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Working mum dilemmas: ‘Messy house and after-school care? Or feral children but ironed knickers?’


By Amanda Cassidy
18th Dec 2021
Working mum dilemmas: ‘Messy house and after-school care? Or feral children but ironed knickers?’

A love letter to the woman that keeps my household ticking over

Choose your battles, my mother-in-law used to tell me me as I crashed my sweet-potato-laden airplane spoon into a small, uncooperative mouth.

But these days, many years later, even choosing the next battle as a working mother of three is a luxury. And there are plenty of those. Ultimately, it comes down to priorities, when it comes to working and running a house.

In the absence of finding someone to ‘be me’ for cash, parents need to choose the lesser of whatever they consider most evil.

So which combination do we settle on (because it can’t be all of it). Dirty house, amused children? Or convenience meals and after-school care. Feral children but ironed knickers? School run helper but having to cook dinner from scratch at 6.30pm by a paint-splattered kitchen table?

Fanciful

Because there is no Mary Poppins.

(Besides, she didn’t drive either, unless you count the umbrella).

In the absence of finding someone to ‘be me’ for cash, parents need to choose the lesser of whatever they consider most evil.

I enjoy hanging out with the children and they are old enough to play themselves (Play = wrestling) while I work. WFH flexibility also means that quick school pick-ups are easier.

My evil is cooking and cleaning.

“Wouldn’t it be amazing to have an organizer” I sigh to myself as I scrub pots after a 10-hour workday? “Someone to head up the household and meal plan and cool and be the ‘mom’ of the house so I can just focus on being creative in work and then have fun with the children after my day.”

‘It’s called a housekeeper,’ my friend later tells me. ‘I know someone looking for part-time work. Her name’s Val’. I shake my head, unable to justify it. I don’t say aloud is what my real question is; Aren’t those types of hires just for rich people?

But I heard that Val was also looking for some cleaning work, so we met.

Three cups of tea later, Val – a young-looking 55-year-old Italian who lives nearby, is my new…well, we are still working on the position title. My husband and I tweaked our budget and worked out a plan with both our work that suits us all, so we don’t need a childminder at all.

Instead, we have Val.

Secretly though, I think of Val as my very own minder. She sends me mouth-watering Italian recipes each week that she then cooks from scratch. She does our food shop and rotates the laundry, she loves our very bold dogs as if they are her own children. She puts magic on our fresh sheets that make them smell like hotels and she rearranges our badly-designed and very limited storage space.

But more than that, she’s taken the sometimes very heavy hat off of my head – you know the one that says you must be the domestic centre of the home. It’s never felt right. That pressure has been lifted a little. And in a year when I needed some fussing over of my own, Val’s presence has helped more than she knows.

It’s just for a few hours, a few days a week, but on those days, I bound out of work to a tidy house and delicious dinner warming in the oven.

I’m more relaxed, more inclined to do something nice with the children or go out and exercise knowing things are organised at home.

On the downside, I’m part human-part creamy lasagne. But we choose our battles, right?