x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

I get by with a little help

I don't know one mum who doesn't at least outsource a couple of hours ironing, cleaning and babysitting a week

During a discussion on potential column themes, a good friend advised against mentioning anything that connected me to the subject of domestic help. Her point being that whatever the title - servant, housemaid, nanny, cleaner - domestic assistance just isn't PC. Technically she's right. Images of spoiled, bored, classist, expat mums and kids aren't hard to conjure up.

However, PC or not, I don't know one mum who doesn't at least outsource a couple of hours ironing, cleaning and babysitting a week. And I could name plenty more, particularly working mums and families of three plus children, who have opted for full-time help - myself for one. There. It's out and yes I am a little embarrassed now that I've actually owned up to my aversion to managing my own home in print. However, six years ago when virtually everything I did included my 18-month-old sidekick, the possibility of affording the time for a pedicure, grocery shopping alone, and a gym session earlier than 10 at night, was way off my domestic radar.

Of course a few mummy martyrs were quick to point out the potential pitfalls domestic outsourcing could bring. They cited lack of real pride in my home (who cares), security issues and the difficulty I would face readjusting to normal life when the expat party is over, none of which bothered me until I heard that I risked bringing up my children as expat brats. And believe me, the threat is very real indeed. I've seen children ordering maids around, sometimes to the point of abuse, never tidying up, refusing to put their own shoes on or button up shirts (age six) and manipulating maids into feeding them a range of nutritionally bereft junk foods.

So, to at least partially counter the threat of expat bratism, pleases and thank yous are a mandatory family requirement and Tidy Up Time is generally a daily event, made far more popular after my mother introduced the songs Whistle While You Work from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Mary Poppins' Spoonful of Sugar to my job-shy children. Less consistently, we go through phases of printing out chore charts, incorporating basic tasks such as making beds and putting plates in the sink. The only issue is, the whole tidying up business requires regular parental supervision, otherwise the mess tends to be miraculously cleared up while the children are watching TV.

Young children love to be Mummy's Little Helper, hence the plethora of toy kitchens, vacuum cleaners and little gardening sets on sale. My youngest is particularly keen. She waters the garden with bottles of Masafi, cleans floors with rolls of toilet paper and hand soap, and the other day had to be relegated to table laying duty after I found her prodding a cucumber with a carving knife while helping to make a salad. So, until such time as she makes a career of it, I'll take all the help I can get.