I hired a summer nanny. Please don’t hate me.
I do not have a full-time, paying job. However, I am a full-time mother of three and am trying really hard to spend 20 hours a week writing. I’ve got a few published essays under my belt, but my half-dozen picture book manuscripts are aging on a shelf while I actively search for an agent with my completed early middle grade novel. Plus, I’m five chapters into its sequel.
Oh, and I’m training for a half marathon and go to Crossfit on my non-running days. Does that count as justification for a full-time summer nanny? I think it does.
In summers past, I work hard to prevent that infamous summer slide. Right now my children are ten, eight, and six, so in years past they’ve (obviously) been younger and needier. I’ve worked hard to keep my kids moving and thinking and engaged in all their various interests. We’ve gone on field trips, hikes, long excursions to museums and historical places, and sampled all the ice cream shops within a fifty mile radius.
But the summer slide is real in my own life. All of the workout gains I’ve achieved during the fall, winter, and spring gradually fade as I get to the gym less and run significantly fewer miles. My husband and I constantly argue about how much I need to work out, versus how much I should, and want to. As if there is an answer. As if I should have to defend my hour a day of sweat in order to stay mentally sane and physically fit. But that’s a slice for another day.
And, more important, my writing gets stuffed into the very first hour of the day, before anyone else wakes up. This has always been and remains my most productive writing hour, and I grasp onto it with sharp elbows and scowls if you dare interrupt me. But any other writing is counted in minutes, squeezed into the time my kids are watching TV, they’re occupied by themselves (this never lasts) or in the evenings after they’re asleep, during our “couple time.” Which I know is important, but sometimes it’s hard to be present and happy when I’ve not given myself the other time during the day that I need.
Enter Nikki. She’s our summer nanny. We all love her. My husband’s job allows her to be with one or two or all of my children when they’re not in camp, and she drives them around to help me with the different pick-ups and drop-offs and play-dates and practices. It is a win-win situation. No, actually it’s a win-win-win-win-win-win situation because my husband gets a wife who is—for the most part—present and not completely frazzled at the end of the day. Sometimes, I’m even showered. Nikki is earning a big chunk of change to augment her Catholic schoolteacher salary. And my children only get dragged to half the things they usually get dragged to, which means more hours of play with the neighbors and painting rocks and walking their dog.
Whenever that inevitable mommy guilt threatens to creep up and rain on my gratitude towards this happy summer arrangement, I remember the facts: In one week, my kids are awake for about 100 hours each week. Nikki is with us for 40. I’m still doing my share. I’m doing enough.
But I’ve got to go. Chapter six of my book needs to be written, and I have just two more kid-free hours and a whole lot of work to do.