I Can’t Help Myself: I Am Hovering Over My Nanny Because I Am Scared

My nanny had a cold this week, and she didn’t quite seem like herself.  I saw her tired eyes and worried that she was uncomfortable or too depleted to deal with my kids.  I would be the last to begrudge her needing some time away from them.  I watched her and asked her what she needed; I offered her comfort or time off, because I want her to be happy.

Yesterday, she told me she and Sadie were late to cooking class because she left the address at home, but didn’t realize it until she was almost there.  She had to backtrack a half mile to retrieve it, and Sadie reported that she ran (while pushing Sadie in the stroller) all the way back to the class.

She seems a little forgetful and a little out of sorts.

So, I am worrying about her. I always have, but now it’s different.  I used to worry about her happiness and her personal life, even though it was none of my damn business.  Our relationship is that odd blend of employer/employee plus that extra something that comes from a nanny-mom relationship.  She works in my home; she’s seen me at my worst– she knows what these bangs look like when I first wake up.  God bless her, no wonder she feels sick.

But it’s different now because I know that awful story about the tragedy in New York.  As soon as someone mentioned it to me, I should have begged them to shut up.  I didn’t want details, but they slithered in.  And I sure can’t blame anyone else for the People article I read “just because” someone left it on “my” treadmill at the gym.  No one told me to flip through the article while my peppy work-out music piped through my ears.  I did that. I wanted to see the nanny’s eyes– the nanny who could do that awful thing.


I was looking so I would know if I ever saw that in my nanny’s eyes.

It’s sick. I know it’s sick. I am not the kind of person who can healthily digest tragedy and put it in any kind perspective.  I am too fear-based, to vulnerable, and my imagination is too wild.

But every time I come in through the garage holding one of the children, I have a split moment where I worry about the one I left with her.  Horrible visions come unbidden in my brain and they torture me swiftly and thoroughly.

Clearly, I need to be more careful about exposing myself to the details about tragedies and violence.  I already know we live in a chaotic world where awful things come to pass.  But, it’s my responsibility to keep the valve shut on the extras– the superfluous lurid details from stories that already broke my heart and stirred my deepest and most primal fears.

Because I have to be able to trust.  There’s no way to get through a day without trusting Sadie’s teachers, other drivers, my husband, my friends, the childcare workers at the health club, and myself.

Yes, I still have to trust, even though it’s harder than ever.  I am contemplating having a conversation with my nanny about my fears, and how it’s not about her, but all about me and current events.  Maybe telling her would be helpful, or at least it might explain why I hover over her asking her over and over how’s she’s feeling and whether she wants to leave early or take a break.  She’s probably just as scared of me as I am of her.


33 thoughts on “I Can’t Help Myself: I Am Hovering Over My Nanny Because I Am Scared

  1. I think your reaction is so normal – what happened in NY was everyone’s worst nightmare. I had nannies for 7 years. I had to fire one for leaving my 3 yo son unattended in the bath (he was learning to swim but still – it was stipulated in the contract). The rest were wonderful. I think we all live in fear when it comes to our kids. I hope your nanny feels better soon!

  2. I was a nanny for twelve years, so I know the other side of things. First, I’d like to say that it is completely understandable to fear for your children’s safety after seeing that kind of news. As a former nanny, I am very aware of how much freedom the caregivers have to do whatever they want with your kids. So you’re right, it is about being able to trust…needing to trust, actually. But it’s also about making sure your kids are safe.

    And that is why I encourage you to talk to your nanny about what you are feeling. I had one mom that began having dreams that I was having an affair with her husband. At first I didn’t know about these dreams, but I definitely noticed her acting a little bit strange and I wondered about it. Finally, when she did tell me, I was so relieved that that was all that was going on…because I sure as heck wasn’t having an affair with her husband and would never do anything like that! We were able to laugh about it and she felt reassured. I don’t know your nanny, but for me, the more we communicated, the better things flowed.

  3. First of all, it is absolutely normal that the horrible, horrible murders have stoked your normal mama fears.

    Talking to her might work. So might giving her a paid vacation while you study the stats. When kids are killed, 60% of the time Mom is one of the perpetrators. When they are hurt by a nonparent, it’s almost always by a man. Fewer than six percent (gov stats) of child injury or death is caused by a caregiver, and there is no number for gender difference there.

    I never left my eldest with anyone. Nobody. My youngest tried out a few nannies and I was seriously sick with worry. I finally found an in-home day care I trust. He’s there three mornings a week. And between the news and the election and the pandemic of fear in this country, I’m starting to worry. I check him for bruises. I ask him about his day. He told me the other day the caregiver is mean. Something “I no have right word. Kindy like pipe.” Did she beat him with a pipe? Probably not. But I interrogated him for as long as he could tolerate. Nothing. She says it might have been the art project where she wouldnt let him take the paint out of the kitchen. But no, she says, she didn’t beat him with a pipe.

    We shared a chuckle.

    I’m still scared. Of a situation with two women I trust, who have been known all their lives by several close friends all of whom referred me here because their kids loved this childcare.

    my fear is there because there is a loss of control. It’s why I hate bringing my eldest to school. What will they trach him? Who will ruin him?

    The world, that’s who.

    Sorry for rambling. Hope you find some peace. I forget addresses all the time but I don’t care enough to run jome. Just saying. That’s some dedication right there.

    • That’s true. It’s easier to turn around and go home. And yes — it’s the loss of control. I hate it and it’s just how it is.

      This business of trusting others with my kids–hardest thing I’ve ever done.

  4. Hmm. I dunno. I’ve never had a nanny in the same way that you do, although I’ve had ongoing regular babysitters, so that intimate relationship isn’t something I’m familiar with, precisely. It’s just hard for me to imagine how you find a way to say to the nanny “look I’m probably going a little nutty right now because I’m worried that you’re going to get stressed out or unhappy and do something vile to my children.” Er…what’s she going to say? “Why, yes, you’re right, in fact, I *am* just one paycheck away from selling your kids to pay off my meth habit…” I think maybe this instance is one of those where it’s better to tell your blog, your shrink, your husband – but I don’t think *that* particular worry is something your nanny needs to know. Does that make sense?

    • It does make sense. How professional is it of me, who professes to want professionalism, to tell her I’m scared she will do the unthinkable? I can’t even tell her to tone down the perfume, so there’s no way I can tell her my fears.

  5. You are not alone. I’ve been having the same thoughts about my college-aged babysitters after reading about the NYC nanny and the Naperville nanny/mom. I wish we had the equivalent of a do-not-call service to keep these stories out of my hands and my head. But who am I kidding, I’d seek them out anyway. Mike calls me on this all the time, asking me “Why do you do this to yourself?” I’m going to start telling him it’s your fault! 😉

  6. Oh. This makes me so sad because you’re so worried. And I don’t blame you at all. I can’t read or listen to anything about it. I heard the high level details and I don’t want to know more because I can’t. If I start to think too much about who is with my kid and how big he’s getting and how he’ll be away from me more and more as he ages it will swallow me whole and I’ll never let him leave my sight.

    We have to trust and believe in those we decided to trust. And we have to be careful and look for signs that we need to change our minds sometimes. But the trusting… The trusting makes me sick when I think about it.

    I’ve only left my son 3 times with non-family (aside of school/day care) and he’s almost 6. I hope that the schools have done their jobs in weeding out the riff-raff. But it’s hard. So hard.

    Book length comment. My apologies.

    • It helps me to hear how other people confront and deal with the fears. We have a great core of caregivers… And still. You never know. Honestly, I can’t think too much about it or I will die of fright.

  7. On my first day nannying for my former clients, I came into the living room to find the mom watching “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle.” Luckily, she’s got a rocking sense of humor and cracked a joke about it, but I think that nanny-mom relationship is funny and complicated and fun and probably fosters solidarity and skepticism. Quite a roller coaster.

  8. I think it is natural to be uneasy after hearing a tragic story like what happened on the Upper West Side two weeks ago. I don’t have kids yet, but the very first thing I thought when I heard all the helicopters in the sky (it happened right in my neighborhood before I moved), and heard on the news what happened was how I am going to feel when the time comes to have a nanny. I think the nanny-mother relationship is probably a very tricky one, but I don’t think you would be out of place at all talking to her about your fears and concerns. And you will certainly feel better talking about how you feel.

  9. All I can say is that I have no idea what news story you’re talking about, and I’m trying to force myself not to Google the details. So far succeeding. Don’t want to know don’t want to know.

    My kid just spent all day with a caregiver at our church while I led a workshop – this is very rare, she has only been with non-family that long in one other situation ever – and I am questioning myself that I should have worried more. Sigh. So much fear.

    • Oh dear, do not google. Life is hard enough. All I know to do is trust my gut, do my homework, and pray my ass off that god watches over them and me. I want it to be true that mist people are good and trustworthy.

  10. I love the ‘fears’ poster. I’m currently reading a mystery about a child abduction and I’m terrified. Can’t even read it at night (which was the excuse for having a Kindle in the first place!). I have an imagination that rivals yours, as well… and my kid is now 31! I get it.

    • I am still going to to this when they are 31? I was planning on ceasing my worrying when they hit 19. I could never read that book either!

      On Sun, Nov 11, 2012 at 11:31 AM, Outlaw Mama

  11. I haven’t read the details on purpose, even though I so want to and probably will if that People magazine ends up in front of me. We’re going into debt to pay for a licensed daycare centre, partly because they have cameras and I know my kids will never be alone with any one person. I think the experiences I’ve had with post-partum depression make it even scarier for me. Because if that’s how I feel sometimes, what might someone do who doesn’t have that check of loving them with every fiber of your being like I do? It’s terrifying and I won’t leave them with anyone who isn’t family or one of their daycare teachers until they’re old enough to tell me clearly if the person hurts them.

  12. You are a brave soul to make speakable the unthinkable. I love you and your ability to flex your trust muscle each and every day. Xo.

  13. I really is a weird relationship. I am happy to not have nanny’s anymore for my children. At this point, we have a babysitter. Even though we rely on her for afterschool, it is not nearly the same sense of dependence. It is a high school kid and it feels more at ease.

  14. the manhattan nanny story is beyond horrific, but i keep reminding myself it is a very, very isolated case – practically unprecedented. so now you can stop worrying, right? no problem!

  15. In all honesty, I have these same horrific thoughts about friends, family members, and my kids’ teachers. The media has taught me I should trust no one; perhaps I’ve missed the change in my husband and he’s capable of hurting them. Perhaps I haven’t noticed the strange new neighbor who is capable of hurting them. I think my fear (unfounded, yes) is the uncontrollable part of it all. The do your best, check all that can be checked, pay attention — and still, still something like this happens. It is what I imagine anyone dealing with anything can be pushed to do and it scares the hell out of me. Often. And yet. I push it back. Instead of checking my sister’s smoke detectors and asking my sister-in-lw if she has an escape plan in the case of fire, I breathe and trust. (And scratch, twitch, and bite back bad visions, but the breathe and trust I do first).

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