We don’t really have a good term to describe moms who work in the home taking care of their home & family 24/7.
Personally, I’m not a fan of the label “stay at home” mom, because it sounds like a command (Stay at home, mom!). And while work-at-home mom is descriptive– she’s a mom, working at home, right? — we reserve that term for moms who work for pay from their houses.
The problem of terminology points to a problem of legitimacy. We question the legitimacy of moms, work, paid work, unpaid work. And, we question the legitimacy of a mom’s (or dad’s) need for an extra set of caregiving hands when they, the parent, are “at home” all day.
Whether we are focus 100% of our time on family-related unpaid work, or we divide our time between paid and unpaid work in or out of our homes, moms who are at home (and dads who are at home) have a legitimate need for childcare help.
We sometimes unconsciously forget that these needs are legitimate, and certainly some people raise their eyebrows when they imagine you the ‘stay at home mom’ having 45 hours of au pair caregiving help so that you can, oh I don’t know, do yoga, eat chocolate, pay bills, care for an ailing parent, raise money for the PTA, train for your marathon, supervise kids’ educations, spend one-on-one time with each of your children, and stay emotionally healthy. Oh, right, and have a date night or two.
Once it’s established for you, your family, and your au pair that your need for childcare help is not to be challenged, the next issue is figuring out your relationship with your au pair.
If both the parent and the au pair are “at home” and available to be “on duty”, how will you manage who does what, when?
Are you going to switch off, with one of you being ‘on duty’ with the children while the other is free to do other things?
This strategy requires that you train your au pair work independently, you give her 99% authority, and let him or her work autonomously under your indirect supervision. That’s how most people do it, since that’s what’s required when the parents both work outside the home.
Or, do you plan to double-team, with the both of you working together?
This econd strategy requires that you and your au pair figure out a real-time partnering strategy, where it’s clear who has the decision making and directional authority. That’s much tougher to do, and I’m not quite sure how you get there.
Here’s an email from “Needs Another Set of Hands” who’d love our advice and insights on this challenge….
I am a stay at home mom with 2 small children. I’ m wondering how other stay at home moms schedule the day so as to best utilize the au pair’s help. How do you do this without confusing the kids as to who has the authority, and without frustrating the au pair, while you the parent are always at home with the opportunity to give input or feedback frequently.
I have an au pair as a mother’s helper and babysitter to help me with my baby and toddler. She also helps when I need to run errands without the kids, or when I need to have a date night.
I am stay at home mom, because my partner and I wanted one of us to be at home and spend time with the kids. But I find that often, I’m doing dishes, cooking, cleaning the house, and so on while the au pair is in the back yard playing with the kids.
I understand that many of the household tasks I’m doing can’t be done by the au pair — she can’t do my laundry, my dishes, my vacuuming. But then I think, wow, I hired the au pair so I can have an extra hand to help with the kids, not to watch them while I do dishes/cook/clean all day!!
I get sad when I end up doing other stuff, cleaning at home when I could be spending quality time with the kids, ie: feeding the baby baby food, playing with the toddler at the park, reading the kids books. Sometimes I do need to cook and clean and I appreciate the au pair, taking the toddler on a walk, or watching the toddler and the baby while I cook or catch up on my bills, but I get frustrated when It seems all I do is other stuff, and the au pair spends more time with the kids than I do.
I was wondering if other stay at home moms, who do not work from home, utilize an au pairs help and schedule them to help so that everyone is happy, you, the kids and the au pair.
Here are a few ideas of how my au pair helps us that I found works well for me. Do other stay at home moms have ideas to share about how you work with your au pair as a stay at home mom, or while you are at home when not working at an outside job?
1. Au pair and I take kids to zoo or other outing: Au pair watches baby while I watch older kid. She helps prep diaper bags, and is another set of eyes to watch the kids while we are out.
2. Au pair watches toddler, when I need to take baby to doctors appt.
3. Au pair watches baby, while I take the toddler with me while I go grocery shopping, or out to frozen yogurt for some quality one-on-one time with the toddler
4. Au pair watches both kids while my hubby and I go on a date night
5. Au pair helps prep dinner, assisting me while I cook the dinner, as we both keep an eye on the kids
6. Au pair watches the kids, while I go to the gym and workout
Please let me know how other stay at home moms schedule the au pair to help them and if you have any suggestions, on how I can get the most out of this year at home with an au pair.
Thanks so much! Stay at home mom, who appreciates another set of hands around the house
See also– this great post from Deb Schwartz about managing two au pairs at a time. Many similar issues arise when trying to coordinate two au pairs:
On the flip side, don’t take all the fun stuff:
More on ‘stay at home’ moms with au pairs: