September 5, 2016 | No comments yet | Get More Time, Humor, Kid Time, Me Time, Parenting Advice

Confession: I Outsourced Playing Pretend

At our indoor pool one Saturday morning, we ran into our friends with their three young children. Both parents work full time. As our kids were doing big jumps in from the side of the pool, I’d innocently asked them if they’d heard about one of the new indoor playgrounds that had just opened in our area. “No,” replied the husband. “No idea. We’ve outsourced the raising of our children,” he’d said without guilt. “Honey,” he’d called to his wife with their baby, “does [the nanny] take the kids to [new playground]?” She shook her head distractedly. Embarrassed, I’d quickly changed the subject for them. It must be tough juggling two full-time careers in addition to three children six and under. No wonder he’d never heard of the new, stupid playground. Obviously, he’d more important worries.

Regardless, his use of the term outsourced hit a note with me.

I was no stranger to this concept in the professional world. As a former litigator in a large law firm, outsourcing had been the trend several years ago. In fact, I’d overseen a project, which involved outsourcing the reviewing of million of pages of documents to India, the mecca of outsourcing. Despite the extra pairs of eyes, I was still the primary associate on the case, handling the client, the research, and the other discovery tasks. But the document review, which is the classically most-dreaded and tedious associate task, I’d outsourced to a team of thirty Indian lawyers. Brilliant use of resources other lawyers had agreed.

But I’d never heard the term applied to family life before.

A few weeks after meeting our friends at the pool, as I struggled through yet another pretend birthday party for one of my three-year-old’s stuffed animals, I had what could only be described as a light bulb moment. Even if I’m a stay-at-home mom, could I outsource some of the least undesirable tasks to a babysitter?

My husband and I discussed hiring someone to help me during the week and I was thankful that we could afford it. Please assume that the extra adult help was readily justified. Babysitters are entirely understandable for any number of reasons, including, but not limited to: you work, your spouse travels (every week) for work, you help elderly relations, you have no family in your time zone, you attempt to reenter the workforce, you try to write a book, you spend enormous amounts of time in waiting rooms while a loved one receives medical services, you exercise, or you like to get your hair cut and/or dyed once in a while.

Once justified, I thought about what would be the best use of resources, considering my and my daughter’s needs. I could handle the pick-ups, the drop-offs, the mealtimes, the play dates, the doctors, the outings, the arts and crafts, any physical or athletic activity, the bedtimes, the mornings, not to mention the housework and the shopping (and the other tasks that I’m forgetting here, but do), but hours upon hours of pretend that my three-year-old craves were just a bit too much for me (in both time and energy).

Hats off to the mothers that endure this type of mental torture. I can handle about fifteen minutes of it at a timepretendbefore I start to make dinner or pull out the play doh as a distraction and happily let her smear it on any surface to get the elaborate plot-line to end. Lengthy playacting is clearly not in my creative make-up.

Could someone play every-single-stuffed-animal-in-the-house-needs-a-doctor’s-visit with my daughter for a few hours while my five-year-old was at pre-K? Once he was home from school, my kids theoretically would play together or we could all play together. That was somehow easier than those one-on-one hours with her alone playing Pretty Ponies have a concert.

I know many of you are reading this and thinking, what an ungrateful bitch. Let me be clear: I love time with my kids. I interact with them for many hours each day and realize that they won’t be this age forever. But, I was alone, overwhelmed, needed elsewhere, and my daughter was too young to qualify for any significant preschool hours. I needed help – specifically someone who could play pirate treasure hunt for over an hour at a time.

So, employing the strange and wonderful world of the Internet, I hired my beloved babysitter for my daughter. Thank god that she’s not only studying elementary education and is super loving, caring, punctual, and reliable, she sure does love playing princesses bring their palace pets to the park. Or at least tolerates it well, which is just as good.

We’ll all very happy with the arrangement. My daughter gets her hours of pretend play, my babysitter gets her spending money at college, and mommy gets to maintain her sanity (for the moment anyway).

–Carissa Howard

This post originally appeared on Holdin Holden.

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