I have lived in France for four years and gave birth to my daughter, the Bean, on a snowy day in the French alps. While my wonderful in-laws came and visited us in the hospital during our eight day stay, they were soon back in Reims five hours away. I was happy to be home alone with my daughter at last, but I was soon burned out from all of the breastfeeding and constant care. I didn’t have any family or friends to depend on while my husband worked. It was me and me alone, cloistered in our apartment all winter and tired. The fatigue was certainly a symptom of new parenthood, but it was also a symptom of postpartum depression.
When I was diagnosed with postpartum depression, I knew I couldn’t raise my daughter alone no matter how much I wanted to. I needed help: help from medical professionals, my husband, and a good nanny.
My family doctor and friend, Cedric, suggested that I hire the nanny of his daughter, Laurence, who lives two floors below me, “You can give your daughter to her with your eyes closed. She’s the best nanny in all of Annecy. Believe me, I’ve met with many!”
I have to admit that I was reticent to hire a nanny. I felt like a privileged, lazy mom who couldn’t be bothered raising her child alone. But the fact remained that we have no friends or family in the area to help us and to give us a break. We had no other options.
How could we afford it, anyway? It turns out that France offers support to families to hire a nanny so families can work and moms can get a break. With the financial support, we only have to pay 100 euros out of pocket each month for 24 hours of nanny services each week. I realized that getting help was feasible and affordable. I had no other reasonable choice but to accept the help.
Laurence took my five month old daughter with open arms. She cares for her, takes her and her other children out on walks and outings and to the park each day, she makes meals from scratch and has an impeccably clean and safe home. She’s flexible and fun to be around.
There were days when my depression got the best of me. I can remember days when I showed up at her front door with my baby in arms, crying and feeling sad. She gave me a hug and promised me that I’d get better. She assured me that my baby was in good hands and just two floors away. She told me to get some rest and do something nice for myself and with friends. Her encouragement was all that I had at some points and it helped get me through my depression.
As the Bean grows older and is reaching her first birthday, she’s starting to test limits, reaching growth spurts, and her personality is changing. When I don’t have an answer or need advice, she’s there to give us pointers and tips for raising our daughter and caring for her. She tells us what kind of food to give her, why she’s throwing tantrums, she notices when she’s in the beginning stages of an illness, she helps discipline her and sets boundaries so that we feel reinforced as parents. She is our parenting mentor and support system all in one.
We eventually became good friends with Laurence, or NouNou as we affectionately call her, because of her exceptional care and love for our daughter. We know about each other’s personal lives and interests. We send each other post cards when we go on vacation. Sometimes, I bring her flowers just because and I invite her over to give her a manicure. She welcomes us into her kitchen for coffee and a chat. Having that close connection makes handing my daughter over each day a positive experience and seeing my baby happily hugging her nanny gives me joy.
Truth be told, I realized that I’m not one of those moms who can stay home all day with my child day in and day out. This realization reminded me of my girlfriend, an executive for a multinational company, told me while I was pregnant, “I couldn’t stay home with my three boys all day. I’d be bored to death. I need to work and have projects of my own!” I didn’t understand her admission until I had my own baby.
Knowing that I can work and accomplish my projects while someone I trust gives 100 percent attention to my daughter and her needs is reassuring. It forces me to get all of my work done within the time she’s away so that I can enjoy her 100 percent during the time that
I have her. I get to jump around, laugh, and play with my baby and profit from every precious moment with her. I feel that I can be me and be a mother. To be honest, if I didn’t have a nanny and if I was forced to care for my daughter all of the time, I would be so stressed and distracted by the thought that I was neglecting my other responsibilities and couldn’t give my daughter my full attention. With a nanny, I feel that I can be a happy, present mom and an accomplished woman, too.
Having a nanny has been good for my marriage, as well. Mr J takes care of the baby in the mornings and before bed so he gets his quality time with her. I take her one full day a week and afternoons and we share her on the weekends taking turns so each of us has space to nap or do errands. We’ve found a system that works for us and we feel that each parent gets one-on-one time and cares for the baby equally. There is no squabbling as to who does what and who gets more free time than the other. Everyone feels like a winner.
Some people have friends to help care for their children. Some people have relatives like a mom or sibling. Some people don’t have anyone at all to help them. As for me, I’ve hired a nanny and it’s made all of the difference in my health, well-being, marriage, and relationship with my child.