Thursday, June 6, 2013

A Rose By Any Other Name...

Edit: I wrote this last night after a loooong day of babysitting that reminded me a little too much of so many issues about which I stayed completely silent when I was a nanny, mostly out of fear that I would be fired if my bosses were to happen upon this blog and read what I'd said.  Reading it over today, good golly, I sound pissed.  I'm much calmer now (really).  But I still think these are valid issues.  So I'm going to post it, and I hope you all can read it knowing that most of my memories of nannying are extremely fond and that I absolutely think that when moms need help, they should get it (and be honest about it).

Recently, I've read a few things about moms (and parents, more generally) needing help.  And how that is okay (I would agree) and nothing to be ashamed of (again, right on).  It seems to rise like a rallying battle cry from some - certainly not all - mothers, particularly those who are home raising their children or who do work for money from home while raising their children.  I have no inherent problem with this.  You want to know what the very last thing I tell my postpartum patients when they're being discharged from the hospital with their brand new baby?  Not, "Put them on their back to sleep."  Not even, "You can do this!"  I tell them, "Don't be afraid to ask for, and accept help.  Don't try to do this all alone."  

But here's my beef with the whole thing - if you are hiring someone to watch your children, paying someone money to come to your house several days a week, for set hours at a time, leaving them in charge and trusting them with the health and safety of your child, if that is what you are doing, then you are not hiring a "babysitter."  You are not hiring "help."  You have not found a new "friend" for either yourself or your child(ren).  You are not "lucky to have such a sweet girl to come by sometimes."  (By the way, these are all exact quotes from people I, or people I know, have worked for.)  You have hired a NANNY.  You have hired someone whose job, perhaps career, it is to take care of your kids.  And guess what - if you chose right, she (or he) takes that job extremely seriously, and it is nothing short of a slap in the face to call it anything less than exactly what it is.

I haven't been a nanny in almost exactly a year now, and I don't miss it.  But when I did do it, it was my job.  It paid my bills.  It allowed me to live independently, to support myself, and to live in two very large and very expensive cities and not be evicted or go hungry.  And because it was my job, and it was that important to me, I took those jobs damn seriously.  I read child development books.  I asked my mom for advice.  I practiced patience, and I chose my words carefully with my charges, and I enforced consistency and responsibility and built them a solid foundation upon which to grow.  I also loved them, and even though I didn't get paid to do that, I did it anyway because how could I not?  I poured my heart and soul into raising all those kids and when people ask me what I did before Yale, I tell them I was a nanny.  I enunciate it clearly and repeat myself when they ask me, incredulously, if that's really what I did, and I don't give a shit if the person asking worked for a Fortune 500 company for two years before grad school while I was changing diapers and pushing swings.  

And one last thing - if, from what I have read on numerous posts written by mothers both about the need for help and about things that have nothing to do with that, if in fact, motherhood is hard, and staying at home is hard, and we can all agree that raising babies is hard freaking work, then guess what - it's not just hard for you.  It's hard for the person you hire, and acting like it's a walk in the park for your special "friend" or that it's something I did to amuse myself before getting back to my real and glamorous life when I left your house at 7 PM is also a slap in the face.  It's just as frustrating for me as it is for you when your baby throws their dinner on the floor.  It's just as much work for me to do three loads of laundry while entertaining two sick children as it would be for you.  Yeah, I got good at it.  But it wasn't easy.  And I bit my tongue hard enough to draw blood on more than one occasion, listening to the things my bosses would say ("How are you able to do it all?" someone would ask them, while I sorted laundry in the basement, their voices clear as day through the furnace ducts.  "Oh, you know.  It just all comes together somehow!"  Somehow?  ME.  I was the "somehow.") - and why?  To appease some awful sense of guilt?  Or to make themselves feel better?  Listen, if you need help then you need help!  Own it!  If it's truly nothing to be ashamed of, and we're all raising the battle cry about not trying to go it alone, then give the person who helps you the respect they deserve by telling it exactly like it is.


Rosie said...

Bravo! I think this is wonderful!

Zoe Torres said...

You put so many things nannies everywhere want to say into words, even long after your time in "nanny hood" has ended, I'm proud of you and all you did for your charges.

Thank you for putting words to my thoughts.