How having a live-in nanny helps you have it all.

“How the hell did you do it [with 2 young children]?”

“Because I could afford to have childcare at home.”

When I heard the above exchange on an old episode of  Desert Island Discs, I thought five things in quick succession.

  1. How refreshing. Finally a high profile and accomplished woman who doesn’t pretend that they are all hands on with every aspect of childcare. Professor Lisa Jardin acknowledged in a very frank and matter of fact way that her career would not have been possible without live-in childcare. She categorically couldn’t have made it work if she’d had to take her children to childminders or day care as many working parents have to.
  2. A successful man with children wouldn’t have been asked this. I think Kirsty Young is a fantastic interviewer who gets amazing stories and reflections out of her interviewees, but I’ve listened to Desert Island Discs for a long time and I can’t remember many of the numerous successful male interviewees who happen to be fathers being asked ‘How have you juggled being a father with your illustrious career?’
  3. A successful man, if honest, and asked directly, would have answered the same thing. However, the live-in childcare usually takes the form of his wife (or equivalent), and society doesn’t see this as a reason for soul searching.
  4. A surprising number of successful women have a partner who earns significantly less than them and effectively fulfils the traditional ‘wife’ role when it comes to childcare. This has been my anecdotal experience is talking to many women in senior positions in education who don’t have a live-in nanny.
  5. I think I used to be/still kind of am one of the women mentioned in point 4 above, and I’m very aware of the support of my partner, which has enabled me to accept senior positions when we had children who were under one.

So it looks like to have children and be successful (by very particular measures), a live-in nanny helps. Sometimes that nanny is officially recognised and paid as such, sometimes it’s your spouse.  Either way, they should be acknowledged and respected.

Small acts of creation

“Your job cannot contain the sum total of who you are and what you want to make”

We have three children; in August they will be five, two and two. We were so smug in our evening routine that got them off to bed fairly early and gave us space to spend time together – that is, until the clocks went forward. The lighter nights decimated our cosy routine. I’ve not had a night of uninterrupted sleep for several weeks and, until last week, the kids were taking well over an hour to get to sleep. This, coupled with waking with the birds, meant the sleep deprivation of the newborn months had returned.

I need regular creativity in my life to stay happy. Creativity beyond my work. Suddenly, the time I’d carved out most evenings for creating or reading had disappeared. We were falling asleep on the sofa at 9pm.

At Easter I listened to a podcast about the power of morning routines and realised that could be the key for me. One problem, though – I already got up at 0530, and wasn’t sure I could face much earlier. Then I reflected that most mornings I actually woke up at 0500 then just lay around waiting for my alarm to go off. How about just getting up when I opened my eyes?

After some early teething problems, fast forward two months.

Routine:

Wake up around 0500-0510 with no alarm

Get up immediately

Go downstairs

Make a mint tea

Read a non-fiction book

Write up to one A4 page (longhand) in response to this

0530 go upstairs

Shower, get dressed

0600 family get up and the circus starts

What’s been the effect? The evenings are still crazy but my day starts with calm and an act of creation every day. The result? A much happier and more contented me. Make time to create – you’ll be better for it.