The mother's dilemma - Taking care of "everything"
It’s that same old question that every mother asks herself… How can I be there for my children and also meet my own needs?
It’s not just a matter of whether you choose to work or be a stay-at-home mum. For parents, particularly mothers of very young children, “taking care of everything” is a dilemma that pops up every time we have to choose between helping our child or tending to our own needs.
But what if you could be there when the kids come home AND still manage to answer your emails or make a few calls before dinner?
As an expat mother of two children under two, I knew that I needed some extra help when our second child was born. Our family welcomed an au pair from Switzerland when my baby was just two months old.
Hosting an au pair has helped me to better meet everyone’s needs - including my own. Here’s how…
Co-caring for children benefits everyone
Anyone with young children knows that babies and toddlers don’t exactly function on a strict schedule. It’s always when you’re relying on your baby to have a nap that they decide not to sleep! The solution for many working parents is daycare, but that still leaves a huge amount of pressure on families to coordinate pickup, prepare dinner, clean up and get everyone to bed. An extra pair of hands in this situation is priceless.
In the early days when my second child was just a newborn, I loved letting him fall asleep in my arms. But on a practical level there was just too much to be done to let him nap on me all day. Our au pair was happy to either hold the baby after he fell asleep, or clean up after lunch and hang out a load of washing for me while I stayed with the baby. Having that support in those early days meant the world to me.
- Co-caring between parents and an au pair shares the childcare load.
- Having an au pair in your home gives you flexibility
Inviting an au pair into your home is like adding another member to the family, and the benefits of this are endless. At the dinner table my toddler is happy to chat away with our au pair, which means my partner and I actually have an opportunity to talk to each other at mealtimes. In this sense, hosting an au pair has given us the best of both worlds: I’m confident that I can be there for my children without making big sacrifices in other parts of my life.
It’s ok to blur the line between work and home
Whether you’re working full-time or not at all, the charm of having an au pair is that childcare can take place in your home when and where you need it most. For many mothers, including myself, we are nurturing a career as well as our children, as well as the workload of maintaining a household.
- An au pair is part of your team at home.
- Work life, family life and social life can become more integrated when you have the support of an au pair.
My partner and I have been lucky enough to have the flexibility of working from home, sharing childcare and household chores between us. Hosting an au pair has helped make this possible. My children see that I work and they are growing up understanding that I have other roles to play as well as being their mother.
On the domestic front my children see everyone in the household contributing, which helps them to understand teamwork. It’s not uncommon for me to put on a load of washing, while my partner hangs it out to dry and later our au pair helps fold the laundry.
Sharing the workload helps me to make room for different aspects of my life. It gives me more headspace to be present in whatever I’m doing in the moment.
Building a relationship gives peace of mind
Hosting an au pair means investing in a relationship. When our au pair arrived we used the AuPairWorld Handbook to help her to settle in, and made sure she had time to ask any questions about our the way our household operates.
- Your au pair will get to know your family and way of doing things.
- You can count on having help where you need it most.
With my two small children I cherish being with them and also enjoy the fact that they have another adult in the house to care for them. As my baby gets older and more independent from me, I still like to put him down for his nap before going to my home office to get some work done. When he wakes up our au pair takes over. Working together in this way I have peace of mind that he is looked after the way I want and I have more time for other activities.
Small acts of self-care make a difference
Looking after yourself is essential for being in a fit state to look after your children. We all know it, but it isn’t always clear how to practise self-care.
Self-care can look like whatever you need it to look like! It’s simply about meeting your needs. For some mothers this might mean time away from the family to indulge in something like a spa or a manicure. For others, it could be having the time to sit down with a friend for an hou rand talk without being disturbed.
- Self-care is about the small decisions we make as mothers that affect our wellbeing.
- Hosting an au pair makes it possible to bring self-care into your daily life.
Since hosting an au pair I’ve learnt that self-care can be as simple as having our au pair feed our toddler so I have a chance to eat a proper meal myself. Or catching a much needed afternoon nap while our au pair takes our baby out for a walk. These small acts of self-care are what help to keep me in the best state of mind to be the mother I want to be.
A better state of mind benefits the whole family
Our au pair has helped me to bridge the gap between my partner’s and my availability. It gives me more choice as a mother: I can choose to meet my own needs as well as my children’s, and as a consequence my stress levels are lowered. I’m a better mother for it.
As mothers we all know that there are too many conflicting priorities to fit into a day’s work. We can’t be everywhere and do everything, but we can get help when and where we need it. That’s exactly why hosting an au pair has worked so well for me and my family.
Find out about the first steps of becoming a host family and hosting your own au pair!
About the author:
Catherine Miller comes from Australia originally and works as a freelance writer producing content for businesses, schools and other organisations. She currently lives in Belgium with her partner and two children. They have recently expanded their household to include an au pair from Switzerland.