Celeste Erlach just needed a little sleep.
The letter and its plea for help grew out of a frustrating moment for both her and her husband. Erlach wanted to go to bed early, and the baby was wailing. So she asked her husband to watch him so she could get some rest.
As Erlach wrote, the baby was inconsolable, and her mom instincts made her question whether she should go help or get that badly-needed sleep. She chose to sleep, but it wouldn't last long:
You came into the room 20 minutes later, with the baby still frantically crying. You placed the baby in the bassinet and gently pushed the bassinet just a few inches closer to my side of the bed, a clear gesture that you were done watching him.
Exhausted, frustrated, and desperate for a bit of rest, it was all she could do not to lose her temper:
I wanted to scream at you. I wanted to launch an epic fight that very moment. I had been watching the baby and the toddler all damn day. I was going to be waking up with the baby to feed him all damn night. The least you could do is hold him for a couple of hours in the evening to I can attempt to sleep.
The problem, as Erlich sees it, is that both she and her husband come from families with caring, but hands-off fathers and “superwoman” mothers. Their moms cooked, cleaned, and took care of the children. And their dads helped infrequently— and weren't expected to do much of the child care.
Now, Erlich told her husband, she can see them falling into the same roles. Even though she's going back to work, she's still expected to manage the house, the cooking, and the children. And she's partially responsible for that expectation:
I blame myself for most of it too. I have set the precedent that I can do it. And in truth I want to. No offense, but I'm not sure I want to know what a week's worth of dinner would look like with you in charge.
The difficult part is that Erlich has seen other moms, including their own and her friends, handle all of the responsibilities with grace. She doesn't know whether other moms struggle in secret and whether their moms have just forgotten how hard it was.
Whatever the explanation — and Erlich is willing to consider the possibility that she just can't handle things as well as other women — there's only one conclusion: she needs more help.
But she also feels bad for making the request:
Part of me feels like a failure for even asking. I mean, you do help. You are an amazing father, and you do a great job with the kids. And besides, this should come easy to me, right? Motherly instincts, no? But I'm human, and I'm running on five hours of sleep and tired as hell. I need you.
As Erlach explains, she needs someone who can help get the toddler ready in the morning so she can get lunches made and coffee drunk. She needs her husband to deal with the fussy baby for an hour or so at night so she can decompress. She needs breaks and times when she can feel like a person again.
Even when she seems to having things under control, she wants her husband to notice and offer to help ... especially without prompting. Most of all, she wants him to recognize what she does and how valuable it is to their family:
I need to hear you're grateful for all I do. I want to know that you notice the laundry is done and a nice dinner has been prepared. I want to know you appreciate that I breastfeed at all hours and pump when I'm at work when it would be easier for me to formula feed. I hope you notice that I never ask you to stay home from your networking events and sport activities. As the mom, it's assumed I'll be home all the time and always available to care for the kids while you're out and I feed that assumption by, well, being home all the time.
Erlach concludes by admitting that this isn't what their parents did. And she says “I hate even asking” for the help and wishes she could handle it all and didn't need to get “kudos for doing what most people expect from a mom.”
But that's beside the point. She needs help because “if I keep going at the pace I've been on, I will break.” And that won't just be bad for her, but also for him, their children, and their family:
“Because, let's face it: you need me, too.”