You know, empty and load the dishwasher, fold the laundry if it's all over the couch (which it usually is), tidy up the toys when the baby goes down for a nap. I'm lucky to have a great babysitter I trust with my kids, and she does all those things for me. Last week I came home to find my daughter's bed made, all nice and neat, and I almost swooned with gratitude.
So why do I always feel like such an idiot when I leave a mess in the kitchen when she shows up in the morning? Why do I rush around and hide the pan I made nachos in at 9 p.m. the night before, and was too tired to clean before bed? Why do I feel like she goes home and tells her roommates that she works for a big fat piggy? A piggy who lets her kids eat lollipops at 9 a.m.?
Turns out I'm not alone. Plenty of mums feel like their sitters look askance at the dirty dishes in the sink, not to mention their parenting practices. Just what is it about these lovely caregivers that makes us feel us feel so defensive?
"I think, as women, we all judge each other, and if I walked into someone's nasty house twice a week, I'd be looking for another job," says Andrea Rizk, a mum of two. "My twice-a-month sitter is an epidemiologist. She babysits to pay off her student loans. I mean, she has more degrees than I do, and she deals with germs for a living. How the heck can she look around my house at the dust and the dirt and not judge me?"
Rizk, who admits that she has a touch of obsessive-compulsive disorder, adds that "deep down, we know we are being judged." But in her case, responding to that implied judgment by cleaning up for her sitter, company and even her cleaning woman makes her feel better.
"Even with two young kids, a business to run, and a house to manage, I find the time to make sure that my house looks semi-clean," she says. "If not, I apologise to them like I just ran over their dog. And, I am not a bit sorry for this. It makes me feel good -- makes me feel like I did something to make someone's day better."
It wasn't so long ago that I was a nanny myself. In college, I earned spending money as a part-time nanny for a family with five kids, ages 2 through 11. Half the time, the mum was in the house when I was working; she needed as many extra hands on deck as possible.
This was a wealthy family, with a tony Boston brownstone -- and every surface of that home was covered in laundry, dirt and spilled milk. I cleaned up plenty of messes and witnessed lots of mummy-meltdowns, and never once did I judge that poor, harried woman. Maybe we need to give our trusted babysitters a little more credit. They love our kids, they save our sanity, and while we may feel like they are judging us, maybe we are really judging ourselves.
Do you feel like your babysitter judges your housekeeping and parenting skills?
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