white flag

The muchy muchness of two knocked me totally on my back last week. I could not seem to refresh, no matter what I did. Conversation at the playground usually does it. Or sunshine. Maybe a podcast and a pastry treat on the way home. But not last week. Their needs seemed to be growing like basil on the windowsill—long, droopy tendrils reaching out to brush you, desperate for water every time I looked over. Joan is wrapped around my ankle as much as she can be. She’s having a tough month, and it means crying, lots of it. My shoulders would tighten in anticipation of her frustrated outbursts that seemed at random–in the stroller, on the ground, in the carrier, in the highchair, feeding, not feeding, napping, not napping.

She is weaning too, so the oxytocin I’ve been running on is easing its foot off the gas pedal and I’m putt putt putting down the road, gravel kicking up underneath. I’m craving chocolate, pasta, cheese, watermelon, pretzels. Constantly hungry but never appetized. Hormones, yes, and flavors too, rushing in to fill the empty tank.

I only ever bought one bottle. Plastic, BPA-free naturally. Used it for Lux, and Joan. A token bottle of formula, every week or so, for an evening out or to sooth a long car ride–wonderful. I’m indebted to that formula. It was a tough month or two with Joan back when she refused formula because I never felt confident leaving her for more than a couple hours. By the way, where were you the day BPA-free died? I was sitting in the park, chatting with a friend, who mentioned in a ohdidyouhear voice that BPA-free had been found to be worse than BPA itself. We have few confidences as modern parents, and that was one silly one that felt good to get right.

All my posts here should be headed with an italicized caveat of this is how I feel this week ONLY. Like that post about getting things done with two–it’s still true. But this is the flipside, and the flipside just flipped, with a vengeance. I do not have this figured out. I do not know the secret. I don’t know how to write an email when my children are talking to me. I don’t know how to talk on the phone when they are in the room. I don’t know what to do when I have no family nearby and all my friends are as equally and wonderfully yoked as I, and I am so. tired.

I think it was Tuesday when I told Joe I’d rather have an empty savings account than feel the way I do, and asked if I could get some help. How did I feel? Mean, angry, crazy. On the outside was one mom who could calmly handle cleaning peanut butter off the floor for the fifth time while one fussed in my ear like a buzzing fly and one jumped on and off my back. But on the inside was a bird about to fly the coop, for good. The bird was the trouble because the bird is a very real part of me that needs some time to shimmer in the sun.  A couple hours to flick drops of water back onto my feathers and pick among the bushes for a red berry.

So bring on the avalanche of applications for the job from sweet, educated, athletic, thoughtful women. I’ve read almost twenty so far and I can tell you, this voting group is doing well. Thriving. There are lots of them. I can see in an instant that my girls’ lives would be enriched by hanging out with any of them, and yet deep in my heart, I am skeptical. It sounds a tad hypocritical doesn’t it? To self-identify as feeling crazy and hassled, and yet to believe that no one else can be trusted with your children.

I have a friend who gets a lot of help. So I asked her, it must take a lot scheduling to figure all that out? She shrugged. “It just takes a lot of ‘That isn’t how I would have done it, but oh well, it’s getting done.'” Ahhhh my handicap. Why I never would have made management, had I aspired. No one else will know how to handle a toddler, a stroller, a diaper bag, and a city street corner. No one can listen carefully to Lux and respond with the right mix of affirmation and information. No one else will remember to replace “good job!” with “look at all those things you did!” ….You see what I mean about the silly things it feels good to get right. Right by your definition, and important pretty much only to you. The girls would do well with a little of the un-devoted no-nonsense I see doled out on the playground by nannies.

What is that magic number of hours? Three hours a week? Six maybe? That’s what I’m hoping. Honestly all I want is enough time to walk away so I can enjoy walking back to them. And yes, I admit, enough time to write down a few sentences so I can remember all this at some future date that I’ve been promised will exist.




  • Erica Baker

    I am not a mom yet, but I so appreciate your honestly and transparency in parenting. I don’t know much about being a mom, but this post shows what a good one you are. Admitting you need help is such a scary thing, but it’s a step I think more mom’s should take. I applaud you and hope that your new search continues well. It take a village right?

  • bridget

    Rachael, this post is so, so good. This line: To self-identify as feeling crazy and hassled, and yet to believe that no one else can be trusted with your children.

    I identify with that SO MUCH. There are times when I think, “I can’t stand another moment of this right now, I need some time.” But I am such a control freak, I can’t imagine handing the reins over. Is it control? Is it just so much love for them? What is it? The first must be broken but the second isn’t a bad reason to not want to leave, right? Am I making sense?

    Always love your words.

    • Rachael Ringenberg

      Natural inborn Mama-bear suspicion of others + feeling confident that we DO do it well. And yet that moment when you realize your child behaves totally different with another person…it can be great one.

  • Julie

    Sometimes I find that just knowing there’s a solution (i.e., there are lots of lovely young women who *could* take on a bit of childcare duties) is enough to take the edge off, even if you don’t move forward with it. The unknown landscape beforehand where it’s only a problem is where that helpless icky-ness lies.

  • Katrina Harrington

    Your writing! This is so good, and I completely relate. I wrote a post about struggling a bit ago, and you captured exactly what I wanted to. Thank you for writing this! I struggle with the same things including automatically thinking no one else can do it how I want to. We won’t be in the position for outside help for a while, but I am much better at seizing a break when Chris is around rather than thinking in the only one who can do it just right.

    Thank you for this! I hope you find the perfect person and number of hours.

      • Rachael Ringenberg

        Just found your post. Control–I didn’t even get into it here, but that’s definitely what can make my stomach lurch at 8am–I think I have no control over this situation. Reading it in someone else’s life–I can totally see the things you’re nailing and the tiny things that are naturally overwhelming. We gotta be easy on ourselves.

  • Meghan

    “To self-identify as feeling crazy and hassled, and yet to believe that no one else can be trusted with your children.” I think this perfectly captures the real struggle of being home with young children — knowing that it’s such important and critical work, and sometimes being utterly worn down by the unrelenting exhaustion of it, and still feeling such reluctance and guilt to hand it all over to someone else because it IS so important.

    Weeks (months) like the one you’re having are so horrible. I always know things are getting rough when I find myself looking at preschools on Yelp, spending late nights on, and daydreaming about a job where I could sit at a desk with a latte and have drinks with colleagues after work instead of wrangling a kicking toddler through the grocery store.

    I don’t have much advice, unfortunately, apart from the golden rule of parenting that this too shall pass. In the interim, I might suggest a good novel for the evenings, plenty of stiff cocktails, carryout for dinner after the kiddos are asleep, and taking time away for yourself when you can on weekends.

    And also, whatever choice you make — a nanny, a babysitter, no help at all — it’ll be the right choice for you and for the girls.

  • Julie

    I recently had a conversation with a priest (that alone was out of the ordinary) and he asked me if I feel guilty taking my daughter to daycare… *absolutely not*. ‘And what about when you have two [next month]?’ I replied that I would enjoy dropping two of them off even more. To get all Chicago everyone needs a little time away… for me, that’s 40 hours a week and for others none and for some five. I never thought I would think of my career as a mental health respite but it’s become that — and respites are so, so necessary.

  • Erin Clifford

    I always say that distance really does make the heart grow fonder. A cliche but an appropriate one when talking about (in my case an almost 3 year old and a 15 month old).
    Someone once told me to remember that we can change our minds, that nothing needs to be set in stone. That we can try things out and see what works, what doesn’t, make changes and figure it out and not to expect that it will last forever, it will be a continuing process to address our family’s continually changing needs. I need to remember that more often.

    • emma

      Yes! My wise mama friend always says to me when I’m tearing my hair out, ” I am prescribing a little missing-your-daughter for you.” It ALWAYS works.

  • Jessica Clare

    Well once again, I’m chiming in on a child post as a childless. But, before I was a preschool teacher I was a nanny for many years, so I would be happy to offer any thoughts or insights from the nanny side of this issue! And for what’s it worth, when I was a nanny I was strict, but loved those little nuggets more than I ever thought I could, and was almost always asked if I was the mom, to your point about the un-devoted no-nonsense comment. I do see those type of nannies, but there are others out there too 🙂

    • Rachael Ringenberg

      Honestly, childless is probably giving you a much better perspective on all of this! But yes, you are so right, there are many many others out there! I think of you, Anna Burns, my younger brother’s girlfriend…wonderful women giving freely to the children in front of you. Thank you for that.

      • Jessica Clare

        You and the all the babes I’ve cared for are more than welcome. And again I’m happy to help if I can! Prayers and positives vibes to you, I know whatever you chose will be right for you and your family.xo

  • Erin

    Thank you, in that I know I will have months like this in my future, and reading this will have helped. As someone who was given the opportunity to nanny/sit for some very wise women, I have to say, they helped me as much as I could have possibly helped them. Perhaps it was because I was so young (how did they know I could do it?), but they taught me many things and I like to think I reminded them that sometimes kids just need to play and learn from someone they don’t see every day. Not because that person is wiser, or better-able, or educated in child development, but because they have a set of fresh ideas for the doll house and the energy to play the monster game just one more time.

  • emma

    how do you always do this so well, the putting down on paper (Internet) how hard it can be? I am so glad to have these posts to read, to make me feel a little less crazy. so thanks for writing them.

    I have a lot of help (with only one!) and dude, trust when I say that coordinating it all is a part time job in itself but, like you said, worth it. for me it’s 15-20 hrs/week. for some women it’s 40, right? we love love love our babysitter who has never had a job with kids before and is exactly the same age as me – to the month.

    not that you need it but you have my blessing on this few hours a week to yourself business.

  • Beck

    When I was overwhelmed with my baby a friend told me that the time to spend money on support (whatever that means for you) is in the baby’s first year or so. It has been true for me – and it has also evolved over time. At first the money went to take-out food and grocery delivery, then to a housekeeper, then a nanny-share, and now a babysitter who comes over and studies after my toddler goes to sleep so I can go to a show or a movie or just a walk. My ability to juggle any household tasks seems to constantly evolve as my son also grows to participate in and enjoy things such as cleaning up and going to the grocery store.

  • jolie

    I am notoriously bad at keeping up with blogs, but always, always love when I make my way back to yours.

    I don’t have two kids yet, but STILL have these white flag moments with the work schedule Sean is on (I like to call it the Single Parenting work schedule.) and the same feelings of, “I need help!” combined with, “But no one can do it like me!” My MIL comes once a week for a few hours and it changed my life. Seriously, just those few hours of leaving and re-entering can re-charge me for a good week. Sometimes I just drive to Wendy’s and sit in the parking lot staring while I smash into a cheeseburger and a root beer in silence. Then I might get my grocery shopping done or wander aimlessly through Target. Shockingly good therapy.

    Recently it got to a point with Brim where it was just spilling out of my ears. I couldn’t find enough time to get it all done and I felt like I was constantly herding Rosie to do SOMETHING BESIDES TOUCH ME AND WHINE so I could work. So, I hired a friend once a week to take her for the day. I felt every feeling you could imagine about doing it, but in the end it’s good for both of us, and that’s what I rehearse to myself when I’m feeling — well, fill in the blank (anxious, sad, hovery, guilty).

  • mary_lenaburg

    I think time away is necessary to maintain your sanity, especially with little ones. Trust me you will feel better once you have established a schedule for your helpers. Good luck Mama. I will send up a prayer that all goes very well.

  • Amy Garro

    Unfortunately I don’t have the help anymore, but back when I was writing a book, I had 4 hours a week (occasionally 8, when it was twice a week) I was shocked – SHOCKED, I tell you – at how amazing it was. Just 4 hours. You deserve it, mama 🙂

  • joannabc

    Good job, Rachael! Wait, what’s wrong with good job?

    (Been meaning to post this comment for weeks, and am reminded to do it every time I tell my son, “good job!” But, like you, I cannot write an email (or blog comment) in the presence of my child to save my life.)

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