My Work-Life Story: 6 Ways to "Buy" Myself a Break

As winner of a writing contest, Valerie W. talks about being a working mom taking care of ailing parents.

Two and a half months into Dad's daily cancer treatments and I was at my wits end. I didn't want to deal with my almost 4-year-old's, "show-mommy-all-my-drama-meltdowns " each time I took her to the sitter's. I was already riddled with guilt for being away from the kids so much and now Dad was taking a turn for the worst. Spring break was a week away, the sitter would be on vacation, Eric, my 6-year-old, would be home as well and every high school sitter we ever used was on a beach somewhere. So, I was schlepping two kids - 6 and 4 - and my Dad (who was having trouble walking to the hospital) for Dad's daily treatment when I decided that I needed sanity and, dang, I was going to buy it.

  1. I Hired a Nanny
    I look back now and I think I hired a nanny (named Laura) for me, not my daughter. It's nice to come home after a long day of work to a house that no longer has the breakfast dishes still on the table. It also allowed me to slow down a bit. I no longer had to beat the bus home after picking up Kaylin at the sitter's. If one of the kids was home with a fever, the nanny would still watch them. Yes, she is more expensive, but my dishwasher is emptied or filled each day, my daughter is less dramatic and Eric is now taking to saying, "That's not how Laura does it."

  2. I Hired a Housekeeper.
    Let's face it no one likes to clean a toilet. Husbands don't know you're suppose to clean it, let alone how to. After I hired a housekeeper, coming home to a clean home provides me with an overwhelming sense of peace in an otherwise crazy, unorganized, take-it-a-day-at-a-time life.

  3. I Stop for Pedicures
    For $30, I'll buy that kind of euphoria.

  4. I Drank Wine on Tuesdays or Wednesdays or...
    Who said a bottle of wine couldn't be opened during the week? I got one of the new airtight caps to re-cork the wine bottle, and now I can have a nice glass of Chardonnay any day of the week.

  5. I Leaned on Girlfriends
    Girlfriends are great therapy. Even though none of my friends in town had ever been through the experience of having a parent die of cancer, they do know how to lend an ear and make those appropriate soothing sounds. And let's face it, girlfriends and Tuesday wine go great together.

  6. I Gave up and Went to Bed Early
    The dishes will wait. The kids have plenty of clean clothes. The cleaning lady is coming eventually. Why not go to bed at 9 p.m? It's allowed. Really.

If it's one thing I have learned this year, it's that in life we all need others at some point. So it's okay to stop and ask for help -- from your boss, a friend, your spouse or even hire it when you need it. My Dad needed me. My kids, of course, need me. But others -- my nanny, my cleaning lady, my husband and my friends -- were all there when I needed them.
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