Hiring Community

I have two children. Pretty much everywhere I go, they come with me. They come to the grocery store, the post office, the bank and the mechanic. They’re like my little shadows, trailing after me whether they want to or not.

Sometimes it’s not them trailing after me, it’s me trailing after them. I take them to school, I take them to soccer, I take them to the dentist and the doctor and the park. I am OK with this – it’s what I signed up for when I became a parent. I have children, I take my children places. Sometimes I take my children out of places. Sometimes they are kicking and screaming when this happens. That is just the deal.

I have this romantic idea that I should be able to fit all of my obligations around my kids. I think that surely, if I prioritize and work efficiently, I can get it all in. I can have a not-totally-filthy house, I can get dinner on the table at a reasonable time, I can get in some hours of paid work and some time writing my book proposal and I can do a craft with my kids and have time to decompress so that I don’t get too worn down. It’s just a matter of being on my game, right?

Swings are fun!
Look, I took my kids to the park!

I haven’t had a lot of luck. It seems my game doesn’t leave room for impromptu outings or sick kids or sick me. It doesn’t account for the day that I spend at a conference or the fact that I need to drop everything and wipe up some pee yet again or that I have a critical project to finish for a client. My game assumes an ‘average’ day with nothing extra on top. And guess what? There are no ‘average’ days.

For all that I love spending time with my kids, they aren’t super-helpful when I have stuff to do. I try to find whatever free time I can – I work when Hannah’s at kindergarten, I work while they watch a movie, I work on weekends and after they go to bed at night. And still, I don’t get my work finished. There are only so many hours in a week, and when I spend 21 of those hours mediating arguments and 17 of those hours debating clothing choices and 15 of those hours cleaning one room while my kids make a mess in another, I start to run out of hours.

Making off with balloons
My kids making off with balloons that were supposed to be party decorations

This is just basic physics. And I say this is someone who’s spent a lot of time in physics classes. More time than I would have liked, quite frankly. But I got an engineering degree out of it, so it’s not all bad. But the engineering degree’s not the point. The point is that I know physics and I say that you can’t get blood from a stone, or sufficient working time when you have a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old to take care of.

I realize I am no different than any other mom. We all have too much to do and not enough time to do it. And we all have our coping strategies and our game plans. Some of them work well, at least some of the time. Some of them don’t. Sometimes we all long for an outing where no one has a temper tantrum and we don’t have to explain why you shouldn’t point at someone and yell, “Look at that man! Why is he so hairy, Mama?!?!”

Children at the park
More park time

Knowing that I’m not alone is not really helpful. The reality is that I’m not going to magically become super-productive while two kids scale the back of the chair I’m trying to work in. If I want to get something done, I need help. And so I decided to hire some. We put an ad on Craigslist, and found Wonder Nanny. She comes two mornings a week and plays with my children while I work. The kids love her. I love her. I am not feeling as overwhelmed. It is awesome.

In a different time, I would live in a multi-generational community, where I would trade childcare with other adults and have back-up when I needed it. Here and now, I don’t have that. So I have hired my ‘community’. I will admit, I feel sort of awkward. I’m worried that now anything I accomplish will be followed with the caveat, “Well, you know, she has a nanny.” It feels … I don’t know. Like I shouldn’t need the help, or something.

I do need the help, though. I’ll admit it. This is my life, working at home with two kids, and I am doing my best. I am giving myself space so that I can be with my kids when I’m with my kids, and I can work when I need to work. Plus, twice a week Wonder Nanny walks the kids up Nightmare Hill to kindergarten. In the tenuous balance that is my life, things have shifted in my favour. Although, now I have to be productive with my kid-free time. Wish me luck with that, will you?

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  1. Just yesterday I had to phone a friend to take my child because I was ill. I feel so lucky that I live in a place where I can just pick up the phone. I can trade kids normally at the drop of a hat. I know that I have numerous options for help if need be. It is a wonderful feeling finally to have. There is nothing wrong with needing to make the time to get stuff done.

  2. That sounds like a wonderful solution for you to get some work done!
    Tanya’s last post … Super MomMy Profile

  3. While I would feel the same weird, defensive half-guilt, I would recognize that I shouldn’t, and you shouldn’t either. I had Angus in day care one morning a week and Eve in one day a week and I wasn’t getting paid for anything. My husband travels a lot and your husband works a lot and being at home with two little kids is hard. There are harder things, but so what? If it helps and you can afford it, screw anyone who disapproves (which is fine since they’re mostly imaginary). I love picking my kids up at school, and yet the odd day when my Mom or Dad does it I feel giddy with freedom. Routine is good. Routine with no variation ever is soul-killing. You’re saving your soul — who’s going to argue with that?

  4. Amber, you know where I with recent changes in our family balance. Despite going part-time and next resigning (eek 3 weeks time), our daughter will still go to preschool, not on extended days like she did when I was full time, but we’re still going to bedrawing upon our “community” to help us with socialization and play. No guilt.
    Tepary’s last post … BlogLove VIMy Profile

  5. Congratulations on setting up something that works for you and your family. I had something like that for a while, then I didn’t, and now I do again. It is blissful, and calming, and makes me better able to deal with everything else, including the children. Well done, Amber. 🙂

  6. Yes, I woke up from that little daydream about a year ago and realised that childcare is the only way to achieve anything other than matched socks and a stacked dishwasher. I have no family close by so there are no trade-off days. If you do listen to the ‘movers and shakers’ in the mompreneur world you hear them let slip the word ‘nanny’ or ‘daycare’ or betray it all by talking about scheduling quality time at the weekends – then you know that they are not fitting in little tasks around naptimes or movies or childish goodwill. They have paid help, they buy their village, they pay for the privilege of working from home … and they’re not stupid.

    Therefore it really rankles me when, in interviews, there is not one mention of contracting out the parenting to a paid source. Somehow the rest of us mums are meant to believe that you can have it all.

    Bollocks and bullshit! No woman was ever meant to mother 24/7 anyway – then add in a work-from-home business on top? Ha ….. every mum needs help so no guilt required. Enjoy your nanny 🙂
    pomomama’s last post … friday forte- the letting go editionMy Profile

  7. Good luck!

    I think one of the hardest lessons I am learning is how to ask for help when I need it. I find it extremely hard to admit when I’m feeling overwhelmed and need help. I feel like I should be able to handle everything since this is the life I chose, and so many people have it WAY harder than I do, but I’m starting to understand that we all need help at times and there is no shame in admitting that. Thanks for sharing, Amber!

  8. Good move! It’s not like you hired her to watch your kids while you paint your nails or go shoe shopping… you’re working! I work outside the home, but I’ve had a few occasions when I didn’t have childcare for a day so I decided to “work from home”. It didn’t work. It’s impossible to concentrate on paid work when you have a kid (or two) at home with you. It was for me anyway. I’m glad you found your own community, your own support system. Yay!
    ShannonL’s last post … Im still here!My Profile

  9. I recently went through the same thing. We hired a lady to come every Friday for 4 hours so I can get a break, or work, or both. It has been great! In a perfect world I (and you) would have a support system. Seeing as how my closest family is 12 hours away and hubby works long hours I get a lot of kid time. Nice to have mom time, even if it is for work! Good for you!
    Kim’s last post … The Quest for the Perfect Nursing BraMy Profile

  10. That is so great!! I’m so glad that this is working for you. You really don’t have to feel apologetic or that you have to justify your decision. Moms who work out of the home aren’t expected to try to work with their kids jammed in their office cubicle with them – why should you be expected to??

    The best balance I achieved in the kids/mom/working at home juggling act was when I had a babysitter watch my son 4 mornings a week. It meant that I could get work done without being resentful if he woke up from his nap early, without snapping at him if he asked for a drink every five minutes, and without staying up too late at night. It meant that when I was with him, I really was WITH him, not trying to do something else. Our afternoons together were lovely because I felt that I had been productive in the morning and because I was able to nurture my own adult spirit without feeling like it was at my son’s expense. Plus, because the babysitter was at our house, I could still comfort my son if he got hurt, or have a snack with him when I needed a break from work. I absolutely adored it! I yearn for that now.
    BluebirdMama’s last post … Perpetual CalendarMy Profile

  11. Good for you for following your heart and doing what is necessary to find more balance in the hard but wonderful job of being a work at home Mom.
    Wendy Irene (Give Love Create Happiness)’s last post … The Power of SupportMy Profile

  12. Man you do a lot. I have 2 and half days of childcare and I still manage to be highly unproductive. But I love that Theo gets one-on-one dedicated time from his granddad 2 days a week, and if he’s with my neighbour, he plays not stop with her kids getting a full dose of what being part of a big family is like. I don’t beleive that we as mothers are necessarily the BEST people for our kids 24/7. Sometimes they get a lot out of other people, especially if they are actually focussed on THEM.

    Anyway congrats!

  13. Hooray for wonder nanny! That’s great that you have some help. Especially walking up that hill, from the sound of it, I would be exhausted after that journey too.

    I am in an unusual situation, in that we live upstairs from my parents. We are so lucky to have them and they do help out with Ari a lot. But I cannot even imagine what it’s like to not have a back up. Thank goodness you found a person who Hannah and Jacob and you love!

    Go Amber!
    Old School/New School Mom’s last post … Teaching is Like ParentingMy Profile

  14. I go through periods of my life where I can easily float through the days with no child care or paid help at all.

    And…then there’s the other 85% of the time.

    It seems like from the time they learn to walk until about 4, it’s just impossible to get much of this stuff done with the kids around. If I weren’t trying to fit in any paid work, it might be a different story. But the worst feeling in the world is when it’s naptime, you have an hour and a half (if you’re lucky) and you have to choose between making money to put dinner on the table, and–well, you know–actually *putting dinner on the table.

    All this is to say I’m a better mom, during those times, when I have some paid help. We DON’T live in those automatic communities anymore, and we all need help. So good for you for getting it!

  15. That’s fantastic Amber, and I could not agree more about living in a multi-generational family and the benefits that would have. We are contemplating having #2 but I am worried about feeling quite alone with it just being me and my husband and not having immediate family around the corner or even in the same city. I worry that I will be so busy just ‘being’ and getting through the day, that I won’t have time to breathe. Maybe I’ll need a Wonder Nanny too?!!
    Mama in the City’s last post … Goodbye My Hawaii! The Best Of The Best In KauaiMy Profile

  16. “Mommy, is that fat person a woman or a man?!” (I thought I’d share my favourite embarassing grocery store line-up moment with you aftre the hairy man comment).

    Yes, I feel your pain. There is NO such thing as an average day as a work-at-home self-employed mom. Kids are amazing at making even the most well-intentioned schedule completely and utterly ridiculous. My coping strategy is to write the list of “MUST BE DONE”, “SHOULD BE DONE”, “LIKE TO DO” and make sure at least 90% of the items can be moved to a different time at a moment’s notice. Some days I actually get loads done, and even throw in a few unscheduled activities just for a good time! But most days it seems like I’m putting out fires all day long.

    They need you, your clients need you, your husband needs you, your friends need you and you still need to be YOU from time to time too! It’s a lot to ask of one person day after day.

    I applaud your enlistment of help!
    I had the “mom network” that I got when the kids were starting school. We were all in the same boat, and somehow 2 kindergarteners are less work than one because they play with EACH OTHER!
    The nanny sounds MARVELLOUS I had help for a little while.too I hired a teen to come and entertain the boys and take them to the park and make sure they ate a reasonable snack while my contracts were nipping at my heals. That little bit of help took the edge off enough that I could actually enjoy life and time with my kids THAT much more. Then she went off to college and left it all up to me again… boohoo.
    *pol’s last post … FocusMy Profile

  17. Well all I have to say is, Does Wonder Nanny have a sister!?? BRILLIANT, Amber!
    I fully agree with you on this one. While we don’t have any family closer than an airplane ride, we do have the BEST community of other families doing just what we are doing. We all make it work by “hiring” each other!
    I make great use of the Kid Swaps that we have going on!
    Enjoy some of that new breathing space!
    Kristin’s last post … Falling into AutumnMy Profile

  18. I hired a nanny in the summer and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. She only comes one day per week from 9-5, but knowing that I have one day per week of uninterrupted work time makes every other day seem a bit easier.
    Nicole’s last post … Still Waiting!My Profile

  19. “The point is that I know physics and I say that you can’t get blood from a stone, or sufficient working time when you have a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old to take care of.”

    This is just so true. It’s so hard to juggle work and children, Amber. A lot of people in Ashland, where I live, have family close by. We don’t. James and I manage to switch off with childcare (we also try to swap playdates as much as possible) but it’s so hard. I often wish we could hire community. I especially want someone to come clean my house every day! Smile. Sigh.
    Jennifer Margulis’s last post … Big Island on a BudgetMy Profile

  20. I understand why you’d feel awkward, and I really wonder where this myth of the do it all yourself super mom has stemmed from, it just feeds devotion to martyrdom, and doesn’t lead to a healthy motherhood.
    Had I been able to find someone willing to drive up here, I’d have hired a nanny a long time ago.
    Francesca’s last post … Homemade Fun A GIVEAWAYMy Profile

  21. I find juggling kids and other tasks is difficult. That is why my clean laundry stays in the basket for longer than I care to admit.
    I think of your situation this way, you work from home, this is your business. If this job required you to go into an office you would need/get childcare. Congrats.
    Lisa’s last post … Five on FridayMy Profile

  22. I’m glad you found a good nanny! We love ours. She’s been with us for almost five years and helps us all be fed, educated, and entertained.
    Lady M’s last post … Kindy Volunteer Graduates to the Next JobMy Profile

  23. This really resonates with me. Coming off of the quiet routine of summer vacation and being catapulted into the school year where I work full time and then come home to parent I’m painfully aware that there simply aren’t enough hours in the day and that some things just have to give…the question is, what? Housework? Me time? I want to adhere to my values and focus on what is important to me (time with my girls, crafting) but there are still those pesky basics (food, clean clothes) that have to be taken care of.
    Audra’s last post … Toys Are Meant To Be Played WithMy Profile

  24. Oh boy,, can I relate to this post!

    First, “…while two kids scale the back of the chair I’m trying to work in” Betcha never stood up just as they did this causing a chain reaction of bruising, banging, and breaking things?!?

    We don’t have any help right now, but we have at various times in the past, the first being when I had one-year old Adam, was pregnant with Joshua, and was working “only one day a week” teaching Drama. I felt so guilty hiring someone, but over the years there have been times that we have needed to do this, and I’m sure there will be more to come in the future (like if I ever intend to actually finish painting this house). We have to give ourselves a break with the guilt… It really does take a village to raise a child, and most of us don’t live in a village!

    Um, Noah is now scaling the back of my chair, so I better run, (after slowly and carefully standing up so as to avoid a repeat of the aforementioned incident;-)

    Happy Weekend!!
    Michelle’s last post … A Basket Full of ColorMy Profile

  25. Good for you Amber! Now that I am working part time and trying to homeschool after work and blog and have a life I feel like I could use a nanny too. I look forward to hearing how it goes.
    Melodie’s last post … Vegetarian Foodie Fridays 21My Profile

  26. Absolutely! It’s really the only solution when you have other work to do and don’t have a tribe around you to count on. I think it can do the kids good, too, to connect with another loving caregiver, so take your time guilt-free. I say this as someone who had to learn that the hard way, through many a teary preschool drop-off (teary on both sides!). And do let us know how things keep going with the nanny!
    Lauren @ Hobo Mama’s last post … Natural Parents Network- and Birthing without a stopwatchMy Profile

  27. hi out there. i’m a full-time nanny to two adorable little girls ages 3yrs and 19mos. i’ve been with this family since the big girl was 4mos old. both parents work full-time, high-pressure jobs. dad’s job requires that he travel quite a bit. mum works from home, a satellite for a UK based company. i know you feel like you’re abdicating your duties as an attachment parent by getting help. back in the day, you would have lived in a community where family was close-by, maybe even live-in. i’ve been a nanny either part-time or full-time for a very long time and my family still thinks i might get a “real” job at some point. they don’t see what i do as necessary because none of us ever had a babysitter growing up. out of a very large family, i am one of two members who lives more than 25 minutes from all the others. but that’s the thing about the life nowadays. a lot of us go to college and settle down away from where we grew up, away from our extended families. if we didn’t create our own community, we might have none at all. there is no shame in asking for help when you need it. there is no shame in hiring help when there is no one around that you can ask. running around like a crazy person trying to do it all isn’t doing you or your kids any favors. it’s important to spend time with them, but it’s equally important that that time be quality time and not time spent half-playing with your kids and half-trying to figure out how you’re going to get anything else done. and as someone who gets up every morning and does my best to make two little girls feel loved and special and important in the world. who goes into someone else’s home to help them raise their children to be curious, and thoughtful, and kind human beings. as someone who loves children who aren’t my own as if they were…i want to tell you to trust in your decision to get your work done and save your sanity by entrusting your children a few mornings a week to someone who will soon find them to be just as marvelous and special as you do.

  28. My husband stays at home with our daughter, but he is also a student. We’ve had to hire a babysitter a few hours a week to give him uninterrupted study time. We are fortunate to have an absolutely, wonderful sitter just across the street, and I’m actually happy she is in our daughter’s life. She engages with her in a different way, and is able to give her the undivided attention we parents sometimes struggle with. Our girl has learned a lot with the sitter and really loves her.

  29. It’s crazy looking at all the “motherguilts” and our self-justifications on this page… We working moms do so because it is right for us. It either keeps us sane by having another outlet to express ourselves through our careers, to any variation through to “having to make ends meet”. Before I decided to become I mom, I “interviewed” other professional moms, to see if this was something I could be. I travel with my job, own part of an engineering firm, and could NOT do it without a live in nanny.

    Sure, there are options – sell the house, the business, move to a small town… For now, I work away 4days, and on Fridays, I do errands with the kids, take them to classes, etc. They are glued to me or my husband every minute that we aren’t working. A live in multiipurpose nanny (or 3rd house-parent) also buys you QUALITY time. I don’t houseclean, do laundry, or dishes. I don’t cook M-Th. It frees me up from chores, allowing me to make the most of my time with the kids. And here I am, justifying my own use of a nanny!

    Do I feel guilty? YES!!! Are my kids worse off? I honestly don’t think so- they are gaining a perspective of work ethic and independence. Am I missing them growing up? I fear I am. So- is this right for me? I am not sure, but for now, I plan to try it a little longer. As for a reliable, good nanny? IMPERITIVE if you want to make a serious commitment to a career and want to be good mother! The 2 are not mutually exclusive, but I know that in some way, I WILL have regrets that I could have done better with 1 or the other or both…

  30. Recognizing that you cannot do it all is a problem I continually have. I also have an *ahem* Nanny. I feel funny saying the word too because only rich people, who don’t want to spend time with their kids, have them right?!? Wrong. Out of necessity and due to lack of “Good” part-time childcare available, we got a Nanny. We love her, the kids love her, and well that says it all.

  31. Awwww! Good for you! Don’t let anyone make you feel bad about taking some time to yourself! I found myself in my own dilemma recently when we decided to inquire about changing Cedric from 2 day a week at preschool to 5 days. When I got the answer that there was a spot available for him I felt guilty, happy, guilty, excited, guilty. guilty, guilty! I’m at peace with my decision now, he desperately wants to go to school everyday like his sister, he aches for more playtime with his friends. I know he can do it, as he did fine on the cruise in kids club everyday. My brain knows that this is good for him, good for me, but it took a while to drop the guilt. (see I’m still shaking it off over here!) So the spot opens in the beginning of December. Which leaves me a little more time in my day to get things done, play with Penny, and starting in the new year, study for my master gardener class. Yipee!

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