I have always believed in the need to hire help at home. I grew up in a house where we always had someone to help; hired, family or distant relative. The Proverbs 31 Woman who has always been seen as the standard had maids. There is no way she could have accomplished everything mentioned in her life without help. My belief even further deepened when my baby was two months old. We were just beginning to recuperate after a harrowing one month in the hospital; unrelenting jaundice, multiple tests, infection and high blood pressure. I was a first time mom, who was supposed to be happy, breast feeding, attending to the needs of my baby and enjoying motherhood.
I woke up one night at 2am and saw my daughter gasping for breath. She had been aspirating (at that time, I didn’t know what it was) and I was totally clueless on what to do. I carried her, ran out of the room and screamed for help. I could barely hold her because I was shivering. My husband was out of town and my elder sister who was with me was also confused but acted very calmly. She has two kids but hadn’t experienced such with any of her children.
She carried her from my shivering arms and was trying to talk to her to breathe through her mouth. Thinking about it now, it sounds so funny, but it was a scary, near-death situation. “Open your mouth”. “Good girl, you can breathe through your mouth”. She was still struggling and I was already crying. Finally God intervened, and my sister had the insight to ask for her nose pump. I fetched it and on the first use, a large lump of milk came out. Oh, the relief!
I rushed to the hospital when day broke and the pediatrician to me how to handle it if it happened again; and it did happen countless times till she was about one. That event forever changed my thinking; that “it didn’t matter how much I loved my child and would almost give my life for her if the need ever arose. In that moment I couldn’t save her just because I didn’t know what to do and I didn’t have any experienced person around who knew what to do.”
I was a banker, and I had already started having thoughts that nobody would watch over my girl like I would; no nanny, no crèche, not even a close family member. I had settled that I will not work for at least one year because of my baby. After some time, I started to wonder what would happen if I couldn’t resign. What if I was the bread winner of the family? What If my salary and the benefits I enjoyed from work was the one covering most of the family’s bills?
Like many first time mums, I realized that I only had that mindset because I had read experiences shared on social media or the papers and also read countless comments of people blaming career mums who had to return to work for leaving their children in the care of someone while insinuating that no one can care for your child better than you. This narrative, even though wrong, has led many young working mothers to sacrifice their careers and sometimes God-given purposes for taking care of their children. I would agree that many maids and nannies have done extremely bad and unthinkable things. But I have also seen so many nannies that are providing unwavering support everyday to their employers.
But think about it, if that narrative was right, then it means adoption is a sham. It means that families who adopt do not have the capacity to love the adopted child or take care of and provide for them like their own. That narrative also disregards the work of countless teachers who go over and beyond to see the children placed under their care flourish.
If only the birth mother of a child can love a child unconditionally, then why do we see so many children who have been adopted, raised in love?
In the past year, because of the nature of what I do, I have seen quite a number of young, working first time moms who do not have the luxury of resigning or having their mothers or mother in-laws over to help for a long period of time, (mainly because many of them are still actively working) suffer immense guilt and fear of what could go wrong. The bad thing about being in this situation is that fear clouds your judgment and makes you act impulsively rather than making wise and well thought-out decisions.
Like I learned, the first thing I say to them is that being at home with your baby is not a guarantee for your baby’s safety. Babies have died of heat because their mothers/fathers forgot them in the cars. Tired mums have slept off and their babies crawl out and drown in the family pool. Some things may be beyond your ability to handle. However, what is within your capacity to handle is ensuring that your child is always in the presence and care of a qualified, experienced and well-trained person; be it in a crèche or in hiring someone to help at home.
I share a few helpful precautions to take when choosing someone to help you as you get ready to resume work from your maternity leave.
- Hire A Nanny: Many people hire housekeepers in place of nannies because they are more affordable. The problem is, with time, they start to expect them to play the nanny role which becomes a recipe for disaster. Even as mothers, we sometimes get fed up with endless cries and tantrums and feel like running away. How much more a housekeeper who is already exhausted from house chores and has no training whatsoever on how to handle a child? A well-trained nanny will be trained in child behavior, child health and safety, emergency management and so on, while a housekeeper has no knowledge at all of those. So when you are hiring, go for a well-trained nanny.
- Patronize A Credible Agent: Be wary of people who are known as agents bringing people from anywhere they can find, they are a no-go area. Also family members who promise to bring someone with no training from the village for you. Word of mouth and number of years of experience is not enough in this case. For example, when they tell you someone is good you have the right to demand proof of experience and to check if her experience is relevant to the needs of your home, certifications, and recommendations from previous employers and so on. A credible nanny agency will indulge your reservations, enquiries and requests.
- Ask Questions: Especially during the interview. Don’t feel guilty that you are asking seemingly outrageous questions. List out everything you can think of as a potential problem and ask questions surrounding it. Be detailed. Avoid asking general questions. Ask direct and specific questions
- Separate Housekeeping from Childcare: Nannies are not supposed to wash all the bathrooms in the house and sweep the compound, sitting rooms and still attend to your child. They are required to do chores but they should be in relation to the baby. Laundry, washing of bottles, cleaning of baby’s room and bath etc. You can get a housekeeper who would come to clean twice or thrice a week.
- Hire Early: Don’t wait till you are about to resume because by then you would be under pressure. Even if you have your mum or a relation with you, let your nanny resume so she can be put through all she needs to be put through, you can watch her and how she works and you have ample time to hire another if you are not satisfied with the performance of one. My advice would be to start looking at least six weeks before resumption.
- Form a routine quickly: For both your maid and your baby. Let sleeping and feeding times be known for baby. Also prepare a work schedule for your maid divided into morning, afternoon and night. This will help you keep track of what should be/is being done per time of the day even when you are away. It also provides a first and clear view of the scope of work your nanny is required to do. She isn’t thinking if it is her job to do or not to do something.
Finally, tighten all loose ends to the best of your ability. If something bothers you, then it is worthy of your attention. So, don’t just let the thought of it scare you, start to seek the solution to it. Your anticipation is a pointer to something. Don’t ignore it, but keep it in check to make sure it is not hinged on fear. For example, you can install a nanny cam or request that a trusted friend or neighbor who is around the house go conduct random checks during the day.
I hope after reading this, you are fired-up to live your life to the fullest and not be held back by the fear of what could be, stemming from the compelling desire to always be in control of everything. Let the unconditional love you have for your child move you to make the right decision in hiring a help not drive you farther away from your dreams/purpose. (If it requires you to be away from home daily).
P.S This article was originally written for and published here on KacheeTee.com