Monday Problem: My Nanny job has become my life

Dear Nanny X,

I know this problem is common amongst caregivers but I feel really trapped. I work with two little girls one of whom I have cared for since she was born. The children are in preschool and school now but I am still employed full-time. I come in at 7am and I stay until 8pm. At 8pm another Nanny arrives and works the ‘night’ shift. On weekends in the Hamptons there’s a 3rd Nanny. Both parents work in finance FYI. 

I love the children I care for. (I don’t have children of my own). I have gone through every major milestone with them, rocked them through teething pains, helped them to potty train. Some might think I have merely been doing my job but I haven’t. Truth is …. I think about the girls all the time. I call at night to make sure they went down okay. I text on weekends to find out how their days are going. I have their pictures on my phone. 

The girls both cry when I leave at night, and they say they wish I was their mom. It’s gotten to the point where I am considering working weekends just to be with them. The reason being that their ‘parents’ schedule classes and activities on the weekends just to be rid of them. It’s really messed up but I feel responsible for these children. My friends have told me to get a life. But these children are my life.

What should I do?

Jean M

Dear Jean,

you sound like a kind, considerate person and these children are lucky to have such a wonderful Nanny in their life. Notice I used the word ‘Nanny’ and not ‘person’. That’s because it’s your job to be the very best caregiver to children in your temporary care. 

Doubtless these children’s parents are clueless. This type of arrangement is not rare unfortunately. It’s almost as if some couples draw up checklist of boxes: marriage, career, high income, kids, pets, 2 homes, etc, and tick them without any real thought. Children are not accessories and any parent who works full-time must allow as much family time as humanly possible to prevent long-term bereavement issues. 

But these are not your children. 

Your friends are right – you must switch off once you leave your job at night. It is not appropriate for you to take on more hours over the weekend because your motives while honorable are not professional. You stepping into an obvious emotional vacuum will only confuse these children more. These children need boundaries. They need to know who does what and like or lump it there will come a time when they will identify with their parents and not their Nanny. Which is as it should be. 

I have comforted many a heartbroken Nanny who was released from her job, who sincerely believed she was irreplaceable only to discover that ‘her kids’ were relatively and quickly well adjusted to their new caregiver. 

Form bonds with the children in your own family or the children of your close friends. Stay focused on your duties as a Nanny and not as a surrogate. If need be, go and speak to a therapist or to trusted Nanny peers. It is a common problem but it isn’t a crime to love too much. Just make sure that you give your love appropriately. 

Nanny X