When the Nanny Leaves

Responses to a piece I wrote for the New York Times

Have you employed a nanny? Worked as a nanny? Been a child who loved your nanny? The psychological and sociocultural dynamics of this relationship run deep. To learn more about why this mother said “I didn’t realize that she had become part of our family until she told us she had to leave,” read my article, and share your story in the comments section.

We learned a lot from the thought provoking conversations that were sparked by readers comments- here are some of our favorites.

Patricia in New Jersey

As a nanny, I love that this article focuses on the good a nanny can bring and do for a family. There is a special bond between nanny and child, when that bond is recognized by parents, it makes for a truly cohesive working relationship.

AJ in New York

I don’t understand all these comments about how nice it must be to be rich or how it’s a”first-world” problem. Is the expectation that one parent stays home? Low-income households often require having both parents working right? In those cases, you must rely on childcare, or extended family and government benefits? In most cases isn’t childcare a necessity versus a luxury?

An American in Germany

Never are women more judged than in their role as a mother. And I read that a lot in these comments. This is not a “1%” problem as some have said, nor is it automatically the best thing for the family if a family member is at home at all times with a child. Women (ok parents, but we’re really judging the mothers here) are (yes!) actually capable of deciding whether or not to employ help in raising their children.

In many cases, it can be a necessity that both parents work, or it could just be because the woman doesn’t want to spend all day, and night, caring for her child. There is nothing wrong with that, and there is no need for judgement. Some of the best Moms I know returned to work soon after the birth, not because they had to (some did), but because they wanted to. Some of the other best Moms I know stayed home until their kids were in high school. Whatever works best (and is feasible) should be what the rest of us accept looking in.

ME in New Mexico

I had a husband who had an advancing disability and no steady work. I was the primary bread winner. So we hired a nanny. I spent every second I could with my children, stealing from work, friends, my marriage and myself.

I can’t see what other choice I had. Since I worked, my children had food, a roof over their head and they will be able to go to college. Most parents can’t afford to have one person full time stay home to care for their children. Nor is that isolation a sane situation for many mothers and children. Until we have proper parental job leave and careers that allow career breaks, let’s stop blaming parents for hiring nannies.

KF in Washington D.C

I grew up with a series of nannies and au pairs. I’m now a happy and well-adjusted 28-year-old with a great relationship with my parents. Growing up, I learned to treasure the nights, weekends, and vacations I spent with them. It’s the quality of time, not quantity of time, that matters.

Michael Kiddle in France

Is this piece about nannies another example of how the 1% divorce themselves from the rest of humanity? The ultimate alienation from the rest of society, hiring a nanny to raise your children for you so you can concentrate your energies on yourself instead of the humans you have brought into the world.

And then obsess over how you must prevent the child from caring too much for the nanny instead of caring for you, the absent parent. This entire scenario gives new meaning to the selfishness of the 1%!

Susan Patton aka “Princeton Mom”

I believe the bigger issue is parents abdicating their responsibility to care for their own children. If Dad is the breadwinner, Mom needs to care for the babies. It is illogical to leave the care of one’s children to anyone who doesn’t love the child the way a parent does.

Most families with nannies don’t really ‘need’ them. They have them because Mom doesn’t want to be the childcare provider — she’d rather go to her fancy office after a manicure, facial and SoulCycle. I think the profound loss for children is when the woman who gave birth to them chooses to be Busy Miss Important instead of Mom.

A lot of comments were in praise of nannies, but we were surprised that a lot of the debate centered around who could afford a nanny, or what it meant to have or need a nanny in this day and age. But we’re glad people are talking about this issue! Share your story in the comments section below.

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