I don’t like to tell people I have a nanny.
I wish I was the sort of person who can stride purposely about life doing what they please and shouting, “I don’t care what people think about me!” But I’m not. Alas, I care what everyone thinks about me. So, having a nanny can be problematic.
These are the just some of the responses I’ve received after telling people that my kids are looked after by a nanny:
“Oh, it’s all right for some.”
“Your privilege is showing.”
“Why did you have kids if you can’t be bothered to look after them yourself?”
And my favourite: the silent, pointedly raised eyebrows.
I can only assume that this is because, when I say the words “I have a nanny”, what people hear is: “I have an indentured servant whom I force to live beneath my stairs and wear starched, sexless uniforms. She is not permitted a salary or to make eye contact with her betters. Instead, she must parent my velvet knickerbockered children – darling Borage and Chervil – while I swan around, polishing my diamonds and spitting at peasants from my balcony. Have you seen The Handmaid’s Tale? Yeah, so, it’s basically like that, except with childcare.”
And I don’t even have a balcony.
The reality is that I work, so I need childcare – and a nanny is just a childcare provider who comes to your home. We don’t have any family who can help us out, I work from home, as does my husband, and somehow it all sort of hangs together.
Also, our nanny, Rachel, charges £50 less per week than the local nursery.
Rachel’s been with us since our older son was six months old. I’d returned to work at 10 weeks postpartum and was going loopy trying to parent at the same time, so Rachel took the baby a few hours a week so I could work and still breastfeed.
Today, Rachel works two full days and two half-days a week, looking after both my sons. Somehow she, my husband and I juggle the kids so that we can each complete a full week’s work.
When I say the words ‘I have a nanny’, what people hear is: ‘I have an indentured servant whom I force to live beneath my stairs and wear starched, sexless uniforms’
It is not easy. As I’ve mentioned countless times, we wake early at our house. My husband starts work before 7 while I look after the children. I start work at 9.30 when Rachel rocks up – sometimes I can get a shower and a load of laundry done; often I just work during childcare hours – then either I or my husband will take the kids so the other one can continue working.
Anything outside of actual remunerative employment – cooking, cleaning, shopping etc – has to happen when the kids are around, which means that these things only ever get half-done before someone falls over or sticks something they shouldn’t up their nose. Anyone coming over expecting some sort of sumptuous high-living splendour based on the fact that we have a nanny will find themselves sorely disappointed, and the floors quite sticky.
I struggle with completing my workload during childcare hours. If it were up to me, I’d have longer hours of childcare so that I didn’t always feel as though I were chasing my own tail. In idle milliseconds, I dream of having enough time to stay in the shower long enough to apply a hair mask, or have a satisfyingly long poo. We’re not there yet financially. My poos are brief and my hair frizzy, still. But it works for us.
Nanny-shaming is, I think, just another form of parent-shaming. You’re damned if you stay home; you’re damned if you work; you’re damned if you have money, and if you don’t. If you wear yourself ragged, you’re a martyr. If you have help and the occasional hour off, you’re a sybarite. And I’m pretty tired of it.
Hiring a nanny is one of the best decisions I ever made. Rachel is funny and kind, warm and ideas-y. I do not spend one second worrying about the children when I’m working. My kids love her; they go on daily adventures to the playground, on picnics, to the beach and even to the supermarket – then come home safe, happy and tired. We’ve all been thrown together for so long that our families are friends, now, and we’ve been there for each other during some pretty rough moments. We all think the world of Rachel and I hope she’ll be a part of our family for ever.
So, perhaps the next time someone tells me my privilege is showing just because I have a nanny, I’ll tell them to fuck off.