I recall being pregnant and wondering how I would manage once my baby was born. As a foreign national in SA, my family support system can only extend so far. I mean my siblings and #friendswhobecomefamily are ever present and willing to babysit and assist when called upon, but there is just something unnatural about living far away from that core support system generally associated with living in your home country. The thought of having to be my baby’s primary caregiver, 24/7, freaked me out a lot during the months leading up to her birth. I guess at the time, I took it for granted that someone, an angel, a godsend, a lady from across the Limpopo, would walk into our lives and practically share the role of mother with me. Enter Auntie Sikhu.
The story goes like this. One of my mother’s most caring friends lives in JHB. Having raised 3 boys herself in foreign countries, she must have known my plight before I even addressed it. She set up a meeting/interview with a lady that was referred to her and that came highly recommended. When she called me, I made it very clear that I was looking for an older woman (older than me specifically) who had her own kids, and was mature and composed. Without my own mother close-by, I knew that I would need a maternal individual on whom I could trust and rely. Look, I know myself and even before my little one was born, I knew I would have attachment issues, and while I come from a large family, sharing isn’t always a strong point. I therefore needed someone that inspired me to effortlessly hand over my baby when I returned to work. I arrived late, as was the norm when I was expecting- I don’t know how but in my case, cabbage brain manifested in extreme tardiness- ALL. THE. TIME! In this case, it almost cost me the chance to interview and hire one of the best. The encounter was brief. She seemed so relaxed and confident, in fact so confident, I was certain if she was aloof or arrogant. Whatever it was though, she checked all the boxes and I was sold. She would meet me and my husband in a week and discuss the nitty gritties but the rest as they say is history.
Today Auntie Sikhu is an integral part of not only my daughter’s everyday life, but mine too. She is a highly opinionated Ndebele mama, but at the same time humble and respectful. She offers unprecedented advice that mostly hits the mark and leaves me wiser, even if a lot of the times she insists on myths and old wives tales that were imparted on her years ago. For example, I was never allowed to look for teeth in my baby’s mouth as this would result in her teeth never growing- I checked every day and guess what, they still grew! LOL. I never told her I cheated though. Auntie Sikhu loves my daughter, and in turn, our daughters are like sisters when they are together. Auntie Sikhu is the glue that keeps us together daily, she is patient, and kind, she disciplines my daughter with such cool composure that I could only dream of emulating. I hope she never leaves us and if and when our little family expands, I pray she will co-mother each child with me. One day, I promise to show you just how much of a difference you have made to my life.
I have compiled a few pointers to assist someone looking for a care giver for the little ones:
• Does she have solid references that can vouch for her? (Do you remember that horrific viral video that showed a female caregiver assaulting a child?)
• Does she have years of experience and has she attended First Aid/Etiquette/General Hygiene classes? (First Aid is essential, the others are great to have. Sikhu attended a 4-6 week course and not only loved it but excelled in it)
• Decide if you need a live-in or a day nanny based on the help that you need. Consider the number of kids you have, household work load and also your personal work timetable
• Establish rules and parameters from the get go in order to start and continue on the right track
• During the probation period, shadow your nanny and make sure that she handles your child as per your needs. This allows you both to get to know each other (and the child too).
• Discuss remuneration and incentives as a matter of urgency. Also include Leave days, Sick days and working hours. These points can often leave a worker feeling disgruntled if ignored.
• Trust your gut