The Other Mommy

Private Childcare

WHAT'S LESS THAN A MOTHER but more than hired help? It's the "other mommy," the caretaker often hired by professional women to look after the kids when they go back to high-powered jobs. But her entry into the life of the family can be so frought with psychological competitiveness that it may not work out at all.

Sandra Haber, Ph.D., should know. Faced with such an intimate arragement herself, she did what any self-respecting psychologist would do: She conducted a study.

After surveying 14 mothers and 18 babysitters, she found that although private childcare workers are the solution of choice for professional moms, most mothers have no idea what to expect of a worker. They are even less prepared for what happens when "the other mommy" takes over.

So strongly do these mothers need to feel like the real mommy, that many choose to stay home. "The mothers' emotional connection to their children diluted their earlier career aspirations," Haber told the American Psychological Association.

As for whether the caretaker is an employee or a cherished family member, the answer is--both. And that can be stressful for both.

Photo: Caretaker with a child ((c) James Levin/FPG)

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