Nannies are in the news lately. Angelina’s think that she’s an awful parent. Meg Whitman might have exploited hers. But the nanny/mother dichotmy is a lot more complex than most people realize. It’s an important relationship, one that has to have open communication and lots of trust. My relationship with my daycare provider might be one of the best I’ve ever had. Thank God!
When my daughter was three weeks old, I returned to work. As a single mother, it was a necessity for me to continue earning a pay check. It was agonizing, depressing and left me with a large amount of guilt. I entrusted my beautiful little girl to a woman named Annie. This woman has a home day care, which my niece also attended at the time. And let me be perfectly blunt, I am astonishingly lucky to have found such a wonderful woman to take care of my daughter.
Annie and I haven’t always agreed. At 60 years old, Annie has plenty of opinions about child-rearing. She’s raised three of her own and looked after countless others. And our opinions didn’t always match. It’s not really like, ‘I think Brenna should curse in plain old English and Annie’s teaching her Spanish swears’. It’s more like, ‘maybe we should limit Bean’s snacks so that she eats a complete meal’, and I’m just happy she’s eating anything at all.
I learned early to be open and honest with Annie. I accepted her suggestions and sometimes even her criticism, and learned not to get defensive every time Brenna had a bad day, but it wasn’t easy. After one particularly difficult day, Annie and I had a long talk. I realized that she wasn’t telling me about a problem simply to point out my flaws, she was trying to help my daughter. Since then, every disagreement, every bad day, Annie and I both understand that we’re trying to do what’s best for Brenna. And that’s the important part. It’s made everything easier, happier and better for the one we care about the most. (I know, this sounds super perfect, huh? No lie, we even share cookie recipes. We’re that adorable.)
I’m not writing this to rub it in everyone’s face. I’m writing so that you’ll all understand about the wonderful Annie, whom Brenna has always called Nanni. At about 18 months old, Brenna started calling me Nanni. She also started calling Annie, Mama. Basically, the names became interchangable. Both Annie and I responded to each name. Honestly, we didn’t have a lot of problems with it. (This was after that heart-to-heart.)
Lots of people around me were flabbergasted! “You have to correct her!” “She can’t keep calling you Nanni!” “Isn’t that heart-breaking that she can’t even tell you two apart. I would be so upset.” I listened to their opinions, I considered, I defended. But the more I thought about it, the less I minded. My daughter knew that she had two women in her life that would do anything for her. We both took care of her. Brenna is my daughter, but five days a week, ten hours a day, she calls on another woman to take care of her. I’m happy that the woman I depend on loves my daughter. I’m happy my daughter can feel the love and warmth that Annie feels towards her. And I can understand why she uses our names interchangably.
As more and more working women have families, daycare and nannies become extremely important. Lots of mothers want to create a space between themselves and their daycare providers. We enter our children in preschool at the age of two, because we’re positive that our child needs “a more structured day”. And I’m sure some children do. But if my daughter gets hurt during the day, I’m happy to see that Annie is just as concerned as I would be. I’m happy to know that she gets time to play, explore and color without a scheduled story time. And I’m happy that she has an amazing woman to look after her, whether she calls her Mama or not.
Sending your child off for the day while we go back to work isn’t easy. It’s not fun. And some mornings I still go to work with streaked mascara because it’s hard to let go. But we have to be able to trust the people in charge of our children. Because they’re taking care of the most precious thing we have. Nannies, and the mothers who use them, seem to get a bad rap lately. Between The Nanny Diaries’ narcissistic mothers to the tabloid tell-all celebrity sidekicks, the nanny relationship has definitely become a dynamic one. But all across the country, working mothers are trusting their beautiful babies to women that we don’t always know. And for the most part, those women treat our babies just like their own. So what if the names get a little mixed up. I’m honored to be called Nanni.