Even though you likely appreciate that your children adore their nanny and are in the best of care, it’s natural to feel a little ping of jealousy when they run into his or her arms instead of yours at times. It is not unusual, though, for a mom to feel jealous of the bond a nanny has with her child or children, says Dr. Fran Walfish, California-based psychotherapist and author of The Self-Aware Parent: Resolving Conflict and Building a Better Bond with Your Child.
“If the mother works full-time, for instance, and employs the nanny to provide quality care for her children while she is away during the days, this mom understands that it is healthy for her child to be warmly attached to a loving, nurturing, responsive nanny,” says Walfish. “Without this, the child is likely to miss mommy even more. Still, it can be very painful to any mom if or when her child reaches first for the nanny and then toward mommy.”
Recognize the Cause of Jealousy
If you are feeling jealous of the nanny, it could be based in guilt, says Christina Steinorth, California-based psychotherapist and author of Cue Cards for Life: Thoughtful Tips for Better Relationships.
“No mom ever wants to leave her child and go to work and moms usually feel guilty when they do,” says Steinorth. “A mom feels that she’s the one who planned to have her child and took the necessary steps to provide a stable life for her child and then there’s another woman who – even when it’s a mom’s choice – comes in and in essence gets to ‘do all the fun things.’”
The jealousy could stem from feeling as if you are missing out on special moments while away from your child. “Being a working mom is tough – there are many emotions we go through when we need to be apart from our children,” says Steinorth. “Jealousy is a very normal emotion to have toward someone who gets to do the things you want to be doing.”
How to Cope With Jealousy
You can cope with the jealous feelings by recognizing that you indeed do feel jealous, says Walfish. “You are less likely to act your hostilities if you are aware of your feelings.”
When you identify and acknowledge your feelings, you’ll also be better able to cope with the feelings because you will be able to manage them, says Steinorth. “Many times feelings of anger, resentment or sadness cover up feelings of jealousy because sometimes we feel it is safer to feel angry, for instance, instead of jealous,” she says. “Know that it is okay to feel jealous and quite normal.”
It may also help to make a list of why you have hired a nanny. “Sometimes seeing the reasons we make a decision helps remind us why our decision is a good one,” says Steinorth. “If you see that your child has a good relationship with his or her nanny, give yourself a pat on the back for raising a child who is well socialized and doesn’t have attachment issues – that’s a good thing.”
Parents may also want to find ways to feel closer to the children to help them cope with feelings of jealousy. “Do one special thing with your child every day,” suggests Steinorth. Read a favorite bedtime story, sing a song together, or if your child is older, do an activity, a simple craft or even cook dinner together.
“Do something your nanny wouldn’t typically do with your child to help foster the special bond that you share as parent and child,” says Steinorth.
If you are struggling to find time for one-on-one moments with your child, ask your nanny to help out more with housework and chores so you can have more one-on-one time with your child when you get home from work.
Joining a support group of other working parents can also help you find strategies to cope with jealousy. “There is comfort in hearing that other moms feel the same way you do about their nanny,” says Steinorth. “When we hear others share similar feelings to us it helps because it normalizes our feelings and we stop feeling we ‘shouldn’t feel the way we do,’ which leads us to greater feelings of acceptance.”