At a recent function for Today’s Parent, we handed out copies of our November issue. I overheard some women near me talking about our “How Does She Do It” column featuring Tracy Moore (page 206). “How does she do it?” one woman said a bit sarcastically, “With a nanny, I’ll bet.” Ironically, the article outlines how Tracy’s husband Lio is a work-from-home dad and is the primary caregiver of their two kids, while Tracy works full time at CityLine and may be one of the hardest working people in television, not to mention a doting mom. Regardless, what I found interesting is the assumption that people with nannies have it easier (and perhaps may be “less of a parent”) than those who drop their kids off at daycare, have a babysitter or rely on family members to help.
I am horrified to admit that I am totally guilty of making the same judgment. There was a time when I’d sanctimoniously say to myself – in a part of my brain I am not very proud of nor do I let many people see –”Why have kids if you’re going to hire someone else to raise them?” This is a part of my brain that I’d like to say has evolved since giving birth, but I’m not 100% confident I’m there yet.
When people find out I have four kids, the most common question I get is, “Do you have help?” To which I used to stand up straighter and throw my shoulders back like some kind of cartoon hen and beam: “No. Not really.” A blatant lie, actually: I had a great husband and a weekly house cleaner plus an amazing family and tons of friends who would be at my door in a heartbeat if I called (and I have tested this theory out on numerous occasions). In hindsight, I have no idea what I was trying to prove by having a house in a constant state of disarray, not to mention being physically and emotionally exhausted and fiercely grumpy by 4 p.m. But you could still hear me say: “I am not a nanny person.” (Why didn’t somebody slap me?)
Even now that I have returned to work full time, and I do indeed have someone who comes into my home four days a week, feeds my kids breakfast, drives them to school, helps with the laundry, runs errands, drives them to hockey and dance and makes sure they do their chores and their homework after school, I still refuse to call her “a nanny.” She’s “my babysitter,” which strangely seems more acceptable.
Of course, I’ve clearly broken one of my own cardinal rules: Never judge other parents. (And I feel the need to apologize to all my friends with nannies: I was wrong!! Bad girlfriend. Bad girlfriend!) The obvious lesson I have learned is that we all do the best we can with what we have. We make decisions based on what works for our families, and more often than not, something is sacrificed, whether it’s money, time, emotional stability or a perfectly presentable house. No one has it better than anyone else, and we all share the same struggles. And sometimes, our first instinct isn’t always right, and changes need to be made. But perhaps that is the real lesson: Family isn’t perfect and yet we all find our own way to do it.
Photo by Bekah267 via Flickr.