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The Request From My Nanny I Can't Agree To

Photograph by Getty Images

Y’all, I’m no Mila Kunis so you know what that means right? Not only do I not get to wake up and smell Ashton Kutcher’s morning breath, I also have to perform my duties as an employer to my nanny. Yes, unlike the former "That 70’s Show" stars, who have foregone nannies because they want to “know” their daughter Wyatt, I have to be a stranger to my kids because food and Hello Kitty stickers cost money. Thus, I go to work and a nanny watches my kids.

I’m now five years into my role as an employer to nannies, and my resume is full of victories—like all the times I’ve negotiated pay raises and vacation schedules, not to mention the scores of little issues that come up each week. The hurdles come up, and I do my best to think of equitable solutions. I give myself and my nanny extra gold stars for how we handled that time she left the country for three months for her wedding and honeymoon. Oh, and her subsequent three-month maternity leave nine months later.

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None of these negotiations have been easy. I loathe confrontation. Whenever possible, I leave notes and write texts because the face-to-face conversations make me break out in shingles. The stakes feel impossibly high. I’ve entrusted the care of my children to this woman—she’s the last person on Earth I want to piss off. If she asks for the stars, my impulse is figure out a way to pluck them out of the sky and give them to her in a darling wicker basket with a bow I learned to make on Pinterest.

Who wants to be the woman who tells her nanny she can’t be with her baby because she has to focus on my children?

But I can’t always say yes to her requests.

Like today. She’s preparing to resume working with us following her three-month maternity leave. She’s asked to bring her baby when she comes to work.

In theory, I want to say yes. Who wants to be the woman who tells her nanny she can’t be with her baby because she has to focus on my children? Not me. It smacks of the same classism that Tina Fey famously referred to in "Bossypants," when she explained why she calls her nanny a “babysitter.” (Tina Fey: “I don’t like the word ‘nanny.’ It gives me class anxiety and race anxiety.”) Also, I remember preparing to return to my day job and leaving my new baby behind for the first time. It was a startling, overwhelming and devastating transition. All of that makes me want to give her a huge hug, woman-to-woman, and say, “Yes! Bring your baby! Nurse whenever you want! Just keep my kids out of the street!”

But I can’t. My primary job is to take care of my children. Part of that responsibility is finding a nanny who will devote her attention and care to them when I can’t be there. How can my nanny give my children what they deserve—what I want them to have—when she’s also caring for her young daughter? I wouldn’t be able to wrangle a 4- and 5-year old in and out of the car and back and forth to activities, while also attending to a 3-month-old. I want a nanny who has her hands free. I want a nanny whose sole task is to focus on my children and their needs. I want a nanny that comes without an infant attached.

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So there’s a hard conversation ahead for me today. A face-to-face one. Despite my conflicted feelings, I’m going to say I’m not comfortable with her bringing her baby to work. Then, I’ll spend the rest of our relationship trying not to feel guilty for asking her to put my family before hers.

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