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Nannying: How Much Is Too Much?

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Guest blogger Jessica Katz: Everybody needs a helping hand, but ... how much nannying is too much nannying?


The other day in baby group, a mom was telling us that her nanny had canceled so she decided to feed her baby in the bathtub (water and all). The idea? She could feed and bathe her daughter at the same time and avoid any mess. Her nanny usually does the feeding, bathing and bedtime routines. This mom hates doing that stuff.

Our group leader started explaining how important it is to do "all" the parenting, even the mundane stuff. It is important for the relationship between the parent and child. Most moms expressed that they wanted to be their babies' friend, not the "bad guy." They didn't want to feed them messy vegetables, be in the room when the baby got vaccinated or put them to bed while they cried. And then they shared that most of them had full-time help, and that was their secret to sanity. It occurred to me that most of these moms were putting in only a few hours a day with their babies. And in a pinch, some didn't even know how to do the essentials. Most had hired help 12 hours a day, 6 days a week ... costing around $45,000 annually. 

I know you are allowed to have a life and you do not need to be tethered to your baby. And it is perfectly fine to have help, whether it be family or hired. But there is an importance to parenting your kids, to letting them know you will be there through the tough times and you will take care of them and make them feel better. The time you spend with them feeding, bathing and setting limits and bedtime routines ... these are fundamental things that a parent should do with their child. Kids have friends; what they really crave and need is a parent -- an anchor. Someone who always takes care of them and whom they can count on to keep them in check. 

My mom was against nannies, saying she didn't have children for other people to raise them. I disagree, and we have help 10 hours a week so I can get a break and run errands. I think I am a better mom when I get a break; I am energized and more patient. It's OK to get a break from mommy duty -- but not to have someone take it over all together. 

Babies grow so fast, and before you know it, they will be doing these things for themselves. You don't want to miss it. Believe me, by bedtime I am burnt out by my daughter. But an hour after she is asleep, I miss her and want to wake her up. If you don't establish the foundation as a caregiver, it will be hard for you to expect your toddler or child to follow the boundaries you create later in their life. Shortcuts can create real problems in the long run. You may get a break today, but it will come back to bite you when you least expect it.

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