I don’t know how I would have survived early motherhood without our nanny Jenefer.
I started my law firm in June of 2005 pregnant, although I didn’t know it at the time. My daughter was born nine months later, in March of 2006.
Although I would not exactly call my current schedule “relaxed,” it is nonetheless mostly manageable with a mature law firm and increasingly self – sufficient school aged children. I have a lot of help from our part time driving nanny Rose, my husband, three older step-children who rotate in and out of our home and my mother.
Of the early years of launching and growing my law firm which coincided with the birth and toddler years of my daughter and son, my recollections of new beginnings and gratitude are also punctuated with memories of exhaustion and uncertainty. I was in a marriage that wasn’t working, and Jenefer was my touchstone and beacon of stability. I felt from the very beginning that my children were safe and cared for in her charge. Of all the battles and hills I needed to climb on a daily basis, I came home to happy, healthy children, a clean house and beautifully folded laundry.
I’ve always been more of a cerebral, thinking rather than concrete, hands on person. Early parenthood is nothing if it’s not immediate, messy, roll up your sleeves hard work. Whereas I was extremely lucky to have someone so devoted and often more competent than me to help with my most important task – the health, happiness and well-being of my children – of course I also had to live with the ever present guilt of having outsourced long stretches of motherhood. I was able to go to the bathroom by myself during the work week and stop for a quiet moment over coffee. But I also missed some big milestones. A mother at an infant drop in group pointedly asked Jenefer – “Where is that baby’s mother?”.
This is a picture of me holding my adorable daughter in the snow:
Looking at that picture, I also remember with some sadness that I had spent the day away from her at work. My daughter was handed to me, perfectly bundled up, by Jenefer, who then took the picture on my phone. How many of our perfectly curated social media feeds are made possible by silent, unacknowledged care givers, always outside of the frame? How does it feel for them?
Jenefer was an absolute soldier for me and the children. Today, I look into the faces of my well-adjusted, confident children and see Jenefer’s face too.
I also see and remember the sacrifices made. Jenefer, like so many others like her, came to Canada alone, leaving her partner and child behind in the Philippines to care for someone else’s child. Solitary days of hard work were punctuated by trips to send funds to help family members left behind. Although I was able to assist with bringing a number of Jenefer’s family members to Canada, I could never recreate a life, a place and a culture forever left behind. Let’s add to the individual working mother guilt, the meta-guilt of the first world continuing to exploit the third. And yet Jenefer’s child, beautiful, healthy and strong, has an unlimited future here in Canada. Motherhood, like life itself, is shades of grey and a place of simultaneously holding fears and hope, sorrows and joy.