The Other Mother
Many parents who work, male or female – or both, rely on childcare. It’s a constant hot topic of juggling with many relying on family members, nurseries, childminders, au pairs and nannies. As a working mum myself, I wanted to share some of my own experiences. As you would probably expect, I have tried most of these methods. Eventually settling on a nanny who has been welcomed into our family since my daughter was three months old and I returned to work. Then again when my son was born almost two years later.
When you employ a nanny, you give them the most important job there is - taking care of your children when you can't. But what is it really like to have a nanny and how easy is it to hand your children over to someone else?
Whether you work full time, part time or ad-hoc days, it can feel hard to leave your child with someone else. You know what it’s like, just whilst you are trying to leave, they start crying and make you feel terribly guilty. Even after six years of having a nanny, I still have ‘bursts of guilt’ for running out of the door and leaving her to sort out any trail of destruction I have left behind. However, once I put my logical head on, I know she’s there to do her job to the best of her ability and she can crack on and do that, once I get myself moving and leave the house. In my heart, I know I’m a good mummy and I am good at my job, so I chose a nanny to help me do both those very important jobs to the best of my own ability.
The amount of times that my children call me by the nanny’s name instead of mummy. Well, it is on a weekly basis, but I just have to laugh that off now. Does it mean they love me any less? Do I sometimes feel like I’ve failed them because they can’t even remember who I am? Of course not.
In a recent article published in the Daily Mail, Countryfile’s Julia Bradbury honestly spoke about how she felt her children ‘preferred’ their live-in nanny more than her. Most mums might be horrified if they thought their children preferred their nanny to their own mother. In this article, Julia Bradbury revealed she has chosen to take a pragmatic approach to the matter, saying ‘I think as the parent you’ve got to give your nanny as much autonomy as you possibly can. There are no jealousies - if one of them falls over and goes to her I can’t go ‘oww!’ because if I’m not there I need that to happen.’ She added: ‘Jenny [the nanny] is like a big sister to the children and she’s very natural if we’re in the room together. You have to be sensible about it. You can’t feel guilty.’ In my view, Julia was just trying to be open about how much her children adore their nanny, and the same applies for my children.
So what should one look for in a super nanny? Well I suppose I was looking for a cross between Mary Poppins and Nanny McPhee. Someone wise, firm but fair with strong family values, wrapped up with bundles of experience and love to give. Our nanny has all these endearing qualities and has raised three fantastic teenagers of her own.
A nanny is someone you must welcome into your home with open arms as they will become an extension of your family unit. These individuals will always be a special part of your children’s lives, even after they have grown up and flown the nest.
I wanted to share a wonderful, heart-warming experience I recently had. Our family nanny who has been qualified for some twenty years, invited myself and my young daughter to have coffee with her one morning on her day off. Not only to meet her; but to introduce me to a young woman, now in her late twenties, who she used to nanny for. This beautiful, well spoken woman sat and spoke to me with so much admiration and warmth for how she was cared for as a child by our nanny. She now has her own six-year-old daughter, who was perched next to her on the chair eating a chocolate brownie. I watched as our nanny beamed with pride as she looked at the woman she raised as a child and I could immediately tell they had a special bond and how much it meant for her to be able to sit back and watch that little girl flourish into a mother herself.
I would sometimes wonder why our nanny chose her profession. When I asked her, she replied that she had two main reasons. Firstly, because she loved the bond she builds with the children and how she could watch them grow and mature. And secondly, because, unfortunately she didn’t have such great experience with nannies when she was a child herself, so she wanted to save children from having a bad experience like she did. I once read that you will grow closer to your nanny than anyone else who has ever worked for you and in my experience, that’s so true.
I know how fortunate I am to have this support in our family and I never feel like I’m struggling alone. And at times when I need to reach out for extra support, in the words of Robin Williams in Mrs Doubtfire (god rest his soul) “help is on the way dear!”.