When my husband and I got married and combined our three kids ages 4 and younger, we knew it didn’t make sense for both of us to work outside the home full time. The hassle of juggling two full-time schedules and a custody schedule on top of that was just too much. And the cost of childcare? Forget about it. We didn’t even consider hiring a nanny. Yet.
Since I had recently quit a job based on location constraints, and my husband already had a full-time job, it was me who withdrew from working outside the home. I transitioned from a full-time career mom to one who stayed home and worked a little. I worked when I could between domestic responsibilities and have slowly built up a steady freelance writing/editing client list in the 4.5 years since. Somewhere between us having another child, and then another child after that, my freelance work skyrocketed. I was still working from home, but doing it full-time (and some weeks working many more hours than my husband).
Though our work loads increased, and so did our children, we continued to stick by the original plan of caring for our kids ourselves. The whole point of being home was to handle the kids, the house, the cooking, the cleaning, yes? Plus, we wanted to save money right? Who can afford hiring a nanny or “maid” anyway?
As last school year wound down, I realized the number of kids in my house most days was going to increase from 2 to 5. I looked at my workload and told my husband I was going to have to drop some clients to be able to properly (or even just mediocrely) take care of the kids during the summer months. When I looked at the jigsaw puzzle that is my writing/editing schedule, I was having trouble figuring out what to let go. I knew that a lot of that work would not be available again once the summer months ended and I feasibly had more time to do it. Plus, I’ve reached a point in my professional career where I genuinely enjoy all of the projects I do. I felt sad when I thought about letting any of it go, especially since there was no guarantee I would replace it with anything as fun or challenging later on.
My husband asked me if it made more financial sense to just hire a nanny for a few hours per week so I could get that work done.
“But I’ll be here. So will you,” I said.
He seemed confused.
So … I ran the numbers and yes. Even at $10 to $12/hour (did I mention that we have five kids?), I would come out ahead on my own work and more importantly, keep that work long-term, by hiring a nanny for 12 to 15 hours per week.
I mentioned the idea of bringing in some help to a neighbor of mine who owns a business and works a lot from home herself. She’s done the search for a supernanny several times and had plenty of tips for me. I didn’t follow up right away on her suggestions but was planning on getting around to it at some point. My neighbor beat me to it, though. She texted that she had an amazing nanny candidate whose schedule just wasn’t going to work with hers, but seemed like it would work with mine.
The candidate stopped by to meet us that day and started the very next morning. I showed her where the snacks were and gave a brief rundown of the rules for electronics.
Before sitting down with my laptop I gave her the most important instruction of all: Keep them away from me.
I explained that in order for me to power through the work I had on the agenda while she was there, I needed as little interruption as possible. If I was paying for the help (I said in my head), I was going to make it worth the cost.
She followed my directions. The kids played with chalk in the driveway. Ate snacks outside. Sat quietly for lunch. She walked the baby after lunch and got her to sleep. She walked my three-year-old after that, and she fell asleep, too. The kids didn’t bother me. At all. I got so much done that I had to look to the next day’s to-do list. The best part? Everyone was happy (or asleep) long after the nanny left when her four-hour shift ended. As the summer went on, I started to refer to this as the “Olivia effect.” Even when she was off the clock, she was helping me out.
My three older kids are back in school now. My three-year-old started morning preschool. I still have Olivia coming a few hours each week though, and another sitter of ours, too. On the days when I can’t get a single work-related thing completed, I take solace in the knowledge that I will have extra hands soon. It is an instant stress reliever. It also means that my husband and I rely less on each other to help with all the child care while the other works. This may seem trivial, but it has lifted a good deal of resentment from our relationship. It also means that there is more time when we are both not working at the SAME time now and we get to spend it as a whole family.
Though I was hesitant at first, I’m glad we finally took the step of hiring a nanny part time. Working from home is NOT the same as staying at home (and I’d argue that even stay-at-home parents can really benefit from a little extra help, too). Paying for help, whether that’s a nanny, a childcare center, or a housekeeper, does not make you a bad parent. It makes you one who values your own time and sanity. It’s also okay to prioritize work over your kids sometimes, especially if you derive joy from that work (and ESPECIALLY if it is an economic necessity in your home).
I’m a prideful person. I also have a tendency to take on more than I really should. Having someone else picking up the slack (who is being paid to do it) has really been a breath of fresh air, and a reminder that I don’t really NEED to do it all.
Do you use any sort of domestic help? What’s your experience been like? Are you considering hiring a nanny?
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