The other day I nearly set my face on fire.  

My eyebrows and eyelashes were singed. Every hair on my chin and neck was burned away. The baby hairs along my hairline, the ones that accumulate after years of mom buns, were either scorched upon my cheeks or shriveled up against my scalp. A burning sensation took over my eyes that lasted well into the next morning. This was not the relaxing outdoor dinner I had planned.

I was supposed to be paying attention to the grill, making sure I turned on the propane, lit the pilot light, and set the burner levels before walking away. I was NOT supposed to leave the grill unattended, with burners open wide and propane building up under the hood, forgetting to push the pilot light to ignite the grill. I definitely wasn’t supposed to return later to realize my mistake and then decide (regrettably) to push the pilot light, creating a cloud of gassy flames that blew up in my face.  

But I wasn’t thinking about the grill. I wasn’t watching the grill.

I was watching my sons.

I was watching my 7-year-old son in the yard fumbling with a gigantic book on a lawn chair and mumbling loudly that it was being uncooperative. I was watching my 4-year-old son dig in a mulch pile, which is only mulch because six tiny feet and a dog keep stomping on whatever I plant there. I was watching my 2-year-old son climb down the deck stairs, with legs that bow and bend from twisted bones that cause him to tumble down frequently.

I was watching my sons. Making sure no one was running away or bleeding or dying. In return, I forgot the pilot light. I could have killed myself making sure no one else was dying.

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Thankfully, I was lucky. Walking away with fewer brows and lashes wasn’t the end of the world. It’s not ideal, considering the fashion world is raving about bushy brows and sky-high lashes. But I could have burned my face beyond repair or set the entire house on fire. Worse, one of the kids could have been close by. 

I later thought about what might have happened if I HAD been seriously injured. Who would I have called? My fiancé was working, and my family was busy or out of town. Where would I have gone? Everyone else I knew was at work. Why haven’t I done extensive research on burn care knowing my absent mind and history of cooking disasters? I mean really, I’m very accident-prone. 

Directly after the flaming cloud incident, I ensured the grill was off, ran inside to inspect the damage, and rushed back to the backyard to supervise. When three kids were counted and all seemed well, I realized I was visibly shaking. I sat on the deck watching the boys play, waiting for my nerves to calm. Then I remembered–I still had to make dinner. With a heavy sigh, I popped chicken nuggets in the oven for the third time that week. 

I don’t know what I thought being a stay-at-home mom was going to be like, but I didn’t imagine it would include losing my eyebrows. I didn’t realize the constant battles I would be facing just to keep everyone in my house alive. I didn’t consider how lonely it would be or how tired my mind would become. The kind of tiredness that causes you to forget to RSVP or call your best friend or remember your own birthday.

When people ask me for parenting advice, I only have one suggestion to give: Send for help.

Don’t try to do it all on your own. Reach out to those around you and ask for help when you can.

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Being too tired can be dangerous, for your kids and for yourself. I have met countless mothers who love to offer help but refuse to take or ask for it in return. Granted, will be those times when you want to do things yourself, but if someone offers to take your kids for any amount of time, do it.

Take a drive, get a coffee, go to Target. Get the heck out of the house like your life depends on it because someday it may. Your kids and your well-being will thank you for it later. 

If no one offers to help, ask. You don’t have to feel guilty or indebted to those who help. Taking a break from the house and the kids is sometimes the only thing that can get your head back in the game. 

Take it from the mom with crispy eyebrows—accept the help.

Shell Sherwood

Shell Sherwood is a poet, fiction writer, freelancer, and creator of silly children’s stories who could live on coffee, pastries, and romantic tragedies. She lives in Hudson Valley, NY with her fiancé and three boys, and aspires to own a small writing getaway in every climate.