The heart­break of be­ing the nanny

The Hamilton Spectator - - LIVING - SUSY ALFEREZ

I can hear com­puter keys, print­ers, doors slam­ming shut in the of­fice in front of me.

I ad­just my navy skirt and se­cure the but­tons on my shirt. This isn’t my first time in­ter­view­ing at a staffing agency and prob­a­bly won’t be my last. I am a nanny. But un­like the woman at this of­fice who just crammed an en­tire muf­fin in her face be­fore an­swer­ing the phone, I have leisurely pic­nic lunches in the park and play games for a liv­ing. I wit­ness chil­dren’s first words and first steps. I have also been vom­ited and peed on, bul­lied and out­smarted.

Still, I love it. I love the chil­dren and fam­i­lies I work for with all my heart. Some I’ve had the priv­i­lege of be­ing good friends with, but many I have never seen again.

This is the worst part of the job — to fall in love with some­thing you can­not keep.

Re­cently, I ran into a fam­ily I used to nanny for and they walked right past me. I looked at the two lit­tle girls and re­mem­bered how the el­dest had given me a hard time. She was 3 when I started and was not happy to leave her mom to be with me. One af­ter­noon, she squeezed Elmer’s glue into my purse. As I sat on the floor to clean it out, she kicked a ball softly to me and gig­gled. I kicked it back and this be­came our favourite game. It led to spon­ta­neous mo­ments of af­fec­tion, hugs, kisses and “I love you.” Soon af­ter, she and her fam­ily moved away and my job, and my con­nec­tion to her, was over.

When I ran into them, the girls didn’t rec­og­nize me, and it seemed that was fine with their mother. This is the pain of be­ing a nanny: once, a child loved you, and then you feel worth­less as they don’t even rec­og­nize you.

I will never re­ally un­der­stand why. Maybe some par­ents are ashamed they ever had a nanny, oth­ers par­ents con­sider you dis­pos­able, sim­ply the help. Even if an em­ployer is gra­cious and kind, open to a nanny be­ing part of their lives, it’s a heart­break­ing job.

My hard­est day as a nanny was or­di­nary. We were driv­ing home from the li­brary, singing the “Mickey Mouse Club­house” theme song, loudly. I could see the lit­tle girl’s face in the rear-view mir­ror. She would turn 3 soon, I had been with her since she was four months old. And this day would be my last day with her.

I was lucky with this fam­ily. We all loved each other and didn’t want to part ways. But I had to leave be­cause she was start­ing preschool. This is com­mon, it’s life. Chil­dren grow, they go to school and nan­nies must move on. I would miss ev­ery­one: the dog, the neigh­bours, this lit­tle girl’s mommy, who be­came like one of my best friends. But I would miss this lit­tle girl most of all.

“I’ve done my best,” I tried to tell my­self that day to quell the sad­ness.

I had taught her as much as I could. She was bilin­gual, able to speak Span­ish and English. She knew all the an­i­mal sounds, knew to share, wait her turn, and said please and thank you. She didn’t like peanut but­ter on her fin­gers, liked warm milk and loved cook­ies. I had been there when she picked out her best friend, a stuffed puppy. I had been there for the bot­tles, di­a­pers and potty train­ing. I was there for her first word, “dog,” and for her first crawls and steps.

I pulled the car over. We had 15 min­utes be­fore nap time and the park wasn’t far. So, we walked hand in hand to the play­ground. I put her in the swing, and with ev­ery push, I made peace with the idea of leav­ing her. She would grow up and for­get all about her nanny, Susy.

But I would re­mem­ber our time to­gether, es­pe­cially to­day. I cried and be­tween chok­ing sobs, yelled “whee!” as I pushed her higher, so she wouldn’t no­tice that her nanny’s heart was break­ing.

Af­ter leav­ing this lit­tle girl, I swore I would never do this job again. I couldn’t bear an­other good­bye. Yet, here I am.

A woman with a lovely Bri­tish ac­cent calls my name. I’m ner­vous and ad­just my skirt one last time. I walk into the in­ter­view room and see the chil­dren. They smile shyly at me and shake my hand and I’m smit­ten al­ready.

I brace my­self for the in­evitable heart­break that will fol­low, but they are the heart­beat of this pro­fes­sion, and they are the rea­son so many of us re­turn.


This is the worst part of the job — to fall in love with some­thing you can­not keep.

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