Thursday was the Baby H’s weekly visit to the physical therapist. I dread this day every week in part because I hate watching him struggle through the discomfort of stretching and contorting and in part because I think his physical therapist is a very passive-aggressive, negative woman. (Although she is always friendly on the surface, she talks to us — one or both of Baby H’s parents always attends the sessions with us — as if we are stupid. Not only does she question whether we are doing the prescribed exercises at home, she constantly gives us unrelated pointers regarding basic child care. It’s insulting and frustrating.) Anyway, we were a few minutes early — as usual — so Henry and his father got down on the floor together to play with some of the toys in the waiting room while I sat to the side and observed. The receptionist, a nice woman who knows us well since we have been coming weekly for nearly four months, commented on how big Henry is getting and how much he has changed since he started his sessions. And then, out of nowhere, she says, “He sure is his mommy’s boy, isn’t he?”

As a nanny, I often feel like I’m walking a fine line in public. On one hand, I don’t want to lie and pretend Baby H is mine. It’s a little too Hand that Rocks the Cradle for my taste. But at the same time, when I’m walking through the grocery store and a little old woman says, “Oh your son is so cute!” it seems so much easier to just say “thank you” than to correct her. You would think that it would be fairly simple to reply with: “I’m his nanny, actually. But thank you.” But you could be wrong. Very wrong. Because for some unknown reason, that opening invites people to share with me their philosophies on childcare, feminism, formula feeding vs. breast feeding, etc. And when I’m just trying to grab a couple of organic sweet potatoes so I can whip up some baby food during nap time, I really don’t want to hear a dissertation on how deprived Baby H is because his mother chooses to work rather than stay home with him. Especially because THAT coversation, inevitably leads to the fact that Baby H doesn’t HAVE a mother.

Baby H. has two wonderful, devoted fathers. They are, quite honestly, the best parents I have worked for in nearly a decade of nannying. He also has a very large extended family who dotes on him like crazy and a nanny who utterly adores him. Trust me, the child lacks for nothing, especially love.

So when it happened this time, I froze. I was stunned initially because it made no sense — Henry was playing on the floor with his daddy while I sat quietly off to the side. Wouldn’t it have made sense to comment about how he’s such a daddy’s boy? And besides that, this woman has met both of Henry’s fathers repeatedly and she handles all of his paperwork and insurance, and therefore ought to know about his family structure.

In retrospect though, it doesn’t surprise me that the woman still did not see their family for what it was. Humans are notorious for seeing only what they want to see.

I let Baby H’s father do the talking this time — and I was grateful I didn’t have to me the one to laugh off her mistake. But ever since that awkward moment in the waiting room, I’ve been thinking about this nanny’s dilemma: how much information is too much? Should I make it my policy always to correct people who assume I’m his mother? Or are there times when it’s better just to smile and nod? And do I, as an out lesbian, have a greater social responsibility to correct mistaken assumptions in this case than I had in previous positions where my charges had a father and a mother? I hope that realizing the truth may have made that woman rethink any negative assumptions she might have had about gay individuals and same-sex parents. I have always maintained that the greatest way gays and lesbians can make strides for acceptance is to prove that we are just like our heterosexual counterparts. So it seems that when I encounter someone who assumes that Baby H. and I are part of a heterosexual family structure, I might make them rethink their hidden (or not-so-hidden) prejudices by informing them of the truth. But at the same time, sometimes I just want to grab a few vegetables without trying to change the world.

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