I’ve been tossing up whether to write about this or not, because I’m sure lots of people are divided on the idea of having domestic support. (Are they? I don’t know…)
For me, it’s not too foreign an idea. On our first night in Ukraine, the Mr’s new boss called him and said, “We’re taking you out to dinner. My driver will pick you up at 7pm”.
“Wooo,” we thought. “A driver!” imagining, of course, a guy in a suit and a dinky cap. The person who actually turned up was a Ukrainian man in jeans and a jumper. But still, driver he was, and answered the call to the Boss-man and his family virtually 24 hours a day, six days a week.
(As it turns out, I came to rely a lot on drivers… other people’s drivers that is. We never bought a car, let alone hired a driver).
My friends in Ukraine whose financial situations were further up the food chain than that of Mr Moi and I at the time, usually had staff support. Most people I knew had drivers. Everyone – and I mean, EVERYONE – with children had a nanny, usually full time, but some just part time. And some people also had a cook / housekeeper full time, others had cleaners part time.
So the idea of staff is not at all new to me.
For all intents and purposes, even though the staff in Ukraine were paid a lot less than we’re used to by Western standards, they were paid well by local standards. Still, it is hard for me – especially as an Australian, egalitarian society and all that – to be entirely comfortable in a position of ‘privilege’.
And yet, here I am, three years after leaving Ukriane, a little bit further up the food chain and once again expatting. And I have staff.
Firstly, I have a cleaner who comes in daily. She is employed by our landlord, so her services are essentially something that we have as part of our lease. Also included in the rent is a laundry service. It gets taken out and done daily.
Then we have a driver. Well, he’s a taxi driver who we use all the time – he drives his own car. But he’s very reliable and seems to be more or less on call for us.
And as of Wednesday, we have a nanny.
A nanny is something that I theoretically wanted, but I probably wouldn’t have done anything about once I was here. But the Mr got a lead, and before I knew it I was interviewing someone, and she started the next day. It’s day three now, and I have to say it’s fantastic to have someone else around. Instead of being shouty and telling the Sprog to get off her sister a thousand times a day (which is really just attention seeking, I’m sure), the nanny can look after Harrie while I can spend quality time with the Sprog. And vice versa.
Also, the all day shopping trip is now a lot more manageable without a whingy threenager in tow.
So while I kept thinking that deep down I didn’t need a nanny, I’m slowly realising that it’s not a bad thing to have someone help out with the kids.
And when I really think about how lucky it makes me feel, I realise it’s because the Mr and I have slogged it on our own for so long now, parenting our kids a loooooooong way from our friends and family on the east coast. I’ve never been in a position to call my mum after a bad night and ask if I can drop the kids off for a few hours. A night out in a restaurant has always required meticulous planning and an $80 babysitting fee (Darwin babysitters book a minimum four hours), or calling in a favour from a very special friend.
I’m not having a pity party – it’s just the way it’s been for us as parents. And I have to remind myself to relax and enjoy the fact that I now have help on hand five days a week.
And when I rationalise it like that, I don’t feel too bad about it at all. I think.