Neverland Nanny to Neurotic Mom by Maile Hilton
Baby whisperer, Mary Poppins, Neverland nanny to the stars… “Motherhood will be a piece of cake for you!” they said. “It’s your second nature!” they said. “It’ll be a breeze!” they said. They. Were. Wrong. Besides some technical knowledge and experience with other people’s children, I’ve learned that being a nanny has absolutely nothing to do with becoming a parent. I am now simply a neurotic first-time mom who misses the “Neverland” of escapism nannying gave her.
Babies have always been my zen. Let me rephrase that. Other people’s babies are my zen (I’m that lady in the restaurant who is more interested in your baby than eating her own meal). After being a career nanny for almost 15 years, from Los Angeles to Hawaii for over 30 famillies in every capacity, I was confident that having my own baby would be a cinch! My childcare was featured in the L.A. Times, I was sought out by high-profile families and mostly first-time (a.k.a. worried and naturally untrusting) parents, and was even offered $2,000/month from one family who I did occasional date-nights and pre-school pick-up for (regardless of if I even watched the baby or not) to not move back home to Hawaii. I never understood the desperation and panic until now- I was like family to most of my clients and in many cases, the only person who had cared for their children since birth. I always thought, “But they can find someone else just as good.” Now that I’m a mother I understand the lengths you will go to keep a person who you fully trust to care for your child. Now a mother, my “real” life, as people had told me while pregnant, has begun. I am now a 24/7 stay-at-home mom, and my daughter is my heart and whole world. I thought when I had my own child my love for other babies would go away but it hasn’t, and I realized it’s because the world of being a nanny has NOTHING to do with being a parent.
I loved my “job”, which was more like a hobby or passion, and was calm and collected in every situation, whether it be a child projectile vomiting in the backseat of the car while we were stuck in L.A. traffic, or staying with a 2 month-old, 2 year-old and 6 year-old for a week while their parents were out of town at the ripe age of 22 for $10/hour (my very first full-time nanny position.) I loved my charges like they were my own, so why, when they had a skinned knee or spit-up a little milk, did I logically make sure they were okay and calmly tend to them, while my daughter makes her first scratch on her face as an infant and I want to cry with guilt for forgetting to file her nails? I remember holding babies in the shower when they had croup, caring for them with pink eye and being in bed with them when we both had the same tummy bugs. There was the same love and care, and really even more concern because they’re someone else’s child, but there was no panicking.
First of all, even when I had double-booked or 18 hour days, I got to go home and SLEEP. The sleep deprivation or the ability to “check-out” was vital for my passion for my job to never wane. Now my Neverland has become reality (except without sleep.) It sounds odd, but I enjoyed doing things like laundry, housekeeping, marketing, etc. for the families. I loved that I was helping them and making their lives easier. I loved planning outings for the kids, traveling with families, and nannying out of my home for about a dozen of the families. I loved the babies and doing everything I could to make their parents not only feel completely confident in my care, but able to relax when they got home instead of having to make dinner or cleanup. The same cannot be said for all the same tasks I currently do in my own home. I now glare at my husband when he unpacks his gym bag with what looks like a whole load of laundry, marketing has become a race to the checkout line, and tidying up my daughter’s toys makes me dread Christmas.
Besides sleep, I had lost my “zen” time. Nannying was pure enjoyment because I got to check out completely. As a parent you can go so far as to take a vacation without the kids, but you are still ultimately responsible for your child’s life 24/7 until the day you die (this still worries and amazes me.) As a perfectionist with a sacrificial nature when it comes to babies, I cared so much for my charges that when my own baby came along, it was like I didn’t even exist anymore. I’d rock my charges like any mother would, till your back is breaking and your arms are getting numb, sometimes I’d go the whole day just snacking on nutrition bars, yet I had prepared a lovely dinner for the family. I utilized literally every minute I was working and wouldn’t sit down on the couch to relax until there was absolutely nothing else I could think to help with. When you’re already going above and beyond, how can you go any further without completely losing yourself?
Having my own daughter has somehow let all logic and zen-ness fly clear out the window, and all that replaced it was semi-irrational worry and emotion. Friends and family say, “But you’re the best nanny in the world! You know everything there is to know about childcare- this should be so easy for you!” I tell them that childcare was my job. Parenthood is your life. I have never had more respect for mothers than I do now. It’s as if I had a career that didn’t even have anything to do for kids, like I could have been an accountant and be better at motherhood. I think back at when I’d try to help clients with their “bad habits”, like letting the baby sleep in bed with them, skipping important parts of bed routine, feeding them fries for dinner… Now I now the answer- SURVIVAL. I now realize when you’re suffering from ultimate sleep deprivation, putting the baby in bed with you at 3am instead of letting them cry it out in their crib for 2 hours is sometimes crucial to avoid being a zombie the next day… And lets face it, they’re only infants for so long and snuggling with your baby in bed is heaven.
I still struggle with trying to not make my daughter the center of my world, my most worn shirt says “Tired as a Mother,” and my husband asks when I’m going to wear normal clothes again (the term “mom leggings” is I’m sure, universally understood.) I realize, though, that she’s only going to be little for so long, so it’s okay to make her, maybe not the center of the universe, but the center of my day. Little by little I will try to save some of the nutritious, healthy food for me instead of giving it all to my husband and daughter while I eat a bag of chips, allow myself to let the laundry sit overnight so I can watch Netflix in bed and finally wear what doesn’t look like pajamas out into the world. I will try to remember that I’m not a nanny in my household- I’m the boss, and it’s okay if we miss music class because I’m exhausted or I forget to make sure she has veggies in every meal. My husband is watching me write this right now and he said it’s attractive to see me doing something that’s for myself, so I know I’m headed in the right direction, but no rush. I no longer pack for outings like I’m preparing for the apocalypse and my goal was to write this saga before my daughter turned two, which is in exactly 5 days, so I feel pretty good about my progress.
My New Year’s “zen” resolution was to do yoga once a week, and so far I went to one stretch class that mistakenly turned out to be a senior stretch class, which I wasn’t the shining star of. Nonetheless, I now try to find my zen in the everyday little joys… my aromatherapy diffusers (which I say are for my daughter but are actually for me), cuddling her to sleep at night (my absolute favorite thing in the world even though co-sleeping with your child is like sleeping with a wild animal), or lying down on the picnic blanket in our driveway while I feel the breeze on my face and zone out at the sky (my daughter lies down next to me and watches “story time” on her tablet and I only feel an acceptable amount of guilt now.)
Now I know why nobody tells you about the struggles of motherhood… Besides nobody wanting to burst an excited pregnant woman’s bubble, they really can’t explain how cleaning up barf at 3am is all worth the post-barf cuddles in bed until you’re in the thick of it. Although everyday still feels like “Groundhog Day,” all the hours of repetitive housework and tireless mornings are cleansed away by the spontaneous moments of seeing my daughter be happy, free and silly. The universe challenged me with the most difficult little bundle of joy it could cook up, but in the moments of watching her run in the rain outside, discover the wonder that is her shadow, or dance to Taylor Swift in the mirror all the struggles of motherhood are forgotten… and I realize that They. Were. Right.
Born and raised in Hawaii, Maile is an Island girl at heart. She moved to Los Angeles to obtain her bachelor’s degree at USC, then in the true spirit of following one’s love and passion, ventured off the beaten path to begin her career as a nanny, specializing in infants and toddlers. After almost 15 years as a devoted nanny/sitter to dozens of families, she inevitably moved back to the Islands to begin her own family. She is now a S.A.H.M. to a two year-old daughter, who is a dancing, bird-watching, wind and rain-loving free spirit, who Maile hopes will embrace growing up in paradise as she did. To this day, she is still in touch with many of her childcare families and little “clients”, most of whom are now entering their pre-teen years, and whose bond with Maile will last a lifetime. She will never forget the last family she left in Los Angeles, who cried upon hearing that she was moving back home, and told her, “my son is who he is today because of you.” They, along with other families, have visited Maile in Hawaii and have met her daughter in heartwarming reunions. Maile’s most precious and fond memories in Los Angeles come from time spent with those babies she helped to raise. She and her husband are currently thinking about giving their daughter a sibling, so her adventures in motherhood may have just begun. If she’s destined to just have one little sprout then she may return to her adventures in the world of nannying.