My Dirty Secret of New Motherhood? I Couldn't Bear the Stress of Doing My Own Laundry
Like many new mothers, I was the perfect mother right up until I became a mom in real life. I was an expert in the world of parenting. I read every baby book, prepped frozen meals for myself, and was totally prepared for what was to come.
My baby clearly did not read the same baby books that I did. She did not follow a schedule, only took 45-minute naps, and didn't sleep through the night until she was 3 years old. With no family close by and a husband who practically lives in his office, I was drowning — especially when she was a newborn. There seems to be an unspoken stigma associated with getting extra help in the house — especially for a woman who is on maternity leave and not working outside of the home. Though some people in my life suggested I pay for an extra set of hands, the thought originally brought on feelings of being a mom failure. I've seen countless friends manage a baby without appearing to have any trouble. I should be able to do the same, right?
Then one morning, I stepped out of the shower and realized that I had no clean underwear to put on for the day. My laundry pile was more like a laundry mountain, and the thought of doing a load was literally too much for me to handle. I stared at my laundry basket and burst into tears. I still feel ashamed admitting to this, but it's the truth — laundry made me cry. I was so blessed with a healthy daughter, a supportive job and husband, and an uneventful pregnancy. Yet, the thought of doing a load of laundry on top of my severe exhaustion, colicky baby, and overall postpartum emotions broke me. It didn't help that I've seen so many women manage basic household chores on their maternity leave like a boss. I felt like I wasn't hacking it as a mom. In my head, I had one healthy baby and my only responsibilities were keeping this new baby alive and maintaining basic personal hygiene standards (clean underwear included). Sow why couldn't I handle something as simple as putting clothes in a machine, pushing a button, and folding them when the timer dinged? The truth is, I was just too overwhelmed and exhausted, and I felt ashamed that I couldn't handle such a simple task. I was a rockstar in my 9-to-5 job, but I thought I was failing momming 101.
While messing around online while my daughter was in the middle of a midnight nursing session, an ad popped up for a local company that would pick up my dirty clothes and do a wash-fold-deliver situation the next day. I took it as a sign (or an indication that Google can hear my thoughts), and without hesitation, I signed up. I swallowed my pride and admitted that I could not handle finishing the simple task of washing and folding underwear right now. As I said it out loud to my husband, I expected him to judge or tease me. Instead, he gave me a one-word answer: "OK." Starting this service helped me breathe. It was one less thing I had to juggle.
But I felt like I couldn't say that out loud, so I hid it from many friends. I knew some of my friends couldn't afford the extra cost of sending laundry out, and I felt like sharing my laundry secret was throwing my privilege in their faces. Other friends had their acts together so much (they actually brushed their hair before they left the house!) that I was insecure about how they would react to my failures.
Looking back, I wish I outsourced more and didn't care about what other people thought. I also wish that I shared my dirty little secret with my friends, regardless of what they thought. Perhaps sharing that I couldn't do it all would help another friend get extra help without feeling guilty about it. Or maybe a friend was looking at me wondering how I was managing my baby while always having clean clothes to wear. It wasn't fair of me to create and perpetuate the image that I was keeping up with my own laundry to other moms who were in the trenches with me. In retrospect, had I gotten even more help, I would have had more time to do things like wash my hair or enjoy longer cuddle sessions with my daughter. What this experience taught me is that all people care about is that mom and baby are OK. The details of how that happens is just details, and quite frankly, nobody's business.