I recently saw a friend who just had her second baby. She was overwhelmed and teary, as every mom is during those first few sleepless weeks. Add to her exhaustion a baby who was needier than her first and a spouse who travels about half the time for work. Her saving grace was that since she was going back to work after her maternity leave, she was still employing her nanny, who was there during the day to take care of her older child so she could focus on the baby. However, she’d been totally wounded when her MIL sniffed how she hadn’t needed all that help when she’d had her kids.
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She can afford the help, so why suffer needlessly? Yet having help, whether it’s hired childcare or a cleaning person, continues to be a hot button issue for many moms, enough so that many who do hire help choose to keep it hush-hush. Even Tina Fey in her bestseller Bossypants talks about how she prefers to use the term “babysitter” instead of nanny, because it seems less privileged, even though she knows the word implies the teenager from three houses down is watching her daughter occasionally—not exactly how she manages a thriving career in TV and film.
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Meagan Francis, author of Parenting Magazine's book The Happiest Mom, spoke candidly about this issue on her blog recently (Lisa Belkin from the New York Times also wrote about it too), explaining how when she off-handedly mentioned she had 7-8 hours of help each month, some of her readers felt it undercut her advice on being a homemaker and more balanced mother:
But what is “easy”, what is “need” and why would somebody hiring help make us think less–or even differently–about their skill or advice as a home manager? Whether we recognize it or not, I think my initial defensive reaction to my reader’s comment–and likely, her opinion as well–stem from our collective modern American uneasiness with the idea of hired household help. We think it soundsnice, but maybe a little…indulgent. Something that makes us a little soft and spoiled. On the other hand, I’m guessing housewives from the 1800?s just saw hiring help as a really efficient way of delegating the tasks that fell to them in the overall job of running a household. Sure, they could probably manage without it, but why just “manage” if they didn’t have to?
Do you have help? (I do; a full-time nanny and a twice-monthly cleaning lady.) Do you feel guilty about it? If you don’t have help, is it because you can’t afford it, or because you think you should be able to manage without it?