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The question

Recently, my nanny quit, but not without laying into me first. She quit suddenly, angrily, issuing a list of complaints about my behaviour while she was working for us, and although she didn’t come right out and say it, even suggesting I had been a bad mother to my children came as a shock – they’re great kids. I’m the first to admit I have lived a somewhat privileged existence and am not without my faults, but I have always done my best and it was a surprise to discover that, all along, she had been watching me closely and cataloguing everything she didn’t like about me. I had no idea about any of it! I wish she had come to me with her complaints! I might have altered my behaviour in some way. But now I can’t. Now, they’re grown and I don’t really need a nanny – but is there anything I can do about this?

The answer

First, I think maybe call her “caregiver” instead of nanny.

I’m not trying to blame or shame anyone who says “nanny.” I did, too, once upon a time, when we had a beloved member of our household who came in on a part-time basis for about 10 years to help me, so-called stay-at-home Dad (I say “so-called” because I was still burning with career ambition and furiously writing away in between the changing of diapers and the spooning of baby goo into little chubby faces – I miss those days in a way, but now love my Adonis-type teens). In the early going, she would correct me.

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Me (to someone entering our domicile): “This is [her name here], our nanny.”

Her (dry little cough): “It’s, uh, ‘caregiver’ actually.”

And it came to pass that I started to think “nanny” did indeed have an antiquated, petticoated, Mary-Poppins-type feel – kind of like “governess.”

(Believe me, I love old-fashioned terms, but eventually had to retire “nanny.”)

In a way, though, I suppose it’s moot in your case, since she quit – she’s an ex-caregiver, ex-nanny, she probably doesn’t care what you call her anymore.

I don’t really see a way forward in your relationship with her. It’s too bad she compiled a whole list about you before coming forward with it.

Me, I like to live on a complaint-to-complaint basis with people. If I have a beef, I might stew over it (not quite as delicious as it sounds: no carrots or potatoes or whatnot) for a thyme – oops, I meant “time.” (All these beef stew references have got me going.) But then, I bring the issue up.

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Not let it simmer for days or weeks or months or years.

But some people are that way. They compile dossiers of grievances on you and then unpack them all at once.

Always a surprise, when it comes from friends, neighbours or family members, but the caregiver-to-parent relationship is a particularly fraught one, because the caregiver has a chance to observe your methods up close and can press that big red Bad Mom/Bad Dad button.

In that sense, I was lucky. I was such a terrible “caregiver” as a stay-at-home dad, I don’t think our help-me-out caregiver even bothered to pass judgement on my “parenting skills.”

I was beneath all judgment. I would show up in the park, stubbled, troubled and in my army pants, and all the super-organized sanctimommies would be unpacking their carefully arranged bags of animal crackers and juice boxes and my (three) kids would be like: “Dad, I’m hungry and thirsty!”

And I’d be like, “Why don’t you go over and beg one of those moms to give you some cookies and juice?” And they would waddle over, ultraheavy not-been-changed-for-a-long-time diapers practically around their ankles, and say, “Please, madam, may I have some cookies and juice?”

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And the moms would look over and think: “Ah, I see what’s happening now. These poor unfortunate Oliver-Twist-type urchins are being looked after by a dude.”

And hand over the cookies and juice, thank God.

I exaggerate (a bit) for effect, but my point is this: We should not judge people, especially when it comes to parenting. I loved my boys and they’ve grown up to be outstanding young men.

If your nanny-oops-caregiver wants to pass judgement on you, I would say just inhale, exhale and let her go. Doesn’t sound like you need her too much more anyway.

Are you in a sticky situation? Send your dilemmas to damage@globeandmail.com. Please keep your submissions to 150 words and include a daytime contact number so we can follow up with any queries.

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