It’s the moment every working mother dreads. Yesterday, my five-year-old daughter called another woman ‘mummy’.
I say “another woman” as though Ava just sidled up to a random pear-shaped, flat chested mother who needs her fringe cut and smells faintly of baby vomit and confused her with me. (Understandable, really.)
But it wasn’t a stranger. It was Sarah, our beautiful part-time nanny.
A young woman I have come to adore and who – frankly – makes it possible for me to write (or shop for kaftans online or sort the shitfight out that is our linen cupboard or spend one-on-one time with one of my three kids) for 12 hours every week.
I chose Sarah six months ago from the dozens of babysitters I heard from because other than being immensely qualified for the job, she had an aura of calm about her. I chose her because I thought my kids would fall in love with her.
I just didn’t realise how I’d feel when they did.
While yesterday’s ‘mummy moment’ was a slip of the tongue from Ava – I winced nonetheless. As I do when I watch my kids playfully launch themselves at her during games of ‘The Wizzy of Dizzy’ (don’t’ ask) in the playroom. Squeeze her with a hug. Laugh and giggle and hop up and down, so full of beans to tell her their latest tall tale.
It’s that paradox. I want my children to love whoever is caring for them when I’m not there or not available. And yet I also, well, don’t. I am delighted to see them having so much fun and yet? I’m left feeling guilty that it’s not me who is spinning them around in the air or doing the pirate jigsaw puzzle with them on the floor.
So for a while yesterday when Ava accidentally called Sarah ‘mummy’ – my heart felt strangled. A tiny rip appeared in my paper doily confidence as a mother.
I spent hours anguishing over it. I mean, I’ve waited my whole life to be a mum, so what the hell am I doing? Am I effectively outsourcing my role?
What if Ava fails to remember the hours (and hours and goddamn HOURS) I’ve spent playing and cooking and reading with her and instead only ever remembers Sarah playing with her?
Of course Sarah seems fun. She’s 22 and doesn’t have to juggle “Fun Mummy” with doing 18,000 loads of washing, cleaning, paying the bills and picking Polly Pocket crap off the floor.
Do not get angry at Sarah. She will leave and then the kids will suddenly expect me to know how to make her glorious (and delicious) Cornflake Chicken. Why do I feel so bloody guilty about not being able to fill every role and meet every need in my children’s lives?
This bird nest of thoughts was doing my head in. So I rang my straight-shooting friend M and she promptly told me two things:
1. Get over yourself, and
2. Be grateful.
Because as M pointed out, Sarah is just one of the dozen or more amazing women to come into my children’s lives. The women who fill the gaps I can’t always possibly fill. Sarah is a member of their village. And while our villages are all different, we all have them nonetheless.