Last week I revealed on Instagram that we’ve had a nanny since T2 was born. She works part-time in the mornings and when she is here I do all of the things that are infinitely harder (or impossible) with two children. Grocery shopping, haircuts, blogging, wasting time on Facebook, working out, errands, making myself lunch. On Wednesdays I pack up the kids and we go on adventures around the Bay because I’m not stressing about the mountain of things on my to-do list.
Having help makes me a better parent.
We talk frequently about how hiring her is one of the best investments we’ve ever made. When That Husband comes home on the weekends he can go to work on Saturday (without me feeling overwhelmed at the thought of managing the kids all by myself for yet another day) and we can spend time together as a family on Sunday. Otherwise I’d constantly be handing the kids over to him and declaring that it was his turn. There would be little to no couple-time or family-time. It has been the best possible thing we could do for our marriage and stress levels after having another baby.
I don’t reflect on the experience without constantly thinking about how lucky we are. There are plenty of families who do much more than we are without any help at all. I know having any paid childcare help is a great luxury, and I am very grateful for that.
Having a nanny means being selective about the festivals or theme parks we go to, or packing a lunch instead of eating out, but those are choices I am more than happy to make in exchange for the smooth transition we’ve had into a family of four. Our time with her is drawing to a close due to our early-June moving date and we are all going to be so sad to see her go! She has been a special part of our family the past few months.
I do want to make one thing clear though, that my situation (husband who travels M-Th every week without fail) is nothing like being a single mom. Or an army wife or any other equivalent situation. Every week my husband comes home late on Thursday night, kissing me goodnight before he collapses into bed. Friday evenings we curl up on the couch and watch Game of Thrones together and talk about our plans for the weekend. When I call he is almost always able to pick up, and lets me vent as long as I’d like when it’s been a particularly rough day. We have all of our needs and most of our wants met without any objection from him or fighting between the two. When he is able to be home with us, he is my partner, pitching in 50% (and often more because I am a great procrastinator and often selfish about my time).
I had deliberately not talked about having a nanny* in a public way because I felt guilty; or maybe it was that I was ashamed. I’m not sure which was the root cause for my silence. Without realizing it I had bought into the idea that the best kind of mother is one that does everything herself. I knew that talking openly about having a nanny would invite criticism (especially when I am not employed outside the home, living in a society that makes empty proclamations about how important motherhood is while simultaneously attacking any woman who dares to voice why running a household and raising children is difficult for her), but I was surprised by the amount of support I received. I laughed out loud when @itsthelinda said “Thanks for sharing your secret! I couldn’t figure out how you’re so productive with two. I only have one and barely survive most days lol.” Me? No, seriously, me, Jenna Andersen? Most days I go to bed wondering how I managed to do so little yet again, attempting to tally what I did do so I can stop mentally flogging myself for my weaknesses and wasted time.
This reaction reminds me of the way I felt after I admitted to some friends that I had hired someone to clean our house as we approached the birth of T2. Not a single one of them was shocked because they all had regular house cleaning services as well. Their non-reaction certainly says something about the socioeconomic status of some of my closest friends, but I think it also is a product of the culture we live in. I thought I was admitting some great deficiency on my part, and it turns out I was revealing how completely normal I am.
Of course talking about getting help (childcare or housecleaning or any other attempt to outsource responsibilities related to being a wife/mother) opens me up to attack, which is no surprise to anyone at this point. The criticism is summed up nicely on a later photo where I mentioned my desire for a mother’s helper in the afternoons/evenings so I can pack up the house over the next two weeks. “Why not be an actual mom?” troll-that-doesn’t-deserve-to-be-named wanted to know.
I refuse to let you (internets, trolls, etc) make me think the only way to “be a mother” is to force my tasks, goals, dreams, ambitions, desires, and priorities to be wholly subsumed by my children. That I am only adequate at my role as their primary caregiver if I am hardly (or never) separated from them. You want to turn me into the standard bearer for The Mother Who Can’t Do It All? Fine by me, but I’ll do you one better. Hand me my sash because I am proudly going to wear the title of Ms. Can’t-Do-Most-Of-It. (I’ve already got the tiara sitting on a shelf at my mom’s house due to my high school pageant days.) If I lived next to family I would be asking for their help on a weekly basis (daily?). That’s not an option here, and so where I can afford it I’m going to outsource wherever I can. I’m going to send my children to school instead of homeschooling (not only because it’s a great environment for them to learn and grow, but also because I enjoy a break from them), buy my vegetables pre-cut from the grocery store, find a way to have once-a-month housekeeping work within our budget, and hire a babysitter whenever I feel I need one.
I am Ms. Can’t-Do-Most-Of-It and proud of it. Join me. I’ll even let you try on my tiara.
*Another post entirely could be written about how loaded that word is. If I called her a babysitter no one gives a fig. But in America the word nanny is a loaded term, only acceptable if certain conditions are met.