I’ve talked before about “mom guilt” and why we should do everything in our power to never let it get us down, but today we’re tackling the topic from a completely different angle. Almost everyone I know with kids employs a nanny, daycare, preschool or other form of childcare for their children. It’s extremely common. We’re all busy people with careers and obligations, and that means there are instances where we can’t tote our children along to a particular destination.
One of the frequent topics that comes up in conversation with friends has to do with our worries that revolve around leaving our children with people we don’t know. It’s one of those necessary evils, and lest we never trust anyone other than family and friends (who are not always available and/or qualified), it’s a hurdle that must be hopped. So what does that whole process look like? I remember being a brand spankin’ new mom and all the anxieties that follow. You’re looking at this precious new being lying there, completely helpless against the harmful elements of this world. All of a sudden, you can imagine any and every danger possible, and the desire to leave your baby at home, with anyone else, fades. How is a mom supposed to find peace in a predicament where there are no guarantees? I think it’s possible, but it will require a few things.
New moms, in particular, have to remember and acknowledge that their internal systems are still a bit compromised. Anybody remember the hormones and mood swings? They’re real, and they affect everything. I never like it when people dismiss women or pregnant women as crazy or too emotional to think logically. It simply isn’t true. In fact, we’re sometimes the most in tune with the world around and within us during this point in our life cycle. However, fluctuating hormones (which can last anywhere from 3 months to a year) can still cause us to see things with different lenses, and that can’t be denied. Wisdom for me was making sure I put my reactions into perspective. I could identify when I was being a little dramatic, versus that mother’s intuition that would rumble in my gut. The reality was, no one was ever going to be me. That also didn’t mean everyone else would be a serial killer. See? Balance. Try to practice using it. It will save you and your children a lot of headaches.
One of the best avenues to peace would undoubtedly be education. It’s easy to feel a bit paranoid and neurotic when you are overwhelmed with emotions and have no tools. We interview a child safety expert, Pattie Fitzgerald on Mom Life Yo about this and much more and she was able to give us lots of advice. There are a few things you can start with. If you’re ever feeling uneasy about a situation, be it a sleepover or a babysitter or anything else, ask. Ask questions until you feel secure. That doesn’t make you crazy, it makes you mom. Pay attention to your children and their behavior. If you start to notice a difference in mood or energy, don’t dismiss it. Investigate. Remember, you are the expert on your child. Listen to what your intuition is saying, and follow that with answers.
When it comes to selecting a nanny, the lines blur a bit. It’s important to remember that every situation will vary. What works for one mom might not work for you, and that’s okay. The first piece of advice I have is to seek references. This is not the time to give someone the benefit of the doubt. If a nanny is worth their salt, they’ll totally understand the need to background and reference checks. Call every reference, and ask specific questions. Don’t be shy about very personal things that matter to you. If you want to know if a family had any inappropriate issues with a nanny, be direct and ask. A personal tip is to find nannies connected to your community. Word of mouth is huge in my neck of the woods, so I ask around to the families and moms I trust. I’ve been able to find great nannies that way, and I recommend this method to my friends.
When I decided on a reputable nanny, I put cameras up around my home. They weren’t hidden, and she knew about them. I think people get wary of using cameras because they can feel sneaky. I decided to have open communication with my nanny about them because it was less for her, and more about my peace of mind. I wanted to be able to check and make sure the kids were okay, no matter where I was. You have to be extremely level headed if you use cameras. Remember, no one is going to handle every situation the way you would. When I use cameras I’m only looking for huge red flags. Eventually, I find I don’t need to check anymore; and that’s the ultimate goal, right?
As a final piece of advice, I always instruct friends to schedule your nanny to start before you actually need her. Have the nanny come spend the day with you while you’re home. That time allows you to observe the children with her, and you can give them as much space as feels comfortable for you. Maybe you go and take a nap, or go and have dinner around the corner. You can build up to leaving them alone for extended periods.
I think it’s important to validate the feelings of almost every mom out there. Leaving your children in the care of someone else is never easy. It elicits all kinds of disturbing thoughts, and fears for many of us. Don’t let it take over and make you a prisoner in your home. Trusting a caregiver is a process, but it can be done. Cry when you need to, and reach out to other moms because they’ve surely been through it. Pace yourself, ask endless questions and use all the tools available to ensure you’re making the best decision for your family.