Communicating Caregiver Jealousy
For those of us who take care of your children, we often can’t help but fall in love with those under our charge.
A strong bond often forms between caregivers and the children in their charge. If you’ve done a good job as a parent in finding us, this is exactly what you want to happen. If we remain unconnected and uncaring, we’re not the kind of help you really want.
The problem arises, however, when you start to feel our relationship with your child is threatening to yours. Particularly for new mothers, it can be difficult watching us deftly remedy your baby’s crying or toddler’s outburst. It’s natural to feel jealous. We understand.
Even when you intellectually know we can never take your place, seeing your child’s face light up when we arrive or hearing us talk about our fun day can be hard. Knowing “it takes a village to raise a child” is little consolation when you feel replaced. Here is some advice for how to handle these emotions.
Face Your Feelings
Child psychologist Leslie Branden-Muller, owner of Chapel Hill Psychology, agrees that seeing one’s child make a loving connection with someone other than oneself can invoke all sorts of insecurities in a parent. Parents wonder, “Am I as good as he/she is? Will my child prefer that person to me? Will my child think of me as important?”
Branden-Muller notes these feelings are particularly strong in new mothers or with parents who aren’t able to spend as much time with their children as the hired caregiver. It may be difficult to convince yourself of the primacy of your relationship with your child; however, your influence as a parent extends far beyond the hours you spend with your child. Although feelings of jealousy are normal, no one can take the special place a parent holds in his or her child’s heart and mind.
Share Your Feelings
For those of us working as caregivers, we are fortunate if you are aware of your feelings or seek out advice. Some of us have lost jobs because our closeness with our charges has elicited uncomfortable feelings from our employers. We can be unaware when this is happening and are sometimes left wondering why we were let go.
There is always the other end of the spectrum to consider, as well. Christine Lathren, a Chapel Hill mother of two, says she is more concerned about potential caregivers spending all their time texting or talking on their phone.
“I’d prefer having someone with whom my children form a loving and special connection, rather than worry my children aren’t getting enough attention, or that the television is being used as a babysitter.”
Caregivers who love their jobs want to be involved on all levels: physically, mentally and emotionally. We welcome the opportunity to be your teammate and not your competitor. We know we could never take your place, nor do we want to. We admire you for having created such a great kid. Our job is to be there for both your children and you.
Talking with us about jealous feelings can be difficult, especially if you feel embarrassed or ashamed. However, we can’t address or respond to your concerns or feelings if we aren’t provided any feedback. We appreciate specific requests regarding things we can do to work together to address your feelings.
Tips for Preventing Caregiver Jealousy
Branden-Muller offers the following suggestions to help parents who might be experiencing caregiver jealousy:
- Give yourself some latitude to feel your feelings without condemning the caregiver or finding a replacement because you can’t tolerate what you are feeling.
- Be open to a dialogue about the relationship if your caregiver approaches you about it, or consider making certain requests and setting specific guidelines.
- Consider seeking support from your spouse, a friend or a child psychologist if you continue to believe you aren’t doing as good a job of being a parent as you would like.
As a caregiver, I’ve discovered the following activities help when I suspect there is “nanny envy.”
- Caretaker and child can do an art project or activity that involves making something special for Mommy and/or Daddy.
- Caretaker and child can sing a song about how Mommy can’t wait to get home to cuddle.
- Caretaker can talk about mommy and daddy throughout the day with comments like “your Mommy/Daddy would be so proud of you right now.”
- Caretaker can make a video or take photos to send to Mommy or Daddy once or twice a day, letting the child know the video will be sent to her parents.
If there are other activities we can do as caregivers to help make it easier for you, please let us know. We are honored to be a part of your family’s system of care, and are more than willing to modify our behavior to maintain these relationships. We welcome an open, honest dialogue so we can better do the job for which we were hired: making your life easier and providing quality care for your wonderful child.
Shannon Crane is a previous nanny and current caregiver living in Chapel Hill, where she is writing her memoir, “5 Months to 95 Years: Discovering the Sacred in Caregiving.” Visit her blog at awakeninginlove.com and her website at sacredcaregiving.co