Nanny in the Rearview Mirror


Disclaimer: The following discusses the relationship between women and caregivers in a positive, nostalgic manner. If you have an issue with women who work outside of the home or women who have nannies who love and care for their families please move on. Otherwise, enjoy!

I don’t know if I’ve really seen this particular scene from the outside before.  And even if I had – I may not have seen it from such clear perspective. What I saw felt at once familiar, moving and near-heart wrenching but also quite distant from my present reality. Although what I saw was my truth, so very long ago.  And this is why the view of this morning’s scene, which I watched unravel from the driver’s seat of my car (empty of children but able to accommodate the four I have) touched me so deeply. I was winding down Bradley Boulevard, listening to Jakob Dylan’s new single, “Nothing but the Whole Wide World” on XM 45, making my way from my workout to my desk. The traffic was moving slowly – I was just behind the number 36 ride on bus. And as I sorted my thoughts for the day – I looked to my right for just a split second – long enough to take in something powerful that stopped me in my emotional tracks. In that micro-bite of time I watched three females – a young mother, her toddler daughter and their nanny.   The young mother was dressed for the day, nothing fancy but certainly fashionable and smart. The little girl wore a pink jacket with a hat on her head. The Nanny was dressed modestly, her head was covered and her body was round. The three sat waiting for the bus to arrive.

 I don’t know if it was the first day the woman would leave her daughter for work or if this was a daily ritual. One in which the kind woman with the brown skin would at once fortify and calm the mother as she made her way, step by step away from her toddler and onto the bus – one in which the nanny, clearly dressed in non-American garb would make the toddler feel safe and loved as her Mommy braved her way away from the softness of the babies’ pink cheeks and into the maelstrom of another working day. Was this their daily routine: – the mother boards the bus, the nanny picks up the baby and together they wave goodbye. Then placing the toddler down, and reaching to hold her pudgy little hand – the nanny and the little girl head home and into their day.  Or perhaps it was one in a string of similar days. I cannot be sure if this was day one – the day in which it would take every ounce of courage and conviction for the mother to “go back to work” or one of many subsequent days that would require a daily, whispered mantra of “you can do this” and an equal amount of conviction and support to make it out the door.  No, I cannot say. But I can be sure that none of these days would be possible without the nanny. 

The right nanny was never quite Mary Poppins, but rather a near-stranger near-saint who stands strong and dependable offering assurance and calm to the woman who walks out the door and into the world. She offers love filled days to the baby left in her care. The right nanny is near mystical creature – a woman who brings something from another place and another time – connecting generations and moving families forward until the great unknown. And yes, for pay.

Amaryllis was our nanny – she was with our family from the time Lila was a small baby until just before Samuel was born. She was a warm and loving woman from El Salvador – one who opened her heart to a young mother and her daughter in a way that gave us both wings. She was a mother to us both -a nurturer to the core and an expert  papusa maker! She had her own daughters and grandchildren – but she also had us. She would arrive at our town home each morning and I would hand her little Lila – together they would busy themselves quickly in music, books and Teletubby toys (Lila was partial to Po) while I made my way out the door.  There was comfort in leaving Lila with Amaryllis – I knew my little girl was safe and loved, getting what she needed and I was getting the same. Lila would crawl and then cruise, walk and later run. And so would I.  Because of Amaryllis I was able to grow my young business and myself into a form I had hardly dreamed possible. What came next was beyond my wildest imagination (it always is it seems) and she made sure we all kept taking chances – Lila on the playground and me in my work and my “adult” relationships. We kept growing and one day our family outgrew Amaryllis (she said she only worked in homes with one baby). I cried for days – scared and insecure of what would come next despite the fact she had shown me that everything would be okay.  And it was.  Amaryllis was a remarkable pillar of strength, wisdom and kindness. We were lucky to have her.

I saw Amaryllis today – she was sitting next to me whispering in my ear “you can do this” – and then I got on the bus….