Monday, January 12, 2009
On Friday morning, I woke up to the sound of my 3 year old screaming at the top of his lungs "No Nana! I want Mommy! No Nana No Nana No Nana!!!!!"
Nana is our nanny. She has been a part of our world since D was 3 months old and now feels like a part of our family. A testament to this? D came up with the name "Nana" himself. We still call her "Auntie" and we introduced her to D as "Auntie," but he knew unconditional familial love when he saw it and donned her his "Nana."
As a new mom, almost exactly 3 years ago, I had many misgivings about letting this older Indian woman into our homes and world. First there was the requisite guilt any new mom feels about getting help to take care of her children. We've all heard the folklore and mythology of our parents doing everything by themselves and how many stories have we burned to memory about our moms or mother-in-laws doing insane things like traveling to India, solo, with multiple children, no carseats, no DVD players (uphill both ways etc etc. ha.)? So the idea that I was paying for help in my comfortable little life, with only one child and a generous maternity leave on my plate--Let's just say guilt came out of my pores.
Long story short: I got over it. What was more difficult to overcome was the presence of this caretaker--this Indian grandmother-figure--in my space and in my thoughts. Was I her boss or her surrogate daughter? Sometimes the line became blurred, as she alternated between asking me if I wanted tea prepared in the morning to giving me advice on when to introduce water to my newborn. It irked me to no end that this nanny thought she could tell me what to do. And, in retrospect, I think it irked me to see her so natural with my little baby, who, at that point, was a complete mystery to me, as familiar as Greek (meaning: not familiar at all). She also would tell me seriously misguided things, such as "In the last family I worked for, all the kids wanted me more than they wanted their own mother." Great I thought. You just articulated my worst nightmare.
She didn't mean to say hurtful things. She just wanted to convey to me how much she loved my son, a fact that became obvious to anybody as the months rolled by. She didn't mind that he took forever to fall asleep, would demand whole new meals after she presented him with something homemade that took her hours to make, would scratch her face to the point that she would bleed while they were playing. She loved and loves him like her own grandson. And, in terms of my life--she afforded me the opportunity to temper the fog of new motherhood by having time to engage in the real world. I could get out of the house without much planning, completely secure in the knowledge that my new baby was safe and as taken care of as he would be by family. The luxury she affords me and husband now is almost embarrassing. We sometimes tend to keep it a secret that--in all honestly--we go out, see movies, try new restaurants, hang out with friends, and have time for ourselves more often than we ever thought would be possible post-children. Now, pregnant with my third monster, I truly don't know what we would do without Nana.
Of course I still find reason to complain. Nana is messy. Nana is impossibly unpredictable in terms of when she arrives on Monday morning. Nana believes you don't need to flush the toilet every time you go to the bathroom (I know). But these thoughts quickly segue into recognizing: Nana is the reason we could go to Mexico. Nana held a washcloth to my second son's forehead for 4 hours straight when he had a fever and I was stuck in a meeting at work. The only photo Nana carries in her purse is one of my children.
So, Friday morning, at 6 a.m., listening to D screaming at the top of his lungs to be away from his Nana, I felt as much a need to comfort her as I did to comfort him.