I happen to have a wonderful nanny. The proof is in our almost-3-year-old twin girls, who are happy, healthy, incredibly verbal and creative, charming, and good sleepers to boot. She takes them out all the time, sets up play dates, and reads to them. No parking them in front of the TV. And she’s firm, too. Treats are just that—earned, not expected. And she helps me out, too. Makes shopping lists, does our laundry in addition to the girls’, sometimes gets dinner ready so all I have to do when I get home is pop it in the oven. Family and friends all say how lucky we are to have her.
But, here’s the catch: She’s not nice to my husband. He’s the one who’s home when she gets to our house in the mornings, and he’s also home one day a week when she’s there, as well as occasionally working from home. He’s always said she’s standoffish-to-surly with him—and he has heard from other nannies that she can be abrasive—the opposite of the chatty, friendly way she is with me. And I admit, I work hard to cultivate a relaxed, egalitarian relationship with her. I consider her an expert, a professional who’s got way more experience at this child-rearing business than I have. I’ve attributed the difference in our respective relationships with her to that effort, and also to a cultural expectation of the mom being the main kid point-person.
Well, none of that matters now, cause things have come to a head. Long story short, the girls missed their swim class after he made a (totally reasonable) request that she get them there on time. When he confronted her, she blew up at him. That was the last straw. He wants us to start looking for a new nanny. Now.
I get it, I really do. He’s the dad. He pays her a lot of money. None of us can talk like that to our bosses and keep our jobs. He shouldn’t have to tiptoe around anyone in his own house, dammit! And oh yeah, this happened once before. They got in an argument, she threatened to leave, and they patched things up (mediated by yours truly). Since then he has made a real effort to be friendlier—I’ve seen it. If she talked to you the way she talks to me, he says, she’d be gone in a second. And I don’t doubt it. Really, baby…I get it. I get it!
And yet. The girls, right? Actually no. I mean, yes, I love how she teaches them to be kind and polite, to go to the potty, to cover their mouths when they cough, and to say thank you and you’re welcome. I love how she takes them places, and makes sure they know to wear hats when it’s cold and to hold hands in the parking lot. And I’m concerned that we wouldn’t be able to find someone to do all that. And they love her and would totally miss her. There’s that, too.
If I’m being really honest, there’s a part of me that’s been holding on to our nanny for my own selfish reasons as well. Between the girls, our work schedules, doing the laundry and the shopping and remembering to take out the recycling I need her. Between finding someone to take the girls this weekend (for free), trying to cook dinner so we don’t order takeout again, figuring out the precise time we have enough money in the bank to pay for music class — and oh yeah, Can I steal a couple hours to do some stuff for work? — I need her. Our life—my life—is so carefully calibrated, we’re a Rube Goldberg machine. If just one part drops out, I’m afraid the whole thing will fall apart. I think, “Can’t you, won’t you please just pretend everything’s OK, dear husband? The girls are 3—it’s only for two more years!”
This is, of course, ridiculous. The nanny doesn’t work for the girls or for me. She works for our family. If she can’t get along with all of us, she has to go.
But tell me, moms: You feel me on this? (And do you know any available nannies?)