The Other Mothers, Nannies or Babysitters

In the ongoing "Mommy Wars of 2013", there is still a backlash against mothers who hire individuals (mostly women) to help with childcare. Is this a class issue or just another cafeteria fight?
05/16/2013 06:30 pm ET Updated Jul 16, 2013

From the day that I became a mom, whether I worked outside of my home or inside my home, I have had heated debates with other women about hiring a nanny or a babysitter. In the ongoing "Mommy Wars of 2013", there is still a backlash against mothers who hire individuals (mostly women) to help with childcare. Is this a class issue or just another cafeteria fight? Regardless of socio-economic standing, every parent needs help! Every parent needs a break from the 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year job of raising a child.

When I was a young child, I had a babysitter whom I called my " nanny." By definition Mrs. Flanagan was more than a babysitter, because she watched me during non-traditional hours when my parents worked. My mother did not drive, so she needed a trusted neighbor who could drive. When Mrs. Flanagan had her own child, I was 4 years old and went to nursery school. I loved Mrs. Flanagan and thought of her as my "other mother."

In the 1960s, a nursery school was a place to take your child to learn and play while parents were at work. Children were at least 2 years old and out of diapers (Pampers and Huggies did not exist yet). The nursery school was open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday to Friday. What would single parents back then and today do if they had to work on weekends? What happens to parents who go to work at 9 a.m. and don't get home until 8 p.m.? This is when you need help with your children, regardless of the name you call the caretaker! It is not a class issue. It is a childcare issue. If companies had provided adequate childcare in the 1990s, maybe more women would have reached the c-suites today.

My former employer, Goldman, Sachs & Co., now has an amazing on-site child care facility for their employees. Goldman not only provides childcare for longer hours that are more reflective of parents' actual work schedules, but also provides "Sick Care" when your child is unable to go to school. These advancements in childcare still would not have helped me when I had to be at the airport at 4:30 a.m. I personally do not know of any childcare centers that are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you work the graveyard shift, what do you do for childcare?

In all of the jobs that I have held over my lifetime, I needed a nanny. There were no other options that would allow me to work 80 hours a week, travel and tend for the children that I always wanted. When my husband was on-call, we had to have someone stay at our house. He may have needed to go to the hospital in the middle of the night when the children were young and I was traveling. The children could not be left alone at home. Some parents need nannies and others can use babysitters, because their schedules permit them to. If you are lucky, you will find "other mothers" who not only share your values, but may also care for your children from infancy to high school.

I was never lucky enough to find just one "other mother," but I have had some wonderful nannies and very accomplished babysitters. I remember interviewing a very smart girl for Yale. I was so impressed by her that I not only wrote her a glowing recommendation, I also asked if she was interested in babysitting. She was accepted at Yale. Unfortunately for Yale, she went to Harvard, but I got a great babysitter whenever she was available. Jenny graduated from college five years ago. She is a teacher and a wonderful "other mother" to an entire school.

Whether paid hourly, salaried or not paid at all, whether living with the family or not, whether 12 years old or 87 years old, related by birth or not, all of these childcare providers help parents raise their children. Every parent needs help, even if only to go to a doctor's appointment. We must honor them as the "others" who not only help parents, but also shape the next generation. I am forever grateful for them.

I really cannot forget to mention all of my children's friends' parents who have so kindly, from time to time, taken care of one or all of my children. Hillary Clinton said it best: "It takes a village to raise a child". There have always been neighbors, friends or other parents who have helped when I only had two hands and three children. I really can't do it all.