The Nanny Nightmare

Whether working or stay-at-home a parent, the truth is, we all need help with our children from time to time. Ideally, it would be the grandparents. Often times, though, the person we’ll call will be a paid care giver: nanny or babysitter. I actually never complained about the latter option. It gives me freedom to choose a person profile and the hours. But I never liked the name babysitter.  It suggests passiveness. Someone who just sits. I like to hire a nanny, that would take care of my children in an active way, while I need to run an errand, clean the house or have a few minutes of piece and quiet.  My ideal nanny is a responsible, flexible and reliable college student or twenty-something, who likes little children. For a long time I was really lucky finding the right person. But that was in Ohio, where moms usually stay at home and child care is more of a casual job for many young people. In California everybody works or works out and nanny is a full time job for all kinds of people. At first, I thought I was in a nanny paradise, but then I started my search…

I noticed that there are two types of nannies in the Bay Area. One is the full time nanny/housekeeper, seemingly a very dependable person and dependent on regular income immigrant, whose own children are, sadly, taken care of by someone else. I would love to help them make a decent living but I just could not ask another mom who obviously misses her own children to watch mine. Besides, I don’t need full time help. I need a part-time, flexible  nanny and those are  just few and far between. Out of those that I did find,  I noticed that some were just bogus nannies, who thought that watching other people’s kids is an EASY way of making money (no, sitters don’t just sit and watch a child), some lived too far (can’t call them last minute) or didn’t drive (unreliable), or refused to smile (how to leave a baby with a grouch?). Finally, it seemed I’d found my Mary Poppins. And that’s where my nightmare began.

I’m going to call her MandM. Not that she was sweet and tiny like the candy. She did have artificial sugar coating, though, with which she was able to trick me for while. She lived close by, appeared bubbly, seemed into games with my older son, smiled to the baby… With time however, things started looking different. She would come late, she would rather chat with me than watch the boys, she would take long tea breaks (complementing me on my good manners = offering refreshments). One time, as she was telling me some sensational story and my son asked her to come and play, she scolded him: “Wait a minute. Mommy and me are talking now.” ????? Another time, another chat, and the baby crawled outside.  I was glad to catch him in time. She started being moody about the activities. One time she would teach the boys a rough game, then she would forbid it, because the boys would play too rough.  Then there was the 100 times too many of “You’re so smart!” with which she indulged my son for whatever reason.   She rarely made time for cleaning up after play, even though I clearly asked her to engage the boys in the tidy-up activity. Even worse, she  would play TV or videos for the boys, and even work on her computer in the meantime.  Oh, did I mention that she forgot to come when I had an important meeting at school? Or that she fed the baby with nut pralines, after I had told her about his nut intolerance?

Enough was enough. I didn’t want to sound emotional during a conversation, so I emailed her, asking not to play videos when working with the boys, coordinate the clean-up after play and engage the baby more effectively. If she found it too hard, I would understand and look for another person. Was I unreasonable?

Now, you’d have to see her reaction. I would have quoted it in full (that’s how hilarious it is), but it’s just too long. To give you the gist, in her response,  she “released me” as her client.  Her reasons, among others, were that my older son was a “poor loser in games” (Argument Nr 1?), that my sons “physically abused” her and caused her “injuries” and “anxiety”. (Did she mean rough play?)  As far as TV and such, these are “electronic interventions” and solutions for meltdowns.  Cleaning after play is, in her opinion “maid-service” and “counterproductive”. (How counterproductive is a lazy sitter?) Plus, my pay was too low. (I think $30/2hrs was average and agreed upon.) On top of all that, my boys apparently need more discipline, time-outs and I should show more empathy for her oh-so-stressful job.

Don’t I feel sorry for the poor thing! For various reasons though.  And I feel sorry for myself! I need to resume my help hunt. Isn’t that tough!