes I have a more Eastern brain, growing up with so many Asian friends.

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    2. @Alexandra

      We have maids in India who come everyday to look after the child or those who stay with you for some time. With those who come everyday, there is problem. If she does not come, who will look after the child. With those who stay with you, they know about your family and create more problems. More than they, their families are constantly baggering you for more salary. All in all, if you have help, then you have to be smart enought to utilize them otherwise looking after them is another headache.

      In India, we don't have a concept of 'me time'. Once you are married, you are expected to have children and then life takes its own course. So, we kind of not miss 'me time' very much, because we are not even aware of such a thing. Your honeymoon is the only time when you have 'me time', if you are lucky to have one. Some families don't even have that concept. Today ofcourse young couples are more aware of this. We were all either brought up by stay at home mothers or grand parents. Now, when it our turn, we are tying ourselves in knots. You are not the only foreigner who complained about her parents not helping them out. I have read it many a times on various blogs. Bring up a child must be extremely difficult in you country.


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  12. Hmm... I do not have any kids, this is my perspective, maybe I can't visualize everything the right way coz I am not a parent. At the same time, I agree it is tough to raise a child as a unit of 2. I do not know why developed countries have not built systems to support parents because it is so tough.

    It is great if your parents would look after Maya and it hurts that they do not want to, but you would have to accept it. Some people do not want to have to deal with toddlers again once they are done with raising their child, they may be nervous and high strung, they don't want the responsibility etc. The fact is they do not want to and there is nothing you can do. Just accept it and let's look at what can be done.

    - Look for other options - babysitter once a week? Do you or your parents know other grandparents who would love to baby sit Maya? Everybody's grandchildren may not live in Vancouver no? Any family friends?

    - Other option is to hang out with other couples with kids. As your kid develops a friendship with their kid, you both could take turns babysitting + going on dates.

    - Are there any play schools/ activity centers where you can drop kids off for few hours?

    - Don't put too much pressure for perfection on yourself. Having too high standards for oneself results in nervousness and breakdowns (first hand experience coz i can be like that.)

    -Kids often absorb your energies (like you mentioned in your post previously). Use this to reflect on where you are being clingy to Maya.

    - Teach Maya to respect your alone time. When your husband is home in the mornings or evening, could you spend time alone and teach Maya not to disturb you because "Mommy needs to recharge and have more energy to play more with her?" Start with 5 min a day and increase it slowly. If she asks for something, explain calmly to her that you will attend to her later. She needs to see her parents respect their alone time too. This was something I heard in an interview by Allana Pratt but I am not too sure.

    - If your husband works in a shop (I think) could you take Maya during lunch time and let him take care of Maya and you could be in the shop for an hour or so?

    - Set a strict bed time and make her sleep early. she can lie in bed if she is not sleepy?

    - Give her some coloring book or something like that and listen to podcasts? That would seem like you have some adult conversations to listen to while she does hers.

    - Delegate. Any tasks you can delegate to a help once/ week. Like cleaning/laundry etc.

    - Take your husband's helps when you can. Take anybody's help and ask for help. Do not feel guilty.

    Remember this too shall pass and maybe this is what they mean by terrible two's.

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    1. Thanks for the great advice, as always. I think you are absolutely right in accepting the situation. That is all I can do.
      I have one mom friend whose mother lives with them full-time and we do play dates with them every week. They have offered to watch Maya because they love to play together, so I think I will take them up on their offer.
      I am working on showing Maya that mommy needs to take care of herself too. I am trying to teach her to respect it, I only just started this week LOL. I think this is a very important point you mentioned. I would like to start doing makeup again once the heat subsides.
      I am also increasing my work schedule to 2 days per week so hubby can stay home. I hope all these things will make a difference. The little bits that I have started since reading this has helped a lot.

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  13. I know how you feel. When my older 4 kids were very young, I thought I would implode from the pressure and stress of being with them 24/7. None of our parents lived close by, my husband worked a lot, and it was all me.

    I wish I could give you comfort about your parents attitude, but there's nothing to help with that. Their loss in the long run.

    My advice for you and your husband is to make in-house dates after she goes to sleep. Candles, bedroom door shut, no TV. Promise not to talk about her. Take-out food picnic on the bedroom floor. Cultural differences make this more difficult, plus any guy thinks differently about how to relate to the wifey. Tell him exactly what you need from him.

    Little snippets of time together can go a long way. Hope this helps. xoxo

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    1. Thanks Sheryl, OMG 4!!!!!!!!!!!! I can't imagine! I would have gone nuts, I don't know how you did it! It is so hard when they are small, it can be really overwhelming.
      I will try the after bedtime date :) Maybe a movie and some dessert!

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  14. Wow. I'm really feeling your pain and displeasure at the moment. I hope that by now you're feeling the love and kindness people are sending your way. I say, ask your girlfriends to help you out. Whenever I need something that my family can't provide, I turn to the girlfriends in my life. If I were near you, I'd love to help out. But I'm in Michigan so I'll just pay it forward, as the saying goes. Good luck! Don't be so hard on yourself. This too shall pass. I bet you're already feeling better as you've been reading all these loving comments above.

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    1. Thank you, yes I have been thinking a lot and reflecting and taking in the great advices! You are so right about the girlfriends :)

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  15. Sorry to hear that you have no help. I wonder if it is a bigger problem stemming from their relationship with you i.e. do they resent that you have a closer relationship to your in-laws than with them? do they feel like you have 'left' them in a sense by your closeness to your other indian parents. it could explain some of their resentment. Or it could just be because of their health/work commitments. I also wonder why they have such an interest in you losing weight. is it because you tell them it's important to you and they are just trying to support you or are they putting pressure on you. I hope you have support around this and this can be very stressful.

    Your post made me think a lot about my future and how to deal with day-to-day life if I have kids (no kids at the moment). Where I live I have absolutely no family and neither does my husband. my parents, siblings are a 2 hour flight away and I fear I will have little help in the future. I will only have my friends and many of them are also away from their families so I often think about creating a little 'village' of friends and kids and us raising them together. i.e. looking after each other's kids on our days off so that we can go to work part time. not sure if it will work, depends on willingness. location, work calendars and how many parents there are to share the workload. I think a big fear of being a mother is feeling alone. I talk about that with my friends a lot. for me, doing some part time work would be ideal just to keep my sanity. even if my parents lived where I lived I think it would be hard for them to look after the kids because they both work full time during the day- not out of want but out of financial necessity. my mum is also in denial about being a 'grandmother' getting old and all that. she said to me a while back over a bbq "im not ready to be a grandmother yet". I thought to myself that was selfish. I cant remember what my dad is like around kids, it's been that long. I think they would love our kids and certaintly want to be a part of their lives though. like if I took a holiday up there they would want to look after our kids etc. take care, you are a great mother and I hope you can find some alone time. I am the type of person that like you, definitely needs alone time (and hubbie doesn't understand it...just like your husband)...

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    1. Hmmmm I'm not sure. I know my mum was a bit weird when my inlaws came to Venice, maybe because she saw how differently they interacted with Maya. I think my mum was feeling bad that she was not like that and was a little distant.
      I think it is also the work commitments for my mum and my dad's health, so a combination of the two. And also maybe they just are the type to prefer to have their little visits with Maya, maybe I am expecting too much, to be something they are not.
      I didn't realize before I had kids that I would need a support system, it was something that never occurred to me. I thought I could do it all by myself but I cannot. I don't like to rely on others or ask for help. Having the support system is definitely a real thing to consider before having kids - but it is not restricted to family, it can be great friends too.
      As Maya gets older, I have been increasing my work to 2 days per week to preserve my sanity also. It is nice just to be able to focus on something at my pace. In many cities you can put them in a play school or daycare, here I cannot because they are all booked up.
      I am realizing that I need my alone time more and more...it is hard. I want to be there for my daughter but I want some alone time too. I have to take these mini-breaks!

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  16. You need some alone time. Book a massage or anything you love alone!! I am like this when I have not had my own alone time for a some time.

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    1. I took your advice and booked an Ayurvedic :)

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  17. Sounds familiar. My parents were the same. I am now 2 years younger than my mother when she became a grand-mother, feeling great, and I understand fully she gave me BS for all these years. It was very hurtful to me. That is why I had to use kindergartens and nannies. I am sure you can find a reliable nanny. Not all deserve to act in horror movies. Good luck ! (Padparadscha)

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    1. I have heard in France they have these wonderful creches. I have just read this book "Bringing up bebe", have you read it? France's resources to families sound like a dream!

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    2. I've heard of that book but didn't read it. Yes, creches are great but you also have to book in advance, almost before you get pregnant lol. For my second child, I hired a state approved nanny who took care of only 2 kids and she was great. But for my Tamil flower, the last nanny I met seemed like she came out straight from my worst nightmare so we are going to use a creche until she can go to school (around 3 years old).

      You say Maya will go to playground in 6 months time, that's great. And of course 2 is a terrible age.

      Take care (Padparadscha)

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    3. Are you OK, Alexandra ? These mother/daughter fights can be so draining.

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    4. @padparadscha - I am doing well now, posting soon about it.

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