I am a psychotherapist in a full time private practice who became a mother at an older age. This was my husband's second family and he became a father for the fourth time with the birth of our only child. Practically from the time my daughter was born - almost 19 years ago - we had live-in nannies or au pairs. We had very difficult schedules, often with late nights and wanted our child's environment to be as undisrupted and consistent as possible. By employing live-in nannies, our daughter could live in her own home. She was not subjected as frequently to the colds and illnesses transmitted through group childcare.
Our experience has contributed to making our daughter who she is today. While over the course of the years we have had many nannies, sometimes with many problems, we also found some of the richest and most everlasting relationships that continue today. We've had three marriages in our home. We have hosted exciting young women from different parts of our country as well as from Eastern and Western Europe. My daughter has been exposed to a range of thinking and cultural awareness she otherwise could never have had.
Nanny Jobs: More than Just Feeding and Playing
How can I portray the excitement of sitting around my kitchen table sharing life values, ideas of politics, religion, interpersonal relationships and family customs with a group of people from Denmark, France, Ireland, Germany, Romania, Hungary, Ethiopia, and Israel as well as from various parts of the U.S. Not all were nannies; often they were joined by their friends, their boyfriends (later to be husbands), summer help, babysitters and exchange students. Many of these young people became friends among themselves. My daughter thrived in this environment. It has opened her eyes to a world she otherwise would not have known existed at such a young age. It has broadened her outlook, her curiosity, respect and tolerance for people throughout the world. She is now old enough to no longer be in their charge but to be their friend.
As for me, I have a closeness and indebtedness to these vibrant young people, these nannies and caregivers, who changed my life forever. One young woman, Annie (who has written the first part of this article) was with me when my mother-in-law was sent to our house at the end stage of her life. She selflessly took care of her. She returned later, just to "help out" when we had a transition and was here when my husband unexpectedly died. Annie did a lot more than nanny jobs. After seven years overseas with her military husband and having two children of her own, she is back once again, here now to save my life as my administrative assistant. My child was raised by a community and withstood many obstacles because of the love and warmth surrounding her.
From Nannies to Friends and Family
Yes, it is difficult to go to work with your child in someone else's arms, crying and reaching for you (only to calm down the minute you have left while you carry the image with you all day). Yes, it is worrisome to think that maybe she won't know who her real mother is. Yes, it is surprising to find that instead, this kind of bonding with caring, consistent females only strengthened our bond and contributed to her being the poised, interactive and socially conscious person she is today.
In direct response to the original inquiry, I really do not know what it would be like to start with a friend who became a nanny (as there are many issues of friendship vs. individual parenting practices, etc.) but I do know what it is like to have a nanny become a dearest friend and family member.
Articles in this series
- Part One - Hiring a Nanny - from the Nanny's perspective