One of the first lessons all parents learn is that you cannot raise a child on your own. Having both been a stay home mom and now a working mom, I have found that to be true on both accounts. I remember with my first two children when I first made the decision to stay home, almost everyone I knew expected me to get rid of the house help. I really didn’t understand why they would assume staying home and raising your children is synonymous to housework. I didn’t get it then and I still don't get it now. Now that I am back to work (albeit in a baby friendlier environment and literally next door), I realise that a good nanny is a Godsend.
I remember a news article a couple of weeks back about the role of the house help in running the home. It raised quite a storm, at least around my circles, as most people felt that women had abdicated their role as mother, and sometimes wife, to the maid. Whereas I think that for some that is the true reflection of their home, I also know that that is not a blanket truth for all women, working or otherwise. But that is a discussion for another day.
What I do know is that with a small baby and a home to run, hired help becomes a real need. Whether it is for a few hours, a day help or a live in, the hired help provides a needed break, more so for a mother. Hence the great prayer request and discussion topic; ‘help, my nanny is driving me insane’.
With both TJ and Toriah I was blessed to have the same lady work with us for more than 10 years. She was, like my cousin likes to say, my wife. I guess in the same way that a wife is biblically supposed to be her husband’s greatest help. We got along like a house on fire and when she completed school and went on to be a kindergarten teacher, I was happy for her but felt great loss. Then began the search for the next person … drama galore! Needless to say, it was an uphill task. After the seventh person my husband Tony found me in the room crying, “Am I such a horrid person that nobody gets to stay?” I asked amidst the tears. “My house feels like a public toilet with all the people going through my bathroom.” Amazing that was what bugged me the most, all those people walking in and out of my house and using my toilet. But then again I can be quite germ-phobic if there is a word like that.
Finally I got one that looked like a match. Like me she is obsessed with cleaning and is quite fast on her feet. We have had our moments but right now after close to a year, we have finally gotten a rhythm that works. One of the many lessons I learnt in my search however was to appreciate that whoever came could never fill the shoes of my former help. She was gone, I needed to move on and be open to invest my time, money and friendship with someone else. It was unfair to keep judging the new person using the old. Once this truth sank in, I was able to be more flexible. The second thing I learnt is that I needed to be very clear about what it was exactly that I needed; was it a nanny to look after the baby, was it someone to clean, etc. Narrowing it down made it easier and fairer to the hired help and to myself. I realised that keeping a clean space was very important to me and that once I resumed work, that moved down the list and watching Thayu became the priority. For me keeping the environment clean meant you care enough for the children to minimise opportunities for infections. Also it meant that I had no choice but mother my own children. Intentionally I made myself know that every time she took time out to do something for the older boys or watch the baby when I was home, she was actually doing me a favour. This has not only kept me engaged but has helped me appreciate the difficulties in maintaining a clean space and a happy baby. It has made me not begrudge her her days off and more importantly appreciate all the effort she puts in her job. Trust me, for a control obsessive compulsive person like myself that is no mean feat.