Let's face it. There is one person in your life whom you count on more than anyone -- more than your mother and maybe even more than your husband or your best friend. This person is, of course, your nanny. She has a tremendous amount of power in your life. Not only does she watch your precious children, but she has the unique ability to set your life into a tailspin in a heartbeat. One day your kids love her and your life is on autopilot, and the next day she tells you that she has been unhappy and she is leaving in two weeks. Anyone out there been in this situation? It's a moment that can send you into a panic, a panic attack, a rage, or even a momentary meltdown.
Here's what is most likely running through your mind:
- My kids love her. How will I explain this to them?
- How much time will it take me to find a replacement?
- Oh s**t... and after I bent over backwards to please her so much.
- I thought things were going great. Where did I go wrong?
- What has she been saying about me to the other nannies? Am I a terrible boss?
OK, let's rewind and reconsider how to think about this:
- Your kids will love another nanny. You can explain to them that as attached as they get to their nannies, they only stay in their lives for a temporary period of time. This is the nature of the beast. You, on the other hand, are a stable fixture in their lives. This may be hard to digest, but it is the truth. As much as we try to make the nannies a part of the family, they really are not.
- You will find a replacement. And the replacement may even be better, because she may be happier. It will take some time, but the time invested will be worth it.
- Yes, you may have bent over backwards to please her, but hey, she is spending many hours with your kids. And what's wrong with increasing our flexibility at our age? Think of it as practice for yoga.
- Things may in fact have appeared peachy, but maybe she wants to move on with her life. Maybe she misses her family, perhaps she wants to return to school, or she may even just have had her fill of children. That is no crime.
- She may have said something disparaging about you to others, but it is equally likely that she has not.
What to do if and (more likely) when you find yourself abandoned by your nanny:
- Resist your impulse to beg her to stay. Let her go. Nothing good will come of keeping an unhappy nanny in your home.
- Ask her calmly if you did anything that upset her, or if there was anything about your household that was frustrating for her. She may or may not give you answers, but she just may give you some honest and beneficial feedback. This may help you with your job expectations with your next nanny.
- Ask her to reassure your children that she has enjoyed being with them and then try to keep her in their lives somehow -- perhaps with occasional letters, skyping, or even visits.
- Try, at all costs, to facilitate the goodbye. You may even want to turn her departure into a small party so that your kids learn to say goodbye to people graciously and in a good-spirited manner. This is an important life lesson.
- Keep in mind that yes, life will be stressful as you transition to a new nanny, but that dealing with transition and change teaches all of us a valuable resiliency skill, which is flexibility.
Good luck and yes, you will get through it. You are in good and plentiful company. This is an experience that many of us in the mother's club have experienced. We thought it was the end of the world, literally, but we are all alive and well, and here to tell the story.
How have you handled nanny breakups? Please share your stories.
Follow Barbara Greenberg on Twitter: