An Ode to the “Other Woman” in My Son’s Life

Last week was a big one. We went to the doctor and confirmed that I am, in fact, incubating something that resembles a baby. Strong heartbeat and all. I suspected as much given the constant aversion to any foods other than milkshakes, cheese pizza, and cereal, but still, sometimes it’s hard to believe there’s actually a little person in there before you acquire the tell-tale bump. I also suspected something was up because good grief, I am all of a sudden living in a den of farts. My husband has suffered a life of constant gassiness, released in both directions, and while I will never get used to his “odors” (or the humorous/horrifying faces that typically accompany them), I’ve grown to live with it (while constantly praying that Bruce doesn’t suffer a similar affliction). Pregnancy nose, however, is not impressed. Between roast beef in our company cafeteria, to exhaust during my commute, it’s all overly-potent and gag-inducing. I am seriously living in the fartiest-smelling house EVER. It’s awful. But I digress …

So last Tuesday after baby #2 was officially a go (due date October 7th!), I immediately became panicked about how to tell our nanny that I am leaving my job. This had been weighing on me heavily in the few weeks prior, especially since finding out about the pregnancy, not to mention that we’re getting close to quittin’ time.

Our nanny, Anna, is so much more than a nanny. When we first began the nanny-hiring process with Bruce, we had no idea what we were looking for. As a result, we hired the first seemingly-capable person we interviewed. She was middle-aged, with three children of her own in middle and high-school, seemed caring and experienced, plus she spoke perfect English and was a U.S. citizen (living in Houston, the majority of child care-givers are from Mexico or central America). She ticked all the boxes. A few weeks into our new life with a stranger entering our home on a daily basis, Dean and I both knew something wasn’t right. They way she sprinted out the door as soon as one of us got home in the evening. The way she showed up late multiple times a week. The way she wanted to hang out and talk while I nursed Bruce if I was home (to me this was sacred mommy-Bruce time). The way she implied I should think about doing things with him differently. The way she never took Bruce out in his stroller. The way that she never called either of us the day Bruce was sick. For a few weeks I tried to tell myself that anyone else caring for your child will just never live up to your expectations, but I became increasingly distracted, upset, and worried at work.

We decided to let her go, and in the meantime search for someone new while we limped along with my mom’s help. We found out after she left from both our well-trusted neighbor and weekly housekeeper that she had not been engaged with Bruce, and spent much more time on her phone than playing and caring for him. Not that we expected there to be tremendous amounts of learning and creativity with a four-month old, but we realized that we wanted something more. This was a turning point for me at work as I was offered a significant promotion and new opportunity at my company, but I came very close to nearly quitting. During this period of time I scaled back to work three days a week to help my mom while we found alternative childcare.

Enter Anna. There was a glowing online post about her on our neighborhood’s mom group. Something about dancing and reading baby books and training on child behavior. I was desperate and inquired with her current employer whether our required hours would work for her. They would. We set up an interview. Anna came over to our house on a Saturday afternoon armed with a folder of references and her current CPR certification. She was much younger than expected (turns out I’m only three weeks older than her), but appeared professional, well-dressed, and well-spoken. She felt totally different than our first nanny, more soft-spoken, but also more respectful. And smart. Really smart. We asked if she could come babysit the following Friday as a trial and get to know Bruce a little better.

In the meantime, I scheduled a call with her current employer for more details. Turns out her current family was moving out of state, and they absolutely adored Anna. She joined them after a few disappointing nanny experiences and had happily been caring for their two daughters for two years. They were clearly devastated to lose her.

Anna showed up promptly at the arranged time the following Friday and we walked her through Bruce’s favorite toys and his bedtime/bath routine. She was already knowledgeable about storage and feeding of breastmilk, so we pointed her in the direction of bottles and how much he may need. We took our time getting ready to go out while they played, and it felt good. Calm, controlled, and comfortable. Dean and I went out for a couple of hours that night, but I don’t remember anything other than talking about how we felt about Anna and wondering how it was going or if it could be better with a nanny a second time around. We came home to a quiet, tidied house, with a full and restful sleeping baby. Anna was cheerful and spent a good 20 minutes with us detailing how the evening went. She was happy to answer a few more questions we had for her and seemed genuine and sincere in her conversation. I nearly burst into tears while she was there. It just felt right.

We e-mailed a formal offer letter to her the next day, and by a stroke of luck, she chose to work with us. I will never forget when she called to accept our offer, she said, “thank you for trusting me with your son.” That simple sentence spoke volumes about her character and understanding of where I was coming from. Fast-forward nearly a year and a half, and Anna is truly a part of our family. She adores Bruce, and we all adore her. At work, she has enabled me to be a better colleague and employee. I leave every morning secure in the knowledge that Anna loves Bruce like I love him, he is safe, and he is in for a day of fun and new experiences. I get photos and texts throughout the day of Bruce at the library, Bruce with friends at the park, Bruce mowing the lawn, and I am constantly reminded of how lucky we are that she is in our life. For Dean, Anna has enabled him to enjoy a wife that is not constantly losing it (I still lose it sometimes). She stays a little longer in the evenings sometimes so he can go for a run, she puts up with his really bad jokes, and she educates him about early development in a much better/ less judgement tone than I ever could. And for Bruce, she has encouraged and developed a talking, running, and giggling toddler.

At our request she speaks only Spanish to him, so the two of them have their own little language, and I love hearing “beso” and “leche” requests on a daily basis. She has cultivated his confidence with like-minded and similarly-aged playdates. She reads to and actively plays with him, suggesting, always respectfully, educational tools and toys we may consider for him. She cares for and cuddles with him. She prepares him nutritious meals and exhibits incredible patience and calm in challenging situations. She sets an incredibly high standard of care that I honestly know I am unable to live up to. I have learned so much about the kind of parent I want to be from watching her interactions with Bruce. She is truly a joy to have in our home every day, and she has been crucial to our survival as a family over the past year and a half. She has kept me working, happily, up until when I started thinking that spending time with Bruce was more important than spending time in the office. At the heart of it, Anna is just an exceptional, intelligent, and kindhearted person with a great sense of humor. She’s the kind of person you want in your life.

So the thought of losing her is extremely upsetting. I wanted to tell her sooner rather than later, and I wanted more than anything to tell her how incredibly important she is to us, that this decision has absolutely nothing to do with her, and that we want to have her in our lives forever. If anything, the hardest thing about quitting my job hasn’t become quitting my job and leaving my professional life, but losing Anna. I rushed home from work early that Tuesday and came home to find Bruce and Anna having dinner. I sat with them at the table, and after a few minutes of small-talk, told Anna I needed to tell her something. My heart was pounding out of my chest. I spilled it all the out, the months of thinking but not being sure, the reasoning behind quitting now, the general timing of getting my bonus, by the way I’m pregnant, and how losing her is the worst part. I told her we would love to keep her one day a week, but realize that she may not want to have multiple jobs and our number one goal is to support her in whatever she wants her next step to be. I told her we can figure it out together and I reinforced that I wanted her to find the right job, and not feel pressured to find something just to find something. As Dean expected, she was gracious and sincere, telling me that she was happy for us, that she thinks it’s wonderful when moms can spend this time with their babies, and that I should’t feel bad.

The next day she told me that she was really sad, but the day after that she said she was looking forward to the next chapter. We’re taking it day by day at this point, and as I’ve requested, she’s taking some time to consider what she wants to do next. We will all support, refer, and recommend her however we can.

For those moms out there that are thinking that their childcare option is just mediocre, but this is how all childcare must be, I urge you to think again. I wavered in thinking that too, and for too long. You don’t have to settle for something that does not feel right. Trust your gut.

For those moms that are lucky to feel blessed in the childcare department, hug those caregivers and tell them. They don’t get the appreciation and support that they often need, and these are the last people you want to take for granted.

To the caregivers who are not moms, thank you, thank you, for all of your love and attention devoted to our children. It does not go unnoticed.

We love you Anna.

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