I fantasize about marrying the nanny.
Let me be clear, I'm not a disgruntled husband pining after some hottie European college student who plays dress-up with my daughter. On the contrary, I found a loving, experienced, down-to-earth woman who has become the integral third parent in our family. When Erika arrives in the morning we sit at the breakfast table and chat about the celebrity news du jour. I give my daughter a kiss and a big hug, and then she reaches out for Erika and waves bye-bye to me. When I come home from work Zen chatters excitedly in gibberish to me about her day at the playground/waterpark/zoo. The house is tidy, and the daily chores are done. Like a caring relative or mentor Erika gives me insight into my daughter's development and offers advice that helps me be a better parent. As I have had to deal with difficult situations over the past year, (like family drama or putting my trusty 16-year-old dog to sleep), she has been there with a kind word or a hug. She sends me picture messages of my daughter doing silly things throughout the day. We text each other about trash reality TV over the weekend. She brings me desserts. I bring her flowers. We share recipes. If were weren't straight married mothers, I would think this was a match made in heaven.
I read an article today by a woman who has had 10 nannies in 7 years. She was complaining about the nightmarish caregivers who have paraded through her life, and I was shocked and dismayed. First of all, I would never leave my child with someone I couldn't trust. When I went through the process of finding the right caregiver, I did extensive research, visited three licensed daycares, found 50 nanny candidates, interviewed eight candidates, and ran background checks on five. More importantly, when I finally picked the person I would trust with the single most important thing in my life, I committed myself to treating her with the level of respect that job deserves. My child's caregiver is responsible for her physical, emotional, and cognitive development on a daily basis. She is the protector of my child's health and safety when I am not there. That is a more venerable job that my boss, my physician, the neighborhood police officer, and the president combined!
It is very hard to be a working mother. That is a painful but brutally honest statement. The only way I can juggle the many hats I wear is to have a third parent in the household. I have given a lot of tips to fellow new mothers about everything from prenatal fitness to breastfeeding to how to use baby carriers. However, the single greatest piece of advice I can give to any mother is this: find a good caregiver. Whether you are a working mother, stay-at-home mother, or anything in between, you will need a break from your child for a variety of reasons--and needing a mental health break is a totally legitimate reason. As a mother, there is no worse feeling than being nervous about an irresponsible relative babysitting your child while you go on a date with Daddy, or feeling guilty about leaving your child at a daycare that you suspect is neglecting your child (or worse!) while you are at work.
Have reasonably but responsibly high standards for your sitter, nanny, or daycare provider. Communicate your expectations clearly and preferably in writing--even to your own mother. You would be surprised what other generations or cultures think is acceptable. Mike has fed Zen chocolate bars for breakfast. Most importantly, treat your caregiver with the utmost appreciation and respect. They deserve it.