I always wanted to be a Mom. From as young as 16, babies just stirred something in my heart that I simply could not explain. While everyone else at school had these wild dreams of being scientists or lawyers, I wanted nothing more than to be a mom. In my spare time I would read parenting magazines and fantasize about my future family.
Shortly after leaving graduating high school I managed to land a job as a live-in nanny for a wealthy family. Wealthy meaning a bowling alley in the kids’ play room. Both parents were executives at separate multinational corporations and part of their job requirements included working late hours as well as flying all over the world. Needless to say this would take them away from their children for extended periods of time.
While the parents had previously used a nanny with much success, they decided a live-in nanny would better suit their busy schedule. Young and naïve, I jumped at the opportunity. Live in a mansion and look after children all day long? That pretty much summed up what my dreams were made of.
So, before my time, I stepped into the role of mom. Just like any new mom, the amount of work involved with raising two children came as an absolute shock. I quickly felt like I was in over my head. My social life went from vibrant to lackluster in an instant. It was the full mom experience without being a mom.
Let me tell you, reading about changing a diaper and actually changing a diaper are two completely different things. Firstly, nothing can prepare you for the stench that assaults your nostrils. Secondly, there is a lot more skill involved in diaper changing than the “How to change a diaper in three easy steps” guide I had read suggested.
For the first few weeks I really struggled. I suppose it is comparable to the first few weeks of any new job. You can complete tasks but more slowly and make more mistakes than someone who has worked there for years. The difference being that the mistakes I made affected a developing child I was supposed to keep safe. I was a contributing factor to the baby’s first diaper rash among other experiences that you would prefer an infant to avoid. Fortunately nothing that caused serious injury.
It quickly became obvious to me that the parents would not be the safety net I had hoped for. Their busy schedules saw them only interact with their kids for a few minutes each day. It really was heartbreaking. Especially when the kids would say things like “Daddy, play with me.” And I would watch their faces when the answer every time was, “not now.”
I continued to struggle until I happened upon a flyer on a community bulletin board one day. The flyer advertised a weekly meeting for new mothers. Being young and seeking guidance, I decided to attend.
I sat nervously in one of the chairs arrayed in a circle in the middle of the room. Slowly the chairs began to fill. Glancing around the room it struck me; all these women, from different backgrounds, religions and upbringings were all brought together by a common cause, motherhood. I sat and listened for the entirety of the first meeting, taking in every single sentence. The frustrations. The joy. The problems. The solutions. Although I was not a mom, I could relate to every topic that was discussed. It really gave me the strength and perseverance to go on being a nanny.
I continued to go to the meetings for the next couple of months and met some really amazing individuals. I started to get involved in the conversations, sharing my experiences and, on occasion, even offering tidbits of advice. Mirroring my input in the mothers meeting, my competency as a nanny increased vastly over the months since the first meeting. Sadly, after four months the meeting got shifted to a new location, which was just a little bit too far for me to travel. Fortunately at this stage I was no longer struggling and actually enjoying my job, just like I imagined I would all those years before.
Eventually I fell into a routine and everything started to run smoothly. Preparing meals, bath time, scheduling naps and activities all became second nature. I absolutely loved every minute of it. These little personalities went from being tiny cab drivers (loud, obnoxious and I couldn’t understand a word they said) to these little individuals with their own little ideas about the world.
I nannied for the same family for the next few years, receiving universal praise from both parents, which was really encouraging. And then it happened. The younger of the siblings blurted out a single word that would end my nanny career with this family. “Mom.” He called me “Mom.”
The whole event happened in slow motion. I looked from his face to his mother’s; and all I could mutter was a gargled, “errr,” as a look of genuine concern spread across the mother’s face. She had been trying to get her child to call her mom for quite some time but for some reason he simply refused. Now he had decided that I was mom.
It was the father that broke the news to me. My services were no longer required. He mentioned something that caught me completely off guard. His wife had quit her job to spend more time with the children. Completely threw in the towel. He went on to state that they both knew their work lives were having a detrimental effect on their children but they were stuck in a vicious cycle. After their son had referred to me as mom, they decided something had to be done about it. While it was the right choice and I admired the mother for it, I was left without a job.
Much to my surprise, he went on to tell me that he had lined up a live-in nanny job with one of his work colleagues based on the praise of me he had shared over the years. The catch was that it was two states over. With no other job options, I took it.
The thing that stays in my mind is the look on the children’s faces the day I left. It was like one of their most treasured possessions had been torn from them. I knew these feelings would pass in time, but it still makes me tear up to this day. I never did see those kids again but they do pop back into my mind from time to time coupled with a small smile worming across my face.
Jess Miller is a nanny of 14 years who now raises her own two children. In her down time she writes comprehensive parenting guides drawing on her years of experience for her blog, Parent Guide.