When my partner and I brought our first set of twins home from the hospital (yes, we have two sets of twins), I remember thinking to myself, how do other parents handle triplets? Quads? Quints? And Lord, how did the Octomom do it? My husband and I would briefly discuss the topic in our most exhausted states, chuckle in an “I’m glad it’s not us” type of manner, and then state the obvious solution for ourselves: we’d have to hire a night nanny.
My husband went back to work almost instantly after our twins’ birth, leaving me with all of the twin duties for those hours he was away. If I’m being truthful, those middle of the night hours were hell for me, and I quickly spiraled further into postpartum depression. After just six weeks, I went back to work too, and my need for help didn’t dissipate like I hoped. Instead, these urges to find some kind of outside help increased.
Not only did I sob that morning before my shift began because it was my first time leaving my new babies, but I cried for myself too. All I wanted to do was crawl back into bed and go to sleep while my twins were in safe hands. I was so exhausted that my bones ached. I remember calling my mom and asking how she did it, how anybody did it for that matter. How was I supposed to make it as a working mother? How do moms and dads stay up all night with their baby (or, in my case, babies), only to walk into work that next morning as if they didn’t have one?
According to data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, American parents are overworked, and this exhaustive haze hasn’t always been the norm. Today, the average productivity per American worker has increased 400% since 1950, but we’re working more, not less.
Of course, the ’50s was an era where it was typical for just the father to be working, and now, 60.3% of mothers and fathers are both bringing home the bacon, but that only furthers this point even more. People are killing themselves for their jobs, and for more than half of the families in America, work burnout is affecting both parents in the household. The high demands of most workplaces are not designed to promote the wellbeing of their employees in general, let alone new mothers and fathers. As a result, work demands are causing parents to seek help, specifically during those nights that aren’t so silent.
In a recent article with The Atlantic, Josephine Chrouch, owner of the New York-based night-nurse agency Lullaby Services, says when she first started her business, parents were typically only hiring a nanny for a few nights or weeks at a time. Now, nannies are being booked for six months out of a year.
As Chrouch explains, night nannies are not a fad of this new age, but a profession that’s been around to help families for some time, but with more parents working longer hours, the need has increased.
Because some of the most educated people have jobs that call them to bigger cities, this also means a higher cost of living and moving away from the help they would have received from friends and family. With some parents having occupations that took years of training to establish, many don’t want to give up the job they love for the family they love, and in all honesty, they shouldn’t have to choose.
Unfortunately, little space is made for new parents to be new parents while they are on the job, forcing them to run back to a job that doesn’t wait for them. Or, like more than one-third of mothers, leave that job entirely.
Without employers (or our country) offering adequate family leave, it is the parents left to deal with the wreckage, suffer, and come up with a solution to their hardships in the way devoted mothers and fathers do.
Night nannies are an option to help parents get the rest needed for their job and ensure their infant is receiving the most attentive care. But just because the use of these in-home care providers are becoming increasingly more common doesn’t mean their services are affordable. (Nor should they be, childcare providers deserve a fair wage and these jobs are (as we know) not for the faint of heart.) In fact, just one 11-hour night with a night nanny has an average cost around $200-$250. So it’s not a feasible solution for the vast majority of working parents.
Employers expect mothers and fathers to work like they don’t have kids, and the world expects them to be the pinnacle of perfect parenting as if they don’t have to work for their money. These double standards are unattainable without the added help from an extra set of hands (it takes a village, remember?), but most of us are living paycheck to paycheck and help throughout those dark hours by means of a nighttime nanny is a pipe dream. Hell, 70% of Americans are paying more than twice the suggested rate for daycare already.
Somehow, the pervasive (and flawed) thought has been created that if an employee chooses to have a baby in the midst of their career, well, good luck to them. When really, this mindset only hurts the economy in the long run. We have to change the system in a way that cares for the new parents who want to continue working.
We live in a time where each family unit is their own island. For many reasons, the idea of a village has disappeared for most of us. But for parents who are exhausted and are expected to, or choose to, continue working, night nannies can be a literal answered prayer.