Warning: whining about first-world problems to follow.
Finding consistent childcare has become increasingly more difficult with four children. It’s not that they are hard kids. They are really pretty typical It’s just that collectively . . . four kids are really hard.
Care in point: our nanny just quit. Again.
I should caveat right now and say that we have some occasional babysitters that we absolutely adore. We’ve had some really amazing babysitters over the past six years, and I am so grateful for them. But as I’ve attempted to move into working part-time, it’s been really hard finding a consistent daytime babysitter. We are in a home where we have a backhouse that is a perfect little studio apartment and we’ve bartered rent for childcare with the last few people. The rent is insane in Southern California so an apartment in exchange for part-time work has seemed like a fair trade-off, initially. However . . .
We’ve had three babysitters quit in the last six months. This one really stung because we were so upfront about desire for consistency and commitment. Having someone stay for a while was such a value for us that we scrambled our schedules around our nanny’s finals and graduation and mission trip for a better part of the summer. It was really chaotic but we did it with the hope that this would be a long-term relationship and that the temporary
complete and utter mayhem inconveniences would be evened out by a lasting relationship with this nanny. So when she came home from a month-long trip and told us she was leaving a month later . . . well, you can imagine how we felt about that. And having our kids watch another girl they had bonded with move on . . . well, you can guess how they feel about that, too.
The thing is, though, I can’t even really be mad. I could sit here an feign shock and disappointed but at the end of the day, I get it. My kids are hard. My LIFE is hard. We hired the last two girls to be “family assistants” with clear expectations that the job would entail a little of everything that I would normally do but don’t have time to do, depending on the day. And despite all of the detailed disclosures I gave at the beginning about how much work it’s going to be and all of the menial tasks it would involve, I think it’s just mind-numbingly hard and people are ready to leave screaming after a few months.
The most recent nanny who left mentioned her concerns about the fact that after she worked so hard to clean and organize, everything would be back to it’s messy state within a few days. And that she felt frustrated that she had to spend so much time disciplining the kids that it took away from time just relaxing and having fun with them. And much as I would like to argue, um, yeah, welcome to my world, THOSE ARE THE THINGS WE HIRED YOU TO DO . . . there’s also a part of me that hears it and totally relates. YES. Those things suck. I wouldn’t want to work at a place where those things were my job, either. I often feel trapped by these responsibilities as well.
So now we’re back to the drawing board, a little discouraged, a little beaten down, and a little concerned about the fact that it seems like I can’t even pay someone to do the things I do every day. And we’re only talking two days a week.
Honestly, this has a source of frustration for so long that it feels like something we will never resolve. I’ve grown accustomed to scrambling and disappointing and missing deadlines and finishing my work at 2am. I think I’ve lost a little confidence that life doesn’t need to be like this. Surely we can find someone who will stick it out and who will be happy for the work and committed to my kids, and not running off to apply for a job at the mall after a couple months because that seems easier . . . right?
It’s uncomfortable, this outsourcing thing. And I can’t help but think we are in a weird generation where having “help” is something you attempt to hide, where babysitters expect to come over and do homework on their downtime even though they are still getting paid, and where moms who choose to outsource some of their household tasks feel embarrassed to admit that they do so. Remember Alice, from The Brady Buch? I need her. But that feels like some weird throw-back to a time lost . . . and I struggle with asking my nannies to do any kind of household tasks, even after making it clear in the job description that it would be expected. Asking someone to do my kids’ laundry or wash and cut some fruit or organize a drawer during naptime . . . I always feel a sense that they will be resentful at the request. That they will feel it’s beneath them. That I’m only allowed to outsource the fun stuff. But then I feel resentful when I’ve hired someone and they just get to play with the kids while I do all of the menial tasks. Because I’ve been in that situation plenty – a babysitter in the backyard playing with the kids while I’m inside folding laundry is not a great feeling either. Is it insane to think I can hire someone who is willing to do that part when I want to be the one in the backyard? Now I’m not so sure.
I also think there are some class issues at play here, too . . . and maybe even some cultural issues as well. I’m not really ready to delve into that subject but suffice it to say, recruiting our sitters from a local private college with some implied socio-economic privilege may not be the best way of finding someone with an enthusiastic work ethic. I would like to find someone whose career aspirations are taking care of children, rather than being someone’s stopover on their way to their intended career path.
And the fact is, I was that girl who attended private college and babysat on her way to the intended career path. I now work at that private college. So there’s a bit of a cognitive dissonance in that I want to hire someone unlike myself.
Anyways, this has become a rather long-winded way of saying: We just lost our nanny. Again. It sucks, and I’m not sure what to do. Besides dusting off my Form Letter for Unmet Expectations.
Just a note – the last time I wrote about being a working mom, I had a few well-meaning commenters express sadness and concern that I am not living out God’s intention by being a working mom, so let me be clear: I am not in a situation that needs to be pitied to or to chastised. I feel perfectly content with my decision to work part-time and don’t feel for a second that I am abdicating my role as a mother or a woman by doing so. Nor do I think I am shortchanging the kids. The break is good for all of us, and working has given me a sense of purpose and a nice distraction in what has been a very difficult season. I work for sanity as much as I do for income, and I feel very fortunate that I get to work from home. So while I welcome suggestions for resolving childcare issues, I’m really not looking for admonitions or reprimands about a woman’s role in the home or how this situation is not “God’s design”. Because if you want to throw scripture at me, I’ll point you back to the Proverbs 31 chic pimpin’ her wares at the marketplace. Homegirl had a job, and so do I. Now if only that passage explained where she found her sitters . . .