On New Year's Eve, I used my Facebook status to complain about my nanny quitting. It took four months to find someone I really trusted with my kids and after two months she emailed to say she was leaving us. I thought of Carrie Bradshaw's infamous Post-It note breakup in "Sex And The City." It stung, and so I said so.
My life is full of wonderful, precious things. I want you to know that, readers. I am brimming with joy over all the gifts I've been given. Everywhere I look, blessings: my husband, my children, a lovely home, good food and friends to share it with (to name just a few.)
Even so, 2010 was a painful year, and the nanny quitting was the least of it. Three of my best friends lost their fathers. Two of my childhood/college friends died. We moved away from our support network to a city where we didn't know anyone. Illness. Vandalism. A car accident. And there were other, more personal losses that I can't even type here.
So, getting an email from the nanny felt like a little shriveled cherry atop the mud pie, and I vented about it to the peanut gallery.
I was perplexed, though, about some of the responses I received. The issue became more about my having a nanny....it was a surprise to some people. I'm not calling out anyone in particular here...I got several comments, plus a couple of private messages. I really valued getting the feedback (snarky as some of it was), and I wanted a chance to respond at greater length.
First, an apology: I never intended to hide the fact I had a nanny. I am not superwoman. I'm sorry if I ever gave that impression, friends. I cannot do what I do--raise my children, write for magazines, blog, practice photography, cook, manage a household--alone. That's to say nothing of the things I want to do like finish the book I've been writing, exercise more, read, fix up our house, and socialize with new friends.
Second: Why do we make assumptions about mothers who have help? Would anyone have thought twice if I had said that I have a supportive mother/sister/aunt/friend helping me raise my kids, as opposed to a professional whom I pay? Do we judge women in other cultures who lean heavily on a network of helpers (be it the village, family members, or paid help)?
Maybe the word "nanny" is loaded in some way...Our nanny watches the kids on average 15 hours a week, so she's no Mary Poppins, but she's more than a "babysitter" to us. And, like many cities, where we live it's cheaper to hire a part-time nanny than to pay for part-time daycare at a center. Bizarre, but true.
Lastly, I want to challenge: If you're a mother, do you have support in your life? If not, why? There is no badge of honor for going it alone. Superwoman is a myth. And I can tell you that bad things happen when mothers isolate themselves.
Only you know how much help you need. But be honest with yourself. Writing is my sanity, and I think the ability to write alone a few hours each day is what helps me be a healthy, involved, patient mom. I feel lucky that this is my job. ...Maybe you just need an hour a day to eat some lunch, to exercise, to have an adult conversation, or take a shower. Maybe you need much more in order to work full-time and meet your family's needs.
The bottom line is, there are no martyrs here. Seek support in the areas you need it.
I think that's all I wanted to say.
Now, I will dip into the well of optimism. I'll embrace whatever 2011 holds. Even if it's more pain, because I don't believe life happens to us. It happens for us, to mold us and teach us. And having seen pain, it's easier to recognize the joy. I know I've said that before, but I'm constantly reminded of it. Thanks to pain, joy is more visceral, more vivid.
Thanks for making The Daily B so successful in 2010. I hope you'll continue reading and commenting (and criticizing!) in 2011. I really think it's a gift having so many people walking beside me in this crazy motherhood journey.