By Natalie A. Sullivan
My son is eleven months now. I was rifling through some paperwork today, and I found this. It was written when he was 3 ½ months old:
A friend recommended her. She only stands about 5 foot 4, but she is the firm root of my newfound sanity. I’ve been caring full-time for my son since he was born three and a half months ago. My beloved husband was home with us for the first three weeks before returning to his high-stress, long-houred job to become the sole supporter for his newly expanded family. How could I justify a part-time nanny? I don’t have a job and the only place I really want to go is to bed. Besides, being a mother is what I have always wanted.
About a week ago, I realized that being without my son feels foreign, even uncomfortable to me. On the rare occasion that I am running errands without him, I find myself racing to get back to him. I’m the one who knows what his every cry means. I’m the one who responds to his every beck and call. I’m also the one who is losing a little bit of my mind! A lot earlier, I had realized that my son also feels “uncomfortable” without me. He rarely wants to be put down during the day and naps more soundly and far longer on my chest than he will nap in his crib or anywhere else. During those ten minutes here and there when he agrees to be put down, he tolerates the offense longer if he can at least see me nearby. Yes, my son and I are co-dependent. This is where the nanny comes in. I may pay her $25 so I can go to a $10 yoga class, but …it is what it is. I look forward to the day when I can walk out of the house and feel free to visit a bookstore or catch a drink with a long-lost girlfriend. Whatever the cost, it sounds like a great deal to me.
Update: The nanny came a few times while I was home and my son screamed the whole time, so I couldn’t bring myself to leave the house. As a result, I thanked her wholeheartedly and decided that neither he nor I was ready for a nanny.
As I looked further into my stack of paper, I also found this. It was written when our son was seven months old, and I titled it “Wanderlust”:
It’s official. I’m bored. There, I’ve said it. I fluctuate between feeling honest and feeling horrible about it, but it’s true. I am bored out of my mind at being home 24 hours a day. Even writing it makes me feel bad, so you can imagine how I feel just knowing that it’s really how I feel. All those years we wished for a child. The year we lost our first one. And now, just over nine months after bringing our son home, I’m saying it: I’m tired of being a full-time stay-at-home mom. I have friends who would sell their souls to be able to be home full-time with their kids. So, I feel guilty.
I thought motherhood would be perfect. Don’t get me wrong. It’s wonderful. Our son is wonderful. Motherhood is wonderful. It’s just that I still crave to do things other than take care of him 24 hours a day. I’ve been home full-time without outside help for nine months. Our son is a delightful kid with a bundle of energy and an easy smile. He’s a busy little guy, both at home and when we’re out. And opinionated? For a guy who can’t talk yet, he takes the cake.
I’m thankful to have been home all this time. Otherwise, I might not have seen our son delight over playing with the blanket from the couch. I might not know that he has a penchant for chewing the corner of the carpet. I might not be aware that licking the remote control is like eating a Three Musketeers bar to our son. But for the past couple months, I’ve realized (once again) that it’s time to get some help.
If I’m wise, I’ll take my cues from our son. I think he’s bored with me too. We visited a day care last week. I was still nursing a little mommy guilt at the thought of putting him in day care one day a week so that I could have a break. And then, something amazing happened. Seeing the little babies in the day care, my son screamed with delight, wiggled to get down out of my protective arms, and beat on the glass between him and his new friends like a madman trying to break into an insane asylum.
Update: A couple weeks later, our son went to day care for the first time, and, as expected, he screamed and cried for the first hour. I walked the streets outside the day care, half not knowing what to do with myself and half expecting a call to come and pick up my inconsolable child. But then as I was hanging my head over a hot bowl of soup nearby, I got an email with pictures of our son smiling and playing with the toys. I ventured a few blocks further away. By the time I picked him up four hours later, our boy was laughing and bouncing on his teacher’s lap. He was fed. He was clean. He was rested. He was happy. When he saw me, he attempted a little whine, but then sort of shrugged his little shoulders as if to say, “Aw, never mind. The gig is up!” On our way home, my son swung happily from my chest with his little mind, I imagine, replaying the excitement of the day. As for me, I had in my possession a report card that told me what he ate, how many minutes he slept, and exactly what had come out of his little body that day! Whatever they pay his day care teachers, that day, it felt like it could never be enough!! Our son went to day care three times, each time with increasing success. So much so that we put ourselves on the waiting list for part-time enrollment, and I began to dream of all the things that I have needed or wanted to do for the past several months.
Our son turned 11 months old this past week. One day later, I got a call from his day care center. A spot has opened up, and our son can now come to day care two days a week. Immediately after the call, I scooped up our son and lifted him into the air. I smiled. I danced. I called his father at work and sang my own version of “Rehab” by Amy Winehouse. “Christian’s going to day care and I say ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah!”’ But once the dust settled and I caught my breath, my mind began to flood with doubts, fears, concern, and, yes, my old nemesis- guilt.
Starting in April, the same week that marks our son’s first birthday and my one year as a full-time stay-at-home mom, he will start day care twice a week. It will cost us more than I can probably make working two days a week, but I’m convinced that it will be good…for both of us. Despite my realization that the time is right for us to take this big step, as I fed our son a bottle and rocked him to sleep, I wrapped both of my arms around him and held him even closer to my chest.
By: Allison Norris
I imagine that being a nanny is a little like being a teacher. Kind of.
You put your energy, passion, creativity, and rules into these growing beings only to say goodbye at some point. For teachers this point is marked on a calendar. A date that comes each year and then less than three months later a new crop of kids join your world and that same expiration date approaches. You become a seasoned veteran at saying “goodbye” and “have a great summer.” They grow and you pass them in the halls noting the changes that they make.
Nannying has no expiration date, unless you totally fuck up, of course, or change directions… but for the most part those little babies that you take care of are like your own until they don’t need you one day. It’s like parenting – on steroids. You have to say goodbye to “your” babies when they graduate from you and head into preschool (instead of college, like your own).
I’ve been nannying a little lady named Lila for a year. I started with her family after going through a terrible ordeal with a family who never paid me, never showed up as scheduled, and completely abused my time. Nervous about this whole nannying thing, I quickly realized that all families were not evil and in fact could become dear friends, and feel like my own family. That’s what has happened with Lila’s mom and dad.
Lila is two weeks younger than Baylor and almost an inch taller. She has curly hair, round cheeks, and is so solid I swear she has 10 lbs on Bay. Her sassy and very bossy personality just blossomed over the past 6 months and she challenges me every day. She calls me “Mommy” because, well, Baylor calls me Mommy and I think it’s just easier to say than “Allison.” She rarely lets me kiss or hug her – but every once in a while she’ll slip her chubby little hand into mine and say, “I really love you.”
She loves snacks, Hello Kitty, the color purple, and singing. She’ll read books all day, tell you exactly what to do, and pouts a little if you don’t do it just right. She tells me “I’m not talking to YOU” when she asks Baylor a question and I interrupt with the answer. She loves wearing Baylor’s shoes and she takes her clothes off to be naked if she can get away with it. She’s silly, beautiful, best friends with my son, and has the best clothes I’ve ever seen. She’s my little Lila Bear.
And she’s moving to Florida with her family in 12 days.
It really hasn’t hit me yet and I’ve tried explaining everything to Baylor. They seem to understand what I’m saying, but I don’t know what will happen when we don’t climb into our car at 7:14am to go to Lila’s house and watch her eat her vanilla yogurt each morning.
To say I’m going to miss her is an understatement. That little girl will have a chunk of my heart forever and a little boy best friend across the country for the rest of her life.
By: Stacey Ellis
The phone rang at 5:45 AM. It was our nanny calling in sick for the fifth, yes fifth, time in two weeks. When we decided up to adopt, we started visiting daycares knowing that we would both be working parents. At the time I worked at a TV/movie studio which had an amazing daycare managed by Bright Horizons. We checked out other Bright Horizon-managed daycares and all of them were just as amazing. There are several in our area. The one closest to my office is very nice, but expensive and small with a little outdoor play area. The one at UCLA is brand-new and definitely the Rolls Royce of daycares. It is gorgeous, with a huge outdoor area and sparkly clean rooms. But neither of us are UCLA alumni who get preference there. Then there’s the other one that is midway between my home and office…it’s just as beautiful as the others.
The problem with all of them was there were no openings. We were on a waiting list and the list was LONG and siblings had preference at each one. We checked into some other daycares and we weren’t quite as comfortable with them – they were nice, just not as nice – but they too had waitlists. Apparently a lot of people were having a lot of babies!
So when we got the call that there was a baby for us to adopt, we had to think –quickly. On the plane ride home, I had an epiphany. Our housekeeper has four lovely boys age six to fifteen. She was a legal immigrant from Mexico and she only cleaned our house – it was not her profession. She was struggling as a waitress and her husband is a mostly unemployed plumber. The economic crash definitely had been hard on them. I thought, huh, what if she was our nanny? She gets steady income and we get someone who we know has raised four happy, healthy, educated, polite children. We thought we’d see how she acted with our daughter.
As expected, when she met our daughter she was instantly in love. You can’t teach a nanny to love your daughter. But we saw it in her eyes the first second our nanny saw our baby girl. She had always wanted a girl and she gleamed with delight when holding her. She came and watched me change her diaper and within ten minutes, gave me five tips. They were little things like, reach your hand through her arm sleeve and pull her hand through instead of pushing it through the sleeve. And she showed me how to put the diaper slightly higher in the back to prevent blow-outs. We felt like she was not our fallback option, but our best option. My husband was talking with our nanny’s husband in the other room and I was talking with her and we both had casually asked if she had any interest in being a nanny. Both she and her husband eagerly said she was interested. We told her we’d put some salary numbers together and discuss with her the following week. I only had one month in paid maternity leave so the following week we sat down with her and gave her the salary. She accepted and we were on our way.
We told her at the beginning that this arrangement was only until we could get into daycare. We wanted an out just in case it didn’t work out and we didn’t want to offend her as she and her husband had become almost like family. But as the weeks went on, we didn’t care to check in with the daycares. We loved the one-on-one attention and tender, loving care our daughter received. We loved that our daughter got out for a walk every day. And I must admit, we loved that our house was clean five days a week, not just one! Dishes were done. Laundry was done. Our house, with two huge labradors, was spotless all week long. This arrangement was perfect. I didn’t have to dress our daughter, make bottles, pack her bag, and run out the door with her in a panic by 6:30 every morning. Mornings were for daddy and daughter time until our nanny arrived at 7:45 AM. And we had her leave at 4:15 when I arrived home so I had my alone time with her.
Being a working parent is incredibly hard but with our nanny there, it seemed like everything was in place. Then, in January, she was out sick. We gave her six paid sick days because we felt like we didn’t want her to show up sick and get our daughter sick. We’d rather her stay home. Those two days I worked from home. My husband, who always works from home, and I “juggled” our daughter back and forth between conference calls and emails. Then two weeks ago, our nanny was out for two days because her youngest son was sick. That was the week my husband was out of town on business. I was panicked and thrown into a tizzy.
I am only 12 weeks into my new job and it is INSANE. My husband wasn’t there to help. So I resorted to the “emergency daycare” that my employer offers 25 days a year. We call in the morning and ask for a daycare arrangement and the service calls us back if there is an opening. It’s not an automatic thing…we have to pray that someone who has their child in daycare calls in and says their child isn’t attending that day. The first day I got her in to the Bright Horizons near my office. The second day, I still didn’t have a place by 7:30 AM so I took her with me to work knowing I was gambling that the daycare would be closer to my office than home. Otherwise, it would have been “take your daughter to work day”. She’s five months now so she’s not just sleeping all day but it was the best I could do with conference calls all day. And brilliant me – I didn’t even think to bring the pack-n-play. Just as I pulled in the lot, the phone rang and sure enough, I got her into the Bright Horizon-managed daycare about two miles away. Whew. We had visited all of them so we knew that they were good facilities.
All was fine. Then last week, our nanny was out sick three more times…in a row. She didn’t want to go to the doctor the first day she felt sick because she doesn’t have health insurance. We were frustrated to say the least because every morning we would wait until at least 8:30 AM to hear whether we could get our daughter placed at a daycare. We had our daughter in three different daycares in two weeks, and you know, despite the morning panic, once she was settled, it was nice. It was nice that I didn’t have to race out of my office at the stroke of 3PM to get home before the nanny leaves. (I have an hour commute in the afternoon.) It was nice that she had other kids to play with. Every day we got highlights from the day like, our daughter “was sitting next to Benjamin and reached over and grabbed his hand and smiled” or “loved playing in the mirror tent.” I met some other moms, which was also nice. And now, I felt left out.
I wanted that mommy interaction. I wanted my daughter to make friends and be engaged with other kids. Granted, she’s five months old, how “engaged” is she really going to be? She’s alert and active, but really, that doesn’t truly matter until she’s mobile; and she’s not crawling…yet. Still, I started realizing that at the very least, the daycare doesn’t call in sick. But on the other hand, if our daughter is sick, she can’t go to daycare and someone would have to be home with her. Either way, with a nanny or with daycare, at some point, we won’t win. It’s just not perfect.
Then when I picked up my daughter from the final place last Friday, the manager of the daycare told me there was an opening. The daycare just got a call that week that one infant was dropping out. Argh. There it is, an offer. We were not even the next ones on the wait list but the staff loved our daughter so much they were offering us a spot, the spot we desperately needed when she was born. But it would come at a price – $300 more a month than what we pay our nanny PLUS another $400 for a separate housekeeper (once a week). Yep, we have lots of dog hair. Could we swing another $700 a month? That’s more than $8,000 a year. That could be private school, summer camp, trips to see her grandparents, a down payment on a college education. Is having no morning panic worth $8,000? We decided we’d wait until Monday to see if our nanny calls in sick again…