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Why I'm singing the praises of my au pair

The teacher in Gary's playschool gave me a typed piece of paper the other day. I stared at it blankly. Huh?

"It's the song we're learning in class at the moment," she explained earnestly, "you know, the one about the leaves?"

"Ah yes," I nodded like I knew what she was talking about, "the leaves."

Then I took Gary's hand and led him down the path to go home. I felt a bit guilty. I mean, I knew exactly where that song sheet would be going -- straight onto a big pile of Gary's other bits of arts and crafts that he takes home regularly for me. They are inevitably stashed away never to be seen again.

Is it just me? Is it? Why can I not get excited about songs about leaves? I wonder if any other mums at the playschool are like me? Maybe not. Maybe they go home and start singing their hearts out about leaves behind closed doors?

Does anyone else rush to switch on the telly like I do, knowing that SpongeBob SquarePants is by far the cheapest babysitter around?


I feel bad not being more involved in my son's activities and I really shouldn't feel so delighted when I wave goodbye to him in the mornings thinking that it's my Get Out of Jail time. But it's honestly so nice that I can actually go to a cafe and read a book in peace, and I can order a simple Americano for myself instead of being forced to purchase a huge sticky cupcake, too, for Gary which he won't eat anyway.

But I sometimes slink past other mummies chatting at the gate about paintings and jigsaws and I'm afraid to engage in the banter. I don't even know the names of any child in the playschool, nor do I know any of the parents.

I am aware of the fact that the mummies sometimes meet for coffee in the little place across the road and for the last year I've been meaning to join in. At least once anyway. But I'm just waiting until the time is right, like when my hair is blow-dried and I'm wearing nice clothes, instead of the unflattering tracksuit and rain jacket I always seem to be wearing when I drop Gary off.


I've had an au pair the last few weeks. She is from Brazil and she is a woman of few words as her English isn't great.

Since she started working for us, she takes Gary to playschool four mornings a week and I bring him once (to ease my conscience). But the other day I thought I'd better say something to her about switching on the telly for Gary during lunch. I just don't think three year-olds should be allowed watch too much telly.

"So what will I do with him?"she asked.

I stood there, racking my brains. Right. Okay. She can't read to him because her English is poor, and it was raining at the time of the question, so too wet to play outside.

Then I had a brainwave. "I know! You could sing a song. Wait, I'll fetch you the words. It's a lovely song ... about leaves. Have fun!"

Marisa is the author of The Secret Nanny Club