The Catch-22 Of A Pregnant Nanny

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Feeling guilty is a hallmark of motherhood, and leaving your child with a nanny as you head to the office doesn’t exactly help matters. You’re essentially putting another woman in charge of your child’s safety and well-being for eight-plus hours each day and hoping for the best. Which explains why a woman’s relationship with her nanny is not your typical employer-employee relationship.

It’s a working agreement, to be sure, but it comes with some pretty heavy emotions (I have yet to find a couple who doesn’t consider their nanny – at least a good one, anyway – to be family). These feelings only get intensified if and when a nanny gets pregnant. Most moms are thrilled – how could they not be? – but deep down there’s that panicked feeling as they figure out the implications on their own lives. And there’s a fine line between supporting your nanny – emotionally, financially, legally – and doing what’s best for you and your children.

When Marissa Scott, a Montreal mother of three, got separated from her husband back in 2007, there was one person she could count on most: her nanny. Helen had been with her for five years and was pretty much an honorary member of the family. She was a live-in caregiver and spent her days caring for Marissa’s young children – feeding them, bathing them, taking them to programs, on play dates, to and from school. She was almost like a second mother to these kids, who told her daily, “I love you, Helen.”

Marissa’s parents and siblings all live out of town, and so Helen has become her lifeline. Often, when Marissa is stuck at at the office late – she works as a creative director at an international advertising agency – she takes comfort in knowing that Helen’s there to feed her children dinner and tuck them in at night. So you can imagine how Marissa felt when Helen announced that she was pregnant.

“I didn’t sleep that whole night thinking about the implications – for her and for me. We’re dependent on one another,” explains Marissa. “I’ll admit I wasn’t thrilled at first. I knew our situation was going to change. But I was also very happy for her because I knew she wanted children.”

Ah, the catch-22 of a pregnant nanny. On the one hand, you want your nanny to be happy and fulfilled. That would be the case with any employee but even more so with the woman who is caring for your children – the most important beings in your life – day in and day out. In fact, you’d climb mountains for this person so long as she keeps your children happy and safe. On the other hand is that feeling of, “Holy shit, what does this mean for my life?” And, also, “How will this impact my children?”

In Marissa’s case, she was worried about how she’d cope without Helen by her side, especially given that she had no one to fall back on. In Canada, women are entitled to 52 weeks of maternity leave, and Marissa had no choice but to find someone else who could step in during Helen’s absence. But she was worried about finding someone as special, someone who could come in and take control and love her children like Helen did. Plus, she was worried about what would happen once Helen’s mat leave was up. How could Helen come back and look after Marissa’s children when she’d have her own baby to to care for?

So Marissa worked out an agreement that left her friends scratching their heads and calling her crazy. Helen took a four-month mat leave – in which Marissa continued to pay her taxes – and then came back to work for Marissa with her baby. That was four years ago. Helen’s been with the family for nine years now, and her son has literally grown up in their home.

“It definitely changed the dynamic of the family,” says Marissa. “It’s like my children gained another sibling. My kids love him – they literally include him in the family tree.”

“There’s no question there are quite a few negatives,” she admits. “For example, there’s an extra cost because I feed her baby. And sometimes he’ll come to my house with a fever and get my kids sick – but that works the other way around, too. And from a get-up-and-go perspective, I find her less mobile. But these are all small prices to pay.”

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