I’m just old fashioned…

Which means that I like real stuff. Food. Exercise. Sleep. Conversation. Entertainment. The list continues. And now I’ve got a kid. And it seems that the real stuff takes work. A lot of work, every day. Taking a break doesn’t go over well because the work piles up. When faced with an all too common pile of work to do, I wonder how people do it. And the answer is they don’t. This is why most people use disposable diapers and buy baby food and do all sorts of other things that I’m not keen to do. And this is why I have help.

I’m doing all that I do in search of substance. It may sound overdramatic but deep down that is the reason. I am on a constant quest for all things real and substantive. Once we had our first baby we were faced with the ongoing questions of “how are we going to do this” and it became clear that there was no possible way to do everything that there was to be done. After a few trials we settled into a routine as far as help goes.

Here’s what I realized along the way. I want anybody who is a regular part of our home life to be happy and comfortable in that work. Looking back at my own life I remember my days of babysitting and house cleaning. In fact having my first child has often sparked my fond memories of caring for other children. In those jobs that I had as in all others since, I learned a lot. I realized that I wanted to have somebody around who would appreciate helping us because they liked cleaning and being with kids (yes, there are people who fit that bill) AND because they liked to learn more about those things. I wanted someone who was like me, but younger. Someone who was headed somewhere with a lot of enthusiasm and pluck and who in the meantime needed some money.

Here’s how I found such people. From a client, I learned that each of the higher education institutions in our area has a job posting service for families looking for domestic help. And so I posted a position. I was immediately overwhelmed with the response. This was a good confidence boost and necessitated thinking through another step in my process. I set about figuring out a way to process all the resumes and correspondence quickly keep me on track toward finding the right person for our family. I had a list of qualities which were important to me and that I could glean from the initial phase of correspondence with the applicants. I listed each applicant by name and the important qualities on a spreadsheet and gave each person a point for each quality that they had on my list. Then I picked the three highest scoring applicants and sent them a message with a couple more questions about qualities that were not apparent from their resumes (transportation, allergies, yes or no types of questions). From there I asked each of the three to come for a visit. The visits were very helpful. I’ve now completed this process two times and I’m learning to trust my gut instincts when meeting people. In both cases there was one person who “just felt right.” In both cases, I’ve chosen that person and been very happy with the results. Overall I’m please with the process that I’ve designed because it has a few stages of evaluation leading up to the final meeting in person which is the real determinant. At each stage I can abandon a lead and pick up another one from the list of prospects.

Now I have help and I find it great in a lot of ways. My kid is pretty much always with me save for a few hours per week when I am out for appointments. Structuring the position the way I did affords for the people who help us really knowing how we do things and being comfortable completing all sorts of various tasks around our home. I don’t have to worry that my kid is having some sort of experience that greatly differs from what I’ve set up for him (while I realize that he will eventually be out in the world far beyond my arms’ reach, for now he is a baby and I hold to the philosophy that mama’s instinct is to be followed for everybody’s best interests to be served). The baby knows these gals well and really enjoys being with them. And he’s got me available when he is in need.

I’ve always been clear that I wanted to cultivate independence and focused engagement in my children. So it follows that I aiming for the someday when we are side by side each working on our own project. It’s not reasonable to expect this of a little baby, but having the work of our home executed in this way on a daily basis sets the standard for future years when it is precisely how we’ll get things done.

For me the support of another person is wonderful. For the moments when I’m dispirited, it’s a big help to have another person present. It helps me to hold myself together. It may well be because I’m on better behavior for my helper’s benefit rather than for some more profound reason. Regardless of the reason, the result is far fewer mama freak-outs and of course that is a good thing.

I have only conventional wisdom to back up this idea, but it seems to me that it wasn’t too long ago that domestic work and child care were communal activities. I think that this is far and away a better approach than the one that seems to be the current standard. So often in my days I see moms with babes and when I am in conversation with them I learn that most of their days are spent in solitude. I can’t imagine how people do this, it is a constant marvel to me as I face the challenges of my days. A marvel and a consolation. But really, I think that we can do better that each of us alone in our little homes using the notion of shared suffering as a source of comfort. Perhaps I’m way off on this. Perhaps I live in some sort of little bubble. Well yes there is always that unavoidable truth. But I can still see through the bubble to the outside world. I the way I figure, might as well try and make things as good as they can be rather than settling for things being not so great. I guess it could be said that along with being old fashioned, I’m also an optimist.

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