the village

04 Jan the village

On New Year’s Eve, I used my Facebook status to complain about my nanny quitting. It took four months to find someone I really trusted with my kids and after two months she emailed to say she was leaving us. I thought of Carrie Bradshaw’s infamous Post-It note breakup in “Sex And The City.” It stung, and so I said so.

My life is full of wonderful, precious things. I want you to know that, readers. I am brimming with joy over all the gifts I’ve been given. Everywhere I look, blessings: my husband, my children, a lovely home, good food and friends to share it with (to name just a few.) 

Even so, 2010 was a painful year, and the nanny quitting was the least of it. Three of my best friends lost their fathers. Two of my childhood/college friends died. We moved away from our support network to a city where we didn’t know anyone. Illness. Vandalism. A car accident. And there were other, more personal losses that I can’t even type here.

So, getting an email from the nanny felt like a little shriveled cherry atop the mud pie, and I vented about it to the peanut gallery.

I was perplexed, though, about some of the responses I received. The issue became more about my having a nanny….it was a surprise to some people. I’m not calling out anyone in particular here…I got several comments, plus a couple of private messages. I really valued getting the feedback (snarky as some of it was), and I wanted a chance to respond at greater length.

First, an apology: I never intended to hide the fact I had a nanny. I am not superwoman. I’m sorry if I ever gave that impression, friends. I cannot do what I do–raise my children, write for magazines, blog, practice photography, cook, manage a household–alone. That’s to say nothing of the things I want to do like finish the book I’ve been writing, exercise more, read, fix up our house, and socialize with new friends.

Second: Why do we make assumptions about mothers who have help? Would anyone have thought twice if I had said that I have a supportive mother/sister/aunt/friend helping me raise my kids, as opposed to a professional whom I pay? Do we judge women in other cultures who lean heavily on a network of helpers (be it the village, family members, or paid help)?

Maybe the word “nanny” is loaded in some way…Our nanny watches the kids on average 15 hours a week, so she’s no Mary Poppins, but she’s more than a “babysitter” to us. And, like many cities, where we live it’s cheaper to hire a part-time nanny than to pay for part-time daycare at a center. Bizarre, but true.

Lastly, I want to challenge: If you’re a mother, do you have support in your life? If not, why? There is no badge of honor for going it alone. Superwoman is a myth. And I can tell you that bad things happen when mothers isolate themselves.

Only you know how much help you need. But be honest with yourself. Writing is my sanity, and I think the ability to write alone a few hours each day is what helps me be a healthy, involved, patient mom. I feel lucky that this is my job. …Maybe you just need an hour a day to eat some lunch, to exercise, to have an adult conversation, or take a shower. Maybe you need much more in order to work full-time and meet your family’s needs.

The bottom line is, there are no martyrs here. Seek support in the areas you need it.

I think that’s all I wanted to say.  

Now, I will dip into the well of optimism. I’ll embrace whatever 2011 holds. Even if it’s more pain, because I don’t believe life happens to us. It happens for us, to mold us and teach us. And having seen pain, it’s easier to recognize the joy. I know I’ve said that before, but I’m constantly reminded of it. Thanks to pain, joy is more visceral, more vivid.

Thanks for making The Daily B so successful in 2010. I hope you’ll continue reading and commenting (and criticizing!) in 2011. I really think it’s a gift having so many people walking beside me in this crazy motherhood journey.

  • elizabeth turnage
    Posted at 01:21h, 04 January Reply

    perfection. So very well said. So very well. Way to go, you awesome Mom you!

  • Sarah Buttenwieser
    Posted at 01:58h, 04 January Reply

    huge long thread (on facebook) about exactly this–after i posted that article on the twiblings in the nyt mag . how privilege (read, nanny) becomes such a divider when we put it in the mother mix. (we have a barter, 20 hrs childcare for our third floor, which is an apt; we also hire out about 5 – 10 hours/week; some of that time with four kids in the mix allows me to shuttle kids or spend time with not all four, but some is for work or other things for me).

    a terrific musing here & i hope hope hope you find someone even better (babysitter karma tends to help you find even better folks after disappointments).

  • Sarah
    Posted at 04:54h, 04 January Reply

    Very well said! Amen!

  • *Jen*
    Posted at 17:48h, 04 January Reply


    I never knew how true the following was until I became a mother 2 years ago: “If you’re a mother, do you have support in your life? If not, why? There is no badge of honor for going it alone. Superwoman is a myth. And I can tell you that bad things happen when mothers isolate themselves.”

  • Sarah B
    Posted at 20:30h, 05 January Reply

    Oh my…next time say “mother’s helper.” People are so sensitive! You gotta do what you gotta do! Amen!

  • mcgomr7
    Posted at 01:30h, 06 January Reply

    I’m a nanny and I’ve worked in families with the most amazing moms– AND dads!! It’s too bad that there’s a stigma about families with nannies. No two families are the same and everyone has different needs. I wish you all the best for 2011!

  • Sassy
    Posted at 01:52h, 06 January Reply

    I suppose I’m one of those people that expressed surprise at your having a nanny. I didn’t mean it in a judgemental way. I was just surprised because you seem to share so much of your life in your blog and yet I hadn’t remembered you sharing that. So it surprised me is all. There are many times I would love to have a nanny. I often do feel alone in raising my children especially being in the military and not being near family or friends. Thank you for reminding all moms to find support, each in their own unique ways. And Happy New Year!

  • Rachel
    Posted at 18:59h, 06 January Reply

    Words make a difference, I think. “Nanny” has become a trigger, while (as Sarah B says above) “mother’s helper” is a lot less loaded. But that doesn’t excuse people’s behavior on this score. I’m often reminded of the opening story in Judith Warner’s “Perfect Madness” where she discusses childcare options in France versus the US. We have so few social safety nets for parenting here but somehow we begrudge each other our self-created support networks. Take the help when you can get it, and know that I think it’s great.

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