Wash, Rinse, Repeat!

The daily grind. Another day in paradise sans paradise. You get up at an indescribable hour to begin preparation for the day ahead. You quietly tiptoe around to try not to wake the sleeping children so that you can have those ever-sought-after moments of peace in the shower alone. Your plan is foiled and at least one child has risen earlier than expected, leaving you with the dilemma of what to occupy them with so that you can haphazardly clean yourself while simultaneously watching and listening for the inevitable crisis that will occur while your hair is still full of shampoo. You prepare breakfast for the kids (and yourself if you’re lucky) and assure that everything necessary is in the diaper bag. You have been proactive about outfit selection for yourself and your kids and have things nicely laid out. After helping prepare the children, you dress yourself and play the exciting game of What’s More Important: Dry Hair or Makeup? You decide on dry hair, as you’ll have plenty of time at stoplights to fix your face. With no time to spare, you gather the children and head out the door… at least you try to. You find that the baby has spit up all over her outfit and, not surprisingly, yours too. You have less than zero time to change both of your outfits and head back out the door.
Now it’s off to daycare. You bring your children to their respective rooms, undoubtedly see a new face in place of the daycare provider you were just getting used to, and quickly kiss them goodbye. At least one of them is crying for you not to leave and you feel your heart yanked out of your chest. You assure them you’ll be back “in a few hours,” which means nothing to a crying child. You get back in your car to head to work and finally take a deep breath and wonder where the time all went. After a long day of work, you head back to the daycare only to find that your children have been moved into a common room and are now with children of all ages from all of the rooms (they’ve done this to decrease the number of staff necessary at such a late hour). Your children are two of very few remaining. When they spot you, you get a surge of emotions… a certain combination of overwhelming love for your children and guilt that you have left them all day. You get them home and try to get some semblance of a meal prepared for the family (undoubtedly dear ole hubby has made it home and is expecting food by now, too).
After dinner there is just enough time for baths and bed and when you feel as though an end is in sight you look to the pile of dinner dishes surrounding the sink, the trail of laundry leading down the hall, and any number of random unidentifiable messes that you have just now discovered. Alas, the end is nowhere near! You finally slink into bed hours past when your body told you it was time and dream of repeating the whole thing over again tomorrow. Fast forward several years and it’s time to jockey all of the children’s before school care, after school endeavors, sick days, and play dates just to name a few. What’s that saying again… it’s all uphill from here?!
Now envision a day with an au pair. And yes, by au pair I mean a live-in childcare provider not live-in maid as some may think! You get up for work when your alarm goes off. Thankfully, so does your au pair. While you take a shower in peace, she prepares breakfast for the kids. You join them downstairs and make yourself a cup of coffee and {insert ideal breakfast of your choice}. After getting a few minutes in with the kids, you return to your room to do your hair and makeup. As you get ready, so do the kids. The au pair makes lunches and you help to ensure that the kids have everything they need for the day. When you leave for work, the kids are still able to hang out for a few minutes before going to school because the au pair will take them when it is time. One of your children is sick, but you don’t have to take off work because you know you have capable, nurturing hands at home to provide for your child.
While you are away at work, the once elusive magic cleaning fairy we have all dreamed about takes care of the children’s laundry and tidies their rooms and bathroom. She picks them up from school and they are able to unwind from a long day in their own home without having to ride buses to daycare centers or miss out on playing with friends. Upon entry into your eerily non-chaotic household, you find your children playing a game and learning some new words in German, the au pair’s native language. You greet everyone and have time to change into some baggy sweats and a t-shirt while the children are happily occupied. The family has a nice meal together and you share some laughter and stories, all the while feeling no pressure to hurry up and finish so that you can begin work on homework because- voila- the au pair has already done that with the kids. You spend quality time with your children before tucking them into bed and maybe, just maybe, look forward to the days ahead.
Sure, it may sound like a dream world, but it’s not. Many modern families are turning to au pair providers to solve their childcare dilemmas. What once may have been only for the high and mighty has become a very viable option for many parents whose schedules prevent them from finding quality childcare, or whose number of children make it difficult for them to work entirely. I only wish that I had known about au pairs in my children’s younger years. The woman described in the first setting very much mimics how my life once was. With a husband in the military, I often operated as a single mom. When my kids were younger, I tried countless different jobs. I wanted to make extra money and gain a little sanity back in having adult interactions. What I soon came to realize was that I was essentially working to pay for daycare and there weren’t any inherent benefits to what I was doing. Sure, the kids were gaining social interaction with kids their own age… but they were also gaining the lovely habit of hitting or biting that sweet little (insert sarcasm) boy in their class had taught them and ear infection after stomach bug after ear infection. Some weeks I paid more in childcare than I made because of sick days and doctor’s appointments, surgeries and downtime. I often daydreamed about how wonderful it would be to have a wife: someone to help get the kids ready in the morning, prepare meals, clean up after the kids, and offer an extra set of hands when toting them to and fro... especially during deployments or on long road trips. Little did I know that I could have hosted an au pair!
While the opportunity to become a host family never came to fruition for us, I am pleased to report that I am still happily married to the man I love and still accepting (while muttering under my breath) his ever changing, never predictable military working hours… and thankfully, our children have outgrown the daycare years!