My brother and I grew up without a nanny or a regular babysitter, nor a consistent father figure for that matter. It was mostly my mom, my younger brother and me. My mom was what they call “a free spirit,” so that meant most of the time my brother and I went wherever she floated. It was just the way things were, as far as I can remember. My mom was in a Japanese drumming band. We would sit and watch and do our homework at her band’s practice. She did theater, spinning, late night parties and Zen Buddhist meditation at various Zen centers, with my brother and me usually nested nearby in piles of pillows, blankets and books. I know it was challenging for her, sharing her precious creative time with her kids in tow, but she accepted it, did her best, and that was the way I grew up, not knowing that it actually takes a village to raise children.
So naturally when I learned that I was pregnant, my husband and I decided to not have a nanny or regular babysitter. My husband and I were and still are both blessed to work out of our home, so we thought we would “wing it” together. I would be with the baby most of the time and he would make up the difference. Those first few weeks were easy, I had a post-partum doula, my midwife, my mom and other friends doting over my household. But since I did not have an official baby nurse or a nanny, it seemed to me at the time that we were “doing it,” that is, raising our child on our own. After about six weeks everybody kind of slipped away, my midwife and doula had long departed, and then my mother returned to Germany right around the time my daughter was struck with a severe six-week bout of colic. And it was then, all of a sudden, that doing it solo as a couple without support seemed like a daft idea. I felt alone, hopeless, exhausted and overwhelmed. And though I cannot speak for my husband, with two deadlines for TV scripts and sleepless nights, I am sure he might have appreciated a little outside intervention. Nevertheless, we chose not to bring anyone else in to assist us in raising our child.
About four months later we decided to hire a babysitter who would come twice a week for three to four hours at a time. All of a sudden things seemed so much brighter again. I thought to myself, Hey, just because my mom had to do it on her own without a husband or sitter does not mean we have to. Every summer when I go to Italy I watch how literally not only the family chips in with childcare but also the whole village steps up to the plate in raising a child. It’s actually quite beautiful to see. And quite frankly it is the way it should be. We have never committed to hiring a full-time nanny, but we do have a wonderful babysitter, occasional family member, and a dear friend named Paul, whom my family has fondly nicknamed “the manny.” Paul is an old friend’s ex-husband whom I got to know during the course of their marriage. I was not anticipating continuing our friendship after their marriage ended but one day as he was staying at our neighbor’s home he came up for a cup of coffee. My daughter, who was four months old at the time, fell in love with him instantaneously. It was as if he were her long-lost brother from another lifetime.
We were due to travel abroad at the time and somehow (I won’t go into the boring details) Paul wound up going on the month-long trip with us as our child’s caretaker. It was, yes, unconventional to say the least but I kept reminding myself of this idea of “it takes a village,” and for some reason it just felt right to have Paul there with us. And although he lives in San Francisco, here we are three years later and he still travels with us, tending to India’s needs.
Paul is incredibly loving and respectful of India and they have developed a trusting and wonderful friendship. I decided they have their own karma to work out. He has not been the obvious choice, a single 40-year-old Irish Bikram yoga practitioner and sometime producer but he has become a tribesman, or village man, and as long as he wants to help and India wants to spend time with him, he’ll be flying the friendly skies with us. At home, here in LA, we now have a lovely Australian woman who works with us; she also came into our lives in a very divine way. I wonder what my child is stirring up, inviting a global village into our lives to help raise her in a loving, fun, supportive and communal way.