Spoilt Mother?

Here is something interesting. Over the last few weeks since I started up on twitter again I have read a lot of criticism of stay at home mothers in Saudi who have full-time nannies. The comments and opinions were that there is no reason to have a nanny if you don’t work. Another one I read a lot is why have children if you are not going to take care of them. That mothers with nannies are spoilt and unfit to be mothers. And that being a true mother is taking care of your children with out the help of a full-time nanny.

If you are a reader of my blog then you’ll know I am a mother who has a nanny (or two when I have a baby in the house) so I thought why do I have a nanny? I know I need one but obviously people out there don’t think I should need one. I felt like, even though the judgment wasn’t passed directly on me, that I was within the group they thought of as a bad or spoilt mothers. So why not explore in this post the reasons I feel that having help in the house has made me a better mother. Also, I am sure this will generate good conversation so here we go!

Firstly I would like to address the “stay at home” part. I think because I do not have a paying job I fall under that category. As I explained before on my blog even though I don’t have a 9-5 job I do have a lot of obligations that keep me busy. I do volunteer work which obviously I don’t get paid for and isn’t a daily thing but it does occupy a large chunk of my life.

Another aspect is my family. In my extended family we are responsible for each other (Mothers, daughters, aunts, grandmothers, fathers, uncles, cousins) so we visit each other, we help each other we are in each others lives. Sometimes at the cost of being 100% in our children’s lives. This means almost never doing the morning school run for example because I visit all the rest of my family when the children sleep therefore I don’t get to sleep early. So I need a nanny to wake them up in the morning and take them school. Do I feel bad about this? yes and no. I would be lying if I said I wanted to wake every day at 6 am. But it’s the small conversations that the kids have on the way to school that I am sometimes sad I miss.

Then we have the situations when someone is ill, for example when my grandmother went into hospital while I was on vacation with the children and my husband. I came home early from our vacation and spent the rest of the time in the hospital with her, only coming home to shower and change, till she passed away. After that I spent as much time as I could with my mother and aunts. Had I not had a reliable nanny with me then their vacation would have been cut short as well and I would have had to drag them back to Riyadh to sit at home all day. There was no way my husband could do a skiing vacation with the kids alone. We were not about to let the 2 older ones go out all day without one of us around and we were not going to drag our 3 year old out in the cold all day. The whole family would have had to go home at nap time. You get the picture.

Did my kids miss me? Yes. Did this effect B’s mood and happiness? Yes, for a short while and now we are getting back on track. Do I regret this? No. Had I not had great help at home then I would have had to leave the hospital and not spend time with my grandmother. The only time I would get to spend with her ever again. Had I not had reliable help I would have killed myself worrying if the kids ate, or slept, or were being looked after properly when they finally did come home. Yes my husband was there but he has a job and can’t sit there all day with them. My children had school holidays during this time and had I not had reliable help I would have either had to bring them to the hospital or leave my grandmother to take care of them.

I will always remember that during the lead up to my sisters wedding my great aunt was very ill. My mother was very close to her and she was probably one of the only people who my Aunt let feed her and give her the medication and be around her that closely. My mother spent every moment she could with my Aunt up till the wedding day. She saw the preparations and was involved but not as she would have been had she not spent all the time with my Aunt. That always spoke volumes to me and set my priorities from the beginning. It’s the bigger picture. And we all understood this. When I am old and need love and attention and help I pray someone will choose to care for me and make me their priority.

You may think that we have our priorities mixed up. That I should choose, what I call my mini tribe (husband and children), over my larger tribe. A tribe is a tribe and if I want my children to have the amazing support system we all have through this horrible time then they have to understand that this has to be done. That they’re responsible for each other and me and their father always. Because we do prioritize the whole over the individual it means my grandmother was never left without one of her family with her ever the whole time she was sick. Because in the grand scheme of things she needed me more. And I needed to be there more. And thank God I could be.

Now these are the extreme situations. But even when I am home and all is well and I am not meant to be anywhere God knows I am thankful for our nanny. She can watch my 9 month old while I put my 3 year old down for a nap. She can pick up the older 2 kids from school if I am running late. While I am helping my 9 year old with his math (which I am appalling at btw) she can listen to my 6 year old read her book so that homework doesn’t have to go on for hours and hours. If we are in the middle of a game or still some homework (as unfortunately is the situation these days, Homework overload!) and my 9 month old needs to go down for a nap I can continue what I’m doing while she puts him down.

My children are able to do different things during the week and on the weekend because there is more than one or two adults to supervise them. My son goes to football 3 times a week. My daughter goes riding twice a week. My 9 month old goes to my grandmothers house (to see my eldest aunt) or to his other grandparents for an hour in the mornings. My 3 year old gets to have age appropriate play dates and not have to tag along with his 6 year old and 9 year old big brother. My life doesn’t have to stop for the 1.5 – 2 hours my 3 year old son or my 9 month old son is having a nap (they nap at different times and nothing I can do can fix this! believe me we tried to coordinate). I can go down to the basement where the children’s playroom is with them because there is another adult listening out for them.

When I lived in London I didn’t need all the help I need now for a few reasons. The first being that a parent or nanny is not expected to stay with the child during the play date. So I would drop S off to his friends and pick him up when it was time to come home. Secondly we didn’t have our whole extended family living there so they didn’t have a full schedule of people they wanted to see. It was actually very lonely for them after being used to being surrounded by cousins and friends but easy for me because a bus would come to pick S up in the morning. An hour later we would walk the 3 minute walk from the house to J’s nursery and drop her off. Then we would pick the children up from school when they were done and walk home. And that would be the end of our day. Having said that I had a live in housekeeper on the weekends because I want to go out and have dinner and have fun with my sisters who were living there at the time and not have to rush home.

The nannies are not raising my children for me. As I said before in a post I wrote as a response to an attack that was made on this site about having a nanny; an involved mother will always be an involved and attentive mother even with an army of nannies. And a neglectful mother will always be neglectful even if she were locked in a room with her child. Everyone I know has help with their children. Many of them full time but all are, I can honestly say, involved mothers. My sisters and I had nannies as we were growing up and everything good that I am or that I have learned I learned from my parents. Although our nanny was a big part of our lives till she passed away we had no confusion as to who our mother was and who we went to when we needed support.

And I understand the insanity of seeing a mother walking in the shops with a filipino nanny trailing behind her carrying her child, who the mother barely says a word to. But I also see the haggard looking parents with their kids in tow at the grocery store after a long day at work and I think now I am sure they would be grateful to have someone help them at home, watch the kids while they went out, or even better went out to get the groceries for them. Now if the issue is badly treated staff then that’s another thing but it is possible to have full time help, still be a good mother and not treat them badly.

The funny thing is every family in the block I was living in when I was in London (in Camden town) had either a nanny or a housekeeper. Not all full time but they had them every week day. Most of the kids who got picked up from the school my children went to were picked up by nannies even though most of the mothers weren’t working but they had younger children they were caring for.

There are hundreds of child care options in London. Nanny shares where more than one family share a nanny (as the name suggests lol), Part time nannies, live out nannies, daycare that are 5 minutes from your house etc. If we had the option of live out nannies here it would be perfect! It’s a huge responsibility having to take care of someone in your house who has left their family and country to come stay with you. Not to mention the price you pay of loosing a lot of privacy in your daily life. But for my life as it is it is worth it.

I am thankful every day that when I first have my children I can get a nurse to help me out. It’s customary here for a new mother to move in with her mother when she gives birth for the first month and sometimes more so she can have help. I did that with my first born then I felt that with my second I wanted to be back home with my eldest and not leave him for a month or move him away from his father into my mothers house so I got a nurse. A qualified nurse whom I was paying to help me. So even though I was no less exhausted from the 3 hourly feeds at least during the day I can feed the baby hand him over and roll over and go to sleep after a night of hardly any sleep! No need to fully get out of bed to change him. That on it’s own is a blessing. It gives me the chance to be more rested, more focused and in general a better parent.

We used to live in big familial communities and have tons of people to help out with every aspect. People to watch our kids, help with the cooking, care for the kids when the mother was sick and people don’t have that anymore so we substitute. No one knows my children better than I do. They don’t go to anyone else but my husband or I when they are upset or need some support. Maybe it’s a cultural thing.

My Grandmother (Allah Yr7amha) was an amazing mother. She lived in a house full of people who helped her take care of her children. She was a bedouin woman and this is the way it was done. The woman who took care of my mother lived with us till she passed away and we all called her Yumma (meaning mother). My mother again had no confusion about who her real mother was but loved her ‘nanny’ all the same. We don’t live in those communities anymore unfortunately but we don’t believe in the whole ‘go do it on your own’ philosophy. It takes a village. And believe me had living in a big house with my mother and sisters and children and husbands and little dog been an option I would jump at the opportunity. And I would totally expect them to help me with my kids as I would, in an instant, take their kids off their hands for as long as they needed a break for.

I got married when I was 22. I got pregnant about 5 minutes later and had my fourth and last child when I was 32. No I have not been a working mother in the traditional sense (the traditional sense being having a paying job!) but I have felt lucky I have access to all this help. Would I be able to get on without it? Yes. But having nannies means I can parent my kids in a way closer to how I want to parent them. One of the rule I know would go out the window had I not had help is the ‘no electronics during the week’ rule. My kids are totally capable of entertaining themselves but if you have kids who are 9 and 6 and 3 that are running around like mad people jumping off of everything that’s a foot or more off the floor onto anything they think is soft enough to break their fall you need more than one set of eyes to keep an eye on them.

And yes there are mothers out there who care for their children all on their own and manage to get them all to their respective activities and keep their children’s individual social lives going. I know it’s doable and they are perfectly happy in their lives and do not want any help ever. If I can do that while also seeing my mother at least 5 times a week and my father (they are divorced) a few times a week as well and visiting my eldest aunt also at least 5 times a week and seeing my sisters some evenings and going out with my friends and going to the DS school once a week and working on the campaigns and marketing for the school and volunteer in my children’s school as part of the PTA and start my own business and be able to just chill sometimes and read a book and spend some time with my husband sans children then I’m all in. God knows it will save me money!

I don’t think motherhood should be a death sentence to the rest of the aspects of who I am. Although it is the most prominent one, having help lets me maintain other aspects of who I am.

13 comments

  1. This is a wonderful post ,, I can go on writing forever in this issue but in short a stay-at-home mom is actually a job title and in addition to being the mom she’s also a manager (meaning she needs to manage and run things) ,, she should know who does what around the house, distribute roles and make sure no one is overworked or deprived of their rights (nannies & children) so doesn’t she deserve to just sit back and relax every now & then while the nanny looks after the kids? I think every mother does :) (I admit that it took me a couple of years to reach this conclusion as I always feared that my kids will love me less hehe) it’s all about balance and quality time!

    • Its sometimes difficult for others to understand and they are quick to judge. And if you are not used to it it is a hard decision to make. I have a friend who works really hard, she has a full time job and brings it home most days and she still feels guilty all the time to have a nanny with her children. I don;t know why because what she is doing is helping build the beautiful house she is living in. When she is off work she is attentive and devoted. She spends all weekends with her children. If anything she should be proud and raising them to be proud of her and what she’s doing for them. the men justify working by saying they are bringing home the bread but so is she. If it weren’t for their combined incomes there would be no house being built. I tell her every day she should thank her lucky stars that she can have help which means she can work which means she can build a beautiful family home for her children.

      And your kids will never love you less unless you love them less. Which is not something we would worry about I am sure lol. It’s all about seriously connecting with your children. A lot of parents spend the whole day with their kids and don’t even look them in the eye when they are talking to them.

  2. As a woman who raised a daughter mostly as a stay at home mom, I am somewhat jealous of your opportunity to have a reliable nanny. That said, would I have had a nanny? Probably not. I raised my daughter in the US and in an expatriate compound where most of us didn’t have nannies. And, I only had one child. Also, I raised her thousands of miles away from my extended family.

    Here in KSA, large, extended families are the norm and in order for a mother to keep up with her familial responsibilities, she needs good reliable help. I see families in public who have their children in tow and the children are unhappy or getting into trouble any time their parents are distracted and I understand the true need for household help with the children.

    Ladies (and husbands), value the help you have with your children. You will all be enriched by it in the end. And remember to treat your nannies and housekeepers as you would want to be treated.

    • If my life were not what it is I would love to be in my house with my family on my own at the end of the day and not share it with others. Although we grow close to each other and become a lot like family no matter what in the end it’s not the same as having complete privacy. Thats what was brilliant about living in London. it was so much simpler. Again having said that they make my life a million times easier and I am grateful!

  3. Mashallah, great post! It actually changed my mind about the subject a lot. I sat here after reading it and seriously felt a little bad for thinking about it so differently than it actually is! I’m completely ignorant when it comes to things like this. I grew up in Canada and I could never wrap my head around the concept, I always felt like I wouldn’t be able to trust a maid enough with my daughter (she’s 7 months). I also had such a tough time letting people help me with my daughter at first because I felt like it made me ‘less of a mom’ and that ‘I should be able to handle it all’. I guess I’m still learning! I don’t know how I would feel about a maid living with me, but it seems like such a great idea. I hate it when I get flustered and feel like I need a break from my daughter and husband- it makes me feel guilty, I think a maid would relieve a lot of that stress and make me a ‘better mom’ because I think I’d be a lot happier… that’s the point, isn’t it! A lot of people know the phrase ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ but they don’t truly understand it- or in my case, try it ignore it. :) Thanks!

    • Honestly I wasn’t sure if you were being sarcastic when I started reading your comment so thank God you weren’t lol. Any kind of help around the house is great if you can get it. If you’re lucky then you have family available to help. Or a kind and trusted neighbor. Or you are able to find someone with child care experience to help with your child. The problem a lot of mothers have is they hire someone without experience and then push them in the deep end with long hours and not enough support. Or mothers (working ones especially) make themselves feel guilty about asking for help. It doesn’t make us any less amazing as parents or less deserving of being called good mothers. And no one can handle it all. Not even with a nanny. Ask me, I was in tears this morning because of the meltdown my 3 year old had before going to school.

      • Lol! I’m terrible at sarcasm, it’s not my style anyway! I actually told my husband that I wouldn’t mind having a maid after 5 years of refusal- he laughed ” Of course you say that now with a baby”

  4. It is interesting to learn about a different life style. There are many things which aren’t necessary in the strictest sense, but do make life a lot better, easier.

  5. I do not know why people are so anti-nanny. I think it is silly. I am originally from Europe. Now, no one in my family has used a nanny. BUT, our “system” is similar to yours. The entire family is involved. By the time one has adult children, the parents of these children are retired. So, when the kids (of the grown children) go to work, the grandparents stay home with the kids. Then, you have great grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. There is never a situation where the parents take care of their kids, alone, 100% of the time. Or even 70% of the time! The family involvement is huge. And I mean huge in the sense that families live together. Either in the same home or the same building. People who have nannies in Poland are people who do not have any family support. I’ve been blessed with a huge family, and there is always someone available for child care. The only difference is that my family “saves” money by having free childcare, lol.

    I live in the US now, and I don’t see people avoiding babysitters, nannies, daycare, etc. Actually, I think a nanny is a million times better than the day care centers I see here. People drop their kids (even newborns) off for 8 hours a day, with a ratio of one adult per 2 or 3 kids. And the centers are not very “one on one” in terms of caring for children.

    I’m betting most people who are anti-nanny either, literally, have nothing to do except parent or they have a lot of help from their own families anyway. So, they do not understand the benefits of a nanny. Or, conversely, they see nannies as substitutions for parents as opposed to helpers.

    • I think they have decided they would be failures as mothers if they asked for help. Women always need to be the super woman. And prove to people just HOW much they can do and how well they can do it all while looking pretty and smelling nice. I for one NEED HELP! And even then I don’t always look pretty (I do always smell nice though lol). I do not fee like a failure I feel so lucky and I wish evert mother had help. Be it the free family kind (always the best) or the paid for kind. I once wrote about travelling with kids and I said I would shorten my trip in order to pay for a nanny to come with me otherwise it would be your daily life, but in different surroundings!

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