As a psychologist specializing in maternal stress, I have heard many, many versions of this story: moms desperately want a break, are momentarily overjoyed when a well-meaning relative or friend offers to give them one, but then ultimately decide to reject the help, as leaving someone else in charge means that they cannot have total control over their children.
After talking with many mom patients about this issue, I’ve given it a name: “The Gift Horse Problem,” named for the old proverb, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” Moms look in the (metaphorical) mouths of these well-meaning people who are offering them help, decide that these hypothetical helpers’ bathing/lullabye singing/meal selection skills are not up to snuff, and refuse the help.
The end result of the Gift Horse Problem? Moms never get a break.
I talk and write all the time about the importance of self-care for moms. I think it is absolutely critical that moms take some time off from childrearing, even if it means that their kids will have a little vacation from their regular schedule for an hour or two (or even a day or two!)
Here’s the bottom line: if you are lucky enough to receive a babysitting offer, and you know that the potential babysitter will provide your child with TLC and keep your child safe and secure, by all means, say “yes” to that babysitter! And use your time off to get some much-needed rest, which will ultimately help you parent more effectively. Your kid will survive if he eats candy or goes to bed at 10 pm or watches 3 hours of TV.
Have some experiences with “gift horses?” Please share in the “comments” below!