Dear Parents: As A Nanny, I Don’t Have To Be You
By Elizabeth.Hawksworth on January 27, 2013
One thing I hear a lot as a nanny from parents is that “it’s SO different when they’re your own”, often accompanied by a stifled look of superiority as they watch me wrestle my latest charge. I also hear a lot of “oh, you SAY you won’t do this now, but trust me, when you’re a parent, you will. You’re going to do basically everything you said you wouldn’t. Being a nanny is NOT the same as a parent.”
First of all, I’m not sure where I’ve ever given off the impression that I think being a nanny is the same as being a parent. Because it’s not. I do a lot of work with children, and sometimes I am the primary caregiver, but I didn’t birth or adopt the child, so no, it’s not the same. There’s a bond there that is much deeper and stronger than a bond that a nanny has with a child. I do understand that my love and my frustration is going to be much different than yours. I get that totally. But why does that mean that the way I’m doing things is inherently wrong or “not good enough”?
I can only imagine it’s because of the mother-guilt that some parents feel about leaving their children when they have to go back to work. Maybe it’s also about the fact that I’m doing really well with a child who isn’t my own, that there’s often a bond there, too. I see a lot of jealousy in the eyes of some mothers I talk to when they see me calm a child with rocking or snuggling, or when a child behaves after I discipline them quietly and gently. But just like I can’t judge a parent who deals with a child who’s tantruming in a store or a screaming child who won’t be calmed, I don’t think they can judge me, either. I don’t think it’s fair to be written off because of my profession or because I’m childless. I have my bad days, too, and I utilize a variety of methods, the same as parents do, to deal with the children in my care. No child is the same, and no child requires just the same methods of care. I think people who think I have it easier because I’m a nanny are maybe speaking from a place where they can’t see that my days are often very similar to theirs. Sure, I do get to go home, which is definitely my saving grace some days, but my job can be tough, and is definitely not lessened because the children aren’t my own.
And this “you’ll definitely do everything you said you won’t” stuff – well, in some cases, that’s true. I’ve yelled at a child before when I really, really thought I never would. (And I felt awful. I hate yelling.) But I have said I will never spank or lay a hand on a child, and I never have, or will. I think it’s about what’s really important to your style of care – lots of people choose to practice different parenting methods that they stick to like glue, values that are important to them. I think saying that stuff is projecting and trying to make someone feel bad about themselves, and it’s not helping. It’s widening the gap between childless and parent, the same as “you’ll never understand” or “why aren’t you the same as how you used to be?” do.
I’ve written about understanding before, and I think when children are involved, we need to have even more understanding. I am often cold-shouldered by parents in the park or in the EYC when they find out that I’m not a parent. I’m not sure why this happens and I’m glad that there are a few parents who have reached out to me and supported me through bad days and rough times. They’ve also allowed me to support them, which has been something I’ve been really glad to do. In the end, we’re women, not adversaries on a chess board.
And in the end, also, I’m not you. I’m not going to do things the way you necessarily would. That’s okay – I don’t have to. It takes all kinds to make a world. I had to learn to stop being judgemental about methods I saw parents using that I really, really disagreed with. In the end, they’re doing what works best for them. And I’m doing what works best for me, to be able to nurture the children in my care to the best of my ability. I got into this job to make a difference, and I see that difference every day in the faces of the children I care for.
I’m pretty lucky to do the job I do. I’m not in competition with you. And I certainly would appreciate support instead of a nose turned up at me. Maybe, together, we can learn from each other instead of being adversaries. That’d definitely be better than me trying to keep my patience while being sneered at!