Other People’s Children

Following C.’s suggestion I have started listening to Totally Mommy, a podcast about moms, which is kind of weird because I am not a mom. I am, however, a nanny. For three more days. I feel pretty overwhelmed about my last week of nannying because unlike being a mom, nannies are not forever. I am constantly reminded by this when I ask little G. where I rank in his favorite nanny list. I am a firm number two under Crystal because she was prettier and wore more dresses.

But I have become pretty obsessed with child-rearing for someone who does not have my own children. I listen to not one, but two parenting podcasts. Mom and Dad are Fighting is a fantastic podcast about the culture of parenting, and I can’t get enough of it. At dinner parties I am genuinely interested in hearing about how you decided what sleep training program to use, and I actually like talking about the intra-child dramas of the neighborhood kids when I am hanging out with parents on the playground. Boyhood, the best film of the summer, slayed me because . . . kids . . . grow . . . up. When I think about running into little G. in two years and how weird he will look I actually start crying.

The question everyone asks me when I tell them about being a nanny is “Does it make you want to get pregnant?” Is that why I am consuming all this baby shit? To prepare for my own childbearing?

No.

Taking care of G. was a unique opportunity to spend a lot of time with kids, which I have never really done. But the experience did not give me much confidence about my own mothering abilities. Instead, it made see how kids’ relationships with non-parent adults form crucial networks and bonds that make the world less scary, more fulfilling, and fundamentally nice. There is something really nice about a child knowing that they can trust and rely on non-parent people. G.’s ability to trust me and let me soothe him means that there is just a broader array of people in the world from which he can gain support. If he ever gets locked out of his house, I hope he comes over and waits at my house. If he is fifteen, stoned, and scared, I hope he feels like he can call me. These are functions of a trusted adult with whom you feel intimate, not the fun family friend who plays with you at dinner parties.

In fact, I am pretty negligent when it comes to really entertaining kids. It turns out I have no interest in playing make believe or “helping” a child draw in a coloring book. But I knew adults who were fun when I was a kid, and that had zero to do with my security in calling them when I needed help.

Being G.’s nanny also made me more interested in parents, not child-making per se, but in the 80% of parents’ lives that they mostly only talk about with other parents. There is indeed something pernicious about the level of cultish obsession that goes on within parenting culture. I can only listen to so many Totally Mommy episodes for this reason. And on minute 30 of “what do you think of that kid’s development level?” I kind of want to kill myself. But being a nanny was a secret portal into a special status where parents could trust that I was familiar with their parenting woes and that I was pretty immune to standard kid lameness (tantrums). Thus it was a secret portal to knowing more about the parents as full people. Not being a parent seemed to give them a special outlet because they couldn’t ask about my kid’s pre-K experience and thus the conversations could move back and forth between kid stuff and adult stuff. Parent culture, I hypothesize, would be less insular if parents let more non-parent people into their child-rearing world.

So, goodbye G. Thanks for trusting me.

I hope you will watch tv and eat grilled cheese sandwiches at my house if your parents ever come home late.

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Tulum

Tulum

When you live far away from your bosom friends, it is crucial to plan annual trips that are a) not where either friend lives b) do not require too many logistics c) create opportunities for side by side time. Tulum is an excellent option because it is cheap to fly to Cancun (a mere 1.5 hour away) from anywhere in the US, there are less awful people there than many beach locations, and once you are there, the cost of the vacation is totally scalable. Your super poor friend can stay in a hotel room (sans AC, so heads up) for less than $100 a night. Or sleep together in a room so that you can wake up your friend at 7:00 am for yoga and pay only $50 per person. I also like the chance to gently stroke my friend’s hair while she sleeps.

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Here are my (updated) top spots for Tulum:

Hotels-
1) Rosa del Viento–relatively unknown and filled with Italians rather than the hipper Casa Violeta. Splurge on an ocean-front room. Their beach is the most far away from town so it is quiet, but that means you have to go further for other restaurants.

2) Ahau–super beautiful “balinese style rooms.” I have only seen Eat Pray Love, so I can’t vouch for the Balinese aspect, but the idea of having a totally open wall of the room facing the ocean is great. Downside: it is more like $200 a night.

3)Casa de las Olas –They have AC and in room refrigerators. I would stay at this place solely for the option of storing my own water in the fridges, but according to my mother the owner is also super nice and the breakfasts are great.

To Do:

1) The Mayan Ruins–I like that these ruins are an easy bike/car ride (5 min. away in a car) away, so I can be back on the beach by lunch and feel like I “did something” before I fall asleep on my Vogue magazine.
2) Yoga Shala for yoga. The instructors are absurdly good looking and they offer the most classes during the week of any yoga spot in Tulum.
3) Hartwood. It is insanely delicious and you are required, I mean required, to try the grilled octopus. It is expensive, but hey you just saved a ton of money on your hotel.

 

Renting a car is super easy, and you should do it if you have any other aspirations other than sitting on the beach. If not, just book a shuttle with http://www.usa-transfers.com.

For more suggestions, Fathom has the best guide.

-D

Did I read all of Middlemarch in Tulum? No, did I get far enough into it to actually gain some momentum? Yes.

Did I read all of Middlemarch in Tulum? No. Did I get far enough into it to actually gain some momentum? Yes.

Friend Maintenance

I often feel like the energy I put into my friends is far more important than the energy I put into my husband. After all, we live together, so it’s not like we are going to “grow apart” (don’t worry, I see the hubris in this sentence).

Well-cultivated friendships also help my marriage. They insure that I don’t pretend that one person can fulfill all my emotional needs and absorb all my crazy.

The problem with friends, however, is that they don’t live with me. So it takes special energy after the college years to make sure that your friendships are as blissfully banal as your marriage. Here are the strategies that my friends and I have attempted to achieve optimal friendship habits:

1. Stop moving away (I have already failed this one many times over)

2. Email/call your friends with the same passion you would a long distance lover.

3. Start a blog that is only read by your friends.

4. Organize repeating, themed, partners-included events that everyone can count on. We had a Twin Peaks club that met once a week and watched one episode each time. We ate dinner before hand (always a potluck so that nobody was over worked). Camping is also ideal (but a little too hard).

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5. Schedule frequent, partners not included drinks, walks, or lunches. There is no way around the “work” of this. We are adults, it takes effort, so put it on your to do list.

 

 

Dana is a nanny and graduate student in Brooklyn.

Side by Side

It has been pointed out that men often hang out with each other side by side while women feel the need to commune through eye contact and talking about important life matters. While I am dubious about the gendered nature of this dichotomy, it is totally true that side by side hanging out is by far the less stressful and ultimately more sustainable form of friend-time. Grown up ladies need to do more of it. Especially because sitting next to each other while you are writing, reading or watching tv, only allows the immanent concerns of life to bubble up more organically.

Dana is a graduate student and nanny in New York City

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