Last November, I gave birth to my first child, Oscar. When my maternity leave was up, I returned to work with my 2-month-old son in tow to care for a 9-month-old boy as his full-time nanny. I’ve nannied twins before and let me tell you; that was easier.
Oscar is taking three naps a day and the other boy, whom I’ll call B, only takes two. Oscar is awake for a maximum of two hours at a time and B can be awake for three to three-and-a-half hours. Oscar eats only bottles and B needs time for both a bottle and solids. Oscar travels everywhere in a portable infant car seat while B has graduated to a convertible car seat that has to stay put.
The babies are just slightly off from each other in almost every aspect, which makes caring for them both a special challenge.
I’m not complaining: I love the flexibility this working arrangement provides. It’s just difficult to strike the correct balance on a day-to-day basis. I love my son and want his babyhood to be enjoyable and productive; I also love B and wish the same for him.
Another complication: B’s parents are doctors, which means I’ve signed up for a highly variable schedule in the form of work days as short as four hours or as long as 24. As I write this, for example, I’m on hour 28 of not seeing my son. I have been working since 7:30 a.m. yesterday morning and will, at the earliest, not be home until 7 p.m. tonight, which means I may miss Oscar’s bedtime for the second night in a row.
My husband is taking care of our baby while I care for someone else’s.
I also missed his eye appointment this morning where he was dilated and crying and I couldn’t be there to offer comfort. I am still holding back tears just thinking about it. My husband is taking care of Oscar while I care for someone else’s baby.
It’s a difficult line to walk. I have such special relationships with so many of the kids whom I previously nannied; I was essentially chosen as an additional family member when those families hired me.
I’ve taught children how to use baby sign language and count to 10; I’ve cheered on first steps and the first solo bike ride; I’ve dropped the pacifier and sleep trained; I’ve comforted through fevers, ER visits and lost pets. I’ve mothered so many kids before Oscar but I wasn’t truly a mother until him.
Becoming a mom changed that. I’m still dealing with how.
For now, at the end of an especially long day (or days, as the case may be), I cry both happy and sad tears as an incredible level of exhaustion washes over me.
In those moments of reflection, though, I realize that nurturing these children— both my own and others’ — fills me with more love and happiness than I ever thought I could hold.