Today I learned to love my nanny, instead of seeing her as an adversary for my baby’s affection. It sounds trite and stupid, I know, but there. In writing. The truth. I need a nanny to take care of Riley while I’m at school, and having been his primary care giver for his entire gestation and post-uterine life, I was reluctant to let another woman step in. It’s strange, Internet, because I’m not a jealous person, but lemme tell you: I felt like the homely chick in the back of the classroom, batting my eyelashes at the quarterback as he was flirting with the head-cheerleader. I wanted to simultaneously kill her for having the attention of my love, and love her for giving him the attention and affection he so desired and deserved.
Cecil is awesome. She’s in her 40s, with five kids of her own and a heart of gold. Not only does she take care of Riley, but she tends to the outside of our property, does laundry, cooks, and cleans. She’s a godsend.
Sure, there were a couple of bumps in the road: times when I had to hold my ground and say in broken Tagalog (because I’m not yet fluent in the language), “Look, lady, I know you’ve got a hell of a lot more experience at this mommy thing than I do, but this is my kid and I’m paying you for a service: Do. Things. My. Way.” But she’s learned to adjust, I’ve learned to see her as someone on my side, and now I feel like Riley has three grandmothers. There’s my mom (known affectionately as “Nanay Liza”), Rob’s mom (known lovingly as “Grandma Nanette”), and Cecil, who’s called “Nanay Cecil”. For the record, “nanay” is pronounced “NAN-aye”, and it means “mother” in Tagalog; in certain circles, though, (especially when the grandmother is very close to her grandchild) it’s also a colloquial term for “grandmother”.
I’ve gotta admit, even allowing my son to call this woman “Nanay” was a struggle for me. Every smile she received from him felt like a slash to my heart. Every time he laughed with her, I was filled with envy. Every time she bathed him or cuddled him or rocked him to sleep, I felt like my place was being taken away.
But I needed to study, and she had to do these things. School here is so different than it is in the States (more on this in another blog). I’m used to effortlessly getting As, but the pressure was overwhelmingly against my favor. I MUST be an amazing mom, I said to myself. I MUST be an awesome student. I MUST blog all the time and work on my writing and get back my figure. I. MUST.
I don’t know what it was: maybe the difference in culture, or the shock of realizing that I don’t cut the once-stunning figure I once did, or the pangs of guilt/sadness/anger every time I thought of Rob being thousands of miles away, but I became so emotional. So very emotional. Not in a depressed and hard-pressed kind of way, but in a pure, very real, OHMYGODTHISISHARD overwhelmed kind of way. November 9th was Rob’s 28th birthday, and I couldn’t stop myself from crying in class.
Let’s rewind because I don’t know if you caught that.
I cried. Me. The once-tough-as-nails-can’t-fuck-with-me-don’t-you-dare-even-think-of-fucking-with-me-unless-you-want-your-mother-to-be-stabbed-hardass was crying. In public. Because I couldn’t control the tears.
Yes, Internet, something very profound and elementary in me has changed. I don’t know if it’s for the better, but I do know that it makes me cry with joy every time I return home from school. I know that it makes me look at Riley and see herds of unicorns galloping majestically in rainbow-drenched fields of lush, verdant greens. I know that I’m not PMSing, nor am I pregnant again. And yet. Here I am. Emotional. Vying for attention from my three-month old. Seeing my hired help as competition.
I don’t fit that last description anymore, but the rest? I’m pretty sure I’m still there. I don’t know what “there” is, or if I like it, or if I’m even comfortable calling it out, making it real, telling people about it. I just know that it exists, and I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t put it out there for all to see.
Something clicked today, between Cecil showing me pictures of her daughter and the two of us watching the Pacquiao-Cotto fight on TV with my dad: there was a bond there. A mutual understanding. A capturing of kindred spirits. I knew that I had nothing to worry about. Cecil will take care of Riley while I’m at school. She’ll love him as if he were her own. She’ll follow my instructions, and never question my decisions. And I’m still his mom. Loving him. Showering him with affection. Giving him all the time I can muster, and even more when I can’t really keep myself awake but wanting more time with him. I’m still his mom. No matter how many times she puts him to bed, or bathes him, or changes his clothes. At the end of the day, it’s me he’ll run to. Me he’ll climb into bed with for story time. Me he’ll bake cookies with and whose neck he’ll nuzzle and who will eventually bring him to New York. Nanay Cecil is an extension of me, loving him, taking care of him, making sure he is safe and happy when I’m not around. She’s the ultimate help in child-rearing. The very amazing woman who makes my life so much easier, and my son’s life so much better.
And really, how many moms are lucky enough to say they have someone like her?