Confessions of a Governess is a Mommyish series from the perspective of someone who gets paid to watch other people’s children. Moms, take a deep breath.
All mothers, I’ve found, have a very different protocol when conversing with their sitters. For some, it’s all business: pick up times, directions for dinner, phone number son the fridge, and bed times. For others, it’s considerably more laid back with conversations about yoga classes and what you did over the weekend. But a lot of mothers I find, regardless of their demeanor, are hesitant to truly befriend their sitter — mostly because of age differences.
I’ve worked for families for years and while the temperature is always warm, I wouldn’t necessarily call it inviting. I always miss the children when I stop working for the family, but sometimes, I miss the mother too. Perhaps it’s the lingering attitude of being an “employee,” but mothers like to keep the sitter at arm’s length, preferably with a laundry list of to-do’s. But being invited into the intimate dynamics of a family leaves a lot room for sentimentality, for both mother and baby.
I’m not suggesting that we become BFF or even get mani/pedis together. But consider for a moment that I pick your child up from school and help with the homework. I bathe them, feed them, and comfort them when you’re late coming home from work. My work makes your work possible, and yet the women who I work for always seem fearful or disinterested in really knowing me.
I was fairly young when I started watching children, and so the wariness surrounding age differences makes sense. I understand why a thirty-something might not want to shoot the breeze with a 15-year-old. But even now in my twenties, I sense that the division between mother and sitter haven’t changed much since I was teenager. And yet, I’m getting closer in age to the women I work for all the time. I’m not partnered yet and I don’t have children, so obviously our lives are different. But not too long ago, I gather that you were a young, ambitious woman quite like me. And in many ways, I may aspire to me just like you: successful and happy with a family that I’m proud of.
The distance between us is often exaggerated in the press and the media, as young, childless women are often presented as being a completely different species than their slightly older counterparts. But in the few moments I have gotten with mothers who have genuinely befriended me, I’ve seen that we have more in common than society would like us to believe. Being a mother and a spouse are both cultural and personal milestones, but just because I haven’t hit mine doesn’t mean that I’m not interested in how you went about getting towards your own.