Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Running Out of Love

In the shitstorm that was my life at the end of July, I never really talked about my job with the boys ending except to mention it here.  Becoming suddenly unemployed wasn't exactly in the plan, given the new scope of my financial responsibilities, but its event was cruelly ironic, nonetheless.  You see, I had been slowly gearing myself up to quit, only to be unceremoniously dumped before I could leave of my own volition.  Don't get me wrong, I'd so much rather have a job like this end because of circumstances beyond my (or my boss's) control then have to go through the pain and awkwardness of quitting - let alone be fired because I wasn't up to snuff.  Shock and panic about finances aside, the overwhelming emotion I felt about the job ending was very simple: relief.  It is only in retrospect that I can look at my time working with LM, Bee, and Bean and see that for as much as I enjoyed the good times with them, mostly I felt stressed, saddened, and exhausted by the whole experience.  This isn't easy for me to admit.  After all, I pride myself on being good with kids just as much as I equate my self-worth with my ability to be spectacular at whatever I take on.  And the cold, hard truth of it is that I was not the best nanny I could be for those boys.  Yes, I worked my butt off.  Yes, I did a good job.  Better than good, in fact.  But not the best. 

Here's what's tough: being the best nanny you can be means giving of yourself to children as if they were your own.  It means opening your heart to loving them with a devotion and fierceness that transcends that of a normal caregiver, in order that you can weather the tough times, discipline fairly, be endlessly patient, and come back the next day ready to do it all again.  I did all of those things - with Monkey.  When I left him, something broke inside of me.  I couldn't love my new boys the way I loved Monkey.  I couldn't jump into their midst and deftly love, care, and nourish them the way I had been doing for my little guy only a week previously, and for ten months before that.  I tried, though.  Oh, how I tried.  I worked hard, I fought to love them, and I was harshly, bitingly critical of myself when I was impatient or abrupt or uninspired.  Despite all of that, I couldn't fix or overcome what had broken inside me and it was the slow descent into misery that made me desperate to quit, even as I frantically pushed myself to work harder and be better.

I wrote about the good times here.  I would allude to the hard times, because it's inevitable that things are not always rosy posy with three boys under the age of four.  But there were days when I would tell LM to play by himself during quiet time while I would retreat to the bathroom and cry, counting down the hours until the day would end.  When Bean wouldn't take his bottle, I'd sometimes stare at him helplessly, barely able to muster the energy and determination to wheedle him into finishing those last few ounces.  When Bee would have a tantrum, it was often all I could do to not start pitching a fit right beside him, as exhausted and frustrated as I was.

The fact of the matter is, what broke inside me when I left Monkey is still broken.  I didn't love the boys the way I loved him.  I wasn't able to give of myself so completely, knowing what it feels like to leave that behind.  The worry and fear I hold close to my heart right now is that I'll never be able to love like that again - even with my own babies.  I fear that what's broken won't ever be fixed, and that my own children will suffer because of it.  Did I play fast and loose with my ability to love?  Did I squander my chances?  I can't bear this, thinking that the answer is yes.


Fake Name said...

As a fellow nanny, what you wrote is more eloquent then I could ever say it. That broken feeling? I don't think it ever totally leaves. For me, I still struggle to get through the day and try to not drown. I'm glad you shared--it's good to not feel so alone. As women (and as nannies) we so often feel as if we can't share this side of us. Much <3.

Duchess said...

I don't no shit about nannying, but I do know this: you never run out of love. It is there, it is inside of you. But just as you can't force yourself to love every girl you ever meet, you aren't going to love every child you ever nanny for. And when it comes time and it is your own child? There won't be a force in the word that will be able to keep you from loving him or her. And when you bring a sibling in to the world for him or her, you will find that rather than having to take the love you have and divide it into two, that love will instead multiply inside of you.

Much love, and respect. Be kid to yourself.

Cait said...

FN, I hope you don't feel as alone with your sadness. I hope that even if the broken feeling doesn't ever leave completely, it will become less intense.

Duchess, thank you so much. Your reassurances have made me feel a million times better. I'm so lucky to have such supportive readers.