nanny be good

We loved our nanny. We still love her, but she’s no longer our nanny. Right after the beans first birthday (December 7), our nanny received a phone call that her father was in intensive care in DC, that he’d been in a car accident, that she should come. She was gone for the week, and we prayed everything would be okay. I felt sick for her, and then did what I always do, thought, what if that happened to me? What if I were in that situation with my father. It can happen to any of us. And I felt sicker. It was the week my book edits were due. And with Phil and I both working from home, it wasn’t as taxing as I’d thought, but then again, Phil was doing most of the work, since I was on deadline.

A week went by, and then we got the news. Her father passed a few days later. She decided she wasn’t returning to Austin, that she would stay in DC with her mother, indefinitely. She’d be back for a visit, but she wouldn’t be returning to work. We talked for a long time about grief, about how she worried she was already forgetting him. And I cried when I hung up. It was something I couldn’t fix for her. And she is just the sweetest girl with an angelic laugh I can almost hear as I type this. I miss her, not just what she did around here, but her. 

I was actually looking forward to being full-time super mommy. I’ll puree spinach and blueberries. Make whole grain muffins, and get to dress them up all darling. And I’ve been doing some of that over the past month. Signed them up for a music class once a week. We play the same songs in the house, and I sing and dance, make silly faces. An ass of myself really. But it’s me. Totally Free To Be mama. Yes, I change the diapers and give vitamins and sippy cups. Still weaning them off the formula, down to one dose of it before bed. Except Phil says I’m a poser. He says I talk a good game, but really, I don’t take care of them the way I think I do.

"You disappear," he says. "When you’re taking care of them, and I’m here," he says, "you disappear, go downstairs to do one thing or another and I’m left with a conference call and screaming babies in the background."

I have to work, too, I say. You’re not the only one. "Yeah," he says, "but you’re not really working. What you do is busy work. Writing articles for magazines before they sign off and officially give you the assignment isn’t the best use of your time." Then I get angry because I’ve already earned for this year more than I would have earned in a whole year in advertising. "Yeah, but you don’t have the same expenses you did then. We have a mortgage and car payments. It’s different now." And I think, he’s taking on all the financial worry. It’s what he does because I never think like that. I don’t spend outrageously, either. If it were up to him, I’d definitely be the breadwinner (I am not)."Yeah, and what do you have coming in 2009? What about next year? What do you have lined up?" Well, I’m going to be starting another book. Why can’t I write books, start working on the idea for my next one? Brainstorm, read, do what I do? Why is that "busy work?" It’s part of my process. "Why can’t we hire someone new to take on some of the responsibilities around here. A cleaning service once in a while, a babysitter, a part-time nanny." And then he stresses over money and says it’s a waste of it. And then I start to cry. Because I cannot win with him. Once he’s made up his mind, he crosses his arms and that’s it. And it upsets me. "Well, then earn some more money," he reasons, "because I know if we got a nanny again, you wouldn’t really work. You’d go get your nails done, or you’d just do busy work." And what’s wrong with that? I need to take care of my own mental health, to be inspired, to read, to write, to cultivate new ideas. And I cannot do it while singing the hello song. The way I see things, and the way he sees them, and the way we communicate it all, is leaving both of us angry, frustrated, and sad.

I said I need more structure, that I need to be alone with the kids, without him there. That he should go to the office (translation: downstairs) during the day, so I don’t end up relying on him to watch them while I run downstairs. Because I don’t want to hear about it later. If he’s in the room, one way or another, I will say, "Oh, just watch them a sec," or "oh, can you grab me that towel" when one of them sneezes, instead of getting up myself to do it. Then he’ll say, "are you watching them, or are we watching them? Because I thought you said you’d watch them." I am watching them. Ugh! Why do you have to be so stubborn and strict and difficult? "Why do you have to be so lazy?" And it is just not working. I need him not to be here, for him not to criticize how I do things, to tell me I’m not stimulating them enough. And when his day ends, then he can take over while I get some me time. Except, what about work time? When do I get work time? And when does he get his own me time? It hasn’t been easy to figure out.



  1. Remember this is the same man you wrote and valued in "your nervous heart" post.

    FROM STEPHANIE: One does not discount the other. You can in fact love someone, value and appreciate them, and also struggle.

  2. Your poor nanny. Something so sudden like that changes your life in an instant. I really feel for her.
    The "I do more that you" struggle seems to be an issue for everyone. I'm not sure if it ever goes away. You both sound like really good parents. I think we all just feel like we do everything, at least every now and then.

  3. oh wow! thats a rough balance to reach! i hope that you two can reach an understanding soon! about what each other needs, and the beans need, and what 'you both' need as a couple!

    sorry for the rough day and the sadness! i hope you see the rainbows from your storms soon!
    God bless you both!

  4. This is a great post and its going to inspire some very "enthusiastic" comments for sure. Here is my two cents (not that you asked for it). I do not know how many hours a week it takes to do your job, but if it is a "part time" occupation (and truthfully, it does sound that way), rather than get a full time nanny, why not get a babysitter/caretaker/whatever you want to call him or her, that comes in 2 days a week for X hours and those will be your "office hours". That seems like a fair compromise to me. I admire your work and I admire your dedication to "me time", but the fact of the matter is that babies don't stay babies forever and they do require a certain level of sacrifice. In a few short years they will be in school and you will find yourself once again with largely open days, for work or anything else you choose to fill it with.

  5. I realize that this is just one side of the story and all that, but his attitude really annoys me! He doesn't have any legitimate claim to say that you are lazy, because you are in fact, doing lots of things, putting out a lot of work, and making more than enough money. He just can't really handle (at least it seems to me) that you don't work in the same way that he does. And that despite that, you're successful. And still have time to get your nails done. I really just think that men, no matter how progressive and otherwise non-sexist they may be, can't really handle women being as successful as them or more-so, and still acting like women instead of being successful by imitating men. My dad has always been liberal socially and politically, but as soon as my mom started making more money than him, it made him really uncomfortable. Also, (and I realize I may be judging beyond what I can really understand fully of the situation from your posts), it seems like he is criticising or judging your parenting skills based on other work-related tensions, and that's just not fair in my book. Best of luck resolving it all.

  6. Ok. In the best of circumstances, given all the time in the world, it's hard to establish a marital relationship. I know a thing or two about it and I am completely convinced that the genders ARE from completely different planets. Add to that the stress of having twins before your marriage even had a chance to gel–no wonder you are looking at couples counseling. and good for you.

    Phil sure seems to have issues with the value of your process and what you do. You seem well-off enough that it shouldn't be an issue to get a nanny.

    I have periodically seen similar resentment with men I've been with. It's startling to see it in your cohort.

    Good luck with counseling. Always a good idea.

  7. I really admire how open you are about your marriage. I rarely open up about my own relationship because I've had such awful fallout from doing so in the past.

    What you're dealing with right now is the combo of basically working in the same workplace as your spouse, which I think very few people can manage. I certainly wouldn't be able to. If the current situation bothers Phil, why is he not in the office more? I know that my David would FREAK being at home. Daddy Time vs. Accountant Time.

    You do need time to be Stephanie and time to be Mommy. Doing both at once is a recipe for burnout, despite what other Super Mommies might say.

  8. Yes, I am with you. My husband Ken and I went to therapy for a little while but we never found a therapist that would work on what we wanted to work on if that makes sense. We did use some of the techniques and then things seemed to become clearer all at once. We still struggle but we both know that we are in this forever so we just work on it.

  9. You have two one year olds. This alone would make seeing a couples therapist a good idea. I am married to a wonderful man. We married "late" – I was 37 and he was 45 – after two years of dating. We had two kids, my son is now almost 8 and my daughter just turned 5. My husband made a radical career change the year we married, entering the "real" world of business after an entire lifetime as an artist and stage manager. he now has his own business as an interior designer, for which he is eminently qualified in talent and getting there in terms of business world acumen. We have money struggles because he makes far less $$ than me and is in a creative field which requires him to find clients, whereas I am a civil rights attorney making reasonably good money. My point in all this is that we are both bright, educated but often exhausted by the joyful yet seriously difficult work of raising children and keeping things financially afloat. The decision we made to see a couples counselor stemmed exactly from the need to have someone help us value the other's contributions, understand each other's processes and to be able to communicate better (and my husband is more "femme" than I am about communication, so it wasn't entirely a mars/venus thing). Having kids only intensified things many-fold. It is a loving and intelligent decision to care for your marriage when you both have so many pressures on you, and it was the best decision I made (had to drag my husband there despite his open-mindedness about therapy, etc.). Everyone needs a little guidance and facilitation sometimes. Good for you.

  10. I really can't recommend a therapist here in Austin- because, we have been through two, and they really didn't help us. I would open up, and later, during a fight, he would bring up something that I had confessed. "See, you even admitted that you have an issue with my friends/family/drinking beer alone when watching a game!" After fertility issues, outlaw (inlaw) battles, and beyond- what helped (is helping) is a series called Love and Respect. (

    Basically, men and women operate two different ways. When a woman doesn't feel loved, she withholds respect. When the man doesn't feel respect, he withholds love. It's a vicious cycle, that you have to kick yourself out of. Women thrive on love, men on respect. It's a dvd set and book, that teaches you to communicate. I HIGHLY recommend it. We were close to divorce. Had contacted lawyers. Without L&R, I am sure we would be living apart, wondering where we went wrong.

    I finally had Mr. Blake in November (I felt like I was pregnant FOREVER) and our communication skills sometimes get off track, because of baby duties. I'm telling ya- Love and Respect, it works.

    You up for a Mommy and Me movie at Alamo Drafthouse? We could sit around and listen to our babes and others scream while watching some movie that our hubbies wouldn't be caught dead watching. :)

  11. Phil completely reminds me of my husband – a wonderful man who can sometimes be an a$$.

    I have stay at home mom friends who have their husbands convinced they move mountains during the day. I don't know how they do it.

    I work 3x/week (commuting to NYC) shlepping back and forth to day care and then stay home with the kids on the off days. And I don't have twins! My husband is great and helps out a lot – but the operative word is "help". The responsibility is ultimately all mine. If he doesn't want to bathe the kids or get up in the morning when the baby cries he won't. If he does it's clearly a favor to me.

    The only thing I have to say is that it gets much better as the kids grow up. My older one is in kindergarten and is able to take care of herself more each day. My son is 2 and I already am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel of this blackhole of baby.

  12. That would be difficult, I think what you're doing is imperative- it's not busy work. There has to be a balance between being a mother and being YOU, your own person, without the kids. And YOU are a writer, so you must be able to write.
    You'll figure it out, you both need YOU time, Work time and kid time. And I think only through trial and error can you figure out the best way to make that all happen.

  13. Stephanie- you might want to check out the message boards on There's a "Multiples" board where I'm sure many women are dealing with the same things you are. I'm on the NJ board a lot which moves really fast and great for support, but maybe the Austin board can help you out too. I'm sure someone there could give you a good rec for a marriage counselor.

    Sorry you're having a hard time. I have a feeling that many work-from-home moms have this issue. You aren't alone. I guarantee you're going to get a lot of sh*t for this post because it makes your marriage/husband sound less-than-perfect…but that is what keeps people reading. The honesty is so important. No one's life is easy. Some seem easier than others but if it isn't one thing that's the issue, it's something else.

    Good luck working it all out- you WILL, in time, and with the right therapist.

  14. Oh yes, I remember those days of figuring out responsibilites and doling out duties. I felt underappreciated, overworked and mad at myself for feeling like taking care of the kids, who I love so much, was a chore. I reached a low point when I felt like leaving him because while doing it all on my own would be so much harder, at least I would expect to be doing it all on my own. Things got better and we actually haven't fought over our roles in a really long time. Working full-time actually makes it easier for my situation because he can't pull the "work card." I work just as many hours and make more money so I need just as much personal time as he does.

  15. I think your the one being lazy about not Phil, cmon did you not know what you were getting yourself into when you got pregnant, it never ends with kids there's always something else coming along. You like the idea of being a mom without the hassel, it doesn't work like that. I'm not saying that mothers doesn't deserve a break or a little time to herself, of course we do if we didn't we would go insane. Motherhood is not easy!. It will never get easy and maybe that's why you're having such a difficult time.

  16. Multiples are hard. The week after I graduated high school, my dad and step mom announced they were pregnant with triplets. I watched them struggle for years. They were so tired and walked around in a daze. I helped out when I could, but I was in college out of state.

    The kids are now seven and it’s much easier. They go to school during the day. When they are home they play together and occupy themselves (for the most part). It will get easier. I know that doesn’t help now, but it will.

  17. Hmm, definitely sounds like there are some differences there and some lack of understanding or good communication or something, for sure.

    One of my friends was raised with a nanny. She felt that it was the same way she would raise children if she ever had them. I guess it's sort of like having day care while you work, except you work from home. I think it would make sense to have a nanny. But I don't know all the facts, I'm sure.

  18. From one of those babysitter/nannies…
    I watch many of my neighbor's kids. Yes, I go over there so Mom can run to the grocery store, so Mom can work out at the gym, but I also venture the two doors down so that Mom can have adult contact with someone besides her husband. There are days where I go there solely to talk. Maybe all the kids are asleep, and I'm asked to go over there, and we work together doing various things that need to be done–put away groceries, scrapbook, arts and crafts–but mainly I'm there just to talk, so that Mom has someone to vent to (besides Dad).
    Just know that you are not alone. Everyone needs help, and I can only suggest you not give up in your quest for a new nanny/babysitter, for both of your sanity.

  19. I just wrote an entire post basically saying that we write and share in bursts. When you write about Phil whether he's done something wonderful or he's done something to frustrate you; it's never the entire picture. And it really isn't our place to judge your entire marriage on one fucking blog post. You're just venting about one aspect and you have every right to do so. It's not the entire story and I'm so getting sick of people making assumptions about a person's entire life or relationship based on a few paragraphs.

  20. When my husband & I were about to marry, my mother-in-law sat my husband down one night & told him that there were basics his wife must have. Among them were a weekly hair appt. (well, that's not so anymore, but substitute nails, pedicure, whatever), a housekeeper to clean once a week, and a few other things I don't remember. We've been married a long time. Before we had children, my mother gave me the sage advice that parents need time away from their children & those same children need time away from their parents…hence summer camp, parents only vacations, etc. And although no one asked me, my advice is that children don't need constant stimulation. They need time for themselves to play with their toys, time to discover their immediate world even if that immediate world is a picture on their wall, time to "talk" to each other.

    A couples therapist definitely should help you. But make sure the therapist has children, preferably ones that are grown.

  21. Something doesn't sit right w/me when a hedgie bitches about $. That aside, you work at home; Phil works at home. You need childcare.

    For Phil's information, btw, writing articles on spec when you have 2 books under your belt isn't busy work. The mags are going to buy your pieces; you're actually saving yourself time by avoiding editorial fussing and picking over your query or concept. Also you get a reputation for never being late or blocked, and SK becomes the go-to writer to fill unexpected holes.

  22. It's good to know my husband and I are not the only ones who struggle with this. But at the end of the day, we have each other, our son, and our daughter brewing in the belly. So even though there are moments of temporary insanity (or so it seems), looking at the big picture, things really aren't so bad. But damn if I don't wish I could run off for a mani/pedi every week and spend hours doing "busy work" without a care or a budget to worry about.

  23. i think its only fair to you, your husband, and the twins to find another person to help out – even if its not a "nanny" then a "mother's helper" a few hours a day, until you can find a nanny. my husband and i have a great relationship, but oh boy do we fight about taking care of the baby.

  24. I don't have kids, but I'm not a big fan of a stranger raising people's children… but I fully believe that it's fair to have someone help with the things that don't really matter. A house keeper to take care of the dishes and laundry so you can be with your kids instead of ignoring them to get these things done. An assistant to run errands for the same reason, or whatever.
    I guess this is what they mean when they say you can't have it all. I don't think you should give up, though. You will never regret all the time spent with your children, but if your own personal happiness is dependent on writing and working, then I think it's worth the cost of a maid or a nanny on Saturday nights so you can go on a date with your husband. Maybe, like everything else, you sit down and budget it in. Show one another that it can work, so neither of you feels pressured or guilty.

  25. Thank you for writing this today.

    I'm newly-married, not with children, but we are struggling with our own balances of time/work/school/finances lately, in a similar way, with similar roles that you describe. It's nice to know you can still love someone and struggle sometimes, like you said.

  26. I just want to applaud your decision to go to counseling. We have many family friends who's marriages have been saved with counseling (Not saying your marriage needs saving) and I always think it is a wonderful thing when people seek out the help they may need via counseling- whether personally or for a relationship.

  27. Enjoy this time with the twins, Stephanie. It sounds like you are and have been. I say this as someone who was once a live-in nanny for a family with twin baby boys. I lived with them in their first year and into their second. I adored almost every moment of it; however, I can't tell you how strange it was to feel like their mother was missing out on so much…even the simple little things. One of the reasons I left was because I wanted to go back to school, but another was that it felt wrong to me that these kids looked to me as a parent more than their own mother.

    That being said I know this wasn't the situation with your nanny given that you and Phil are both home so much. I guess I'm just trying to say enjoy this time while the twins are home to- before you know it they will be off to school and you'll have more time to yourself.

  28. I have a friend who has the same issue with their spouse. He watches the kids all day, every day. He was frustrated as well because he was getting up at 5am to write. Now he pays a babysitter twice a week for 4 hours in the morning and just writes. It is his work time. Just like going to the office.

  29. If you work from home – you need help. There is no way you can get anything done. I work from home part-time and have nanny. My work just barely covers her cost, but wouldn't have it any other way. I also get some me time and that is priceless.

  30. PS: I also meant to say- Thank you for putting it out here on the blog, and many other things, so as to help normalize and de-stigmatize.
    You go girl!

  31. My husband says that my twins are going to think they're members of my generation. I bought Free to Be You and Me, both the CD and the book, before they were born — the book was out of print then and I had to track down a used copy. It's since been reprinted. I'm also indoctrinating them with 1) Carly Simon, 2) James Taylor, 3) Schoolhouse Rock, and 4) the Electric Company. It's a blast revisiting all of these old friends. (I wish they'd put Zoom on DVD). The best part is that my kids couldn't care less about Hannah Montana or High School Musical, which is really quite delightful.

  32. It has to be hard when you work at home, and are a mommy of special needs babes, and then have to be a wife. I know many working moms think these same things, but, even knowing others are going through the same thing doesn't provide you with any workable solutions. You are only being honest with your feelings at any moment, when you can write about the wonderful times and then the next day the hard to figure out bad times surface. As a divorced mother with young boys, some thirty years ago, I now wished I had taken the time like you, to sort all the problems and work at communicating like you do. I just thought I did not love him, why work on it? When, actually I did.

  33. I think all "stay at home" moms (whether they're working inside the home or not) struggle with this. I feel guilty if I'm not stimulating them at all times. I look back at our younger days, though….what did our moms do to stimulate us?! Not a lot. I was pretty much on my own, and I turned out smart, creative, caring, etc… I don't know if it's the way society has changed that every kid has to be at the top of their game or what, but why are we supposed to be teaching/playing every moment of the day?! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. It helps me to feel better knowing that others worry about their role in the home, too.

  34. I feel exactly the same way. With 2 little ones (12 months apart…almost Irish twins) and a husband and trying to find me time, him time and us time is almost impossible. And on top of all that, the house needs cleaning, blah, blah, blah…

    It's always something…

  35. I truly admire your ability to be so open with your feelings to an internet full of strangers. I wouldn't even tell my best friend some of the stuff you tell us.

  36. So sorry to hear about your nanny's father….
    condolences to her and her family.
    Do you think she'd mind if you posted a picture of her with the beans? I think we've all been curious about her because she sounds like such a gem.

  37. A husband and wife both working from home with no one to help look after their 1yo twins is a recipe for disaster, no matter how wonderful your relationship or communications skills.

  38. I am not a mom but I know a lot and I know I have heard this before.
    Does "this to shall pass" help at all?

  39. Ah, you seek the elusive "life balance"- family, professional, and me time all rolled into a nice package, tied with a pretty color-coordinated bow.

    I hate justifying how reading, writing drafts that don't get published, and maintaining mental health are part of an artistic process. Yet people are willing to accept that advertising needs to take clients out to sporting events and dinners to maintain relationships, although it may not be in direct relation to the finished product. A professional knows what they need, and just like I wouldn't tell my doctor which tests to run, no one should tell you how to get your shit done.

    I hear you, even if he can't yet, and if that is what allows you to maintain the voice that brings us back then I say fight, fight fight to keep it.

  40. I was happy to read you are thinking about going to couples counselling. Because while I have no doubt you and Phil love each other, often when I read your posts (this one included) I think to myself "this isn't going anywhere good." Often when ppl. comment on that you seem defensive, but I don't think that's their point. I think they want you both to get the help and do the work before it's too late. Glad you are going to.

  41. I guess when things like these happen, you both need to get the map for lost lovers out and relocate what you lost amongst the mountains of tedious domestic chores and looking after wonderful children. Fingers crossed you'll find each other again on a calmer note! An honest post which I enjoyed reading. Sorry to hear about your nanny.
    Wishing you all good.

  42. Yikes. I'm sorry you're going through this.

    I have a couple of thoughts – the first is that every silly face you pull for your kidlets, every song you sing, every spinach you puree, is enriching them…not in any way you can measure scientifically, but you're giving them the most amazing gifts and an incredible foundation for life.

    The second is that you have every right in the world to get your nails done, read what you need to, hire a cleaning lady, get a baby sitter. Good god. You got married and had babies – you didn't sign up for a life of drudgery. YOU make the money – you should spend what you want in order to feel good. He spends money on golf? On his stuff? Or does he spend nothing?

    My ex-husband used all of these arguments on me during our marriage – I wasn't a great mother, I didn't keep a perfect enough house, I didn't have the ironing done perfectly and where the hell are the home-cooked meals every meal? I believed it for a long, long time – and my self-esteem got worse and worse…pretty soon I felt like the most worthless piece of shit on the planet – and then I was injured in an accident…and it all went to hell.

    Pulling myself out of that quagmire of despair was the most hellaciously difficult thing I ever did. Finding the woman I was once, and could be again – excruciating. Divorcing him and breaking up the babies' 'happy home' – as painful as pulling my toenails out with pliers.
    But I did it – and we're so much better off. Mind you – I'm not advocating divorce – it sucks in many ways. But being able to get my nails done, my eyebrows waxed, and my house cleaned twice a month, without anyone having one single thing to say about it, and while retaining sole control over the Tivo – damn…makes it all worthwhile.

    I'm glad you're looking for intervention now – before you start believing that you're not fantastic and amazing. You are a great mother and an inspirational writer and a strong, courageous and admirable woman. Courage and strength from here.

  43. Well having been married 50 years our lives are totally different Steph and I am the first to admit it. Surely you two can agree to disagree at times. If he were not there you would do it at least for a while. Why not hire someone for the morning or afternoon and then one of you take over the time she is not there. My hubby's Mom took care of 10 alone as he worked away all week. So how about compromise?

  44. When my daughter was an infant, I "decided" to be home full time. I told my hubby "When I need to go back to work, just tell me. I'm going to focus on being a mom until you tell me otherwise". I had time to myself when he wasn't working although I preferred the company of my family to other people.

    I think a therapist is a good idea. You either want to make it work or you just complain about it. It sounds as though Phil is asking alot of you but a therapist would be the only one who could really make that call.

    Good luck. It isn't easy.

  45. Kudos to you for seeking out a good counselor to help you communicate better. Is Phil willing also?

  46. should have clarified – to help you BOTH communicate better, with each other. Not just you, Stephanie.

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