If we're being honest, we must admit that it's incredibly easy to judge parents. When I was younger I never thought I'd become a mom, and promised myself that if I did I would give up anything and everything to make it work. And since my own mother stayed home for the majority of my life, and never hired a nanny or babysitter, I definitely judged moms who hired nannies. Then, of course, I became a mother myself, and quickly realized that while it's easy to turn your nose up at parents and their specific parenting decisions, it's much, much harder to be in the trenches of parenthood yourself.
I think the source of my unfounded judgment stemmed from intense paranoia and a fear of childcare workers and non-family members. I grew up in the era of America’s Most Wanted, when the power of television was bringing more and more stories about child abuse, child abductions, and child murderers to light. My mother took advantage of this newfound information, and made it a point to highlight these news stories as a way to warn and protect us kids. If a news story broke about a nanny or babysitter verbally, physically, or sexually abusing a child, we heard about it. My mother wanted us to stay safe, but I think she also used these horrific stories to somehow prove to us (and, perhaps, herself) that her decision to stay home and raise her kids was the right one.
As a result of these horrific stories and my mother's decision to use them as some sort of teaching moment, I promised that if I ever became a mom someday I wouldn't allow "some stranger" to watch my baby. And with that promise came judgment against those who wouldn't, or couldn't, make the same decision I swore I would make. In my mind, it was inconceivable that anyone would choose to trust a non-family member to watch their child. And, if they did, they must not love their child as much as I would love my future children.
Finally, and for the first time, I faced the decision so many other parents face and made the decision to hire someone to take care of my child. I came face to face with my own hypocrisy.
Now I know, of course, that the majority of nannies, daycare workers, and babysitters are incredibly kind people who care about children and work hard to provide them with a sense of safety, security, and an environment to grow and thrive. I know that children are more likely to be harmed by a family member than a stranger. I know my paranoia, while understandable at the time, is unfounded. But that doesn't mean it was easy to buck my preconceived notions about parents who choose to employ nannies or babysitters. In my 20s, and as my friends started to have children, I silently judged the parents who found random babysitters off the internet or dropped their 6-month-olds off at daycare. I kept my thoughts and feelings to myself, to be sure, but my judgments remained.
And then I had a baby.
I quickly learned how hard parenting is, how little free time mothers have, and how rare it is to enjoy adult time with a partner. I lived close to my family, so I had a lot of help and didn't have to rely on a daycare or a babysitter at first. I could finally comprehend how difficult parenthood is, but I couldn't see past the privilege of being able to rely on friends and family members when I needed to. I still didn't get it.
In fact, it wasn't until I moved across the county and away from my family and friends that I realized that I had to rely on people I didn't necessarily know. My sweet, quiet baby became a rambunctious toddler, so working from home turned into an impossibility. Finally, and for the first time, I faced the decision so many other parents face and made the decision to hire someone to take care of my child. I came face to face with my own hypocrisy.
If anything, in this fast-paced, overly-demanding world with so few resources to parents, hiring a nanny, a babysitter, or a day care provider not only makes sense, but in many cases is incredibly necessary.
Hiring someone to help you raise your child allows your child to grow close to people who aren't family members. It helps them work on their "people skills," as it were, and it gives you, as a parent, the opportunity to focus on things outside of parenthood that ultimately benefit you and your family. And in the case of a long-term nanny, it allows you to expand your family in a sense, and bring someone into the fold that can enrich your home and your family's dynamics.
It took me a while to get to this place, but I now know that every parent, and every situation, and every parenting style is different. If a mom wants to be there around the clock for her child, that's OK. And if a mom wants to invest her money in a secondary caregiver that can provide the kind of support she needs to care for her child to the best of her ability, that's OK too. In a culture that constantly tells moms the need to sacrifice every single aspect of their lives for their children, there is power in rebuking that message and relying on a village to help you provide for your children.
I regret being so judgmental as a child-free person who didn't have a clue about motherhood and all it entailed. I regret harboring such resentments towards people who were financially able to hire help, especially now that I am in the position to do the same. If anything, in this fast-paced, overly-demanding world with so few resources to parents, hiring a nanny, a babysitter, or a day care provider not only makes sense, but in many cases is incredibly necessary. It's time we celebrate this decision, instead of turn our noses up at it.
So mamas, you do what’s best for you and yours. Hire a nanny. Put your kid in daycare or preschool. Move close to a relative who’s willing to care for your babies. Do whatever it takes. Because, at the end of the day, we only have ourselves to answer to... especially when it comes to parenting.