I was out to lunch with a friend last year when she said something that truly changed my perspective on motherhood. We had both recently welcomed baby girls and were a few months into our motherhood journey. She asked how it was going with Nola and I told her that I was exhausted, overwhelmed and almost constantly stressed out. I shared that having a baby away from my support system (my whole family lives back in Los Angeles) was harder than I'd anticipated.
She asked if I'd considered putting Nola in daycare or hiring a nanny. I immediately shot out a loud "no!" and looked at her like she was insane for even suggesting it. At the time, tired as I was, I couldn't imagine the idea of anyone other than me, my mother or my sister taking care of my baby. She looked at me and smiled over her martini, "well, I'm a better mother the less I'm around my kid."
At the time I thought, "damn, what a shitty thing to say!" but in the months that followed, I began to understand what she meant. I adore Nola and love being around her, however, I'm a better mother now that someone else watches her 8 hours a day. It took me a long time to get to the point where I could even begin to entertain hiring help or enrolling Nola into school but I'm so glad I did.
I've gotten a few DMs from all kinds of different mamas asking me how I learned to accept help with my kid and I thought it would be a good idea to make a fairly long post detailing my experience and how I finally got to a good place with it.
In The Beginning...
When Nola was around 8 months old, I was at my wits end. I was a graduate student and a full-time breastfeeding stay-at-home mom. I was also freelancing for several publications as well as pouring every spare bit of energy I had (so zero lol) into Brown Sugar and Bourbon. If burning the candle at both ends had a poster child, I was it. One day after a particularly fussy morning for Nola, I called my mom in tears. "How did you do this?" I cried into the phone while Nola wailed at the top of her lungs behind me. "I didn't," my mother responded. "I wasn't wearing nearly as many hats and I had my family nearby to help. I think it's time we hire you a nanny" she said to me.
A nanny? Only rich women have those.
Besides, how could I ever leave the house while a complete stranger watched my child? She wasn't even able to speak yet. What if something happened to her and she couldn't communicate with me? What if the nanny kidnapped her and held her ransom?
You name the thought and I had it.
I'm saying this to let you know, I get it mama. You spend months, years even wishing for this baby and praying for its safe journey earth side. It is quite literally the most precious thing in your life. It's a big ask to trust someone outside of yourself with the care of your tiny human. But, in order to be a well-rounded, healthy person in your own right, from time to time, you're going to have to learn the art of accepting help in the business of raising your child.
Why Is It So Hard?
I blame society at large. From the moment you find out you're expecting, the whole game changes. Suddenly everything and everyone is a potential threat and that only gets more true once you bring the baby home. On top of that, society expects for moms to love every aspect of motherhood, or at least, not to complain about it. You're never supposed to admit that sometimes you need a damn break and that motherhood, while amazing, isn't meant to be the entirety of who you are.
How Do I Start?
I got really lucky with my first nanny experience. One of Shep's aunts called me up one day to say that she had a family friend who was looking for work as a nanny. She knew I had been struggling with the demands of motherhood and tossed the idea out to me casually. I quickly scheduled a chat with the young woman she referred me to and then had her come over for an in-person interview to see if our vibes meshed. I liked her immediately and because she was already a family friend, I felt comfortable with her...mostly (more on that below).Before she came to work for us, she'd already nannied for two other families in Boston and each of them spoke highly of her capacity as a caregiver.
About 5 months into working for us, she let me know that she'd been accepted into a master's program in Colorado and would be leaving shortly. I was devastated. At that point, I trusted her completely with my baby. She knew our family routine, where everything went and the dogs loved her. The idea of starting that whole process over again truly gave me anxiety.
I turned to Care.com to search for a nanny and lucked up again. We hired Navi (who we still work with even though Nola is in school during the week) within a few weeks after extensive interviews, a background check and chatting with a few of her references. I had her train with our outgoing caregiver for a week before she started.
If this is your first time hiring/accepting caregiving assistance, I encourage you to first reach out to your network. Check out local mom groups or even different Facebook groups to see if anyone has a lead for you. You can also ask your local pediatrician's office or even your OBGYN if they know of someone. Occasionally nurses are looking for extra side work. Of course there are also resources like your family, friends, your church or even your hair salon! If none of that pans out, look to caregiving sites such as Care.com and others to find the right fit for you. I've also had friends who went through an agency and if that makes you feel more comfortable, do it!
The Interview Process
This was actually my favorite part of this journey because I learned what to look for, what personalities worked with our family and what my red flags were. This isn't a step to be rushed. This person is going to be taking care of your child after all, so once you think you've found someone (or a few folks) that work, set up a time to meet in person, just the two of you. I used several resources to find good interview questions like here and here but you're welcome to craft your own.
If you like the answers you hear, go ahead and schedule another time for the nanny and your little one (or ones) to meet. Introduce them and watch how they interact. Do you get a good feeling? Do you like how they're engaging? Is your gut telling you anything? If all signs are a go, move on to the next step--checking references. Make sure to call at least three of them and ask them really insightful questions like "when X worked for you, was he/she ever late or ever not show up to work without calling well in advance?" or "did X ever make your child feel uncomfortable?"
Just do your due diligence.
Being At Peace With Bringing Your Nanny Onboard
This was admittedly the hardest step for me. I knew I'd hired the right person for the job. But actually being at peace with my decision and trusting that they wouldn't harm my child in anyway was a whole different process.
For months, when Sarah (our first godsend of a nanny) came over, I wouldn't leave the house. I worked in the office or in my bedroom but stayed home. If I did leave, it was for an hour or so when Nola went down for her nap and I always made sure to return before she woke up. At the end of the day, when she handed Nola back to me, it felt like I hadn't had a break at all.
"Girl, you've got to leave the house!" my best friend Dani yelled at me (in love of course) when I told her how it was going with the new nanny. "At some point, you've got to trust that someone other than you can love and care for your daughter" she said before demanding that I leave the next day. True to my word, that morning when Sarah arrive, I handed Nola over and worked out of a coffee shop for a few hours. It was scary at first, I kept tuning into Nola baby cam to make sure she wasn't crying or in distress but when I came back home,I felt renewed.. By the next week, I was out of the house every day and truly felt the benefits of not being around my kid all day. It's amazing what a little alone time can do for you.
It's okay if you don't feel comfortable immediately and it's okay to take whatever precautions you see fit. Want to install a camera in the playroom for some peace of mind? Do it (just make sure to communicate that with your nanny ahead of time, in many states it's illegal to record people without their knowledge!) Feel more comfortable not leaving or only leaving for a few hours at first? Yep, totally fine. No one gets to tell you how to feel here.
That being said, eventually, you're going to have to walk away and trust yourself, the person you hired and God/The Universe/The Ancestors...whoever, with the care and well-being of your baby!It took me a long time to feel good about leaving my child with a stranger but ultimately, accepting help allowed me to be a better mother by decreasing my load and giving me more energy, time and upping my capacity to handle the normal ups and downs in my day.
You'll be the better for it too I promise.
You got this mama!