To start with, as a sort of disclaimer for the following post I have to say that I am a hands on stay at home mum who changes diapers (reluctantly), cooks variably healthy meals for her kids, organizes play dates if there is wine for adults, does an average of 12 wash loads a week etc. But I am not very good at this whole mummy business so I get help. A lot of help and somehow it still seems never enough.
Note: I also apologize for the graphic violence of one section.
A lot of people ask me how we are still alive with 3 babies and especially how we can afford paid help with one salary. Basically we cannot afford it but what are savings for if not for providing a cushion when times get hard, right? So here we are splashing every dime we saved to pay a team to save us.
Who are these paid and volunteer people ?
- Rosalie, the nanny
Shift: Mon-Friday 9am-6pm
She is from Senegal, Muslim, super organized and an amazing social bee. Thanks to her, my kids have a busier social calendar than me. In fact, she got so concerned by my ‘I don’t want to socialize with other mums because I really don’t like to talk about kids in general’ attitude that she set me up on blind dates with parents of G & P’s play dates. It turns out she was right and I did need to hang out with other mums because let’s be honest here, I had become insufferable to women without children. About one year after my twins were born I had to admit that very sad truth. And now with three kids, even mums with one child flee me. Really.
The main reason I worship the ground on which Rosalie walks is that while she spends 9 hours a day with the twins she genuinely seems to like them… A true miracle. After 3 hours on my own with my three kids, I would rather clean up the toilet bowl than open up for the 50th time the lid of their favorite toy: the empty diaper wipes box. I am not kidding 50 times: 24 times for G, 24 times for P, and twice for L (he does not know how to demand for it but he keeps jumping up and down when the bloody lid gets opened up). Weirdos.
Anyway, it is tough to keep a good nanny in Manhattan; it is like a battle for the fittest. Imagine two women with a hermes bag falling from the sky and landing between them…Well, it’s worse! Competition among mothers obsessed with the welfare of their little Cherubs is fierce sometimes even vicious. One day another mum got Rosalie some extra nanny work because I was on vacation. She then tried to grab her right under my nose offering her a full time position. Bitch!!!! Rosalie said she would not leave us because she felt home with us…Just to make sure she would NEVER leave us, I have trained the kids to shower her with kisses when she arrives in the morning, wait for her outside the bathroom when she gets changed and hug her like she was going to die when she leaves for the day. The poor woman has absolutely no chance.
- Next is Valentin, the cleaner
Shift: Fridays anytime between 10am and 2pm for 4 hours
He is a very camp, very gay, very Brazilian chatterbox. I honestly don’t think I ever heard him being silent for more than 5 mins. He even speaks to me when I am on the phone (?). He is also unreliable because he is at the beck and call of his main employers. Granted they are this gay power couple with two daughters who owns an entire brownstone house in Brooklyn and a mansion in the Hamptons (with supposedly a big movie star as neighbor). A gal from Harlem cannot win this battle. Today for example he ditched me – he did sound awfully sorry doing so – and I ended cleaning the toilet bowl to G & P’s complete disbelief as they were shadowing me. They almost looked impressed: ‘Maman’ is the only 24h/day, 7day/week staff member and now she even cleans the bathroom. I moved up on the corporate ladder.
Valentin is not the best cleaner but I am addicted to his weirdness and can not resist his kind heart. One morning he asked me: ‘ you are from Laos, aren’t you?’ I said yes. He then went on:’I am asking because I thought of you yesterday. I stayed at my friend’s place downtown and he is into this crazy stuff, snuff movies. He is sick. He showed me a movie where this girl from Laos was holding a food stall on the side of the road with her mum and then bang a car hit and cut her in half and we could see her body parts on the road. Anyway she was from Laos so I thought of you.’ I seriously almost choked to death with a cup of coffee before it was even ten in the morning…
- There’s also Sophie, the student baby sitter
Shift: Tuesdays and Fridays 6-7.30 and beyond when we decide to paint the town in red
Sophie is The American Sweetheart. Straight out from Texas. She is so nice that I should probably put a rein on my caustic humor. She does not get it. She smiles, gets red and eventually I sometimes see a flicker in her eyes that say:’What is this woman on???She is psycho.’ I also like that she takes no B.S. from the kids and gently disciplines them. It is always good to get a smart girl from an Ivy League college to discipline your kids. It feels like good money is being invested.
- Archibald, the godfather
Shift: once to two evenings a week when he is not on a business trip or jet setting around the world sipping bubbly with the other godfather.
I cannot even start to describe how much he is helping out. He is the guy who cleared out his busy business schedule during the last terms of both my pregnancies in case we needed someone to take me to the hospital, help me to push, reanimate nervous DH and so on. In fact, when L was born (in emergency and early) he had to run through Dulles International Airport in Washington with a massive hangover, holding his puke in, to catch the first flight home to NYC to care for the twins on his own. Of course, I probably will have to hear about this story until the day I die because Archibald = DRAMA
- and X, our secret weapon
X is someone who sleeps on our sofa bed and has multiple functions. This person needs to be able to intervene at times of crisis (which is basically 80% of the time). X holds L, watches one of the twins in the bath while the other is getting dressed, cleans up the after dinner mess, holds L, helps with the cooking, empties the trash cans, runs some errands, holds L, watches Barney the dinosaur at 7.00am with G & P, holds L and so on. In exchange they get food and get to see the most amazing city in the world. Isn’t it a freaking deal? So far, we had two of my cousins, both my sisters, my father in law, my mother in law, my dad, my niece and Benjamin. The good thing about these people is that they are not really active on Facebook so they cannot scare off future potential slaves.
And absolutely everyone who breathes the same air as me. I cannot meet anyone without wondering how they can be of help – even disabled people. I am ashamed.
That’s how we survive. Benjamin told me yesterday: ‘you run a company’. It was quite fitting; I do run a company although not very well if you judge by the state of my living room on a pretty quiet ‘business’ day.