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I can practically hear the cannons from the Mom Wars fire
off in the distance as I type these words, but trust me when I say I come from
a place of peace. You're a mom, I'm a
mom, so let's all agree that we are doing the best we can in what is often a
very challenging situation.
That said, ahem, I have noticed something online recently that
seems, well, like a bit of a double standard. A few weeks ago, while brainstorming blog ideas, I posted a question in
a few online mom groups I belong to: "What
do you do while baby is napping?"
It was really a pathetic attempt to assuage the Catholic
guilt that plagues me, despite not having gone to Church for decades (Forgive
me, Father, for I have sinned, clearly). If I choose to put my feet up while my young toddler naps, I am wracked
with guilt. I was looking for reassurance that I wasn't failing as a mom by shutting
down for a little while each day.
The problem for me is that I keep thinking of my husband
hard at work at his desk (cough, on Facebook, cough). I keep thinking of the to-do list that has now gathered dust. I keep thinking of laundry, menu
lists and organizing a drawer of hair accessories that personifies chaos and
now requires a lion tamer.
Long story short, there are a million more productive things
I could be doing while the little one sleeps than what I end up doing, which is watch a
little TV or, yes, even close my eyes and nap for a few minutes.
... I had no idea a nanny's functions would ever extend beyond the children.
Universally, other moms were supportive of engaging in a
little R & R while the baby does the same. And, also universally, they encouraged me to lose the guilt.
"Being a mom is hard work," they would
say. "Taking care of children and a home
is exhausting," they would say. "Relax,"
they would say, "all that housework will keep."
And yet, those same encouraging words don't
seem to apply to nannies.
What you can also find in some online mom groups are
questions about legal requirements of paying a nanny while on break and worries
that a nanny has become "complacent" during baby's nap time, resting herself
instead of folding laundry, picking up the house or cooking the family
My initial response to the nanny trashing—and, yes, there
was some nanny trashing happening—was one of just sheer injustice. Was corralling one to three children somehow
less exhausting for a nanny? Or did the act of paying for childcare result in a sense of higher expectations?
In no way was the conversation one-sided. Lots and lots of working moms felt strongly
that a nanny's efforts should be focused on the children and that, if the little
ones were safely accounted for in a crib or bed, the nanny should be allowed to
recharge before wake-up, whether that be 45 minutes or three hours.
There was a vocal and unmistakable sense among other
working moms, though, that they were damn well going to get what they paid for, and that the nanny was an employee in their home caring for not just the children but for the home as well. Family laundry,
family meals and housework were all fair game.
It just struck me that the act of bringing in help with your family was potentially much more complicated than finding someone to keep your little ones fed and clean and dry and rested and happy.
I didn't realize this was even a thing, but, apparently, this
is truly a thing. There are contracts
and written notifications of absence and expectations, which outside of a 30-minute break
to eat, the nanny should be productive. Color me clueless, as I had no idea a nanny's functions would ever
extend beyond the children.
I find providing childcare exhausting, but perhaps that is because
I am raising two young children in my 40s. It is challenging in a very different way than any other type of work I
have ever done. The boundaries are
fluid, for one, and there is never the opportunity to just step away and
recharge with a few minutes of alone time or cup of coffee. Young children require an enormous amount of
stamina and enthusiasm to keep them active and engaged and learning and
developing—things every mother wants for her child.
I don't know. It just
struck me that the act of bringing in help with your family was potentially
much more complicated than finding someone to keep your little ones fed and
clean and dry and rested and happy. For
some moms, it's about watching the clock and being distressed when thinking
about someone else possibly napping on her sofa.
I might be guilty for judging, but that seems like a fairly
awful way to live. I call #teamnanny on this one.