My name is Georgie and I need to tell you something.
It’s something I have conscientiously avoided writing. In two sentences time you will know why.
You will ask yourself what sort of a glutton for punishment would make such a public disclosure.
The answer is this type. Me. So here it goes.
We have an au pair who lives with us, helps look after our children and is effectively the sixth member of our family. And it rates as one of the better decisions my husband and I have ever made.
Not because her presence means we get to recline on the lounge sipping pina colada’s or leisurely lie in bed while she tends to our children. Not even close.
(Inexplicably even on the rare occasions when we have three adults all ‘on deck’, it seems none of us have any trouble finding a use for our hands – whether it’s feeding a child, dressing a baby, putting away a mountain of laundry, preparing another meal or snack, or tidying up from another meal or snack, there is always something to do.)
I will spare you all the gritty details but in a household with one school-aged child, one preschooler, a baby and two adults with variable work commitments, having the flexibility of a live-in au pair is life changing.
It’s not an arrangement everyone would enjoy. For us, as self-serving as this sounds, it enables our family to function better: we get to enjoy more time together on account of having an extra set of hands.
Instead of being stretched to the point of insanity we can manage the logistical, physical and emotional demands of our home life and our careers, with something closer to ease than exhaustion.
We do not use our au pair as a proxy for us as parents. We can be more available and more present on account of having help.
To be clear – notwithstanding the chaos inherent in a home filled with small children – the work conditions for our beloved au pair are optimal. We are respectful, we adore her and we take her enjoyment of this experience in her life seriously. And we are truly, madly, deeply, grateful for the role she plays in our lives.
For the love and care she gives the girls and the love and care they have for her. For the friendship and support she gives us. For the calm she helps create in our home.
It genuinely is life-changing and I am acutely aware of the privilege inherent in being able to experience that. Having a spare bedroom, being able to feed another adult and being able to pay for help are all significant luxuries.
And that is a big part of why I haven’t written about having an au pair earlier. That and the implication that we are outsourcing our job as parents. (And to be honest, just imagining the “feedback” Mark Latham might deliver to any woman making such a confession has been enough to keep me quiet.)
But there is another side. The bit about how men and women make their working lives fit with their family. Having an au pair is the reason I have been able to return to work more easily after having a third child.
The fact I don’t work full-time and work from home are also important factors. But without help on the home front and someone to care for our youngest, it still wouldn’t work.
So there it is. That is my secret about making work and life, work better.
Have you had an au pair? Would you consider it?