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I Hate Needing a Nanny

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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.

nanny with kids
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.

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11 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous October 28, 2010, 8:15 AM

Hmm, it just seems kind of strange to me that a SAHM would get a nanny. Like isn’t the job -taking care of the kids? I ttotally get working moms who need nannies, daycare, etc. And I totally get the whole needing a break, whether a full time working mom or one who stays home. But to me that means a babysitter on the weekends. But to say satying home is your job but then hire someone to do your job - that’s weird to me. But hey if you can afford it and that’s what you want to do, have at.

Kay October 28, 2010, 8:40 AM

It seems to me that it’s not an issue of how good a mom you, or how much help you need. It’s a matter of money. If you can afford it (whatever “it”) might be, suddenly you think you need it. If you can afford a second car, then you can’t imagine how your family would run without it. If you can afford to give your children private music lessons, it becomes a necessity. If you can afford a nanny/housekeeper, suddenly you can’t live without help. Right now my husband is going to school full time while working at a minimum wage job. Someday we’ll be able to afford some of the finer things in life, but right now that’s just not happening. We have on car (and when we had to make that switch from two to one, I thought the whole world was gonna collapse on me) and we’ve learned to adjust. I have three small children and one on the way. I’m so tired I’m surprised I can form complete sentences right now. If someone offered me help, you better believe I would snatch it up. But that stuff doesn’t come cheap, so we do without. And you could, too, if you had to.

sarah October 28, 2010, 9:07 AM

I applaud you for recognizing you need help and being woman enough to get that help. I had a live in nanny/housekeeper for several years. One full year with my ex staying home from work…then we could no longer afford the nanny. If I could afford it, I would have a nanny again. It is better for my children, things go more smoothly and there is less stress.
From reading the other comments it sounds like people are going to judge but they don’t realize people are not cookie cutter molds of each other. Some are good at one thing and someone else is good at something different. I love being a mother but it is not my best feature… I am BETTER suited for other things so I give mothering everything I have, do my very best by my children and acecpt the fact that I need help sometimes. So be it…

Matt Brechwald October 28, 2010, 11:27 AM

I know that everyone in every different walk of life needs help at times. My wife stays home with our daughter, and there are times that I would like to hire help for her. That is just with one child.

If you can hire help to come into your house, I think it can enhance the experience with your children because it will limit your distractions.

With that said, I urge you to do good background checks on anyone that you bring into the home. If you have the means, you can hire somebody to do this for you. If you do not, you can certainly do a very good one yourself, but please do one.

Good luck to you, and don’t be so hard on yourself.

Jennifer October 28, 2010, 12:05 PM

Wow. My mum managed to stay at home and raise three children and we didn’t have any family around us. Neither did she ever trust our care to a stranger. I can’t believe you think a nanny is ‘necessary’, especially with at least one child in school. All I can say is that your children are bonding with that nanny more than you think. Children give their love to their care giver, rightly so, and it doesn’t sound like that’s you.

Sarah October 28, 2010, 12:40 PM

I’m one of 4 (my older sister and I are 14 months apart, my younger bro & sis are 18 months younger than me, twins). My mom did it all by herself - no family help, certainly no nanny.

I have 3 children (5, 4, 3) and pregnant again. I choose to be a full time stay at home mom, which to me requires taking care of the children and the home full time. So I have to agree with the poster who asks if SAHMs hire people to do their job, then why are they SAHM? Because really they aren’t. And I’ve been staying home for a while - it’s not THAT hard. Not as hard as my old full time job (different and challenging but hey not as hard) and no where near as hard as my friends who have to work AND parent (bless all the working moms!!)

If you are blessed with the luxury of being able to stay home use the time to spend with your kids!! I’m not saying you can never get a break, but full time help? That just seems excessive. And if you feel awful about it maybe that’s just a little guilt that you’re not taking advantage of the gift you have of being able to stay home with your kids.

XXXX October 28, 2010, 3:38 PM

Alot of woman would kill to have one. Get over it!

Jennifer L October 28, 2010, 3:55 PM

I hope you shake off the criticism that was posted in the comments section. All moms, whether they admit it or not, have at least a little mommy guilt, whether it’s b/c you lett your kids have chicken nuggets or you leave the TV to get the house dusted. All it means is you’re human.

Sure, I know plenty of people who have 3 or 4 or even 5 kids and make it work. But you know what? Most if not all trade babysitting with friends, arrange rides for some of their kids so they can participate in conflicting sports, etc. One friend has 3 sons, all play hockey- but on different teams and practice at different times. Has she learned to clone herself? Nope. She enlists help thru whatever means necessary- paid babysitters, friends, aunts and uncles, etc. Why? Because she didn’t want to make her kids skip their athletic choices.

Other moms I know who refuse to delegate like this set big limits on their kids’ activities. For example- each kid can only play one sport per year. So, they get to haul 4 bored siblings around while the 5th plays. Oh gee, what fun.

Anonymous October 28, 2010, 4:04 PM

Be glad you can afford help. Most of us have to figure out how to drag the screaming toddler or napping baby with us when we pick up our older kids.
You could try building up a set of friends you trade favors with - carpooling and playdates. Then you would have your village.
If you seriously believe it is wrong to have a nanny, stop doing it. Otherwise, let go of the guilt and be grateful for what you have.

Jenna October 29, 2010, 5:43 AM

“Most if not all trade babysitting with friends, arrange rides for some of their kids so they can participate in conflicting sports, etc”

This is the most untrue statement. Most SAHMs w/multiple kids don’t have this type of “arrangement”. We realize staying home and taking care of our kids is our JOB

Do I think it’s weird that a SAHM is hiring a nanny to do her job, sure. But if she’s comfortable with it (which it doesn’t seem like she is since she said she feels bad)and can afford it, then who cares? I feel bad for the author though - it doesn’t seem like she WANTS to be a SAHM, but maybe feels guilted into it? Why not work and feel a sense of accomplishment and let the nanny nanny - no guilt.

Erin Gibson October 29, 2010, 1:02 PM

I have to say, as a nanny for two separate families with SAHM, it’s HARD to care for children; get off of your high horses. One family has 4 week old twins, and I’m mostly there to hang out with the older kids so they don’t feel left out and to run errands and so forth so she doesn’t have to pack up four kids to go grocery shopping or run small errands like going to the post office.

The other family has two kids in school, one toddler, and one on the way and the mother has health issues. I mostly come in to pick the kids up, help out around the house since she’s super pregnant and in pain, and to watch the children while she has appointments and so forth.

Both husbands are working 70+ hrs a week in high-paying, demanding jobs and so I almost sort of become the dad, HELPING the mother, not doing it for her. She makes dinner, I get the kids in baths, she sings the babies to sleep, I help the kids brush thier teeth.

It’s certainly possible to be a single mother and do everything but it’s hard, it hurts, and you sacrifice one way or another on something that is important (working too much = don’t get to see kids, work less = less money for healthy food etc). Having a nanny or a mother’s helper can be a blessing, even if both parents stay at home. I don’t know a single parent who wouldn’t want either more time with their kids, or some alone time while the kids made crafts/

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