Becoming a mother is probably one of the most emotionally charged experiences of a woman’s life. Supercharge those emotions with feelings of anxiety associated with leaving your child in the care of another, and many mothers I’d say most mothers will face twinges of doubt, guilt, and even envy toward the caregiver who gets to spend the whole day with her adorable baby.
It is common and natural to feel some competition with your caregiver. Siblings experience competitive emotions when a new baby is brought into the house. Even spouses sometimes feel they are in competition for their child’s love. Whether you drop off your baby at a daycare center or employ a nanny in your home, there will be times when you’ll feel, “Hey, am I number one?”
Now I’ll let you in on a little secret I hope will alleviate some of your fears of being replaced. It’s a secret most nannies know, and any experienced mom will tell you. Here it is, are you ready? Mommies are irreplaceable, and your child holds a very special place in his or her heart for you. One nanny of 15 years put it this way: “In 15 years of caring for infants, toddlers, and pre-schoolers, I’ve never had a child who didn’t know and prefer his or her mommy to nanny.”
Your baby won’t confuse you with your nanny. She may, during her language development, call your nanny “mommy,” but don’t jump to the conclusion she is starting to believe this she’s probably calling every loving female in her life “mommy.” This is a learning period, and you should know not to take this phase personally. She will probably also call the mailman, her pediatrician, and every male stranger on the street “daddy.”
During this phase, teach her the correct name or word when she mistakenly says “mommy.” Simply say, “No, sweetie, that’s ‘nanny,’ “ and instruct your nanny to make the same loving correction.
Don’t be tempted to hire one nanny after another, believing that if your child receives only short-term care from a series of nannies she will not come to prefer her nanny over you. Believe it or not, there are parents who do this, and it is a serious mistake. Your child may never be able to form the vital bonds and attachments she so desperately needs for healthy emotional and cognitive development.
In the book, “What Young Children Need to Succeed,” Jolene L. Roehlkepartain and Dr. Nancy Leffert outline 40 assets infants need to succeed. “Other adult relationships” is one of these assets. The authors state that infants must receive additional love and comfort from at least one adult other than their parents! This book will help reassure you that it is not harmful for your baby to have and love a nanny!
Experienced nannies know and understand the delicate balance they must maintain in their relationship with their charges and employers. Here are some tips to help support and encourage-age the natural bond between baby and parents.
1. Never pit parents against their child, and never put down parents in front of their child.
2. Never tell your charges, “You are my kids.” Never allow your charge to call you mommy.
3. Show the kids pictures of mommy and daddy, and talk to them about mommy and daddy. Let them know it’s a big deal when mommy and daddy come home.
4. When you hand baby to her parent, pass her facing away from you, so baby sees where she’s going.
5. Respect the child’s parents, and respect their role in their child’s life.
6. When or if your toddler starts calling nanny by the wrong name, treat it as all other language lessons simply give your child the correct word. To help him in all his language expression, it is helpful to have photo books for him where he can point to pictures and be given the correct word to go with them.
7. Establish “mommy only Games and activities, special books or songs. Rituals, such as bath time or bedtime, can be reserved just for mommy or daddy. When asked to read that special book or play that special game, say something like, “Oh, that’s your special mommy and you book/game. Pick another one for me to read/play.”
8. Gently re-direct a child to his mother for comfort when you are both available (while still letting him know you are concerned and that he can always count on you).
9. Keeping communications open really helps parents feel comfortable that the nanny’s role in their child’s life is special but it can never replace a parent’s special place.
In closing, I leave you with the words of an experienced nanny employer:
“We have had the most perfect nanny on this earth with our family for the last six months, and our kids love her dearly. They ask about her on the week-end and really hate to see her leave at night (actually all of us hate to see her leave at night!). I’m as crazy about her as they are, so I understand their love for her completely.
“Do they know who Mom is and who their nanny is? You betcha. But it doesn’t make them love either one of us any less. Children can never have too many people who love them or too many people to love in their lives!”
My sentiments, exactly!
Deborah Smith owns the 4Everything nanny.com and this article was reprinted from her online newsletter, Nannynet News. Deb is also a former nanny who has 2 sons. In addition to 4everythingnanny.com, she owns Nanny Island ( a social networking site for nannies only) and Nanny Classifieds.com