I’m taking my nanny on holidays, and you should too
Earlier this year, my husband, two young daughters and I went on a great six week holiday to Europe.
The girls loved it: we took them to Disneyland, where they lost their minds, and sometimes, they were even allowed to stay up a little later than usual because, you know, it's the holidays.
We went over to celebrate my mum's 60th birthday and it was so nice to spend quality time with her and my stepdad and his family, who are French. We even got a mini-break within the holiday, leaving the kids with my mum for a week while we ducked over to another part of France to attend a friend's wedding - and it was just what we needed.
Now it's time to start planning next year's holiday, which will be much closer to home. Noosa, with its warm beaches and sunny disposition, will be a welcome break from the daily grind of city life, and we're all already very excited.
This time, however, I've decided to take my nanny. Yes, that's right: I am paying another woman to help look after my own two small children over the course of a week, so that I, a working mother, can get a well-deserved break.
I got the idea to invite her along from my best friend, who's recently done it herself and said it was the best decision she's ever made. Excited, I floated the idea with my nanny, offering to pay for her flight and accommodation in addition to her usual 10 hours' work. She said yes immediately, and is now equally excited for what, for her, is essentially a free holiday.
However, as soon as I mentioned this to some family members and friends, I got quite a different reaction. My favourite? "But you're the mother! How can you just outsource looking after your own children?"
Let me make this clear: I certainly look after my own children, both at home and on holidays. And I love travelling with my kids. There's nothing quite like seeing the world through a child's eyes, where everything is new, everything is exciting, and the pleasure of discovering the next best thing is around every corner.
But while a holiday means a change of scenery, it doesn't necessarily mean a break from my children's demands. They still get tired at 6pm and get up at 6am; they still have the same expectations of me as they do at home.
So instead of taking on another load of work away from work (my job as co-CEO and founder of a small HR company is already hard enough) I decided to put my hard earned money to a good cause: self-care.
Having the nanny with us means my husband and I will be able to work on our relationship as a couple, not just as parents. We will be able to go out to dinner and have a drink; have adult conversations about adult matters, and the kids, safely cocooned in bed or in front of the telly under the watchful eye of their nanny will also have a blast.
I find that it's often while on holidays that my husband and I make our plans for the future, when our conversations extend beyond day-today routine and logistics, and where we connect on a far more meaningful level.
This doesn't mean I won't spend time with my kids. In fact, I will spend most of the days schlepping from one activity to the other (we're definitely going to Australia Zoo, I've already been informed), while the nanny enjoys her own free time.
Sometimes she'll have them during the day and sometimes we will. Either way, it's a mutually beneficial arrangement that gets us all outside of the city and onto the beach.
For all the mothers out there thinking that the family holiday just mans the same amount of work, but somewhere else, I hope this inspires you to perhaps budget in some help. I have worked out this is adding approximately $500 to our holiday budget, after all we would normally pay her 10 hours per week so it is just an additional flight and a bigger AirBnB.
The reality is that raising kids is hard. It's surprising and wonderful and difficult all in one, and if we, as a society, keep pretending that it doesn't take a toll on women emotionally, all we're doing is subjecting the next generation of mothers to the same outdated and unreasonable expectations of what motherhood is, or should be.
The saying "it takes a village to raise a child" is true, and by enlisting help, I find I am able to spend quality and meaningful time with my kids.
I love my children very much, but it doesn't mean that I don't want a break from them sometimes. I'm tired of the judgments mothers - and all women, really - receive if they stray even a millimetre from their subscribed societal roles.
Take the nanny, I say, and enjoy yourself. And stuff the judgments; you've only got one life, so treat yourself.
Natalie Firth is the co-CEO of Think Talent, a female-led recruitment agency in Melbourne. She is also the mother of two very energetic little girls.