It’s hard to even write a post like this. It’s hard to think that anyone could do such a despicable thing, to kill children, to even hurt them. And yet, this has to be said -– it has to be talked about, especially in the nanny community. Because the woman charged with this crime is one of our own.
Last week, an unbelievable tragedy struck a New York City family. Their nanny, Yoselyn Ortega, failed to meet her boss at a swimming lesson for the youngest child in the family. She was supposed to bring the family’s other two children to the mother, and they would all come home together. Instead, she failed to show up at the pool, and the mother came home with the youngest child to see what was going on. She found Ortega in the bathroom stabbing herself with a knife. The two other children were dead in the bathtub, having been apparently stabbed to death.
What do you even say to something like this? These children were entrusted to her care -– and they loved her and had stayed at her house in the Dominican Republic. She stated herself that she loved those kids.
People said that Ortega was “not herself” recently. We don’t know what Ortega was going through, but as a nanny myself, I can imagine that she felt overwhelmed and had nowhere else to turn. This happens a lot to people who care for children –- talking about the challenges of looking after children full-time, whether you’re a mother or father or whether you’re a nanny, is often looked down upon and judged. People who choose to look after children are supposed to be perfect. What people forget is that nannies have feelings and frustrations, and they need to be able to talk about them.
I think that saying that all Ortega needed was a listening ear is not doing this tragedy the justice it deserves. This is an extreme case, and is full of mysteries and atrocities that go far beyond simply being frustrated or depressed. But it does open up the reminder that nannies need to seek support when they’re feeling overwhelmed, frustrated or depressed, whether it’s venting with a friend or getting professional help, or even leaving their job. The number one priority is to protect the children you have been entrusted to care for.
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Here are some tips for nannies that may be feeling overwhelmed and frustrated:
1. Talk to your boss: If you are feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, speak to your boss about taking some days off or lightening your workload for awhile. Your boss wants a nanny who is sharp, patient, kind and not about to snap. This is the first step to making sure that a nanny gets the respite she needs to remain this way with the precious children she looks after.
2. Find an online nanny support group: I am part of a wonderful one that allows us to vent frustrations and concerns and find support, feedback and help from other nannies who may have been through what we are going through. It’s sometimes a lifesaver when the day has been a hard one and you have no idea what else to do. Remember that when you post, you need to preserve the privacy of the family and children you work for. No personal or identifying details.
3. Find professional help: This isn’t exactly easy for some people, but if you are feeling depressed or anxious, seeking medical help can be the next step. Getting medication or therapy can help you deal with the feelings you are having before they turn into an unsafe situation for yourself and those around you.
4. Consider if nannying is the right job for you right now: Children are extremely intensive people who need a lot of care and a lot of patience. They can be frustrating and hard to deal with. If you find yourself losing your temper or feeling angry with children you’re with on a regular basis, especially if they’re babies, you might need to think about whether or not this is the right job for you at this point in time. It’s not so much about loving children as it is about being able to handle them. If you cannot handle your charges without a lot of angry feelings, you need to find another job.
5. Focus on the good things: A lot of people will offhandedly say that they’re really glad they never sent their kids to a nanny or a daycare since all nannies are abusive, and that can be hard to hear, especially if you’re already frustrated with your job. No one likes to feel like they’re a ticking time bomb, or that they’re bound to do something bad to a child. So, focus on the good things about your job. Sometimes counting your blessings can help you put your frustration into perspective.
Yoselyn Ortega may not have benefited from any of these tips. But other nannies can. The main thing to remember is that to continue to deliver the high quality of care that nannies are known for, you need to take care of yourself, too. Very few nannies will ever turn out like Ortega – and that’s due to the fact that there is support out there for us. Access support when you can . . . and stay safe, for yourself, and especially for the children you look after.
They’re worth it – and so are you.
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