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Heidi Brod Headshot

When to Divorce Your Nanny

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Our nannies. We truly love them. They become a huge part of our family, but at what cost? Why do we overlook things that in any other relationship, would be considered grounds for a divorce?

Whether you're working parents trying to balance full-time jobs or stay-at-home moms who are trying to contribute, we often choose to ignore the signals that it's time to divorce our nannies. We give in to unrealistic demands based on a visceral need to make things work in a relationship that has clearly gone bad. We convince ourselves that this is the only person we can trust and often ignore red flags until we are buried under the weight of them.

As parents, intuition is a big part of keeping our children safe. In Gavin De Becker's bestselling novel, Protecting the Gift, he discusses the importance of trusting your intuition before it's too late. Psychologist Deborah Mandell says, "we minimize only that which looms large, and the fact that we make an excuse for someone's behavior is a sure sign that we perceive something wrong with that behavior."

However, time and time again, we become revisionists. Even if the information rolling in provides a contradiction to the picture of our nanny we paint in our memory, we still make excuses and convince ourselves that we ultimately know this person and they are kind, compassionate and loving. They wouldn't harm our child. We rationalize, justify, minimize and make excuses. After all, we know our nanny. Don't we?

The reality is we trust our nannies and expect them to be superheroes. The hope is that when dealing with the hearts of children, morality and ethics will rise above the pettiness of human nature. Time and time again, we're reminded it doesn't. As parents, when will we learn?

We don't take into consideration that they may be struggling to pay the bills at home or stress outside the work place has become so unbearable that it's seeps out all over the floor like an open can of finger paint.

We still make excuses until pushed to give a warning that their "job performance" isn't up to par. The resentment and anger crops up and rankles between us. Once it shows up, like weeds in a garden, it overtakes the beauty of the relationship that our nanny once shared with our children.

At this point, with so many families, lines have been drawn in the sandbox. The rules have changed unbeknownst to the family. The nanny starts to view the family and job differently. Quite frankly, it becomes us against them with our children wedged uncomfortably in between. We all paint the same picture, even if the colors we use are slightly different. The end result is the same.

We can't expect our children to be grown-ups and let us know when they've had enough. The tension alone can have a profound effect on a child's overall development. Whether it's asthma, night terrors or behavioral issues, once you reach the boiling point, any kindness or generosity is viewed as a manipulation and the tension bubbles over into their day job, which bleeds into the young lives of our children, which is totally unacceptable.

In the case that the relationship is truly broken, we, as parents, hope that an unspoken part of the job description is to say goodbye before the anger turns into a festering, open wound that decays any chance of a future relationship. Or even worse, a violent end that marks a desperate attempt to strike at the core of a mother through her most vulnerable place, her innocent child. Whether it's an unbelievable nightmare with a physical ending, like the Krim's, or just a deeply emotional one, we can all find religion and pray that justice will one day be served.

The reality is most nannies know they have the final punch and all of the power. They can hit you where it hurts most by disappearing from the lives of our children, serving up an important life lesson and an arrow straight into their tiny, innocent hearts. The moral and ethical dilemma lights up red like a traffic light asking the eternal question, "did they ever really love our children at all?"

So for many mothers, whether stay-at-home or under the stress of a full-time job, it's important to read the signs before the damage becomes irreversible. Even if the urge is to become a child and kick sand, engaging in a struggle for bits of power and control it will only hurt you and your children in the end. Even worse, some choose to dedicate time, money and energy trying to set things right. The best advice I was given along the way was to "stick a fork in it when it's done." Let go of the past and move your children forward to a much brighter future with you or somebody else that truly loves them.

If any of this rings true, learn from the collective voice I used to write this, it's best to part ways before it's to late. The stakes are much too high.

Be prepared. If you truly care, you and your children may be left with a broken heart, but it comes tied with invaluable life lessons that are worth the severance.

As for the guilt, in the words of Nora Ephron, a successful parent "is one who raises a child who grows up and is able to pay for his own psychoanalysis."

Amen to that.