Like many toddlers, little Kate Davis attends a mommy-and-me story time and playgroup in her hometown of Elgin, Illinois. Although it sounds lovely, it's a source of anguish (some call it working-mommy guilt) for her mother, because Kate attends with her nanny, Sarah, and not with her mother. "I'm happy Kate gets to go, but I feel guilty that I'm not the one taking her," says Jenny Davis, who hired Sarah a year ago to take care of Kate while both she and her husband work. "I feel jealous that they do fun things together while I'm the one who forces Kate to eat the vegetables she hates. I make dinner, give her a bath, brush her teeth, and then she's off to bed. There's no time to goof off."
While this isn't uncommon, there are easy solutions, says parenting expert Michelle LaRowe, author of Nanny to The Rescue! and A Mom's Ultimate Book of Lists. For example, there's no reason why mom shouldn't get in on the fun. "When parents come home, I recommend they change into play clothes, put down their phones and transition into family time. As soon as they walk in the door, they should get down on child's level to help her warm up to you," says LaRowe.
What happens if you feel like the nanny may even be a better mom than you are? "Kate has tantrums if you give her water instead of orange juice," Davis says. "But Sarah will just ask her to get her cup and drink the water, and she'll accept it." The nanny also seems better able to control stressful situations, like when Kate throws food from her high chair to alert everyone she's done. "Maybe it's because Sarah is right on top of her, and I'm trying to load the dishwasher and get household chores done at the same time," Davis says.
LaRowe says nannies may actually have an easier time disciplining because they're not the mom. "While nannies genuinely love the children in their care, they aren't ruled by emotions when setting boundaries. It may be more convenient to give in, but due to experience, they're aware of the consequences," says LaRowe, adding that busy moms might try to reduce multitasking. "The simplest of child-care tasks, like bathing, diaper changing or feeding, can provide wonderful bonding opportunities."
Sarah is, of course, also a pro. "The reality is that many nannies do have more parenting skills than parents," says LaRowe. "For a mom to realize that someone else can meet her child's needs faster is hard.
And what if your kid just seems to love the nanny more than she loves you? Unlikely, says LaRowe. Kids may cry when the nanny leaves or even call her mama, but mothers shouldn't see this behavior as a potential The Hand That Rocks The Cradle moment where a sitter is trying to steal your family. "Developmentally, once a baby says dada and mama, they say it about everything and everyone. They're just babbling," explains LaRowe.
Think of it this way: For many multitasking modern moms like Davis, a nanny can be a life raft. After all, the hit show about child-care providers is called Nanny 911, not It's Nice To Have A Nanny. The key is to trust your caregiver -- and give yourself a break. In many ways, you're bettering the life of your child by giving her a greater circle of loving caregivers. Says LaRowe, "Early interactions with a loving, nurturing and consistent caregiver can teach a child about forming non-familial relationships that foster healthy self-esteem. A baby can never receive too much love. And since many nannies take on other household tasks, you may be able to check the children's laundry, meal preparation and grocery shopping off your list."
That might give you more time to make up for any daytime cuddles you're missing. Says LaRowe, "Don't worry, a child always knows who her mom is."