Doing it all, its tough ya'll. For years we ran ourselves pretty ragged every evening picking up hangry and tired kids and bringing them home from various after care facilities (some better than others) only to get home to a dog needing walking, dinner to be made, and homework to be done (completely forgotten during "homework time" or purposely left for parental help). Every weeknight was a whirlwind and bedtime was getting later and later as we tried to do all of the above plus find some time for connection.
We muddled along like this for a few years until I had an epiphany last spring and tried out having an after school sitter a couple of days a week. You guys...it was a GAME CHANGER. The kids LOVED it. They would come home, have a snack---as much as they wanted until they weren't starving anymore!---get homework done, and then play with the sitter, go to the park, read, whatever. Then I could get home & walk the dog as she was gearing up to leave, and they were happily occupied while we got dinner together.
We had to struggle a bit with the cost difference and the lack of structure (the kids will...do what they want after homework?) and reliability (our aftercare was open for unexpected half days and had camps on random off days) and having someone in my home, but in the end we decided that we would get an after school sitter for this school year. I did not realize how much time & mental energy it would take! I placed an ad, got replies, started writing back and setting up phone calls and asking for references and quickly became frustrated with flakey people who never called back, or applicants that had already taken a job, or only available 1-2 days of the week, were allergic to dogs (it was clearly in my ad that we had a dog!) or lived an hour away in another state and had their own kids, but swore it would be totally fine to drive here and park and never be late.
Finally, I found 2 people who sounded great on the phone, and had references who responded to my queries, called me back, and enthusiastically supported them.
First we met candidate 1: perfectly nice and sweet, loves dogs, had experience as an au pair, spoke fluent Spanish as well as flawless English, charged reasonable rates, and lived in the city.
And then we met candidate 2: funny and easy to talk to, loves dogs, had worked as a teacher for years (but became disillusioned with the school system is in transitioning careers) offered to do food prep, teach chess, and teach an instrument if we wanted, had a flexible schedule and could commit to covering half days, lived in the city (and had easy bus access to our house) and charged only slightly more.
While it seems like a no brainer, there was actually a lot of internal discomfort with our decision (mostly on my part) because candidate 2 was male. In the end I got over myself and offered him the job (pending security check) and everyone is very happy and all my mom friends and jealous.
I am honestly disappointed in myself for my knee jerk reaction---I discussed this with a colleague and she realized she had the same bias---"why is a man in his 30s looking for a babysitting job?" that is based on societal expectations and sensationalist news. As a mother trying to raise two boys to be feminists, I have always tried to be cognizant of the fact that feminism involves erasing the (patriarchy-approved!) distinctions of "men's work" and "women's work" and for women to have the freedom to run the world, the men may have to watch the kids. Play to your strengths, whether they are corporate ass-kicking or nurturing young lives!
My kids are actually really excited about having a "boy babysitter" and I'm glad they will get to see more examples of men in different kinds of jobs (obviously G has already instilled into them that dads raise kids, clean the house and cook dinner). And I will hopefully get to come home to a less chaotic evening.