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Nannies: The Third Parent

Photograph by Getty Images

I know it's a little ridiculous, but I've always felt distinctly uncomfortable when a clerk or someone in the service industry refers to me as "boss." Maybe it's the old college Marxist in me, but I've always been tempted to return that ostensible honor with, "Boss? I'm no one's boss! I'm your brother in the revolution!"

But if my personality has kept me from being anybody's boss in the professional realm, becoming a dad made me an unlikely boss when my wife and I hired a nanny to look after our son Declan. So, technically, I am—for a little while longer, at least—my nanny's boss.

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But I never took to the role. Even now I cringe at the notion of being someone's boss. I could say that I am, at the very least, in charge of my baby and my dog, but it'd probably be more accurate to say that they're in charge of me, especially the dog, who has trained me to follow his wishes and commands quite nicely. And so, I suppose, my nanny is my employee. But she is also my son's caregiver, my wife's sounding board, and the mother of Declan's best friend and surrogate sister.

It is difficult to overstate the importance of a good nanny. Our nanny is for all intents and purposes the third parent. She spends as much, if not more time with Declan than my wife and I do and we could not have asked for a kinder, more skilled, or more knowledgable woman to look after our Declan. She has been a lifesaver, a bastion of strength and calm at a time when we need those qualities most.

My wife and I can be neurotic and high-strung, but our nanny's Zen calm balances us out. She is the eye of the perpetual storm that is our life.

It is a perpetual joy to see the way my ten-month-old son's big, beautiful brown eyes light up when he sees our nanny and her three-year-old daughter, a wonderful whirling dervish of a little girl whose mind, like those of so many people her age, is one giant question mark. She is in a furious hurry to figure out how the world works and, in my interactions with her and her older brother, I feel like I'm getting a fascinating sneak preview as to what my boy is going to be like in just a few short years.

I am not somebody who relates easily or effortlessly to other people, but I have always felt at home talking to our nanny and her children. Yes, it's because we share such an important common interest in Declan, but it's also because our nanny is so thoroughly at home and at peace with herself, and that wonderful quality has the effect of making even someone as inveterately awkward as myself feel more comfortable.

My wife and I can be neurotic and high-strung, but our nanny's Zen calm balances us out. She is the eye of the perpetual storm that is our life. She has been a constant presence throughout an extraordinarily stressful time. In the last four months I have lost my job, put my condo on the market, and made plans to move across the country to live in my in-law's basement, wife, baby, and dog in tow. It has been a tremendous source of comfort knowing that, while there were all sorts of crazy variables in our lives, we can rest assured knowing that our son is being looked after in the best, kindest way possible.

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If my son is an unusually happy and upbeat little fellow, that's probably because he spends so much of his time surrounded by people who love him dearly and illustrate that love in every interaction of every day. I know I have learned a lot about how to be a parent and a decent human being from our nanny, and it hurts that she will no longer be a major presence in our lives.

Leaving our nanny and her family behind is one of the most difficult compromises my wife and I have made, or will ever have to make, and while it's heart-wrenching and painful that our son is about to be separated from people he loves so dearly, and who love him so intensely in return, I will always be grateful that we had them in our lives in the first place. It is no easy thing to entrust your child to a person who is, at least at the onset of the relationship, oftentimes a complete stranger. Thank you, Corissa, for helping us so much this year, and thank you for helping to make Declan's world be a more peaceful and beautiful place.

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