Saturday, June 6, 2009

Leaving a family after 16 years

My friend Jenn will be leaving her job this week. She has been with her family for 16 years. Her kids are 16, 12 and 8. Since I have been with my family almost the same amount of time she and I have a very close bond.
She has been blogging her last 10 days to help her through the sadness(thanks to Buffi for a wonderful suggestion) and she will be sharing them here starting this week.
I hope that you will all offer her some support and ideas as she goes through this transition.
I will be putting all the postings of support and encouragement into a drawing for a copy of "Like a Second Mother" and the winner will be announced Sunday June 21.

If you have never read this book, here is Joyce Farmers' review of the book that was first published in the National Association of Nannies Newsletter.

"Like A Second Mother" by Barbara Blouin"

Books Fall Open. You Fall In." Do you remember that reading program slogan? I immediately fell deep into this book, and I will tell you why. As I read each story, I put myself in that nanny's place. I experienced each of them as fully as I could, based on the facts given. For some of the narratives, that meant reading between the lines because some stories were told by the nanny's charge.This book was published as a part of the Inheritance Project, an organized effort to explore the emotional and social impact of inherited wealth. It was written as an effort to acknowledge and honor the many caregivers who unstintingly gave their love and support to the children in their care. While written about people of wealth, it nevertheless holds the joys and frustrations of nannies everywhere.Like A Second Mother is a series of interviews of employers, nannies and charges. The beginning stories are of early nanny/housekeepers from the first half of the century. Others are mixed statements from employer, nanny, and charges. The end of the book contains more stories just by nanny. Some are definitely interviews, while others are beautifully descriptive stores by gifted nanny writers.It is hard to read about the earlier nanny/housekeepers because we want our profession to advance beyond the low pay/recognition into a respected and comfortable career choice. Efforts towards this goal made by NAN, agencies and others are discussed in the Introduction.I experienced some vertigo while reading some chapters, because there was so much between the lines. I realized (from my own job experiences) how the events described by employers would appear from the nanny's perspective. One story was written entirely about how nanny fit into the employer's life. A single line about nanny getting married made me realize that nanny had a whole complete life outside of this narrative. Nanny sustained this family, and at the same time (albeit invisibly?) provided for herself emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually.Common threads appear as you read along. It is disturbing to read of alcoholism, dysfunction, and abuse in wealthy families. It is difficult to glean how nanny succeeded in her work (at times, she didn't) while overcoming these obstacles. It is nearly inexplicable to read about how hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent on landscaping, only to read of the low weekly pay of the person whom those children totally depended on for their quality of life. I found myself counting the times in these stories where nanny was required to forgive and forget about class distinctions, cultural differences, and financial comparisons, in order to provide emotionally for these wealthy children.Love is the enduring theme in all these stories. While the parents shrugged off these issues, the charges struggle to reconcile the life they enjoyed "below-stairs" with nanny, versus the social life of wealth and privilege that they were expected to live "above-stairs." Charges often speak of the enjoyable warmth of the kitchen and caregivers, versus the cool reserve of parental social expectations.Nannies have "immense personal strength" but no material security, the apparent opposite of their charges. Our employers pay for our time and effort, but the love--freely given--cannot be purchased. In some of these stories by charges, they have tried to repay these invaluable gifts by honoring and caring for their caregivers during their later years.You have heard the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. In this book, one line can equal a thousand words. It took me a long time to read this book, because I would continually have to stop on one of these lines. My heart would respond with joy or sorrow to these truths about nannies and the way we affect our charges' lives. I will share a few of these here, although most of their power is derived from the story that the statement is taken from.Nanny Ann: "Whatever you put out is what you get back." "You can change the world with being kind to people."Charge, Missy: "It feels real good to talk about her because I don't feel like I can give back enough what she gave to me."Charge, Tracy: "Nellie figured out ways to create a loving circle around her in the kitchen."Nanny Mildred: "I'm like a mother to those kids. I lived every day for them. I love 'em until death.Employer, Diana: "Susannah got a different kid of parenting for a few hours a day--a less analytical, less intellectual and maybe a more basic kind of parenting." "I know that Di loves my children totally and realistically, much in the way that a sister or grandmother would."Charge, Sylvia: "I would like to spare my kid what happens when a nanny leaves--because part of your childhood goes with her."Employer, Lois: "There was a group of kids for Holly to grow up with, and all the other children were being babysat by their babysitters. So Theresa provided Holly with a social life that was absolutely important to her. Holly made friends at the park, and they went to each other's houses all the time."When asked if she thought Holly was more attached to Theresa than to her (the mother), Lois said: "I thought she was attached to Theresa differently than she was attached to me."Nanny Catherine: "I love all three children. I measure my love for them by how much what they do and say can affect me." "The biggest drawback to this job is that nannies are not looked highly upon. With people I know, I speak up about that. But you can't really change people's opinions because they have to highly regard children in the first place in order to highly regard nannies."Nanny Patricia: "It almost saddened me to realize that Andrew would never be able to recall his own innocent moment, and that I would be the only person to tell him how tender and gentle he had been. What truly amazed me that day was a child's capacity to take an ordinary moment and make it something incredibly special."Employer, Kakie: A child's caregiver is part of your intimate life--like it or not. I think it calls for a lot of consciousness on both sides, and when you get a good fit, it can be so enriching. And when you don't get that fit, it can be so destructive."Nanny Maria: "Sometimes it was very intense: they need all your energy, and they can take it all."Employer, Wendy: "I also think it's very possible that Zoe bonded with Maria as well. Children bond to their mother and their father, so why can't they bond to mother and babysitter?"Each story in this book is worthy to be slowly absorbed on its own. The experiences of other nannies and how they handled common situations are a very important part of the networking foundation that is needed to help standardize our industry. There is definitely a need in the world today for books that present the nanny's view of the issues. Telling stories from the family's perspective can help nanny to understand both sides of the issue. This book does an outstanding job of trying to cover both of these perspectives. I would recommend this book for any nanny's library.

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