About three months ago, when my nine month old was six months old I came to the sudden realisation that I could not maintain my superwoman title. It’s a title I proudly gave myself some time back, a title I felt I earned after being a wife, business woman, cook, housekeeper, PA and dog-feeder, not to mention all of the other stuff that life demands, for so long. Let me just add briefly that Soobs is not a lazy husband. Far from it. It just happens that the business we have means he is gone from the house for up to 14 hours a day and so these tasks subsequently fall into my lap, seeing that I am the other half of this duo and I work from home.
I was just about coping under the strain of the multitude of tasks, if you can call coping regularly leaving the house in a business suit and a pair of flip flops, staring cluelessly at the dog bowls hoping for some sign as to whether I had just fed them or whether their last feed really was the evening before, forgetting that water can only cover pasta for about 15 minutes before it boils away, re-reading emails and wondering how the recipient understood what I was talking about through the typos and incoherent sentences. That’s what I mean by coping. And so when our twosome became a threesome and the tasks trebled and I was spread thinner than is humanly possible, there was no choice but to revoke my superwoman status. I was not a superwoman, I was a super wreck.
After a visit from my mother-in-law, who in her own words was left ‘dizzy’ at the sight of me running around in circles, she came up with the idea of getting an au pair. Mmmh, I thought. How interesting.
As a uni student, I tutored a boy twice a week whilst his mum went to the gym. It was my 20 year-old self and his 19 year-old au pair who supervised him for these hour and a half sessions. I tutored, the au pair cooked, fed, tidied, entertained and bathed the other children like he was playing a fun game of house, except it wasn’t fun and it wasn’t a game. I decided then, I would never be an au pair and I would never have one. On top of that, as my older self, there was also my inherent fear of automatically appearing to be too middle class, the moment you tell someone you have an au pair. Sad, but true.
And so how curious it can be when opinions do a full circle and the very thing you said you’d never have, has been living in your house for the last two weeks and is the best and loveliest helping hand you could ever wish for.
We have been lucky, our au pair is a joy. She is bubbly, polite, bright, inquisitive, very proactive and great with the baby and the dogs. She speaks nicely and her spelling and grammar have not been destroyed by texting – this is important to us. She is just what you would want from someone you are planning on sharing your home with and allowing to walk about in your shoes. She fits in well with our laid back attitude, our no-day-is-the-same lifestyle and general nice approach to the world. I am grateful, I know it is not like this for everyone. My best friend’s au pair lasted a few days. My friend who was an au pair lasted a few days. The former didn’t realise that looking after a children required some effort, the latter did not realise that for some people the word au pair was synonymous with domestic slave.
So, two weeks in, what have I learnt/am I learning from this new experience? Firstly, there is no point doing everything and being good at none of it. What is that saying? Jack of all trades, master of none! Yep, that was me. Secondly, it is nonsense to feel a sense of failure in needing to have some help around the house or help in general. I know this is something that us women are prone to. Sometimes, we need a good shake and a slap around the head (okay, maybe without the violence) to get this through to our thick skulls.
I suppose the best and the most redeeming thing I have learnt is that I am still a superwoman (most of us are, aren’t we?), I’m just a nicer, happier one now!
**We signed up to www.newaupair.com. It is not an agency but a great platform for where families and au pairs can connect and communicate. My best advice, is to do your research. Learn about what an au pair is and decide if it is really what you want or what you need. Maybe an au pair is not the solution for you. If it is, listen to your heart. That’s what I did and it lead us to our golden ticket.