I recently had an interesting conversation with a close family member about my 9 month old daughter’s nanny.
Her nanny has been with us for four months now. She’s caring, thoughtful and enjoys being with my child. She lives with us and along with taking care of my child, she helps with some domestic chores. I have part timers who help with the other major chunk of domestic chore including cooking, cleaning and swabbing. My daughter took to her like a fish takes to water. Initially I was apprehensive but seeing how good she is with my child, I’ve been able to grow a dependency on her and trust her to care for my child.
Since my daughter came to us so late, I was very clear that I would take care of her myself. I wasn’t willing to share that responsibility with anyone, at times, even with my husband! I knew that only I could take care of her the way she should ideally be taken care of – does that makes sense?
But I’m a ‘work from home’ mother – freelancing with writing and editing work. Although I’m still as keen to take care of my child myself, I needed some time off so I could work. I try to maintain certain fixed timings for work during the day so my child understands when she’s not allowed to be with me. Having said that, I’m available to attend to her anytime if needed.
Both my husband and me refer to her as the nanny – she’s an important part of the family since she takes care of our child. We respect her and value her experience (having worked with other children before). My daughter is most comfortable with her and doesn’t harbour any feelings for her that reflect that she’s only the ‘maid’.
That was the cruz of my conversation with this family member who insisted that children no matter how small always sense when its a ‘maid’ taking care of them. She used the word ‘maid’ derogatorily and that really upset me.
There have been numerous occasions when my child would rather be with the nanny than me. Yes I’ve freaked out because of that – but then I realised that she too needs a break from me – she needs to see or be with someone else other than me – the nanny allows her to play at will – makes her laugh – feeds her, puts her to sleep now and then – she can distract her easily when she’s cranky or has hurt herself – they go for walks or to the playground. Having said that I still feed her most of her meals, clean and bathe her. I massage her and take care of her at night. My child has come to know that there are two people at home who she can depend on for her needs.
It took me a while to acknowledge that if I have to trust my child with her then I have to let go too. Even though she has experience of taking care of other children, this was my child so I had to inform her of ‘my choices’ and what I wanted for ‘my baby’. It was tough but I had to learn to accept that just because she’s there to help didn’t mean that I stopped being a mother or my child felt that I had given up on her. Even at 9 months, I know that my child understands that I’m always there for her and will look out for me when she needs ‘me!’ No one else can take my place!
Unfortunately, this family member was keen to push the agenda that she was still just a maid no matter what name I wanted to refer her with. I didn’t like that at all. I want my child to grow up to love her nanny and respect her as a ‘human being’. I want her to learn from her as well. The nanny has a green thumb and already has an extensive kitchen garden. She knows rhymes in her mother tongue and games that my child enjoys. My child gurgles with delight when she’s playing with her. Even if my child goes to sleep early in the evening and doesn’t wake up to have dinner – she will insist on waking her up gently so she can have her meal. I might want to let go but she won’t allow me to. She says that a child must never go hungry to bed as it impacts their health. No matter how little, she should definitely feed before going to bed. I know that my child has begun crawling and tries to makes sounds because the nanny has helped her – I’m still protective but she allows her to experiment.
This family member’s daughter too was taken care of by a nanny till she was 3 years of age – although for them, she was only a ‘maid’. Whenever they came over to our place, they would invariably overlook if she had had her meals. We would remind them. She would always be ‘told’ what to do. They would reprimand her in front of the child. Today after the birth of my child I understand what the maid in turn did to take out her frustrations – she would make the child say things that she wanted to say but couldn’t directly. The child of course would mimic her – and in turn, people responded differently as it was coming from the child. It sounds convoluted but that’s what it was. 3 years later she left in a huff and they were left stranded.
As parents, we don’t want that for our child. We discussed this at length till my husband said that it won’t happen with us, because we respect the nanny for who she is. We acknowledge her presence and contribution. We behave well with her and she in turn is happy to be with us. That makes a huge difference. That will make all the difference for our child to see and learn.