Let’s talk about parental support. By now, we’re all familiar with the Instagram versus reality issue. People who post posed, filtered pictures on the gram when in fact they spent 30 minutes doing their bed-hair, they’ve tossed all their dirty clothes from the floor under the bed, and they’re taking a photo with their foot. With the mom community I feel we have similar issues when it comes to parental support.

Some moms post perfect photos, even when breastfeeding or dealing with a tantrumming toddler or after a so-called sleepless night. Their houses are clean, they’ve just had a shower, their children are wearing clothes – some of it is downright unbelievable. But we know that these photos are, for the most part, staged. I’m okay with this sometimes but as long as it isn’t every post, or if it is acknowledged as such, or if they admit to having help.

I totally believe we need to talk more about how hard motherhood is. But there are moms that make out that they look after their kids, do all kid-related things, do the housework, maintain the household, work themselves, go to the gym and get their nails done. Then they tell us how exhausting motherhood is. Except how much parental support do they really get?

Let’s get real. In South Africa, I can guarantee that the moms I am talking about have help in the house or with childcare. That’s not the issue. I’m the first person to say that parents need help and should accept all the help they can get (which is often harder than we think). Parenting is hard even with help. My problem is when we have this help but we pretend we don’t, which makes it seem like we are doing everything ourselves, which in turn, can make those of use who are struggling to make more than frozen pizza for supper feel even more inadequate.

So in the interest of transparency, let’s talk about ALL the help I get. Because it’s a lot and I couldn’t do this motherhood thing without it. Seriously, if I didn’t have this help I would’ve run away a long time ago, the Beard and I would be divorced and we definitely would not have had a second child. But I have help and I want other people to know that it’s normal to have help, and that it’s ok.

1. the Beard

I have a husband like no other. He is totally hands-on and while he still looks for things like other husbands (ie he cannot see what’s in front of his face), and he snores, if you ever see him with the boys you’ll know what I’m saying.

If I have to work, he’ll happily get both boys up, give them breakfast and take them to school. He’s changed nappies since the day they were born – before me for both of them. He insists on me taking time off to do work or have a bath or, wait for it, spend a night or two away – alone (I know!).

And I know fathers and husbands are totally capable of doing what we do (except for the breastfeeding and supersonic hearing and multitasking capabilities and and and) but he is the greatest partner-in -crime I could ever ask for.

But it’s a partnership. He goes to Joburg for a couple of nights every month. He goes out for dinners. He works late. And then I look after the kids so he can do what he needs to do. Because that’s how a team works.

2. Ester

Ester is the boys’ nanny. She was our domestic worker once a week before we had kids but when I saw how excited she was when I fell pregnant with J I knew she was going to help me with my kids. She has two kids of her own and has been a nanny for many years so I was never worried about her lack of qualifications – experience for the win. I sent her for a First Aid top-up course and happily took her on full-time when J was 6 months old.

What this meant was that I could have more time to work even while I was around to be with J for feeding, putting him down for naps and having hugs (I work from home – highly recommended). I could have a shower and not worry about J crying – which he did all day, every day. I could do grocery shopping without carting around a very unwilling baby who wouldn’t sleep except at home. I could take J to mommy-and-baby groups but Ester could also take him to the park or Nanny ‘n Me.

Then I fell pregnant with Seb and Ester became much more necessary. Being pregnant with a baby who still can’t walk or talk properly (J was 8 months when I fell pregnant) is rough but it was so much better because I could have a nap if necessary or some downtime or have some worktime because I knew J was happy and safe being with Ester.

One thing I think a lot of people underestimate is just the fact of having not only an extra set of hands but an extra mind and another opinion. Especially when you’re so tired you wash your face with shampoo and your hair with facewash it’s so good to have someone to talk to when the baby won’t go to sleep (is he hungry? does he have his doodoo? does he have an ear infection?) because often your mind is not working as it should be. And someone to laugh with about the poo-namis and help you clean up the milk vomit. It’s just that much harder when you’re alone.

Now that the boys are older they know Ester and her family so well that it’s not a problem if we need Ester to babysit on an evening or weekend. During the week if I have a lot of work to do she can look after both the boys quite easily. So I honestly don’t feel like I’m palming my children off because they genuinely have fun with her – and then I’m a much happier mom when I see them again after an hour or two.

Ester was our domestic worker before she became the nanny so she still does cleaning but only when the boys are at school, so when you factor in her teatime and lunch hour that gives her only a couple of hours a day of cleaning! But that just means that the Beard and I do our fair share of hanging up the washing and loading the dishwasher and so on. As I said before, it’s a team effort.

3. Grandparents

God bless grandparents. My in-laws live literally 10 minutes down the road from us. I know this would give a lot of people a panic attack but it is totally the best. They pop in often – every couple of days – and thankfully they are actually helpful (not like a lot of stories I hear). They help with supper/bath/bedtimes; they usually come bearing gifts – food, clothes, flowers, books or toys; and they are always happy to babysit if they’re available.

The great thing is, they’re so good with the kids and so generous with their time that I’ll take any slack that comes with this relationship. Introverted me sometimes struggles a little having such a busy house but I’ve also got to the point where I’m happy to put my laptop away and pour us all a glass of wine when they visit. And because the kids know them so well, Granny will often come and take them to swimming or Ferndale nursery or for ice cream. Hopefully soon we’ll start doing sleepovers!

My parents live an hour outside of Cape Town so not as convenient as the in-laws, but just as helpful. My mom visits often and when she does she’ll stay for a few days (bonus). When Seb was born she stayed for 6 weeks and while it was both amazing and amazingly hard while she was there (#postpartumhormones), I literally cried when she left.

My parents are also incredible with the kids and very creative, so my dad has made some very special toys for the boys and my mom is great with imaginative play with them. We’re now at a very happy stage where we can drop one of the kids off at my parents for a night or two if I need to work on a weekend. This actually works out beneficial for everyone because while the one kid has quality time with us at home, the other has qt with the grandparents.

4. Family

We are very lucky that we live very close to the boys’ uncle and aunt and their cousin. The boys are old enough that they can play nicely with their older cousin and it’s always so easy for the two families to spend time together. As the kids get older, it’s been so lovely to watch them get to know each other.

The boys have two other aunties who sadly live in London. Luckily they visit pretty often and when they do, they love spending time with the boys and the boys absolutely adore them.

two toddler boys and their girl cousin sitting in the garden
Seb (2), Jeremy (3) and cousin Alex (5)

5. Friends

Now, of course, not all friends are helpful when it comes to kids, but there are some special humans who are. The first are those friends without kids who are more than happy to spend time with your kids when they are at your house or even offer to babysit.

Then there are the friends who have kids, who make the best braai guests because they bring playmates for your kids, plus they’re not worried about the untidy houses that only families with kids know. There’s always a range of kiddy-friendly snacks, random toys lying around and always at least one adult to keep an eye on the kids.

We’re even at the stage now where we can start doing drop-off-and-go playdates with friends, which is just next-level parenting. Imagine having time off without feeling guilty that your kids are miserable, because they’re having the best time on a playdate?! Game-changing, I tell you.

So that’s how we manage to do what we do. We have date nights. We go out for dinner with friends. We go to events on weekends. We have nights away. I go away by myself. Dave goes away on boys’ weekends. We stay married. We survive.

We do not do it alone. We have help. And I know we are so lucky to have this help and I am most certainly not going to be the one to say no to whatever help I can get. I am also not going to pretend that I’m doing this all on my own – because that would be so, so hard.

And that’s just us. Other people have au pairs, or more than one nanny, or a nanny and a domestic worker, or creche, or after-care. There are many different options for help for most of us.

So when you see your favourite blogger or instagrammer, freshly-showered and put-together with the clean house doing arts and crafts with her kids before sitting down to a nutritious and delicious dinner – don’t fall for it. She didn’t do it all herself. She. had. help.

Do you have help? If you don’t, are there ways you could ask for more help? Let’s bring back the village when it comes to parenting!