Helping Women Achieve in Academic Science

mary_poppins_by_nightwing1975In my last post about traveling, I mentioned the plight of my poor HusbandOfScience while I was away. Since he is a HusbandOfScience, he had several deadlines during the time when he was shoveling snow while tending to 2 children. I think I have finally convinced him that we should get a housekeeper/nanny. But, how do you find one?

Here are some helpful tips from WomanOfScience, Robin:

For new parents, it’s understandable if they both prefer to minimize travel for 12-18 months postpartum, especially for lactating moms. Pumping milk and pouring it down the sink in the women’s bathroom at a conference is not my idea of a good time.

Once you are ready to travel again, I would recommend having a nanny (or, possibly, a grandparent) available at home to assist the parent left behind, to alleviate the stress of solo parenting. It’s especially helpful if the nanny can help with laundry, shopping, driving kids to activities, cooking, and at least light housekeeping.

Nannies deserve decent pay so prepare to have less disposable income. An ideal candidate might be a semi-retired adult who will mostly work a few hours/day before or after school/daycare (or both), and who is also available on an emergency basis to cover the daytime hours in case of (heaven forbid) a sick day or snow day.

When our kids were little we spent a lot on nanny salary (often nanny-sharing with another family); and, later, private school tuition + after school nannies. The trade-off is that for a long time we drove older cars (purchased used and kept for well over 10 years) and lived in an older home in a not particularly trendy neighborhood.

I viewed each nanny as a professional co-parent and we did our best to treat them with kindness and respect. Most stuck around for a long time. There were a handful of nannies who didn’t really work out and stayed for less than a year, but most stuck around for two to five+ years. A tip: One way to promote a nanny’s loyalty to your family is to put her on your family cell phone plan, on the condition that she will keep the phone handy when on duty.

With good support at home you and dear husband should both be able to travel without too much stress on either of you. And with all the frequent flyer miles you earn, you can take the whole family on a nice vacation.

The tricky part is what to do when both you and your dear husband need to attend the same conference. Your best bet is to have both a familiar nanny and a beloved grandparent stay at home with the kids. That way they at least have their familiar environment even if not all the familiar people.

Here is something that we did for you to consider: hire a personal assistant. This is one benefit of living in a college town. There are often college students who will do stuff you need for money. I currently have a personal assistant. Sounds weird, right? It’s totally awesome. Here is how I did it: Last year, at the beginning of the fall semester, I had a small infant, a 6-year-old, and a basement crowded with crap. I needed someone to help me while I was on maternity leave to get my house in order. HusbandOfScience and I had spent the past 5 years living in a house, but not really maintaining it or organizing it. No time while trying to get tenure.

So, I put an ad on the electronic job board at UState. I specifically asked for a personal assistant/organizer. I was specific about heavy lifting and cleaning. I had several applicants, and one very good one in particular. We worked out a deal for hourly wage and discussed some of the grosser aspects of the job. She didn’t run away screaming, and thus we landed someone to help us clean and organize the house. The basement went from impenetrable to organized and actually clean. This year, we hired the same student to watch and drive our oldest to after school activities, such as gymnastics class. Unfortunately for us, and happily for her, our amazing helper is graduating this year.

Next year, I want to graduate to a real housekeeper/nanny. I figure, in the 1900’s people who did even work had staff in their house. Now, HusbandOfScience and I work 60 hours per week on our jobs and we are supposed to be able to keep our house tidy, clean, with fresh sheets, and clean toilets? No fair! We can’t afford full time staff, but I think it would be better to have a functional house with a house keeper instead of a rats nest and new stuff that just gets trashed because we can’t do the upkeep.

What do you think? At what stage do you make the leap to full housekeeper? Post or comment? Push the +Follow button to receive an email every time I post.

Comments on: "Desperately Seeking Mary Poppins" (2)

  1. UntenuredNewMom said:

    We have a housekeeper come for 4 person hours every other week– it’s two people who come for 2 hours. It’s so great! With a baby and a preschooler, I’d much rather spend my limited time at home reading an extra book than cleaning a toilet. Or the reality, which was more like, the cleaning did not get done and it lowered morale for all in the house. Now that there are 4 of us, the idea of a nanny is definitely appealing, and I like the personal assistant idea, too. I’m sure that for my semester of maternity leave, I will need more help. I just have not figured out who’s going to do it yet.

  2. […] grass cutting people (as previously discussed in prior posts about getting the help you need here, here), but now I need them to come every week. Cleaning people won’t move furniture and […]

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