Leaving Nannyland

August 21, 2006

Since our kids were 9 months old, Elisa and I have relied on the childcare of Llulle, our terrific nanny. I remember when she first came to the house, she dropped to child level, held her arms wide open, and began drawing the kids in with high, musical patter. It was a savvy way to begin; turning the full weight of her attention on to Jude was the best thing she could have done. It was like this every morning for two years. She was an A++ employee.

Except that she wasn’t just an employee. She was like family. As our nanny, she occupied a strange land between employee and family. Jude never knew that when I paid her twice a month, it was for services rendered. I don’t think he had the slightest inkling that she came here as a job, and not just to spend time with him. In fact, I don’t even think he understands the concept of “job.” To be honest, I got similarly blurry about her reliable presence in my home; I believed she loved Jude as much as he loved her. Her daughter Nayeli, whom she often brought, wanted to take Jude home with them to be her baby brother.

All of this comes to an abrupt end when Jude and Ari begin preschool next month. LLulle is taking her two week paid vacation right now, so the end has already begun. Because of the familial and intimate nature of our relationship, this clean break is painful and awkward. I have no idea how to finesse this, or how I might arrange seeing her in the future. Suddenly, I can’t assume that she would want to see us outside a regular job with a new family. Her time is precious, just like any mother who works long hours.

Add to this dilemma Jude’s confusion. The other day he said: “Llulle is making me sad.” I asked why, and he answered, “Because I want her to come back home to me.” I’m struggling to explain to him what is happening.

We’ll be throwing a goodbye party for her this week. She speaks very little English and I speak very little Spanish, though that hasn’t kept us from somehow managing to have long conversations about everything from changing gender roles to the new Pope. But I know the language divide will prevent me from expressing exactly how much she has meant to me as a strong and influential partner in Jude’s upbringing.

Anyone else been through this transition? I could use some advice (even if you haven’t). I’m surprisingly heartbroken about it.