Guest blogger Jennifer Ginsberg: My least favorite part of being a parent, by far, is that I have to rely on hired help to help me with my children. I hate the fact that I have to employ a nanny.
Don't get me wrong: I'm not saying I hate my nanny. Quite the contrary -- I am grateful to have a lovely woman who helps me all around the house and, most importantly, helps me take care of my children. But no matter how I slice and dice it, she isn't family
. And paying someone to help me care for the most important and precious things in my life -- my children -- feels, at times, inherently wrong.
It's not a matter of trust; I trust her as much as I possibly could trust a person in her position. It's a matter of obligation and guilt -- a deep and gnawing guilt that every time she takes my daughter to the park, picks up my stepdaughter from school or gives my son a bath, it should be me doing the deed.
This unsavory aspect of parenting
is nothing I could've predicted before I became a mom. When my husband and I married, I had a demanding full-time career and he brought a 5-year-old girl (whom we have legal custody of) and her nanny with him. He knew I would continue working and my stepdaughter was beginning kindergarten, so there weren't any issues with the arrangement.
But once I had my son, things changed. I resigned from the demanding career and became a full-time mommy. I spent my days nursing him and taking him to playdates and park after park. In the afternoons, I could easily pick up my stepdaughter from school, get her to her activities and still have dinner on the table. In fact, my son and I were practically glued to each other for the first two years of his life, and except for the occasional afternoon babysitter, it was a one-woman show. Of course, my husband would pinch-hit in the mornings and nights, but his career was expanding and his travel schedule was getting more and more intense.
While I missed aspects of my career, I knew this was a fleeting time and I would have the rest of my life to save the world. I felt like I had enough time to take great care of my children and adequate care of myself. All was copacetic.
Then I had our third child, and all hell broke loose.
Having three children who were in three completely different stages of life felt like far too much for me to bear alone. So I hired as little help as possible. First I hired a weekend sitter to help me when my husband was out of town. Then I added on an afternoon sitter to help me with carpooling for my stepdaughter (which had proven to be too difficult to execute with a screaming infant and napping toddler in tow).
I felt guilty for having helpers. I mean, I wasn't running a 120-bed treatment center anymore, I was just trying to nurse a baby, change a diaper and get some dinner on the table! Granted, I didn't have any reliable, regular family
help, and my husband was gone about half of the time. But how many assistants should one woman need?
At times, there is a nagging, judgmental voice that tells me that if I were a stronger, better, more devoted mother, I wouldn't need help. It doesn't matter that I know how unhealthy it is for me to not take care of myself. It is abundantly clear to me that me being alone with my children for two or three days solid -- without any dependable break to take a peaceful shower, let alone run an errand -- is an unhealthy situation for everyone involved.
In fact, in practically every culture, childrearing is shared by the extended family
. Nature did not intend for mothering to be a solitary sport. In our culture, many of us, like myself, don't have the benefit of extended family
living close by, so we have to hire people to fill those roles. While I wish my situation were different, and that I had a bevy of sisters and cousins to share the motherhood journey with, my reality is that most of the help I've received has been paid for. Perhaps that is the is the source of the guilt, for I've never heard a mother expressing feelings of shame for leaving her children with the grandparents when she goes to get a pedicure.
All moms, whether they work inside or outside the home, need and deserve to have regular breaks. A wise woman once told me that taking a shower should not be considered a break: Bathing is actually a basic human right. A break, she told me, is doing something relaxing, fun and soul-nurturing. But I still experience a persistent maternal guilt when the nanny takes over, which is juxtaposed with waves of relief because I know an uninterrupted bath is imminent.
While I always strive to bring my happiest and most positive self to my children and I know that we are very blessed to have each other, at times I still feel sad and guilty -- sad that my children don't have the experience of a big extended family
, and guilty that if I need to see a client or work on a project (or if I want to take a bath or get a manicure), the person most often watching my child is someone I have paid to do it.
No matter how I try to make sense of this arrangement, it just feels wrong.