In a recent issue of Vogue magazine, Sarah Jessica Parker was quoted as saying she does not have a live-in nanny. What followed in many people’s minds and blogs was a deluge of “Wow! That’s sooo amazing! I really admire her, she is sooo awesome!” We see this quite a bit in our celebrity-infused consciousness and culture: amazement and what looks like tremendous gushing admiration for celebrities who do such things as “raise their own children,” as Deborah Kolben recently snarled–er, noted: What is so praiseworthy, about celebrities raising their own children!?
Well, as a celebrity who a) raises my own children with no live-in nanny, part-time nanny, babysitter or housekeeper; b) talks about raising my own children without any of these things, and c) has sometimes received praise for not having any of these things, I thought I would respond on my behalf.
I don’t think that the reaction of astonishment and praise for celebrities doing things like not having a live-in nanny is simply because they are celebrities. I think it’s because they are wealthy. A lot of people think that if they had the money for a live-in nanny, they would hire one. You can take this train of thought as far as you want to: maybe if you had the money, you would hire a night nurse when you have a newborn. Maybe you would hire a live-in chef. Maybe you would also like to have a personal trainer on hand and a personal assistant to do all of your shopping, errands, dog-walking and the like. Maybe you would never work again if you didn’t “have to.”
Many celebrities can afford to do all of these things, and, interestingly, not all of them do. Why don’t they? In theory, I could afford a live-in nanny I suppose. Maybe not a very fancy one, but for the sake of argument, let’s say I could afford one. I don’t. Why not?
Well, I want to raise my kids myself. I don’t want help from someone else or input from anyone other than my husband, who is home with our boys when I am working (I was the primary 24/7 caregiver for the first year of both of our boys’ lives). I like nursing all night, waking up at 6 am to feed my sons and try and keep them content. I like the challenges because I like the results. I like knowing exactly what they are interested in, what foods they like and don’t like, and I love being there if they fall, get discouraged or punch each other. I love holding them when they cry and seeing their joy when they build something awesome with LEGO. I love being the one to hear my almost-talking Fred utter phrases he has never said before. I don’t want to hear about any of this from anyone else, and there is nothing I was put on this earth to do more than to be the mama of these souls. I am devoting my life right now to being the best mom I can be to them in all of my imperfection and struggle and that is a decision I make independent of how much money I do or don’t make.
I don’t think I am better than anyone for making the choice not to have a nanny, celebrity or not. My husband and I made the choice that was right for us, and everyone gets to make the choice that’s right for them. Full-time parenting sans nanny should not be a luxury or anything special or praiseworthy to partake in. Northern European countries such as Sweden and Denmark acknowledge that full-time parenting is the best thing for babies, families, and society, and it is facilitated by the government offering paid maternity and paternity leaves extending into a child’s toddler years. Our country could learn a thing or two from these countries.
But until we do, in this culture, we all make decisions based on what lifestyle we want. If you want to have a lot of expensive clothes and expensive cars and a house with a hefty mortgage and you also want to travel a lot without your children, I suppose you will make life choices that allow that to happen and that’s fine for you even if it’s not fine for me. My desire to be the primary caregiver to my children without paying someone else to do the things I can’t or don’t want to do is a choice I would never back down on, even if I won the lottery tomorrow. If I had to move out of Los Angeles, live in a studio apartment with them in the cheapest part of this country, sell my car, and stop eating out or shopping at specialty markets to support being their mama this way, I would do it in a heartbeat.
And there’s not many times in my life I will ever get the chance to say this, but here goes:
This is how SJP and I roll. So do millions of celebrity, non-celebrity, rich and not rich parents all over this world. So if SJP and I are going to get praise, let’s all share it.
To all of you who stay at home: You are sooo amazing and you are really awesome.
There. Doesn’t that make you feel like a celebrity?