Confessions Of A Governess: Should Former Nannies Have Visitation Rights?

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Confessions of a Governess is a Mommyish series from the perspective of someone who gets paid to watch other people’s children. Moms, take a deep breath.

Maintaining bonds with children when you’re not direct family is precarious business.

Mothers and fathers alike seem to always search for that nanny or long-term babysitter that their children can hopefully bond with.  Someone who regardless of pay or needs, genuinely likes or even possibly loves the child. While parents generally seem to like the visual of their child clinging to the nanny’s side, I find that once that last check has been written and you’ve put the baby down for his or her last nap, parents are often not so skilled at handling the relationship for which there is no name.

I’ve rarely not loved a child that I’ve cared for. No child that I’ve ever watched has plainly been “just a job.” Perhaps it’s because I intrinsically love children or the act of caring for them simply makes it impossible not to. Even with the more rebellious and rather rambunctious ones, I always find it not difficult to wonder about them in my off-time which is just another component of the job. Wondering about the outcomes of a spelling test you’ve helped them study for, that doctor’s appointment that the mother mentioned, their first airplane ride that they were so excited for — it becomes difficult to seperate where your role ends and their childhood keeps going. Bearing witness to first tastes of solid foods, first days of school, first hobbies and interest, it’s nearly impossible to deny feeling that loving bond with the children you watch.

Yet, the question of how to continue such a bond, if at all, is answered differently by all parents, I’ve noticed. While some mothers smile at my request to meet them on the playground from time to time to chat with their little one, others find the request a bit inappropriate. No longer on the payroll, no longer assuming that rigid role, they often have someone new to shuttle the children from school to the home. Someone else who chats with them while they play in the bath and who makes idle conversation over dinner. My continued interest in their child’s happiness and growth sometimes reads as difficult to place. No longer the nanny, yet not an aunt or cousin, they stumble over what exactly to call me as “former nanny” doesn’t always explain why I’m currently hand in hand with a child on the street. “Former babysitter” doesn’t quite suffice to the other parents on the playground who don’t understand why I still want to be marginally involved.

And yet while the grownups continually struggle to quantify the relationship or call it by a different name, it should be noted that for the kids — it’s all the same.