The Ties that Bind

I'm sure this is a common problem among some nannies who get close with their families but I'm afraid I've let things go too far in my situation. The only reason I decided to write this is because there's been a lot of talk on here lately about starting families through adoption, IVF, etc., and I'm hoping to get some advice about my situation.

I knew my whole life I was meant to be a mom. My husband and I tried to get pregnant right out of the gate but after a year of trying we knew something was wrong. After various rounds with Drs. we're now left with some decisions to make, adoption being one of them. I'm not sure why but I felt like I almost had to talk myself into it. I think it's because I wanted my own biological child so badly. I also feel like as soon as this baby is born it already has a strike against it with his or her parents not wanting it for whatever reason. We've thought long and hard about it though and decided the best thing to do when our child was old enough was to let them know they were wanted very much and that they were special because we chose them.

Since I love kids so much the most natural choice for me was being a nanny. I work for extremely busy parents of three children, the youngest being four. I see the children more than they do and it makes me incredibly sad. I've become super attached to the youngest and she's become my little shadow. After I began the job I convinced myself I'd try and make up for the lack of attention they were getting from mom and dad.  Unfortunately, this has led to more than just my being the nanny. I've done nothing to discourage the little girl from occasionally saying things like she wished I was her mommy. In the beginning, she'd complain about missing her parents however that has all but stopped, and I hate to admit it, it makes me feel good. Trust me, I know it's wrong, but I love this little girl so much and the most amazing thing is that she has helped me to understand that I can love a child like my own even though it isn't biologically mine.

I know the advice for me is probably that I need to leave but I just can't, not right now at least. There's more to it than just the money of course, but they do pay me very well and I need it. Does anyone have any other suggestions on what I should do here, please? And what would be the best way to pull away from the little girl in the meantime so that she doesn't miss me so much when it's time for me to really leave? I know this whole thing is just awful and I feel bad about it, but I honestly did have the right intentions when it started. I can hardly write this without tearing up because I know I'm going to miss her so much. She's taught me more than anyone else in my life ever has. - Anonymous


justthenanny said...

As an adoptive parent (to be, we're waiting), I can sympathize with the beginning of this post. We chose adoption, but first we had to grieve the fact that we would not have a biological child. We do not want our (adopted) child to feel like this was our second choice, but that it was our FIRST. Another suggestion, I implore you to tell your child (if you choose to adopt) from the very beginning their story.

I have been a nanny for the same family for 4 years and I personally have not dealt with what you are describing, but I too, feel very close to my charges. Perhaps when the child says she wishes you were her mommy, you could say, "Your Mommy loves you very much, and even though I am not your mommy, I love you too, and I love spending time with you." Talk to her about what she likes to do with her Mommy, or special memories they have together. I am not going to say whether or not you should leave, but if you think you cannot separate yourself then perhaps that is best. You sound like a very loving nanny, and I wish you the best.

♥ Amy Darling ♥ said...

OP I believe it is very possible to love an adopted child just as much as if he or she came from your tummy. I wish you all the best in your adoption future.

Kudos to you for being 100% honest to us about your conflicting feelings toward your little four-year old charge. While what you feel may not be right, it is what you truly feel and you cannot help your feelings.

However, you should understand that what you are experiencing is a little much. Talk to yourself and make yourself understand that it is not healthy to not discourage someone else's child from wanting you to be their mommy. While I understand you have a deep bond with this child, keep in mind children at this age say things that shouldn't be taken so literally. I am pretty sure if she had a choice between you and her mother, she would most definitely choose her mother over you no matter what she told you.

If you feel you are too attached to this child, then for the sake of everyone involved, it would be best for you to move on.
If you do not deal with your feelings now, later on they could have catastrophic results.

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workingmom said...

I second the solid and mature post from Amy Darling. Your emotions are clouding your professional distance.

This is one case where I would respectfully and compassionately recommend counseling for you. I myself dealt with infertility, so I can sympathize a lot with the intensity of your feelings, etc. Counseling can help you see your relationship with this little girl and her family in a more objective light, as well as better prepare you for your newly adoptive child (when that happens).

My post is not meant to slam you; you sound like a very nice and loving person. It is my opinion, however, that your perspective of your relationship with this little girl is a little.....distorted, and some counseling with a professional could be helpful to you.

Best wishes in your adoption pursuit.

MissMannah said...

What I am about to say is well-meaning advice and I don't want you to think I am trying to insult you in any way. I honestly think you could benefit from therapy. You have a lot going on in your life and you seem to have some misplaced emotions (for lack of a better description). You need to be able to talk all this out with an objective third party who can help you make a best plan of action. I'm not entirely certain but I think adoptive parents have to go through some sort of psych eval anyway. I do not think you need to leave this job just yet but you do need to start enforcing your role with this child. You are her nanny, not her mommy and she must understand this.

Notanannyanymore said...

I'm going to stray on this, and say, while it may seem "unhealthy" to be so attached, I think leaving right now would be detrimental to both of you.
I nannied for a family with 3 kids, and the youngest was a newborn when I started. I got extremely attached to this little girl, and love her as if she is my own ( I dont know if it really makes any difference, but I am unable to have children naturally either). I decided when she was 3, I needed to leave her so she could learn to bond with and be part of her own family (she was with me from the time she was awake until the time she went to sleep). Big mistake....neither one of us were ready for that. I moved back home (far out of state), and was devastated for an entire year. I missed her so much I could hardly function. She struggled a lot that year too. She did bond with her own family, but I doubt more than 2 to 3 days ever went by when her mom was calling me to settle her, or say goodnight, or sing to her, etc.
So, to make a long story shorter (lol) I ended up moving back to her and was there another 3 years. When she was 7, we were both better adjusted, she was in school full time, had friends, could participate in activities with the older kids, etc, and I was able to move away again with a much better outcome. I still talk to her at least weekly (she is 10 now) and love her very much.
Anyway, my point is, if you are this attached, it may not be a good thing to part ways. You will leave someday, but start preparing now. Encourage her to play with her siblings and when she says she wishes you were her mom, remind her of all the great things about her mom. School will help, and knowing you can still be "close" even after you leave the job. You must also do the same for you, find some non-kid related hobbies, friends outside of childcare fields, etc. Something you love, without her. She will always love you, and you will always love her, but eventually you will need to move on with your own life and your own little ones (no matter where those little ones come from).
Best of luck!

Lyn said...


My sweet Husband and I are very close to finally (!!!!) finishing our adoption journey. It's a beautiful and WONDERFUL thing and you will find SO much support/love you'll be overwhelmed by it! As far as we know we are able to biological children but we've never been "checked out" so who really knows.
Perhaps in your case fostering to adopt would be the ideal plan as you can get used to and fall in love with a beautiful child (much in the same way you did with your charge) in your care before finally making that leap to sign the paperwork. From the level of love you are able to invest it sounds like you would be an excellent foster mom.
I echo a PP who said that you should be very open about their birth/life story with them from very early on. There are many wonderful children's books I own that explain the situation beautifully and I can post links to them here if you would be interested. I also strongly encourage straying away from terms like "born in the wrong tummy" as where your little one comes from is a very big part of what shaped them and lead you to your future son/daughter. All parties involved deserve this level of honesty and early on.
As for your current charge. Honey, you are using this little one as a way to fill a gap in your personal life. I'm sure you know that it isn't fair to foster her calling you Mommy. You are not her Mommy, and the sooner you can emotionally accept the fact that one day you WILL be someone's Mommy, but you are this little ones Nanny, the better. I am trying to be gentle with you about this but it truly does sound like you need a clean break from this family and I highly encourage finding another job if you are unable to distance yourself emotionally (just slightly) for this child. It's perfectly fine and normal to love our charges and it is a wonderful thing to find in a Nanny. But if you are doing this particular family a disservice and are being disrespectful with your actions. If you've already gotten this attached I don't think you are going to be able to give this family the room it needs and the respect the parents need to be great parents.

Anonymous said...

Oh wow, please be careful with your charge and the "mommy" thing. Honestly I have admitted to being my charges mommy (like on the playground, etc) probably once per charge, but I always felt awful about it afterwards AND alerted the mom to the mix up. It is always in a moment of chaos where I just nod my head or say mmmhum to the person asking (when will parents learn not to talk to someone who is scaling a jungle gym after a 14 month old!!) because I am not the charges mommy, and it is never acceptable for a child to hear that :)

I've been there though, I adored the twins I nannied for, and sometimes I envisioned life as their mommy but it was one of those fleeting day dreams where you envision lots of things. Be careful with that, you are totally playing with fire.

Future nurse

Anonymous said...

OP, I'm sorry you're going through this, but I'm impressed that you recognized the problem and want to address it! I really think you do need to move on. You're too enmeshed with this family. It's not a healthy situation for the little girl, or for you. I think you should gradually pull back emotionally and guide the girl back in the right way while finding a job, not quit cold turkey. But pulling back emotionally and then staying at this position is not a long-term solution. It's important to steadily disentangle the situation and then move on to a job where you can be happy and free to live your own life.

This is crazy! said...

Some offensive assumptions about adoption have been stated here. Some families should not adopt because they do not have the ability to bond with a non-biological child, that is true. But to say that this OP won't automatically bond with her adoptive child is so rude to the OP! I think she knows better than a random internet commentator whether she can bond with an adopted child. Also, to imply that DNA is the only bond strong enough to withstand a child's special needs is equally offensive. Most, if not all, families who adopt realize that their children may have special needs, and that they may not know until later, just as with a biological child. I know a family who waited until a baby with Down Syndrome was available, because they had a special place in their hearts for people with DS. I know a family who adopted a baby knowing he would need lots of surgery and medical intervention. I know many adoptive families, and they all realized that their children may have special needs, but they love their children and were not about to let a possible special need get in between them. Adoptive mothers are mothers. Period.

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ericsmom said...

How are you feeling Caring Mom? I know it must stink to be on bedrest

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Pittsburgh nanny said...

OP...I was so very attached to the first little girl I made it hard to keep professional boundaries and I put up with a lot of nonsense because I loved that little girl..when that family no longer needed a full time nanny I moved on..I cried daily for 6 months. I went to therapy and it helped me sort things out..I work with another family now but this time around am much better at setting boundaries.even though I am just as attached and love this little girl just as much. I don't think you need to quit..just tell her that she can love lots of people all at once and in different ways. Just keep doing your best and pouring yourself into this little girl.

Lyn said...

CM, all that the caregivers/parents giving advice can do is offer their own experiences, try to see things through the eyes of the OP, and offer the very advice they would find most helpful themselves. We don't want to find ourselves making up stories or experiences to try and appear relatable do we? :)

I think you may be confusing where the adoption journey ends and the parenting journey begins by reading some of your statements. How we help to raise a child is part of the parenting journey. Teaching them where they come from and how it helps to shape who they are, is part of the parenting journey. Teaching them about bigotry and small mindedness, is part of the parenting journey. The adoption journey eventually ends, but the parenting journey, well, that goes on new each and everyday. I am very thankful that the decisions on how to raise our family lay entirely upon mine and my sweet Husbands shoulders. :)

I think we can all agree that we wish no child was ever without a place to call home and heart full of love. And I am so very thankful for the opportunities I have been and will be given to fulfill this need and this desire.

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blog fan said...

Some great, thoughtful advice here...I love this blog, even more so since it's being moderated!

I just have a suggestion to add: when the little girl says "I wish you were my mom" you can emphasize the special relationship you DO have. Say you're glad to be her nanny, and why. "Nannies and kids get to spend lots of time together and play games/do artwork/whatever" etc. Does she know about Mary Poppins? Maybe watch it with her? It would be nice if she could feel like she's special and lucky for having an amazing nanny.

Also: I know that it's pretty common for young kids to say things like "I wish you were my mom"; she may truly mean it, or she just may not have the words to express how crazy she is about you! I'd also wonder about the POV of the mom: how would she feel about the nanny being passive about the "I wish you were my mommy" stuff. You don't want this to end awkwardly/badly. Protect yourself, too!

bostonnanny said...

I come from a family where aunts and uncles are part of our daily lives and close family friends are considered family members. My mother gave my sister up for adoption and I have family friends who were in foster care most of their lives. So I have very strong opinions about adoption.
An adoptive child will always have their biological family out there and may eventually seek them out but that shouldn't be seen as a negative. Family are the people who love you unconditionally and support you no matter what. There shouldn't be a limit on who can love a child. But if your first thoughts are that the child has a strike against them from the very beginning then you should not be considering adoption right now. Yes, a biological child will share many traits and characteristics of their parents but nurture has always outweighed nature in my eyes. Your adoptive child will still be a reflection of you because of your love, guidance and commitment. He/she will always be "yours" because you raised them and loved them. I don't believe blood should determine the amount of love you can share. If we open our hearts completely, we can love more than we ever realized. You need to think long and hard why you want a child. It shouldn't be because you want another little you. You may never get to experience the joy and pain of carrying a child to term but you can experience the pleasure of providing a stable nurturing environment for a child and unconditionally loving them.

I agree with missMannah when she suggested therapy. You need an unbiased third party to help you navigate your feelings and allow you to come to terms with the loss you are facing. I always found therapy to be beneficial and it helped me through some difficult times.

As for distancing yourself from your charge, you need to first start correcting her when she says things like she wishes you were her mommy. You should talk about the future with her and bring up how one day you will be leaving but you will still visit. Bring up the concept of change and how nothing can stay the same but that its not a bad thing. Tell her about your future plans to be a mommy etc. You don't necessarily need to distance yourself, just put boundaries back in place.

MissMannah said...

Blog fan, I don't know if Mary Poppins would be the best movie for this child to watch right now. The parents were very distant and the children did not have much of a relationship with them. The children more or less looked to only Mary Poppins as their authority figure.

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talesfromthe(nanny)hood said...

OP, regardless of whether you decide to leave this family now or later, I think that you would benefit greatly from seeing a therapist. Not only do you need to resolve your feelings about your charge, but it sounds like you might need to talk through some feelings about adoption.

I would also suggest visiting, which offers all sorts of support and resources to people who are trying to add children to their lives.

I would NOT suggest taking anyone who has posted THEIR adoption feelings/experiences here as your own truth. Your experiences will be unique to you, and that's part of why I think meeting with a therapist is a good idea. That way you can determine what YOU want. :-)

My personal experience as a nanny tells me that I could love any child the world directed into my life. I love my charges tremendously, even when they are being totally rotten. Unconditional love has nothing to do with blood, IMO, and much more to do with being willing to love someone no matter what.

Best of luck to you!

ericsmom said...

Oh I am so sorry about your M/C. So sad to hear. Take care of yourself

A Different POV said...

I think DNA is highly overrated when it comes to forming bonds. I mean, my strongest bond now is with my husband, who shares no DNA with me.

IMO, the people who actually put in the time, effort, blood, sweat, and tears when it comes to raising a child ARE THE "REAL" PARENTS. THAT is the definition of A PARENT -- not some random female who spread her knees and some random male who filled in (so to speak).

Not trying to be crass, but as an adopted child who loves my adoptive PARENTS intensely, it disturbs me to see people making so much out of DNA. I have no curiosity or desire to find out who my "bio" parents are... they are irrelevant to my life. The mother and father who actually invested the time and effort to raise me are the only ones who matter to me.

I don't feel that anything was "ripped away" from me, nor do I feel any loss of heritage or history. What I DO feel is tremendous gratitude for the life I was given and the fully-committed parents who welcomed me into their lives.

I don't know if this will be considered to inflammatory to be published, but in case it makes it out there, just wanted to represent the view of one very happy, fulfilled, well-adjusted, and grateful adopted child.

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sad said...

I was this open with my fiance who did not want kids anytime soon but I did. I had been a nanny for years and started to get the attachment but kept it distant but it was painful. The kids I took care of were of the same age and adopted and as a nanny dedicated to MB I realized that telling this to people made them more protective of them and took more liberties as far as affection which made me and MB uncomfortable.
So I grew the fear the MB had and made sure I didn't become too attached to them like others. I guess as you said in the post: People feel more motherly to a child when the parents are never around (and at some points avoid them)

Back to me and fiance, I want a kid but he does not right now, he tells me to stay away from nanny jobs. All I can get is a min wage retail job. I love being a nanny and it pays 3 x as much.

So that I do not get too attached in a nanny job I want, I have started to take an intellectual approach and my interests in linguistics, teaching methods, brain functions.

Yes it is a ton of work but I cannot set myself up for emotional attachment when it is wrong for everyone.

At night I get sad my fiance and I cannot have a family yet.