I’m obsessed with the new super-slick website Mr Fox magazine and I’m so pleased to welcome editor Lydia Gard who’s written us a hysterical piece about hiring a Mau Pair. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did! 

When I tell people that my husband has moved abroad with his new job they look at me with a mixture of pity and alarm. ‘It’s fine!’ I say, shrugging my shoulders just enough to ensure that my superhero cape flaps. And it is sometimes. I enjoy having the freedom to choose between quinoa and Green & Black’s for my supper, or dual screening to a backdrop of Eastenders without fear of reproach.

But then, in practice, there are those mornings. When the boys wake at 5.30am, fight until 7.30am and then sulk because I ran out of milk, patience and time. When we get to the school gate in a tangle of PE bags and unbrushed hair and the other mothers cast their eyes downwards because a/ you are clearly late and b/ they know that a casual ‘how are you?’ might unleash self-pitying, sleep-deprived and worrying silent tears that you are too tired and oblivious to wipe away with the back of your glove.

Not to mention my 6 year old son was trying to engage me in rough tickle fights, and I was beginning to resent taking the bins out. I decided to get a male au pair.

By saying that I specifically sought a male au pair, I will fall prey to controversy-hungry gender activists, stalking me through the aisles of Waitrose wearing ‘this is what feminism looks like’ t-shirts, before flogging me with the cord of an epilady until I concede that women have fought long and hard for the right to take the bins out themselves.

For the record *look away now to avoid sweeping generalisation*, I think men and women are equally capable. We simply have different strengths. And this month I learnt that playing to your strengths is about the most liberating thing you can do.

My parenting strengths – such as they are – lie in management. I manage the flow in and out of toys: maintaining the volume of future landfill in order that the boys are able to play without being suffocated by a collapsing shelf. I manage the diary, the menu, the drop offs and pick-ups. I collect, reassure, remind, oversee. I monitor happiness, resolve conflict, instill confidence and loyalty. If this were a business, I would be a killer MD. But like any decent manager, I am also aware of my weaknesses. Yes, of course I can build a LEGO Chima Flying Pheonix Fire Temple and stand in the garden until my feet go numb with cold monitoring the correct deployment of a crossbow. But I actually don’t want to.

The boys get huge pleasure from making a stick dungeon with someone who is genuinely enjoying themselves and not radiating ennui.

Enter Chris (the Redeemer). At 18, he is a young adult. Too young to worry about developing a crush on, but old enough to drive ­- although I have shelled out six times the value of the car in order to insure him. Which according to the telesales operator is value for money when ‘he could wipe out an entire bus queue.’.

So far he appears to be responsible, kind and mature. He loves being outdoors, knows that trees are for climbing and crucially, can demonstrate a decent flick-flack on the trampoline.

There are other collateral benefits: I don’t feel obliged to lend him my clothes, discuss his love life or over obligate myself emotionally as I would with a younger woman. I don’t have to wait outside my own bathroom while she washes her hair, or worry that the boys will mistakenly call him ‘Mama’.

And, because he is a he, I am perfectly at ease asking him to put the bins out. Even though I am more than capable of doing it myself.

Lydia Gard, is the editor of Mr Fox magazine, the weekly edit of style and substance for parents with boys. 




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My Baba

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