The other day, I was standing in the kitchen chatting with my nanny when we heard my baby take a tumble in the playroom. He came in crying . . . and went right to the nanny for comfort. And I realized that my baby is likely more bonded to his nanny than he is to me, and I felt horribly jealous. After I finished picking up the broken pieces of my heart, though, I came to the conclusion that maybe his preference for her is not such a bad thing.
My nanny joined our family when my son was eight months old. Following a cross-country move, I found myself in need of childcare for my baby and preschooler. Within a few weeks of posting on Care.com, I found exactly what I was looking for: a Spanish-speaking caregiver with lots of experience. Our interview confirmed my feelings about her, and when we met in person, she was gentle, firm, and loving with the children.
Both kids instantly took to her, but the baby fell head over tiny heels. In those first few months, I watched his face light up upon her arrival. If I was holding him, he would reach for her, then rest his head on her shoulder and sigh. He napped longer, ate better, and was generally more content when she was there. Once he passed the year mark and started walking and talking, he began toddling to the door as soon as he heard her car and saying her name more than "Mama."
At first, these experiences were nothing short of soul-crushing for me. I carried this child in my body for nine months. Why would he prefer another woman to his own mother? It wasn't like that with my daughter; I'd always been her special person. But logic and reason don't play well with raw emotion, so I had let myself feel my feelings and then take a step back to understand what was going on - and realize it was actually something positive.
I stayed home with my daughter until she was 18 months old, and she had me to herself that whole time. Because I went back to work sooner the second time around, my son has had more caregivers than she did. It's not too surprising that he favors the one who can give him her undivided attention. Even when I'm caring for the kids, I have laundry, meal prep, and all kinds of family management tasks on my plate.
I know it is absolutely essential for babies - for their development and long-term emotional health - to form secure attachments to the adults who take care of them. What I eventually came to terms with is that it's OK if it's with someone besides me. If I'm going to work, don't I want my children to be cared for by someone who loves them like her own? Absolutely.
I can get past my hurt feelings because I want and need to work. Work satisfies me in a way that motherhood alone does not, and that sense of fulfillment makes me a better, more engaged mom when I am on duty. That, and because I've opened myself to it, I've been able to pick up some tricks from my nanny that have helped me interact with my little one, like how stroking his head helps him fall asleep.
I won't pretend it doesn't still hurt when my baby chooses his nanny over me, but I'm better able to take it in stride. I have to remind myself that this is a situation that allows both of us to get something we need. He may spend the day loving on his nanny, but there are still plenty of hugs and kisses leftover for me. And when I put aside my jealousy, I'm better able to receive them.