Cata is the au pair of our dreams, except we wouldn't have known to dream this big.
My husband and I are very blessed to have three wonderful kids 4, 2 and 8 months and two great jobs. However, with these blessings come, well, an insane schedule. And before our au pair, Cata, arrived, we were drowning.
2013 began with several big changes for our family. My husband received a promotion at his landscape architecture firm, and I made partner " while 6 months pregnant " at my law firm. Needless to say, our baby girl was born a few months later, and we entered the wild world of two increased work schedules (including travel!) AND three kids four and under.
These changes turned our already busy schedule into what felt like a constant to do list, and we were multi-tasking our way through life. Aim for 'quality time' with the kids while dragging them on errands all weekend. Check email while giving the baby a bottle. Listen to our 4 year old's story while making dinner AND folding laundry AND emptying the dishwasher. We were surviving, but there was no time for the little things that life is supposed to be about. Things like giving a child undivided attention, keeping a regular date night, squeezing in a workout, SLEEPING. Enjoying the day rather than merely staying afloat.
In comes Cata. And every single day is now better because of her. Cata loves our kids, and they love her. She lights up when she sees them and greets them " and everyone! " with a hug and kiss. She keeps a strict yet fun daily routine, which includes educational activities (like Spanish lessons!), creative art projects, exercise, fresh air, healthy food, and regular naps. She controls my two monkey-like little boys without raising her voice, and she gives the baby tons of snuggle time. She senses when someone needs little extra attention, an early nap, an extra snack. She has excellent judgment and a natural instinct for taking care of people.
My husband and me included! The laundry from two dirty boys AND a baby! never piles up. Toys are in their bins. Delicious Colombian dishes appear (like yummy fried plantains!). The kids' clothes are exchanged for the next season or size. She just attacks anything she sees. And she doesn't do it out of obligation, but because she likes to stay busy and appreciates a clean house. And boy does it show!
What makes all of this so wonderful, so life changing, is not that our house is in order (which IS amazing). But it's also a gift of time. And relaxation. And happiness. The end of the work day used to feel like the beginning of an even more challenging 'job.' We would shuttle our kids through dinner bath, bed as quickly and efficiently as possible, hoping there might be some bonding in between all the craziness and exhaustion. Now that time of day is actually fun! We have the time to talk more at the table, take a family walk after dinner, let the kids play in the bath for an extra few minutes, sing and dance while we brush teeth, tell jokes while we lay in bed with them. And we have all of this time because of Cata.
On top of all of this, Cata has touched the lives of our community. She's a natural addition to any gathering, as she can talk to anyone. During the Thanksgiving holiday, she sat around the dinner table with my siblings and parents for hours, playing games and laughing with us. She makes regular play dates with neighborhood au pairs and nannies, and children are always recognizing her when we go on a walk or to a local park. And the teachers and parents of the other children at both of my sons' preschool programs LOVE her.
Finally, as a working mother trying to, as the phrase goes, have it all, I couldn't be more thankful for Cata. I want to work, and I want to be very good at my job. However, I also want to be an excellent mother and wife and friend and sister and daughter, not to mention a happy person. I may not be perfect in any of these categories, but I couldn't even come close without Cata's help. It's a priceless gift, and one for which I will be forever indebted to our ultimate au pair, and friend for life, Cata.