When I first met my kid, I was 21 and he was 5. Naturally, we hit it off instantly because we basically had the same mental age. Now, I am 23 and he is about to turn 7. We don’t see each other much since I stopped looking after him, but our relationship hasn’t changed one bit. I’m his favourite and everybody knows it.
His previous nanny had been with him since he was a baby; he was basically a part of their family. I was so nervous to fill his shoes. Kids had always taken to me pretty easily, but how was I supposed to compete with someone who had been such a huge part of his life? On my first day, I went to get him from summer camp and the first thing he said to me was, ‘Where’s Mark? Is Mark not picking me up anymore?‘ My heart broke for him.
I never had a nanny growing up. My mum went back to work part-time when I was born and then stopped altogether when my younger sister came along. Because she wanted to. She wanted to spend time with us and look after us when we were little. And I won’t lie, I would ideally do the same. But I know that this isn’t a luxury that all mothers can afford. I know that I may not be able to. And I know that some mothers just don’t want to. It’s a personal choice and it’s a parent’s prerogative to decide what’s best for their family and for their child.
If you have a good nanny, and you’re a good parent, you have nothing to worry about. Your kid will be surrounded by love and learn how to love. It’s an instinct to grow attached to people who care about us, and who we depend on. For children, this is even stronger. I was with my kid for three months before I left to do my Masters, and he loved me. He loved me because I cared for him. I cared for him in the deepest sense of the word. It wasn’t just a job. His dependence on me was beyond my making him dinner and helping him cross the road. I was a shadow mother, which is what a good nanny should be.
If your child doesn’t love their nanny, hire someone else. If your child loves their nanny more than they love you, that’s not the nanny’s fault; you’re doing something wrong. If they wake up in the night from a bad dream and ask for their nanny, you’re doing something wrong. Make time for your kid before your kid doesn’t have time for you.
I would say that the best time to do this is bedtime. Bedtime is my favourite time of the day. I am magic at it. Tucking my kid in and reading him a story, or making one up, and watching him drift off to sleep is the most satisfying thing. How much of a challenge he was during the day becomes irrelevant. He reverts back to the sweet, loving boy I so deeply cherish. I would be devastated if bedtime was taken away from me, but I think it’s important for a parent to do. I understand that this isn’t always possible. I get that sometimes it’s not possible to be back home for bedtime to tuck your kids in. But if you do make it in time, and your kid asks you to read them a story, don’t say no. I know you’re tired. I know you may still have work to do. I know you haven’t had dinner and you need to clean the kitchen before you catch up on emails and finish writing overdue thank you notes for you kid’s birthday party a month ago. But it’s 10 minutes, and it makes a world of difference to them. Believe me, I am more than happy to do it; I’m like the freaking sandman. But they would much rather it’s you.
I’m a great nanny. My kid loves me. He also loves the guy who came before me and he loves the girl who took my place. He’s a kid that has a lot of love to give, and I know that’s through having nannies. Growing up with different adults outside of his immediate family has shaped him into the weird and wonderful boy that he is today. He’s taken parts of all of us and we’ve all nurtured different things in him that we think are special. He is amazing, and I will forever be proud to have played a little part in that.
He’s a kid. He doesn’t listen and he cries and he throws water at me at bathtime. He tries my patience and he gives me attitude. But he is excited every time he sees me. He runs and jumps into my arms every time, without fail. I would never have thought that loving a stranger’s child would come so naturally. Like I said, I was only with him for three months, but we were family. On my last night, I was putting him to bed when he wrapped himself around me and said, ‘Why do you have to leave me? No one else has anyone leaving them‘. It broke my heart.
If you’d have told me three months earlier when I was picking him up from summer camp, that this little boy would love me as much as he loved the last guy, I wouldn’t have believed you. For a split second my cynical heart thought maybe this little boy is just fickle with his love, maybe he just loves whoever holds his backpack so he can ride his scooter really fast. My cynical heart trivialised this little boys feelings because I was heart broken and didn’t want to believe that he was, too. Imagine being that young and growing so attached to people, and then having to watch them leave.
I’ve only seen him a handful of times since I left, and every time I do, I am amazed at how much he has grown and at the boy he is turning into. When I left, he could barely sound out words; I saw him a couple of months later and he was stumbling through full sentences. My heart literally swelled and I had the biggest smile on my face listening to him read. He is smart and kind and funny and weird and loving and I am so proud of him.
I looked after him for a few days this week as his new nanny was ill, and it was just like old times. He is just as naughty, but just as loving. His new nanny, Emma, has been with him a lot longer than I was, so I imagined I had been replaced in his affections, and fairly so. However, when I put him to bed on the last night, I wasn’t sure when I would see him again, so I asked. When I told him that I wouldn’t be there the next day, he said, ‘I think you should come back tomorrow, and on Friday, instead of Emma. And then pick me up for the rest of my life‘. I melted. I kissed him on the forehead and made up a story about a boy who lived in a coconut. He was asleep before I finished, but I watched him for another five minutes. And then I left.
Sometimes it hurts to love another person’s child.