This past summer’s movie “The Help,” was not the first film to touch upon the fragile yet powerful dynamic of the mom-nanny-child relationship. Movies like “The Nanny Diaries” and “Uptown Girls” also tread into this territory. But I found watching the relationship between “Help” mom Elizabeth Leefolt, nanny Aibileen Clark, and child Mae Mobley especially painful to witness.
Of course, much of the strength of the film, and the book it is based on, lies in its examination of the rise of the civil rights movement through the lens of Southern white housewives and their African American “Help.” As a mom whose passion is for helping families find and form valuable relationships with their caregivers, well, I struggled along with everyone else through the degrading treatment of care providers. But I also rejoiced at their victories.
What also really stood out for me was a parent so clueless that she couldn’t understand why her daughter preferred the company of her nanny. The reason this particular wince-inducing moment stuck with me is that it is a fear that all of us working moms now face at some point. While we may completely abhor character Elizabeth Leefolt’s parenting choices, we do share that numbing pang of doubt: Does my child prefer the nanny? And why is it that, despite the fact that we are away from our kids because we are working (and not playing bridge), the guilt just isn’t alleviated? Every time a child reaches for the nanny instead of mom or dad, it is simply heartbreaking.
To try and combat this fear, both Ron and I have dedicated special one-on-one times with each of our boys since they were tiny. We have always encouraged close relationships with our sitters, and there were moments when our guys seemed overjoyed to see them as we headed out the door. But when it comes to spending time with us, we give them our full attention. Today that means no blackberry or iPhone. Now that they are older, we even take extended one-on-one vacations. Ultimately, I’ve always done my best to make it clear that, while I may be working crazy hours, the time that we spend together is important. And therefore, so are they.
If you are worried that your child may be showing signs of favoring the nanny, consider taking the following steps:
- Don’t blame your nanny – be grateful you found such a wonderful fit for your family!
- Plan dedicated one-on-one time with your child – just the two of you.
- Be present during this time – give your little one your full attention with no technological distractions.
- Incorporate playful and fun activities – laughter will help you and your child reconnect.
Did your child ever seem to favor the nanny? How did you handle such a painful situation? Did you change your schedule or spend more time with your child? Was that even an option?