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Nanny Spy Confession: The Importance Of Awareness In Choosing A Nanny

I talk a lot about awareness because I believe as parents, and as people, it is one of the most important parts of growing and thriving. This is a story about a client (I’ve obviously changed a lot of details and the name) I worked with who was looking for some advice on hiring a nanny.

When Karen first came to me she was eight months pregnant and was really excited but also very nervous and anxious about the idea of hiring a nanny when she had to return to work. She didn’t even know where to begin and would ask me questions like, “What should I look for in a nanny?”

I had to get her to answer that question for herself, so I started asking what values were most important to her and how she wanted her future child to be raised. I also asked what her biggest fears were when it came to someone else looking after her child.

As we discussed these questions, a lot of her family history came up. Her biggest concern was finding a stable support system, for both herself and her children, as she had moved cross-country to NYC when she was 18. When Karen was 15 years old, her mom was diagnosed with cancer and eventually died a few years later. Her dad was an alcoholic during her childhood and she had lost contact with him since. Karen had to grow up at a very young age and, consequently, one of the biggest factors she was looking for in a nanny was stability and support.

Another question I asked was, “What do you fear most about hiring a nanny?” Karen revealed that she was terrified of hiring the wrong person – someone who would put her child in harm’s way. When she thought of what could go wrong, her mind would spiral. Eventually, it came out that when she was younger, there was an incident at a playground where she fell off a slide and had some very serious injuries involving stitches. It became evident that this had translated into high levels of anxiety for her future child’s safety.

The child wasn’t even born yet and she was scared to death of a nanny taking her eyes off her child and something terrible happening. While safety and consistency are two very important characteristics to look for in a nanny, in Karen’s case, she needed to work through some of her own fears and understand that what had happened to her was an accident. There is no way to protect your child from every single cut and scrape.

A child’s exploration is extremely important. Awareness helped Karen see that while there were some things she would be able to control about her future nanny, she would also have to learn to trust in order to not develop into a mom who hovered over both child and nanny.

As she became aware of her fears and her childhood, she was better able to articulate what she was looking for in a nanny and not just focus on the hyper-vigilant aspect. Throughout this process, she realized she had some unresolved issues. She had never properly mourned the loss of her mom or dealt with her tumultuous relationship with her alcoholic father and his sense of helplessness. These are all issues that would come out eventually, but as she went to therapy and talked through them she realized how important it was to address them head on before they became a part of her parenting style or negatively blinded her to what she was looking for in a nanny.

I also asked her to identify what types of parenting her parents exhibited throughout her childhood. Her father was controlling at times, but in general, he was fairly absent and therefore she didn’t have a lot of rules or boundaries. She was close to her mother, but again, she wasn’t given a lot of structure at a young age. This became something she craved for her own child.

Especially for new parents, I always recommend thinking through your own childhood and putting thought into why you fear the things you fear. This will help put your fears into perspective and keep you from blowing them out of proportion in a way that could negatively affect your children.

If you’re interested in more information about our services as they relate to your nanny, check out our nanny consulting page or contact us today.

child cute little girl and mother holding hand together with lov

The Key To Conscious Parenting

Happy mother and daughter at summer field

For the past 12 years I have had the pleasure of being the mother to three girls, and in that time, I have learned more about myself than I ever expected. I am writing this post because I want to propose that we occupy the role of parenthood in an entirely different way, with a renewed curiosity, a heightened awareness and a fresh sense of commitment.

Our children are facing challenges today that we couldn’t have dreamed of, and evidence suggests they are buckling under the pressure. One in five children in America show signs or symptoms of a psychological disorder, and that is a hair-raising statistic. The use of ADHD drugs is at an exponentially high 274% global increase. UNICEF did a study a few years ago and found American children are the second unhappiest in the world.

Each one of us holds transformative power, and there is real science behind this to show how the parental relationship can affect us as adults not only psychologically, but also biologically. Dr. Siegel, a neuropsychiatrist and one of my favorite authors, talks about how early interactions affect our brains in his book The Whole Brain-Child. I highly recommend the book, but I want to share with you a few key takeaways, one of those being the idea of conscious parenting.

Conscious parenting doesn’t necessarily mean spending every waking hour with your children, rather it means that when you do spend time with your kids, you make it meaningful and make sure you are present in the moment. You can practice the idea of conscious parenting when you help with your children’s homework or spend 10 minutes with them while they get ready in the morning. Listen with empathy and respond to what is said with full awareness. In their essay, called “Recognizing Our Hidden Wounds”, Psychoanalysts Harville Hendrix and Helen Lakelly Hunt discuss “the importance of recognizing when and how we slip into the past.” When we have a problem-causing “automatic, unexamined reaction” to a child’s behavior, that’s an indication that we are approaching the situation from an unresolved childhood wound.

The idea is obviously fairly complex, but simply making an effort not to bring the past, or your stresses and anxieties, into the time you spend with your child will go a long way. Conscious parenting might sound like work, but it can actually be executed rather easily. I found that remembering the acronym “AFTER” works for me when I’m dealing with a situation with one of my children and my first reaction is to be upset.

A-aware (Be aware that you are reacting to what is going on internally for you and not responding to the situation at hand)

F-focus (Focus on what is happening in the moment)

T-time (Take time to count to at least 5 so you can calm down)

E- Empathy (Forgive yourself for what you had done in the past and have empathy for yourself)

R- Re-enter (Re-enter the interaction with a new insight and respond appropriately with empathy)

Until about 10 years ago, I wasn’t sure what being conscious meant, and all I wanted to do was be a mom and to become a psychologist. As the years went by, I realized that I was often busy thinking about the goals I wanted to reach and thinking about my past. When I became a mom, I wasn’t really aware of how my level of consciousness and awareness would affect my children. Being a mom brought up things in me that had nothing to do with my children, but rather made me realize there are some things I’ve carried with me since I was a child. I had a lot of insecurities and there was a part of me that was still that little child who was crying and screaming out for attention, who was hurt and abused and needed guidance and support, and nobody was there. While my children are clearly not in the same situation, they were victims of my insecurities when I projected them through my parenting. Once I became aware that this was happening, as I progressed with my education of child development and mindfulness, I realized how important it is to be a parent and how much attention/responsibility and self-awareness is required on a daily basis.

As a therapist, it is my job to help people explore their inner worlds. After years of clients sharing their stories, it became clear to me that no matter what I would tell them, they weren’t readily accepting what I was saying because they had internalized the voices of their parents. It became so evident how very hard it is to erase that first blueprint as it comes to the way we define ourselves and the air we breathe. As parents, we hold a greater power and an immense responsibility, and our actions and behavior help provide our kids with the strong foundations they need to become competent adults.

Next time your child is asking you a question or telling you something exciting that happened, ask yourself if you are listening. Really listening?