Monday, June 7, 2010

The Nanny

"When I am a mother, I am never going to do what she does."  Words like those always come back to haunt you.  Opinions I had as a twenty-two year old nanny in Paris have changed now that I am a mom. 

There are some similarities between me and the mother of the two boys I nannied as a graduate student.  I remember greatly admiring my boss.  She was a beautiful Parisian fashion designer who worked for a famous department store.  Her husband was a sculptor and film set designer who traveled the world for his job.  They were the epitome of cool.  I was happy to find out that she had her kids in her mid-thirties.  That was my plan, too.  She had two boys close in age.  That's not something you can plan, but eventually so did I.

I now find that my critiques of the hip parents I worked for are behaviors I am repeating.  I used to wonder why these working parents wanted me to come take their kids out of the house on Saturdays.  My boss told me she needed some time alone to sleep in and do yoga.  I admittedly thought this was selfish and that she should want to be with her sons on both of her days off.  I don't work full time, but I do find myself using childcare hours to do yoga.  What was it she loved so much about yoga that would take her away from her children?  Now I know.  Now I am "that mom." 

Sleep is never fully appreciated until yours is constantly interrupted or you are forced to awaken at the crack of dawn every single morning.  In my life, there is no sleeping in unless my husband is kind enough to get up with the kids and take them out for breakfast.  I try to do the same for him on occasion.  When I worked for the hip Parisians, the father was frequently traveling for work so this was not an option for my boss.  Of course she wanted me to come early on Saturdays and let her get some rest.  I am now incredulous that I ever questioned this routine.  It was her life saver!

As I served dinner to two small boys who clamored for their "Maman," I wondered why she didn't make it home for dinner more often.  After all, weren't families supposed to be together for the evening meal?  Now I see that most working moms are lucky to have dinner with their children and the dads have this option only on weekends.  Moreover, a quiet dinner without children is the ultimate luxury for my husband and me.  While we are unusual in that we feed our boys dinner most nights, we know that we are in the minority in New York, and probably most metropolitan areas. 

I was always stunned at the frequency of her childrens' illnesses.  Could they possibly be sick again? I hoped I would not catch their viruses... or head lice.  Unfortunately, I couldn't escape the lice and had nightmares about this for a full 10 years.  Now when my own kids get sick every six weeks, it is a small hiccup.  We have nearly every remedy on hand.  I call our pediatrician more than my friends.  Luckily, I never worry about catching things anymore--an attitude I share with the pediatrician!

"These boys have no discipline!" This was my thinking as I carried kicking and screaming children from the playground when it was time to leave.  Now, I have learned to trick my sons with elaborate bribery so they will leave the park without a fuss.  If we are having an off day, we get sympathetic stares as red faced, dirt covered toddlers are whisked away in a fit of angst.  Oh how the mighty have fallen!

"Judge not lest ye be judged."  Yes, Jesus, I hear you.  And I am thankful.  I am thankful that in so many ways my life resembles that of the boss I once so carelessly judged.  She was the proud mama of two happy, rambunctious boys and now I am, too. She was unapologetic about needing her own time and space, and so am I.  She loved her kids and she knew how to love herself, too.  More than her sophisticated style, this earned her my admiration. 

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Michelle. I really do believe that loving yourself is one of the best things you can do for your children. Children are so perceptive, and I think it's so easy for them to pick up on negative feelings we have about ourselves. Since we teach our children by example, it's important for us as parents to show our children how to feel strong and self confident and to make their own happiness.