Work is not “play” work. Work is not just “keep busy” work. Work is work. It is not for my own sense of importance and self-indulging Instagram hype-ness. It is work that is routed in a survival and in the reality of a passing — or hopefully — consistent season. Work is necessary. Work has its hiccups. Work that requires adjusting and re-aligning, work that keeps me up. Work that keeps us up.
In the midst of holiday madness and the end-of-year obligatory look-back, I have been maneuvering around my own new reality. It is a reality with a slight adjustment. Work was work, but work will be a different kind of work in the new year. And I’ve been dealing with what that calls from me when it comes to motherhood. To have my position from a two-parent household switch to a one-parent household within the same few short years that I grew a business and wrote a book has been an astounding set of pulses. I dare not call them pains because in reality having these things catch me in what can seem like falling seasons are God-given, universe-given, luck-given, favor-given, generationally earned, worked-for, planned-for, or however one would like to call it, things. In short, it is hard to see something as painful when its timing couldn’t be more on point.
As the year comes to a close, I’ve been adjusting to a new form of motherhood. Not just a motherhood that says my kids are big, but a motherhood that requires I seek more help to manage life. More help to work. More help to love on the kids. More help to make things happen. And while I feel grateful that these things are within my grasp, there is a huge part of me that shudders at the truth: Kids are growing up and out, and so am I. The housework cannot just belong to me. Dinners and homework must be checked by someone who has my back and their affection. This was always a privilege. This was always something I never took for granted, and something I also sometimes pushed back on when I knew work fulfilled a very real side of me too. A side that could not be ignored in the days of motherhood, no matter how grand or fruitful they seemed to be.
I’ve been looking for a nanny for the new year. I felt a chunk in the deep part of my throat as I wrote that. To adjust to a new form of motherhood again and again, while my kids adjust, takes a fine hand and a lot of thought. I’ve been running in myself, writing and planning, and taking care, because that’s also the work. A modern family, modern woman, modern children, and a modern lifestyle require immense care in the midst of adjusting. A care that I know many women like myself have within. But often, a care that seems out of reach in the overwhelming step back of it all. But it is done. It needs to be.
A nanny for the new year ahead to help with the kids and my work makes me uncomfortable to admit because it is uncharted class territory. It is not because I believe I am the only source of love, routine and affection. (Though those things do sting a little.) It is because needing a nanny, being able to access one, and then going for it, is foreign to my being.
My work has often been about making it work. And as that continues to shift, the work within me stirs up. I guess there’s no fine point to this. There is no real answer, except a reality of adjustment. Again. And not just surface, but an emotional mothering generational class kind of adjustment that seems so far beyond my own realm of reality.
What to do when a new year and a new way seems foreign, but requires an innate care as if you’ve done this your whole life?
Photos by Amanda Petersen
You are definitely not alone in feeling a bit uncomfortable with the idea of needing, and having the means to afford a nanny. I think it’s something that particularly as black women, comes up quite ofte when placed in that predicament. I love that you have acknowledged the shift and are being proactive in seeking the help. For me in order to thrive as a modern mom, it imperative to have all hands on deck. Sometimes, the village includes nannies and that she ok too. Wish you all the best as you adjust to this new phase.
Thank you Steph. I definitely thing it feels heavier as a black woman. I am often left thinking about my mom who kind of sort of made it work (and didn’t) with more children. Less help. etc.
I just feel like thriving is such a key word here, because I think these are decisions that are about surviving and thriving, and knowing the difference between the two and making adjustments to allow them.
How amazing it is to finally get to that place where you’ve “worked” for, maybe, beforehand, dreamt about– only to have fear and uncertainty come in and seat themselves uninvited. This phase in your life is confirmation of the right road you’re on and also of your upward trajectory! Now, All that’s needed to stay on and remain in the wonder is belief. Congratulations on this achievement of being able to know you need, ask for, and then afford help. I’m sure it came from consistent hard “work”! LOL
Thank you Kisha.
About three years ago I hired a housecleaner named Elaine to come twice a month. I felt embarrassed because I had been saying to myself that cleaning my house is something my husband and I can and SHOULD do on our own. And when I was growing up I certainly didn’t know anyone who had a house cleaner.
I work full time as a social worker and teach a college class on the weekend and my husband works full time too. We have three little kids who ain’t winning any awards for their housekeeping. Anyway, Elaine , has been a blessing and it’s just one (very big!!) thing I dont have to do in the house. Also I’ve loved getting to know Elaine. She’s a badass business woman from Brazil who works HARD for her family. Sometimes I do wonder, though, about the effect on my kids. I make them clean their rooms before Elaine comes (they get caught up on why do you have to clean before the cleaner comes but you do!!) and I talk with the about privilege and how fortunate we are to have Elaine in our lives.
Anyway, that was long but good luck to you and your family as you male this transition!!
I love this so much, Chrissie. Thank you for sharing!
Beautiful thoughts! Life is a crazy balance, isn’t it? For my work this year, I started a new position that requires more of my time. That combined with the rest of my life, I was really struggling to take care of myself, let alone our home (cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc). I made a list of everything I’m responsible for and picked a few things I didn’t like to outsource. I hired a cleaning lady and it has helped so much! I don’t have to think about cleaning my house (which was 75% of the work). So proud of you for reassessing your life and making changes to make it the best for you and your kids!
Thank you so much for sharing, Katie!
I have a house cleaner come twice a month as well, and it totally took a lot of brain work to get to, and she’s been amazing. I still tend to clean up before her (which is SO STRANGE, I know) but I also feel bad former, even though she’s getting paid to do the job. I’m getting better about fully letting it go and knowing there’s a reason why all of this is the way it is.
Though I’ve had occasional babysitters, the nanny is definitely there to just help with the life stuff, a wife, a partner, and it’s so odd to say or come to terms with the fact that certain life things are not within your grasp any longer.
I still have my things, like class parent and events at school that I never like to miss and don’t. It’s all about growing and letting go, I guess.
I say OWN IT. Sometimes a nanny fulfills something in us mothers more than just ‘domestic duties’ it fulfills a bit of mothering that we need. I had a nanny when I went back to work when my son was 2, and dear dear Marta mothered me more than I thought I needed. She made meals & anticipated my needs. It was money well spent & I wouldn’t have been able to achieve what I did without her. You know…it takes a village. Why is there such shame in hiring help? Because we women think we can do it all? Pish posh to that! We can’t do it all. Enjoy that nanny & delegate meals to her, you won’t regret that. And a huge congratulations for the achievement of being able to afford such a needed luxury. Let’s just relish in that….happy 2019
Thank you so much, Alisha!!!
I definitely need the mothering as well. Happy 2019!
I was a high profile nanny in NYC for several years and I’m here to tell you that you’re not alone! Many minority moms that i’ve worked with have also felt this way.. I think mostly because it’s not apart of our culture BUT, that’s totally okay. Cultures change and they also shift. Even as a nanny I would sometimes question the work that I was doing. I had to shift my mindset from ” I work for crazy rich people” to ” I’m a part of the village that it takes to raise children of all backgrounds in NYC”.
All this to say that it does in fact take a village and sometimes nannies or housekeepers or house assistants are in those villages!
Thank you so much for saying all of this, Anicia! I think the internal culture/money struggle is so hard to articulate. And even being honest that for one ship to run the others need to be held afloat by others. And because the look of a village has totally changed over the years, I feel like its such a transformative time for many.
It definitely is about accepting, opening up the conversation and teaching the mind a little along the way.