As a new mom, it was pretty standard for me to rush home after work feeling desperate to hold my infant girl. One particular day is burned into my mind, though.
As my wonderful nanny went to hand my daughter over to me, her chubby little fingers wouldn't let go. Tears welled up in my eyes as my daughter began to cry, and I witnessed in real-time her preference for someone other than me. It was as if with each cry she was saying, “You are a bad mom,” and, “I love her better because I see her more.”
With rising child care costs (especially if you have multiple children), a nanny may be the best option. Nannies come to your house to take care your children, and they often help out with household chores and even cook meals. And the quality of one-on-one care they can show your child(ren) is important — a recent study showed how children of working moms who enjoy high-quality child care are more successful later in life.
That said, the parent/nanny relationship is an intimate and complex one. It involves some of the most fundamental aspects of life: children, love, money, and communication. And even though you trust a professional to watch your child, it's inevitable that jealousy, resentment, and frustration can (and will) arise.
The long and short of it is that jealousy happens.
And the fact that you're affected by the emotional toll of the nanny relationship means you are a great mom. You care and want to do the best for your child. So, what is the real root of the problem? Become aware of what's triggering your feelings. Does your baby cling to your child care provider or seem indifferent to you when you get home? Or perhaps do you hear about a baby “first” after it happens, so you feel like you missed out?
These triggers only bring to light some of your own that are lurking under the surface, like:
- Insecurity about how to raise your child. After all, you have to admit that you're the rookie (as a new mom, at least), and Nanny has done this before. It’s tough to let go of control and ask for guidance when you don’t know how to stop the crying.
- Resentful of time spent with your child. Are you working more than you would like? Is your commute too long? Feeling like you are missing out on your child’s development makes the working mother guilt very real!
- Feeling like you are missing out. It’s hard to feel connected to your child when there's lack of communication or infrequent updates, or when you're not physically with them as much as you'd like.
But nanny jealousy can be overcome!
The path to healing the wounds of nanny jealousy is an inside job. You may be suffering in silence, and opening up those lines of communication will help. Here are a few things you can do:
1. Forgive yourself, and remember that you are a GREAT mom.
It must be in the DNA of great moms to be hard on themselves. An interaction with the nanny on a Tuesday might trigger negative self-talk and a cascade of shame through the weekend. Nanny jealousy is all part of the process. You ARE great at what you do, and your child LOVES you dearly.
2. Think of your Nanny as team member.
My husband, my nanny, and I call ourselves Team McGhee. If we figure out a tricky logistical problem or school project, we celebrate our team effort. She is there as a willing and capable member of your child care support network.
3. Talk to your working-mom network.
So many of your friends have been through your same troubles and found creative solutions for them. Have the courage to admit you don’t know and welcome support from your broader support network.
4. Be transparent and vulnerable.
Does your nanny know how you feel? Really? Take the opportunity to share with her that as a mom you have these feelings and that the nanny is not to blame, it’s just part of you’re the journey. Speaking your truth will set you free. It is also an invitation for her to offer some solutions you may not have thought of before. Get your nanny involved in the solution.
5. Ask for more communication.
When the resentment you feel is around lack of connection to your child, the solution could be more text message pictures of baby or bringing baby into work for a lunch date. Seeing your child throughout the day could lift some of the resentment toward your full-day child care provider.
Even today with a 7 and a 5 year old, for the first 30 mintues when I get home, my girls call me by my nanny’s name. In the earlier days, it crushed my confidence and made me feel like I was failing at motherhood. But today, I see it as part of the adjustment period and a sign that our nanny has made a positive impact on my girls' lives — and ultimately, that is something to be grateful for.
Elaine is a Working Mom Support Coach on a mission de-stress maternity leave and propel a nation of thriving working mothers. From her own emotionally traumatic return-to-work after her first daughter (HOT MESS!), ThriveMomma.com was born. She coaches new moms on return-to-work readiness, time management, and mindful living, and she consults for corporations on paternity transition planning and work-life policies to retain and nurture working parents.
Fairygodboss is committed to improving the workplace and lives of women.
Join us by reviewing your employer!