In Defense of Nannies and Their Employers

There was a video making the rounds recently about a dad doing an interview from home when his kids busted in and all hell broke loose.  The mom ran in after the kids and it was precisely what it feels like and looks like working from home with small kids.  The internet had a field day with this video, as it does, and many folks commented about the assumed nanny rushing in instead of the mom – because they are a mixed race couple – and people’s brains archaically jump to conclusions.  I’m not going to go into all that because many others already have, including my friend Mary Tyler Mom (you can read her thoughtful piece here).

What I will go into are all the comments I read about what kinds of families/people hire nannies to care for their kids.  It hurt my heart reading those comments, because while yes, there are families that are rich and entitled and majorly hands off, many of us are out here just trying to make our lives work and care for our families the best way we can.  And it is not easy.  Not by a long shot.

I know these things because we have a nanny 3 days a week when I go downtown into my office.  I work from home 2 days a week – alone – with small twins.  It’s a mess.  But I’m so thankful I’m able to do it, because that means I get to spend more time with my kids.  My husband’s job doesn’t allow for him to work from home.  Mine does, within reason.  I’m thankful.  We cannot afford a nanny 5 days a week, so 3 days works out just perfectly for us.

I have to work full time.  I get to work full time.  These statements are both true in that some days I just don’t want to do it.  I want to stay home and be with my kids.  But when I cannot do that, I have the next best thing – our Nanny Nikki.  I have to work, so this is the best case scenario for our family right now.  And it will end in a couple years when they start school, so I know it’s only temporary.  But man, we love us some Nikki.

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I’d like to address some of the misconceptions I hear and read about nannies and the people who employ them.  I’d like to play some defense for once in the midst of all the negativity about us that swirls around in the hopes that you might pass this along when you hear that negativity swirling.

Things I hear:

  1. Nannies aren’t to be trusted.  I am in a number of mom groups online and talk with other moms in real life (I KNOW), and there is often talk of distrust of caregivers in their homes. While this certainly happens and we read terrible stories of things that happen, I would wager to say we often don’t hear the much larger number of stories about amazing caregivers.  The ones who step in for us when we can’t be there.  I trust Nikki more than just about anyone with our kids.  I never ever worry that they are safe and that they are well cared for and that they feel loved entirely while in her care.  I hear women in these groups speculate and talk trash about their nannies and it just guts me.  I’m always the one jumping in to defend the nannies and usually ostracized for it.  I trust Nikki.  She is me when I’m not there.  She’s at times a better version of me. And the thing is, I know many families that have nannies.  EXCELLENT nannies.  It’s just those stories aren’t nearly as publicized as the rotten ones.  Just like any group of people, there are some bad apples.  But most are really really good and deserving of all the rewards and accolades (that they rarely receive).
  2. Only rich, entitled, can’t be bothered with their own children people hire nannies.  AHEM.  If I had a nickel for each comment I’ve heard like that, I wouldn’t HAVE to work full time anymore.  OR this, “You could stay home with your kids if you just made some different choices”. I have debt (my own poor decisions that I am responsible for).  I have a home and bills and two children and (and soon to be new to us rescue cat HOORAY) to pay for.  My husband and I both have good jobs, but living is expensive and doing the math always adds up to us both needing to work full time and having a nanny just 3 days a week works for us right now.  It’s not forever, but it’s for now.  Money is tight.  But good childcare is so worth it, isn’t it?  We did the math and having a nanny in our home was less expensive than sending two kids to daycare, so this was our choice.  For many reasons.  Also, when someone tells you they can’t afford something, just be kind.  Stay in your lane.We are indeed rich, but money has nothing to do with it.
  3. You’re so lucky you have the best nanny in the universe.  YES WE ARE A MILLION TIMES YES WE ARE.  But I also believe, and she will correct me if I’m wrong, that Nikki quite enjoys working for our family.  We pay her, yes, but she is also an honorary member of our family and she will be involved with us for the rest of our lives (OH YES YOU WILL NIKKI).  We treat her well and she treats us well.  That’s how all good relationships work.  It’s based on trust and accountability and loyalty and fair treatment of each other.  I have bad days and she has bad days and we talk constantly about just about everything.  A Nanny knows things.  She is in your home with your kids all day.  She knows intimate details.  She could write a tell all book on your family.  I’m pretty confident ours would be a messy yet filled with love sprinkled in with some yelling memoir of her time with us. What I’m saying is, you get back what you put out. Be aware of that at all times.  Luck only takes you so far, the way you treat people goes much further.
  4. Nannies offer services and skills that I cannot.  I say this with humility because I would like to say I am the best at all the things!  BUT I AM NOT.  Not even close.  I am the best mama for these kids – no question – and that includes everything mamas do and give up and provide.  But there are so many things I need/want help with to round out my shortcomings.  I am not artsy.  At least not in the way Nikki is.  She is an actual real life honest to goodness artist.  And she is so patient.  So those two things together are a major lifelong gift to our kids.  Nikki is gentle and kind and sings most of the day (well we all do that in our house – it’s a rule, really).  She has a steady yet firm and loving hand with our kids.  She rarely loses her temper.  Or she keeps it under wraps.  She is expressive and appreciative.  She teaches them about gardening and cooking and nutrition and has my kids constantly questioning, “BUT MAMA WHERE IS MY PROTEIN”.  She is the piece that fits right into the puzzle of our family.  The one right in the middle that holds four other pieces together.
  5. Isn’t it hard to be away from your kids so much?  Well, sometimes yes.  And sometimes no.  We humans are complex creatures, and for me, going into work 2 or 3 days a week away from my kids is a fantastic balance. I get to go out into the world and be just me for a while. And that feels good.  I’m not carrying their stuff around and I can walk 5 blocks without it taking 45 minutes and I get to eat lunch by myself or with other grown ups and I quite enjoy that.  I get to work.  Focus on something entirely different.  I get to use my skills and talents that are my own and get paid to do it well.  I relish that.  But then there are days I look around at my pictures and miss them so much I feel like I will die. Then I get to go home and wrap them up in hugs and hear about their day (which I knew about anyway because Nikki and I never stop talking all day) but to hear them tell it is something else.

Nikki is my eyes and ears on the ground when I’m not there.  Think about how much trust in another human that requires.  And we are so like minded about these kids.  She does a spot on impression of both of them, by the way.  Like, killer impressions.  She cracks me up constantly.  But she also cries with me.  She is so invested – within healthy boundaries – in us as a family and that is invaluable.  She has a private instagram account that is just for Chris and me, so all day long we get to see these pictures and videos and it’s like a treasure box.  When she tells me issues that happen during the day, I pay possibly more attention to them than if I were there with them when it happened.  Sometimes when things happen under my nose, I don’t even notice.  But when she relays them to me, we discuss and then bring it to the kids and Chris’s attention and we deal with it.  Our village is strong.  Even if we pay certain members of that village.

People think those of us with nannies take the easy way out, when I can assure you for me, it is anything but.  When I walk out that door in the morning, I go through all the stages.  Saying goodbye is hard and we sing the “Grown ups come back” song by Daniel Tiger (PBS FOREVER DO NOT CUT OUR PBS YA BASTARDS), and we talk about all the things, “BE KIND, BE BRAVE, BE GOOD LISTENERS and BE AWESOME” and then I get sad.  They get sad.  Then we all move on and get excited for our day.  It’s ok to be sad and to miss people.  It just means we love and are loved very very much.

Is it hard?  YES. But what part of parenting isn’t contradictory and when are we 100% happy with our situation?  There are stay at home moms that wish they could get out a bit more.  There are working moms (I mean constantly working) that wish they could be with their kids even for just a few minutes before bed each night, but they can’t. It is all hard and it all has cracks. We all have cracks. But at the end of the day, we are all moms.  And we all deserve respect for how we raise our kids to the best of our ability.  And caregivers and nannies, well, they have my undying gratitude.

So, next time you hear or see or even catch yourself thinking certain critical thoughts about someone using a nanny or caregiver for their kids, try to remember to pause and remember there is always more to the story than what meets the eye.  You never ever know what’s going on inside someone else’s home.  BUT THE NANNY DOES.

 

Please enjoy some of my past blogs about our Nanny Nikki and my great appreciation for her:

To our nanny on our 1 year nanniversary

 To our nanny on our 2 year nanniversary

You are our people

Tips for finding your perfect nanny

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