Let’s be clear - I’m not advocating that how I approached the subject of work and family is the ’right way. I am, however, advocating that these are individual choices and there is no right or wrong. Life is complicated and a multitude of factors influence our happiness and ‘success’ (however we define that).
It’s important to set the context here. When we were raising a young family there were no smartphones, no Zoom, no decent internet connections. (And when I use the word ‘we’, I do mean we as my husband and I were equally involved and engaged.) I recall on my third maternity leave even just trying to log onto the company system from home was a challenge – it was excruciatingly slow.
How I wish I had the opportunity to attend one of my kid’s sports games mid-week, and then log on and finish my work at home. This was simply not an option. Furthermore, although there were a few brave women who had decided to work part-time in the companies I worked for, it was really a ‘kiss of death’ career-wise. Although we’re not there yet, I do think, especially in light of COVID-19, that working virtually and flexibly is gaining acceptance as an alternative way of progressing your career.
The thing that no one told me about my choices is that by creating a ‘home team’ you’re effectively creating an extension of your family. This is especially the case when it comes to childcare, whether that be childminders, nannies or day-care staff. Case in point is ‘Nanny J’ who recently passed away and was an integral part of our family as our two older kids were growing up. Nanny J was a full member of that ‘home team’ for many years and her care, commitment and trustworthiness were critical to our family thriving personally and professionally. And even many years after her retirement, we remained close.
At no point did I feel we were ‘pawning off’ our children to someone else. Nanny J and I acted as a team. As the mum, I set the ground rules. However, whenever the kids ran to me to complain about this or that constraint which Nanny J had placed on them, my instinct was to confirm her authority in making the decisions she saw fit. Nanny J and I had an understanding.
While I was committed to coming home at a certain time every evening, emergencies did pop up. I respected her time so tried to even things out in other ways. It was a successful partnership. While I taught Nanny J how to hold others accountable (the gas company, the clothing shop, the house cleaner etc), Nanny J shared her wisdom in helping our children cope with school and all the rest! Her suggestion to take food in the car when she was picking up our son was a game-changer. His irritable moods after school quickly dissipated.
Instead of feeling like I ‘lost’ something by having extended our ‘home team’ beyond me and my husband, I feel that the entire family gained something special by welcoming others into our home. The extended ‘home team’ helped create a healthy, happy environment in which each of us could grow, learn and develop. We could not have created this environment on our own. Thank you Nanny J – you enriched our lives in a way no one told us you could and we will miss your warmth, kindness and generosity of heart and the investment you made in each of us.