Posts Tagged ‘ babysitters ’

The Mom Mystique

Friday, August 16th, 2013

I know that Betty Friedan brilliantly coined the term The Feminine Mystique. Her book came out at a time when women were voicing their dissatisfaction with simply being moms and housewives. Friedan’s book is often credited with starting the feminist movement.

I also know that Rosie the Riveter sparked an earlier feminist wave in which women worked the factories while the men went off to fight in World War II. It was the first time women in droves truly held jobs outside the home. And liked it.

No, this isn’t a book report.

My revelation is I never realized that being a stay-at-home mom, which I largely am, is a very recent phenomenon. Which is why parts of it feel unnatural to me.

Don’t get me wrong: I love being with my kids. I love the fact that I have such flexibility in my schedule. I had a successful TV career. I don’t want to be a desperate TV person, trying to hold onto a career that is so different now anyway. Good hosting jobs, which actually pay decent and cover interesting topics (i.e.: not reality TV crap) are few and far between. I’m not saying I will never go back to TV–and I do gigs here and there–but I refuse to be clawing to stay in the game. Not to mention the countless auditions it can entail. It’s all so exhausting and often fruitless, it makes me want to barf.

What doesn’t make me nauseous is writing. I picture myself as an author down the road. Or at least trying to be, once the kids are in school full time. That’s one of the reasons I keep doing this blog: to exercise that muscle in my brain. I don’t have the discipline to do it on my own.

But having said that, I can’t escape my type-A personality. Nor can I escape the blueprint of my life. I’ve always been a go-getter. So when I say I love being with my kids, what I mean, besides that blanket statement–is that I love “doing” things with them. Whether it’s adventures to our secret forest, watering the lawn, or baking with Fia, I like teaching them and accomplishing things at the same time. I actually love clean up. It is therapeutic for me to help sort the toys into different categories with them. Strange, I know. But remember, I had hypnotherapy to cure my cleaning compulsion.

What I don’t love is playing Legos. Or dolls. At least for an extended amount of time. Sure, 15 minutes here, 30 minutes (maybe) there…but all day? No way. I would lose my mind. (And thank god Fia doesnt’ like dolls yet. I never did. Maybe she will be like me.)

I went to a new therapist this week. I decided two years without someone to bounce ideas off in a neutral setting was long enough. We sold our Brooklyn apartment last month. We bought a house out here. It was time to put my roots down in California.

The woman I met with seemed, well, for lack of a better word: brilliant. In our first session I gave her a very condensed snapshot of my life. Manic depressive, drug and alcohol addicted mother (now deceased), narcissistic father who, with my step mom, labeled food in our house growing up so we wouldn’t eat the name brand stuff (No relationship with them anymore), two adopted siblings, blah blah blah.

Married, never wanted kids, cool career, traveled the world, then decided to have kids, then pow–best decision ever– and now–my life as a mom.

So here I am telling her how I yearn for my kids when I’m not with them but when I’m with them all day, every day, I realize why I need sitters. It is my paradox.

She then dropped this incredibly enlightening fact into my lap.

“You know that a mom alone with her kids is a new concept, right?”

Huh?

“No, I don’t. What do you mean?”

“Think about it,” she said. “Before WWII, families were mostly together all day. Moms were doing things with their kids. But not Legos. They were tilling the fields while the kids played nearby. They were cooking the meals with the grandmas and the aunts while the kids were in eyesight or earshot. This whole concept of a big house alone with your kids goes against all of our natural instincts that date back to caveman days/the beginning of time. ”

Well, holy shit. Please hit me over the head with a frying pan.  How did I never realize that?

She’s not saying it was easy. But I am guessing most of those moms didn’t feel guilty for their daily accomplishments while their kids played in the fields. Those accomplishments are what helped them literally survive each day.

In modern times it’s basically why the “play date” was invented. But instead of doing/accomplishing stuff, we are just chatting with our mom friends while chasing our kids around the playground. Which isn’t a bad happy medium, but it’s no wonder I don’t feel super accomplished at the end of each day.

She also pointed out that we live in a manic world. And what happens to manics? Having grown up with one, I got an A+.

“They crash,” I said.

“Exactly,” she replied. “Our mood swings are all over the place because we, as a society with technology, are all over the place.”

I’ve written about the Facebook Depression before and how I have largely broken my tech addiction (which has been damn cool). But if you put it all together–the frantic nature of our society, coupled with how we as humans, moms, communities, etc, evolved, it all makes total sense. Depression and anxiety rates have never been higher. It seems so obvious to me now. Not to mention I had kids late in life. It’s different when you’re procreating at 22 and haven’t “lived” yet.

All this to say, I have a new perspective on my mom guilt and the mystique of my emotions as a mom. My paradoxes make sense. They are still here, but with the help of this therapist and some new realizations, I’m hoping to alleviate a lot of it. Or at least comes to terms with why I sometimes feel the way I do. Because this guilt sh-t has got to go. It’s a waste of space in my already crowded brain.

At least for today I have accomplished a lot. I have partially cracked the mom mystique code. And took Fia to get a haircut. It may not be tilling a field, but I’m quite satisfied with myself.

Pic of We Can Do It via Shutterstock

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The Nanny Price Tag

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Full Disclosure: I paid in excess of 4K to give my cat, Wayne Sanchez a vagina (the whole story is here). But that was to save his life. When it comes to my kids, and yes, I do consider Wayne one of my children, I spare no expense.

However, I was a bit dismayed at this article in the New York Times Magazine. The reporter wrote about the high-priced nanny culture–in which some caregivers get 6-figure salaries, penthouse apartments, beach houses, etc. to take care of other peoples babies.

Don’t get me wrong: I have a full-time nanny myself. I love her. Even though I don’t have a full time 9-6 job, I make no apology for going this route. But I don’t love my kids any less for paying her a fair, market-based salary. I mean, your kid can still have an accident (god forbid). They still tantrum. They poop and they pee and their diapers get changed the same way. And hopefully if you have someone good, they laugh just as hard, dance just as much and sing just as beautifully. So what is the difference here? I think it lies in this part of the reporter’s story, i.e.:

…And then there’s social climbing. “A lot of families, especially new money, are really concerned about their children getting close to other very affluent children,” Greenhouse says. “How do they do that? They find a superstar nanny who already has lots of contacts, lots of other nanny friends who work with other high profile families.” There are the intangibles too. “I’m working with a phenomenal Caribbean nanny right now,” Greenhouse says. “She is drop-dead beautiful. Her presentation is such that you’re proud to have her by your children’s side at the most high-profile events.”

G-R-O-S-S.

I get that your nanny is helping to raise your child and there is no price tag to put on that. But I can’t help feeling like some of the elite who do this are trying to buy their way into proper parenting. Or perhaps buy their way out. Maybe it makes them feel less guilty and more justified in having the help if they are paying them top dollar? And what are their children to them anyway? An accessory?

This whole obsession in our culture with appearance and money is, to use the word again, GROSS. I can’t watch shows like Real Housewives for this very reason–even if it is just escapism television. People who are that out of touch with the rest of the world don’t interest me. Unless it’s to write a blog.

The one person I am happy for in all this is the nanny– though you could pay her half that amount and give the rest to a kick ass charity–and she’d still be making more than most people.  I’m just saying…

One of the nanny’s mentioned came from a poor family in South America. It sounds like she was able to better her entire family’s life–including buying her mother a house and her sister a car. I hope her employers are sleeping better at night.

But come on rich-parents-who-hire-6 figure-nannies–don’t jack up the price and think you’re a better parent. Or that your kid will turn out “better”. Or that your family is more “ideal”. Plus, if enough people pay mucho bucks, you hurt the market for the rest of us “little” people.

Picture courtesy of Shutterstock.

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My Nanny=My Wife

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

Author’s Note: Join me every Tuesday or Wednesday for “Moving Mid Pregnancy,” to read about my ongoing search for a new “everything” (from nannies to mom friends to health providers) while pregnant and living in a new city.

I hired a nanny full time. I better hide behind a duck blind to keep from getting shot, given the outrage from my Sitter Chronicles awhile back. i.e: Why aren’t you raising your kids yourself? –was the gist of many comments. But hear me out:

It takes a village right? Well, I am new to LA. I have no village. No family nearby. And I don’t have a ton of close friends yet–or at least friends who don’t have their own lives, jobs, kids to take care of. And even if I did, I wouldn’t burden them with helping me. I just felt like with 2 babies, I’d be a better mom if I didn’t feel constant pressure to be the “only one.” So here’s how it’s shaping up:

Cleo, my nanny, is part time now. She becomes full time once baby Leroy (working title) comes. This isn’t so I can skip off and take tennis lessons (not that there is anything wrong with that, but I’m not a Desperate Housewife). This is so I can pick and choose the quality time to spend with either Fia or Baby. Or by myself. No one wins a medal for carting two kids around all the time. I mean, plenty of people do it. Many out of necessity. I am just incredibly grateful to have the means to hire help. (I often hear, “Well, our parents did it.” I laugh at that. God, if you had known my parents, you’d know that they are not to be put on pedestals for their stellar parenting!)

A little bit about Cleo: She is the wife I always wanted. She sweeps my floors while Fia naps. She cooks for me! As in homemade soups, salads, black beans from scratch….she can look in the fridge and see meals where I see nothing. She brings me afternoon tea if I’m in my office writing. I don’t ask her to do any of this. She is just a nurturer. I am in love.

I found her on a website/listserv out here called Booby Brigade. She had amazing recommendations. When she walked in, Phil and I both knew. She was the one. Like my friend Teresa said: finding a good nanny is harder than finding your spouse. So I feel like I’ve found both.

She’s from El Salvador and is speaking Spanish to Fia, and will to the new baby as well. She raised 5 kids on her own here. Her youngest daughter is 15 and she sometimes brings her with if she’s watching Fia for our date night. Fia loves them both. I feel like they just add a good energy to our house.

I’m hoping that by having her, I’ll handle the newborn phase a little better than I did with Fia. If nothing else, I should be able to take naps and catch up on sleep with a second set of hands. I think this is a great solution for me in terms of juggling a household, a 2-year old, my freelance work, and a newborn.

Any of your pregnant women planning on full time help even if you don’t have a full time job outside of the home? Dare I ask if you think I’m indulgent or smart?

 

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Moving Mid-Pregnancy: Finding a Nanny

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

Author’s Note: Join me every Tuesday or Wednesday for “Moving Mid Pregnancy,” to read about my ongoing search for a new “everything” (from nannies to mom friends to health providers) while pregnant and living in a new city.

Okay, am I just jinxed with sitters or what?

I’m here in LA, trying to get settled. Top of my list: Fia’s care. I found a great preschool thing for her from 9-noon Tuesdays and Thursdays. But I also want some afternoon help, as well as evening help so Phil and I can have a few date nights before baby comes.

My plan is once Little Leroy (working title, not his name) comes, that part-time person can become almost full time. That way I’ll have the flexibility to still do things with Fia separately, baby separately, work freelance, etc. So what I’m really looking for is a nanny.  Someone who totally gets the routine, knows the drill without asking, CLEANS UP, etc. (though in light of my sitter controversy, I PROMISE to pack my own diaper bag).

I’ve put out emails on a listserv here for moms to find someone. (I also signed up for sittercity and care.com as well. In one day I got 50 emails and was so overwhelmed I shut it down. I just couldn’t deal).

The first nanny who came showed up 45 minutes late. Here’s how it went:

Doorbell rings. Niceties exchanged.

Me: “Did you have a hard time finding the place?”

Her: “No, not  at all.”

Me: “Oh, because I thought we said 2 pm???”

Her: (shrugs nonchalantly): “I got stuck behind a funeral procession.”

Okay, I am not dissing a funeral. But to act so cavalier? I went up to Phil’s office and broke into tears. I know, get a grip, but I went through a lot of angst with sitters in NYC, especially at the end when a new sitter came 30-45 minutes late every time. It is so frustrating. And I just need things to fall into place right now. I just don’t think starting off with the late factor is going to work.

Two days later another nanny comes. I am looking for someone bilingual. I want them to speak mostly Spanish to Fia (and new baby). They also must have a current driver’s license and clean driving record. Whomever I pick, I will do a background check on before sealing any deal.

She arrives right on time.  I am hopeful. The mom who recommended her really thought she fit all my criteria. She is upbeat. Fia seems to enjoy her from the get-go. She used to be a housekeeper, so I know she will clean up.

We talk rates. We settle on something for starters that I know is a little higher than what the last mom was paying her. I don’t mind. I’m looking for someone long-term.

We walk into the kitchen. That’s when she says it. “How much you pay in rent?”

I feel myself tense up. I am taken aback. Huh? What? I don’t even ask my best friend that question. Let alone a stranger who I may employ.

“This is a big house,” she says.

I stutter and stammer, then in typical me-form, overexplain. I tell her we’re subletting our place in NYC, and then give her a figure that isn’t accurate. Her English isn’t perfect and as I ramble, I can tell she probably isn’t understanding most of what I say. Which could be good or bad. Granted, there is a cultural barrier here. Maybe this is just one of those things that she didn’t know was inappropriate to ask. But still…. I don’t want someone thinking that we’re people who could afford the moon, etc., based on the different lives we both lead. Or be too interested in my finances.

The rest of her time went smooth, except when Fia fell and bit down on the inside of her lower lip, screaming and bleeding. I could tell she felt really badly. She said Fia just took a step and fell while in her room. I know accidents happen, and that could just as easily have happened on my watch. I think.

I have had her back twice now and so far, there is no other awkward questions. Fia seems to really like her. I am interviewing one more person this weekend and then making my decision.

Any advice?

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The Sitter Chronicles–Your Comments

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

I’m pretty blown away by all the comments we’ve received (and I say that collectively, because many of us are commenting on each others comments as well). These three posts over the course of one week have caused quite a stir. We’ve had the good, bad and ugly.

I bow to so many of you for commenting in such eloquent, meaningful ways. Everything from sharing your story as a SAHM because your child has autism, seizures and cancer (there were a few of you and my heart goes out to how brave and strong you are. Those are not easy cards to be dealt. For me, unimaginable)– to those who feel privileged to be at home or at an office working. Or at home working. It sounds like for most of us, the arrangements we have fit our lifestyle. And that judgment isn’t necessary. Yet we do it anyway.

Why is it so hard not to judge? I have to catch myself all the time. Even the way I judge other members of my family or my neighbors–even my friends. I don’t know why it is human nature to feel superior. But for many of us, it is. Perhaps it’s insecurity or justification, but sometimes it just comes down to thinking your way is right and others are wrong. Why can’t it be that your way is right and other people’s ways are also right? It’s a work in progress for me.

I think the other theme I picked up on, particularly from the SAHMs is the lack of recognition they receive. And again, why is it that we feel such a need? Is it because the working people of the world get a tangible reward, i.e.: a pay raise, a compliment or a trophy? I know we moms get our kisses and hugs, which in many ways mean so much more, but it IS hard to not be recognized by your peers, your husband, your family when the job your doing is exhausting, and at times, thankless.

I took Fia to my in-laws this spring (a plane ride away), by myself. My husband was on a deadline.  I went for two reasons: so that they could see her and so we could both be pampered. Yet, I was fishing for compliments from my husband on how above-and-beyond I was going.

“My mom friends told me how cool it is for me to be flying Fia to Wisconsin to see your parents.”

“But you want to go,” he replied, seeming puzzled.

“I know, but still don’t you think what I’m doing is pretty great?”

“Yeah, I love that you’re doing it, but it’s also benefiting you.”

Not exactly the response I was looking for. But in all honesty, I had 24 hour childcare (oh no, here we go again with that bad word. Kidding), time to write, workout, and just hang out and relax. It was great. Why do I feel like I needed to be recognized as a hero? To be told I’m wife and daughter-in-law of the year?

These are all questions we can continue to ask each other and ourselves. Let’s just try and be kind about it. Like I said in one of my comments, you catch more bees with honey than vinegar…. Plus, it tastes better too.

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