The Rush, Especially Among Moms, to Judge Marina Krim
~By Wendy Widom, Families in the Loop
Claire was my daughter’s first nanny. She came highly recommended by the most trusted lactation consultant in town, who had connected Claire with another family five years earlier. Chatting with the mom when checking Claire’s references, I learned how wonderful she had been with preemie twins, caring for them from the moment they came home from the hospital. I thought I had hit the nanny jackpot.
A month later, I walked into the living room to find my three-month-old daughter lying precariously on a pillow on the floor, awake. Claire was lying next to her on the floor, fast asleep.
Claire’s swift departure kicked off the first of our many frustrating nanny searches. One interview in particular with a woman named Karen sticks out in my mind even now, half a decade later. During the interview, Karen mentioned that she had been a nanny in Manhattan. “Where in Manhattan?” I asked eagerly, happy to have past geography in common. “By a park,” she replied uncomfortably. When I asked her which park, she said, “Name a couple and I’ll tell you which one it was.”
When I ushered her out of our home a few minutes later, she said, “When you call my references, don’t ask about Karen. They know me as Nadine.”
Our experiences once hiring a nanny often proved just as frustrating. One young woman showed up smelly and drunk, another woman lied about watching MTV all morning with our kid, one lady told me my kid didn’t like her because I was too overprotective, and then there was the gal who emailed me an hour beforehand to say she wouldn’t be coming in – ever.
Each failed attempt to find the right caregiver compounded my guilt and sense that I was failing my daughter. Why wasn’t I content to be alone with her all day? Why did I still yearn for parts of my life not directly connected to motherhood? Why wasn’t I a good enough mother to do it all on my own?
Those questions and more came rushing back this week after hearing about the Krims, the New York family who suffered the unimaginable when their nanny of two years presumably murdered two of their three young children. Almost immediately, women took to the mommy sites, denouncing Marina Krim for hiring a nanny in the first place. On platforms like The New York Times, both men and women let loose, saying things like, “Mothers who choose to work are just asking for trouble,” and asking, “Why does a stay-at-home mom even need a nanny?”
Here’s my well-thought-out response to these comments: Shut up. For one second, let’s forget about the fact that Marina Krim doesn’t work. Let’s even try to ignore the fact that she is clearly a loving and devoted mom. What really makes me sick to my stomach is how quick we are to castigate women who need assistance with caring for our kids.
I’ve experienced this mom bashing way too frequently. In one telling instance, it happened when hubby and I were out to dinner with a couple in their 70s. Out of nowhere, I found myself fending off a fusillade of questions that seemed more like accusations. “Why aren’t you having more kids? Why are you working? What do you mean you find it hard?” My responses were the same I always give: I don’t feel like I can handle any more kids and I can’t imagine not working in some capacity. As his wife looked on, the man told me condescendingly, “She did it. She was alone with two boys. She didn’t have family around. She did it all on her own.”
Well good for her, I said in response. She’s obviously a better mother than I am.
Though my reply put an end to the barrage of unpleasant inquiries that evening, it didn’t put an end to the judgment that moms, and not dads, face every day. Sadly, we seem to have forgotten that it does indeed take a village to raise a child. Yet for too many of us, there is no village. There isn’t even a hut. No grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, cousins, best buds, and mothers’ helpers around on a consistent basis. We’re often lonely and isolated. We often have partners who are gone for long stretches of time, in my case overnight at the hospital for more than 60 nights in three months. We often yearn for adult interactions that don’t involve baby.
And contrary to what movies like The Nanny Diaries depict, most of us don’t spend our time getting our nails done when the nanny is around, though I happen to think that you should be able to do whatever the heck you want when you finally have a few moments to yourself. We go to work, and when we get that paycheck, we give most of it to our family’s caregiver. Years ago my mom, then a minimum-wage earning sales associate, said she stayed home with us because childcare would have eaten up her whole paycheck. I chuckled at the time, knowing that with a college education it would be different for me. But it’s not. Most of the moms I know pay their nannies a huge chunk of their take home earnings, and then those nannies in turn are barely able to pay their bills. And the vicious cycle continues.
I can’t say who’s to blame for all of this. Is it a government that doesn’t even give its own employees paid maternity leave? Is it the businesses reluctant to hire women of childbearing age or rehire them once the kids are off to kindergarten? Is it women who criticize rather than support their fellow moms? Or are we all to blame for creating a culture that tells women we’re bad mothers if we can’t do it all on our own, need or want to work, or can’t conform to an outdated definition of motherhood? Perhaps it’s all of these reasons and some I’m only beginning to understand.
Regardless of the answers, my heart goes out to the Krims. I can’t imagine the depth of their pain right now. Losing a child is staggeringly horrendous. For it to happen at the hands of someone they trusted to care for their children is probably more excruciatingly painful than anyone can possibly imagine. We make decisions for our children each and every day. We hope that those decisions will keep them healthy, happy, and safe. And at rare times like this, when a woman apparently crumbles under the weight of her own demons, we realize how powerless we may be to protect them.