Thursday, May 14, 2015

In Honor of our Nanny

Our nanny, Dina, is on vacation starting today, for the next 12 days. This is the longest we will have been without her in four years! She is - and I am in no way exaggerating or demeaning my husband or children - the best thing that ever happened to my family. Over the years I have frequently heard from my neighborhood spies (aka mommy friends) how incredible she is with my daughters, and I've been fortunate enough to have witnessed it time and time again, but even more so since beginning maternity leave in August and being home more now due to my career changes.

When we just had Rebecca, I worked M-Th, as did Dina. On Fridays I was home, and those days exhausted me to no end. I have SO much respect for stay-at-home moms and nannies just from my 20% schedule as one! Fridays are still my craziest day, as we've kept Dina's schedule the same despite mine changing, but I also absolutely cherish them - our "Mommy Days" are precious to all of us (I think...). And on Monday morning when I hear her key in the lock? I won't deny that there is ALWAYS a sigh of relief.

I try to model myself after Dina. It is not going well. She is an endless fountain of patience, love and kindness - I am not. She is an amazing cook - I am definitely not. She is neat, organized and never forgetful - I am none of those things. And she is sweet, playful, funny and so nurturing to my children - those I've got (phew!).

Rebecca is - and I am not overestimating this either - OBSESSED with Dina. She will pretty much only eat the food that Dina cooks. She lists her in the members of our family. She calls me Dina before saying Mommy sometimes. And when she is sick, or falls down, or cries about generally any (and every)thing, it is Dina she wants, and I have to say, "I know, love, she'll be back Monday...".

There are times when those things hurt. I want to be the one that comforts her most, who she cries for in the middle of the night (actually I don't want her to cry for anyone in the middle of the night, just sleep, but if she's going to want someone, I'd prefer it be me). And I want to be the one who cooks her favorite foods (case in point, Dina is the one who makes arroz con pollo, or chicken with rice, below).

It stings more than a little bit to hear her say that she wants her over me.

But... I wouldn't want to leave my children with anyone that didn't love them, and who they in turn didn't love, as much as she does. And I love that she has been just as much a mother to them when I am not able to be around as I am, and that they feel that wholeheartedly. And I love her just as much as they do, and can genuinely say, when Rebecca says, "I want Diiiiiiina," that I do too.

It is such a strange and high-pressure thing to do, to find a nanny. We were unbelievably lucky to find Dina, who we heard about on a local moms' message board from a person moving out of town. She is the only person I interviewed and I instantly knew she was "the one." Halfway through our conversation she asked to get down on the ground and play with Rebecca, who was four months old at the time, and as I watched them get to know each other - and saw Rebecca instantly at ease and smiling with her (not a common occurrence for her) - I was even more sure.

Here are things that I think are incredibly important when choosing a nanny, or babysitter:

  • Gut feel - you know what I mean, mamas. You can instantly feel when something is right or wrong - Don't discount that feeling.
  • Love - Dina radiated love and calm and happiness the second I met her. It wasn't a front or a show, but just her way of being. The recommendation from a local mom showcased this too, as did the fact that she'd been with her prior family for over a decade, and still kept in touch with the children. 
  • Mothering Instinct - It was important to me that the person I hired to be with my baby had been a mom. It just comforted me to know that they'd probably seen, heard and handled more than I had. I marvel at her ability to keep up with my now scootering, running, jumping, somersaulting four-year-old, and think that perhaps she doesn't just do wonders for my kids, but that they also do wonders for her.
  • Ability to communicate - Dina speaks Spanish with my children which I love, but is also fluent and able to communicate with me in English. When discussing sometimes complex issues around the care of your children, Spanglish doesn't cut it, so I'm grateful that we understand each other all of the time.
  • Openness - Both Dina and I are conflict-avoiders. It is great in the sense that we haven't had any major disagreements, but being around more now, I know there have been situations in which we've both been more passive than honest. I am making a point to be more open with her about any sensitive situations. 
  • TRUST - This is beyond a necessity. Entirely non-negotiable. I implicitly trusted Dina from day 1, given the references I'd talked to and her demeanor. (If you've met her you know what I mean.) That doesn't mean she couldn't have pulled the wool over my eyes, as I know some nannies have done to friends of ours, and unfortunately that is just a risk you have to take in this situation. I have been unbelievably lucky. Someone once asked if we had a nannycam. We don't, and that is something I debated back and forth in the beginning, but never did. My feelings on it are: if you think you need one, get it - you will feel better. BUT, be open about it with your nanny. If you're hiding it, that's breaking the openness rule, and the trust and gut instinct ones as well. Your nanny should know and be fine with you having a camera because there is nothing she should want to hide from you, end of story. 

Another point - we chose a nanny over daycare for the ease that it brought into our life during what was not an easy time, and it was the right decision for us. I would have to imagine that most of these things apply to choosing a daycare as well, though I can't speak from experience. But that gut feel? The Mommy Instinct that shouts at you from every corner of your body? That is unmistakeable.

In the beginning of our parenthood journey Evan and I would look at each other on a Sunday, over a mess of toys and bottles, thinking we'd done pretty well as parents over the weekend. Then we would realize we'd forgotten Rebecca's medicine or vitamins or to cut her nails or give her even one single vegetable or (gulp) a bath. And we'd say, "It's okay, her real mom will be back tomorrow. She'll get us all back on track." With Lila, forget it. That girl is lucky we remember to take her with us on weekends.

Any nanny must-haves that I missed? Amazing or horror nanny stories? Let me know in comments below!

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