Saying farewell to full time childcare while being a SAHM

T.W.O. is always saying I should be more open and raw on muh blawg, so here goes.

The combination of number of kids, the ages they are, their physical and mental vigor and quirks, and the fact that I do stay home with them have all led to our household reaching a point where the effort involved finding the type of full time nanny/babysitter that is ok with it all is more stressful and disruptive than simply giving up things like cooking in favor of going with part-timers, private school and deli food.  We had a good run, had some very kind and caring people over the years, but we’ve reached the limit of how useful it can be to us in a part of the country where being a housewife isn’t really viewed as having its own purpose.

I come from the South, and there being a housewife comes with expectations that make it reasonable to do something like have full time childcare if that’s what it takes to meet the expectations.  Many do not, but people don’t really freak out if you do because it’s assumed you must have that lady there to help you meet the expectations of hospitality and visiting and decoration that come with housewiving there, especially at the higher household income brackets.  Where we are now, the expectation is that the housewife is solely full time childcare.  This is the reason for the 20 dollar a day SAHMs around here.  They literally don’t know what else to do but watch kids, so they just keep chugging and the money is pretty much a token sum charged because people would be weirded out by them pleading to watch kids for free (although sometimes they offer, and now I understand why).

We basically didn’t have to confront this issue until recently because the people we got stayed for decent lengths of time.  But recently we had to put feelers out and the hassle was just so epic compared to previous hiring go-rounds that we’re done this time around.  Granted I will still have part-timers, but part-timers don’t sweat me being home precisely because they are part-time.  It could be a lot worse, we’re not making the change because of inability to pay, and I still have part-time childcare from nice teenagers readily available.  I just had hopes of  starting “pure” homeschooling soon, but that’s just not possible.  There is no homeschool community here, the private school options we’re going with are closer to the “one room school” model that we think is best for our children, and me providing more complex instruction down the road is always an option as the kids age.

We’ve all been pretty sick the last couple weeks, so I have more anxiety about the whole thing than is really warranted.  The kids are very capable at very young ages and we can do this without everything falling apart.  At least, that’s the hope.

 

 

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30 thoughts on “Saying farewell to full time childcare while being a SAHM

  1. It sounds to me that the structure you’re going to is exactly the type that would have been best for us when our older kids were younger except because of the way we started out (early 20’s with 3 kids born inside a year), inability to pay was a huge issue. So we put ours in public school and volunteerism there became the equivalent of a part time job for me.

    You’re right that down south housewife expectations are much more varied and involved than simply watching the kids, and I am very thankful for the homeschool community I stumbled into. Otherwise I might have thrown in the towel on homeschooling by now. I’m not much of a social butterfly, but I don’t function well as an island unto myself either. I don’t know how some of these super moms dot it, frankly.

    I hope to hear more about how this works out for you because it sounds like the perfect set up for both you and the kids to thrive. Props to your hubs for letting you let us in on life with help, LOL.

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  2. Back in the day, years before I found your blog, we found ourselves living rent-free on a college campus with two little children. We spent a small fortune on sitters (VERY good college kid sitters). At the time, I thought I was being a little ridiculous and wimpy (especially when I was pregnant and couldn’t deal with the toddler), but it was pretty much the best thing we could have done (as it turned out that one of my kids is special needs and the one-on-one time was very beneficial).

    Since then, I’ve mainly used parents’ day out, as (as in your experience) it’s such a hassle to find and schedule people.

    Good luck!

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  3. You’ve probably already gone down this route, but what about an au pair? That brings it’s own set of issues (live-in, etc.), but as a kid in France, I had tons of friends whose families had one (or a succession of them); my Mom didn’t, but then she had housekeeper-type help (including one who did nothing but ironing!!!!!!)

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    • “…but then she had housekeeper-type help (including one who did nothing but ironing!!!!!!)”

      That’s hilarious.

      Ironing used to be a huge big deal, though.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Heh – she had three children who all wore uniforms and had to wear STARCHED shirts and a hubs who also wore starched shirts. She’s also be the first to admit that she loooooved laundry and ironing (seriously – she really did love it), but the volume was just too much.

        Here’s the really funny part: her housekeepers were all Spanish (from Spain Spanish) and they spoke Spanish and (a little) French; my mother spoke English and (a little) French. To see them communicate was hilarious – there was this weird English-Spanish-French thing going on, and yet they seemed to manage really well. She has this crazy schedule (OK, it seemed crazy to me, as a kid) where one of the ladies came M-F for daily housekeeping; and then there was the ironing lady – I think she came twice a week, and then she had another lady who came and washed windows and other not-daily tasks. I think they were all related in some way. Anyway, I can recall coming home from school and there would be THREE OF THEM, plus my mother. She told me that she found it hard to let the housekeepers actually do the housekeeping and not do it with them, but they got insulted if she tried to participate and, well,good help is hard to find, she she learned to just let them do their stuff and then she did her stuff. I would HAVE NO PROBLEM WHATSOEVER letting someone else do my housekeeping. And laundry. I’d even drag out the ironing board.

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      • MAEVE said:

        “I think they were all related in some way.”

        Very important, I suspect.

        A friend was working in a Middle Eastern country some years ago. Her husband was away for work a lot, and she found herself with both a nanny and a housekeeper. There was some tension until the nanny (I believe) pulled off a coup and was able to replace the housekeeper with a relative of her own.

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      • I spent most of the past 8 years living in France and ironing ladies are still very much a thing there. A proper Frenchwoman like my mother-in-law irons absolutely everything, even the underwear, bath towels and dishtowels (seriously!!!) so having someone to take that off your plate is a big help 😉 It’s not as true with younger women, but in the 40+ crowd it’s a Very Big Deal.

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      • Francophile said:

        “I spent most of the past 8 years living in France and ironing ladies are still very much a thing there. A proper Frenchwoman like my mother-in-law irons absolutely everything, even the underwear, bath towels and dishtowels (seriously!!!) so having someone to take that off your plate is a big help 😉 It’s not as true with younger women, but in the 40+ crowd it’s a Very Big Deal.”

        Holy cow!

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    • The application process is too heavy. You have to have things like pictures of the entire family in one photo and ability to make multiple trips to the au pair centers before and after you match with one. It would be a hassle I could do if we were still in a suburb, but it’s too much logistical work living two hours+ from any au pair hub.

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    • The au pair situation in the US is radically different from the situation in Europe. I know the blogger’s situation pretty well and for a variety of reasons it wouldn’t be a great idea.

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  4. I’ve been lurking here for a while, but I want you to know I love this blog and our family has also had to throw in the towel, if only for a season–we are able to put our oldest (7) in a private Christian school that is a part of our church and literally 2 minutes down the road. She’s done well for her first week, and they were fine putting her in 2nd grade even though I was nervous (she would normally be in 1st). It is a stretch for us, but honestly this change was inspired by this blog. I have had a series of serious conversations with my man-baby–er, husband, about the work-load that is expected of me (we have a 5 year old, an almost 3 year old, and a 7 month old), and he is beginning to understand truly that it really is too much. We moved to be closer to his parents, and honestly they have turned out to be not as much help as we would have liked (they have helped, though, I am definitely not unappreciative.) I dunno, I’m so glad to be able to at least read the thoughts of other like-minded women on this site. I used another moniker when I read on the sphere but haven’t done that for a year now. Anyway, wish you the best as you venture into new territory, as are we. I’m still needing to homeschool the 5 year old and we may plunge back into it with all of them in the fall (since it’s barely affordable with the scholarship for us). I’m just aching for the schedule to help us all get on track, but I suck at sleeping even when everyone else is asleep. Another commenter alluded to the fact that you have screwed up circadian rhythms in this sort of mothering environment, and that’s no joke. And mine were screwed up before kids anyway!

    Oh and thanks for your “practicality.” It truly has helped me help my husband see that, um, I need help. We are starting to look at hiring some help from our church for like 2-3 hours a week, again, a stretch, but he sees how it is needed now, whereas before, though he has NEVER been demanding in any way, he is extremely frugal and his unspoken but expected expectations have been hard to live up to without me going insane.

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    • his unspoken but expected expectations have been hard to live up to without me going insane.

      This is something we NEED to address. Where do these expectations come from? Is it from our mothers who seemingly did everything on their own? Are they expectations formed from a modern 1st world culture?

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      • TPC said:

        “I think a lot of it is just atomization.”

        You mean, people don’t have a lot of real life models of what reasonable domestic standards look like for people in their stage of life, so they wind up with unrealistic standards? (I mention stage of life, because it isn’t reasonable to compare ourselves to older people who haven’t had a child in diapers in 40 years.)

        I think our sense of the average is also skewed by the fact that people that are really, really bad at home stuff do not do a lot of entertaining.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Gosh this sounds exhausting :/ I have to wonder how the mothers and wives out there “do it all” so seamlessly…or do they? That’s a question I can’t answer, but have suspicions.

    My sister recently had a baby and she’s fortunate to not have a shortage of babysitters. Our parents, along with her in-laws, are able to split babysitting after she goes back to work (because she has to, her husband wouldn’t let her stay at home). There’s also a plethora of siblings and cousins who’re willing to help. I’m considering offering babysitting for free (of course) as I’m unemployed at the moment and my BIL will have to go back to work soon.

    For those who have family around, who are more than happy to help generously, they are very fortunate. These days not even grandparents are willing to help out anymore. No wonder SAHM’s require a little bit of childcare for assistance. How else does the grocery shopping get done with a 7 month old and a toddler if your husband is gone? I won’t even ask about the cooking.

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  6. I think the expectations are a result of a mix of all of those things–a lot of them I admit I put on myself! My husband honestly just somehow seems to think I am capable of doing it all without going crazy. I’m glad he trusts me so much, but…not so much. And yes, I can’t understand the lack of help. When he asked his parents a few weeks ago if they could come over and watch the kids, during nap time, for 3-4 hours a week (while he is at work, so that I don’t have to wait until he comes home to go grocery shopping, being a one-car family and all), his mother said, “Why?” Really? Why? Ha ha Last week I had to just suck it up and on the day I had the car, try to somehow go with the youngest three in tow–but um oops, life happened in the morning, so instead I had to wait until my oldest was out of school. I decided to go pick her up and was busy getting everyone ready for the 2 hour outing we would have after picking her up–the outing I knew was going to be just plain awful. And his mom drove by and saw that my car was not yet out of the driveway (it was warming up and running) and said, “I saw you here, do you need me to go pick her up for you!?” It was right on the dot for her getting out of class, and I had already been informed by my MIL that there was a very long line of cars after school to pick her up, so I wasn’t worried about being 5 minutes “late” because of diapers and preparing for a terrible grocery store outing. She came back a few minutes later with OldestChild, and as I put her in the car, she said, “Where are you going?” “Grocery shopping.” “Oh. Well, I have my diet meeting tonight so I’ll talk to you later.” I could see on her face and hear in her tone that she knew I was in for quite the undertaking, but still…though I could have gotten the shopping done in half the time without 4 children… *sigh* and this woman lives as close to a life of leisure as any person I’ve ever known, and literall lives 5 minutes away from us. I’m thankful she is picking up my baby and for the times she babysits, but when it comes to helping in the real ways we need help (as in, on our timetable), it just hasn’t worked out. It’s only if and when she feels like it and wants to. Anyway, I succeeded in only completing part of my trip before caving, going to pick up my husband from work since he was now off, and finishing the trip with him and the kids, which was actually kinda fun. Ha ha. The time we were asking them to devote to watching the kids on a weekly basis would be the time I would use to run errands, do the weekly shopping trip, and plan homeschooling for the week ahead. Not sitting at Starbucks surfing the Internet. Oh well, maybe someday…

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    • Lawdamercy! The one-car thing just adds a whole nother layer of terrible.

      Maybe your husband just needs to be really, really clear to his mom about WHY you need particular help.

      “Mom, Nicky’s home with the three or four kids with no car almost all the time, and it would be a huge help if you could watch the kids on Wednesday morning so that Nicky and I don’t have to spend the evening apart while Nicky grocery shops. It messes up the kids’ bed times and the store is really crowded then–she can do the shopping a lot faster if she gets a chance in the morning by herself.”

      With regard to MIL being a person of leisure, my grandma says if you want something done, ask a busy person. So it doesn’t actually surprise me that it’s hard to get help from somebody who doesn’t seem to have a lot on her plate.

      Also, it’s not just your family–the AWOL grandma is an epidemic.

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  7. AmyP, That’s so sad, but it’s oddly comforting to know I’m not alone in thinking that this is pure madness, and certainly as a believer, to not extend help when it is so clearly and obviously needed. Our elderly neighbor’s daughter in law has even offered to babysit (for free, I might add) on occasion and we took advantage once already to go to one of my husband’s Christmas dinner parties, and she just clicked immediately with our children (we’ve gotten to know her and her daughter over the last year since we moved, so thank goodness we had someone with whom we were comfortable!) It has just been so odd to me, after living away ever since we got married and had kids and being made to feel guilty for it because she was missing out on the grandchildren, that now we are here and it’s like, “Oh, bother.” I am pretty much friendless for the first time in my life, and I don’t know how others do it. My sister is in the same situation and we ‘text Skype’ each day to keep one another company. I’m so glad I at least have snoopy but kind and caring neighbors to talk to (at least, when it’s not frozen outside!)

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    • The grandparent bait-and-switch is unfortunately very common. There are a lot of people that love the IDEA of being grandparents, but are unclear on what having a good relationship with grandkids requires (even if they themselves had good examples). There’s been at least one case in my extended family of a grandpa that sincerely believed that a good relationship with his school-age grandkid was something that could just be given to him on a silver platter, rather than something that he himself would need to invest time and effort in creating.

      The grandparents in our family are far away and busy with work, even if they are retirement age or older. There’s one workaholic in each couple. There’s one set of very hands-on grandparents, but the kids don’t see much of them. The kids see all of their grandparents for a total of maybe two weeks a year. I have the awful suspicion that with one set, we could live in the same town and barely see more of them than we do now. In fact, I can be pretty confident about this, as a sibling tried the experiment.

      So, all in all, I don’t feel very bad about not living nearby.

      Wow, that was a depressing post!

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  8. Ha ha! I didn’t feel bad before but then started to think, uh-oh, four kids, we seriously need help. Unfortunately help from my own mother is impossible as 2 out of 3 of us kids have cut her off completely, and my dad passed away a few years ago. In my in-laws situation, his dad is definitely a workaholic, retirement age but still working most days and keeps quite busy! Like I said, she does a great job of being grandma on her own timetable! But looking for ways to help in the ways we need help is another story. Anyway, this is definitely a depressing topic but needs to be on more people’s radar…but who wants to talk about the plight of those lazy, selfish SAHMs!! We chose this path so we must not complain for biting off more than we could chew, Amiright?!

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  9. Another facet of the grandparent crisis is that in a couple of cases, I’ve seen massive amnesia from the current generation of grandparents as to how much help they themselves got from the previous generation.

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    • I wonder if this stems from the idea of grandparents having to have a “nice retirement.” These days a lot of grandparents don’t want their days filled with work that well…they already did. I suppose they want to be able to travel to the Andes and Italy instead.

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    • Massive amnesia + thinking that old women just magically appear and do stuff for you. They can’t wrap their heads around either the fact that 1) maybe those old ladies they remember were deliberately choosing to perform social duties rather than please themselves or that 2) they’re the old ladies now.

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      • You Know Who said:

        “Massive amnesia + thinking that old women just magically appear and do stuff for you. They can’t wrap their heads around either the fact that 1) maybe those old ladies they remember were deliberately choosing to perform social duties rather than please themselves or that 2) they’re the old ladies now.”

        Yes.

        Grandma denial is actually something I’ve seen personally. We have one grandma who initially didn’t want to be referred to as grandma, because that sounded so “old.” (She was 50ish at the time.) She’s actually a very involved, energetic hands-on grandma when she’s around, but she initially had a lot of trouble with the label.

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  10. It’s also true that today’s grandparents are often older than yesterday’s grandparents, but that’s not always the case.

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  11. I just want to add that the refusal to support or even acknowledge the existence of housewives in this region is visibly biting people in the behind. Life is remarkably more unpleasant here and women are significantly more overworked because all the lady-obligations fall on women with full time jobs and either don’t get done or get done very poorly. And no one knows how to clean anything.

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  12. I just remembered that MIL had a house cleaner when her kids were older (she had three boys, the first two 4 years apart, and then my husband was 10 years younger than the middle kid). She was a housewife, not homeschooling, of course, with a nice custom-built 3,000 or so square foot house. When he was 12 or so they moved into an even larger, custom-built home–which, I believe, she had help cleaning. But for some strange reason I don’t need help in my situation…hmmm. I am continually surprised by her inability to see reality clearly, because she is very logical and seems so clear-headed. I have to constantly remind myself of the different situations that have happened that have shown me that what she says and what she does do not line up. It is hard for me because I love her very much and truly tend to think the better of her, but when it comes down to it I am disappointed quite often. It’s hard to not be jealous of some of my peers, who seem to have very willing and helpful grandparents, but at least I know now that this is not abnormal.

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