I never went to daycare or had an official nanny. In Korea I had grandma, and also we had a live-in housemaid who did de facto duty as my nanny. We were taught to call the maid “ohn-nee,” which means big sister. The first maid I remember, Song-Ja, was someone I truly loved, and I was heartbroken when she left us to go have her own life, never to be seen again. Among other things, like reading and two-wheeling, she taught me to skip properly. I must have complained to her about my one-sided half limp-skip, so she held my two hands in hers and let me mirror-image her until I got it right. We giggled and giggled, and we romped around the yard skipping triumphantly when I got it right.
For some reason, that’s an important moment in my life — perhaps a spot of kindness and attention that lifted me up — and I got to relive it a couple years ago when Jesse developed the same gimpy-skip. It felt like a call of love and thanks to Song-Ja, over time and space, when I grabbed Jesse’s hands and we cheerfully skipped together until she got it right, girly giggles and all.
I’ve been both mom and nanny to my children, which is a bit of a surprise. I quit working only a month or two before I got knocked up with Jesse. After 12 committed years of lawyering, no one really knew how parenthood would suit me. My mom and Anthony placed bets that I would be back to work within 6 months (Anthony) or 3-months-I-guarantee-it (Mom). I thought they were in the right ballpark, but in my heart I was committed to about 9 months before I thankfully delegated parenting to a well-paid third party bearing the title “nanny.”
But then (doom-and-monster music overlay): Jesse happened. I got Jesse’ed. Everything about her was a challenge. She nursed constantly and she pooped even more. She had reflux, and she acted colicky. She needed constant human touch, CONSTANT. She was covered in painful rashes from head to toe; she had repeated ear infections; she had clogged tear ducts. She was late to solids, well over a year. She refused anything but breast, fresh. No pumped milk would do. At 7 months, I tried joining a gym so I could at least work out. Each of the 4 times I went, Jesse screamed at the gym daycare staff without pause for 20 minutes until they came to get me, and then she spent the following week recovering from some sort of illness.
Knowing now what we do about Jesse’s food allergies, severe anxiety, and behavioral quirks, it seems clear that Anthony and I did the right thing when we quickly conceded defeat and became enslaved by parenthood. 8 years and 8 months after Jesse was born, I’m still an unemployed housewife.
I admit that the control-freak in me would probably have had trouble letting go to nannies. Also I do love being as connected to my kids as I am. All parents should be as lucky as me, to be spending so much hypothetically-quality time with their beloved children. But damn, there’s a big part of me that wishes I popped spawn that just couldn’t wait for the nanny to show up. I would have hired the best nanny I could buy — someone who reminded me most of Song-Ja — and said goodbye cheerfully Monday through Friday, looking forward to delightful weekends and never even knowing what I was missing.