Posts Tagged ‘ childcare ’

My Preschool Decision With Emmett

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

Any preconceived notions I had about raising gender-neutral kids went out the window when I had a boy. While Fia has always been a girl with an adventurous, tomboy spirit, she has also had this soft, ethereal and empathetic way about her. Butterflies land on her. The cat loves her.

Cut to Emmett who any day now is going to fall off this banquette and land on his face. Our first ER visit was last weekend. I’m shocked it took this long.

Em bulldozed into the world with a mischievous twinkle in his eye, a pointy elf-like ear, and a grin that said, “Hey, Mama, you ready for me? Because it’s going to be a wild ride.”

(Pictured here with Phil’s mom)

As he grew, his ear lobe straightened out, but his hair became covered in crazy curls (unlike Phil and I, who have straight hair). And the more the curls came in, the wilder he got. At 5 months we called him Thumper because he would thump his legs up and down in the crib or on the changing table, giggling all the while. My pediatrician declared him the most active child she’s ever seen.

He is also about the happiest child ever and does have a side that will sit still and page through books for 20-30 minutes at a time. I wouldn’t be surprised if he reads by 3. He is also super cuddly and sweet. He’s not a hitter or a grabber. But because he’s more curious than a cat (who only has 9 lives), we are on constant deathwatch.  The other morning I turned my back for 10 seconds to help Fia. Em was gone. I found him standing on top of the toilet tank pounding at the window. Our house is quickly becoming a prison, where we are the guards and he is the inmate trying to outsmart us in his escape.

This is why we decided as soon as he turned two, we would put him in preschool. We asked ourselves what is he going to enjoy more? Being with a sitter twice a week or running errands with me (he crawled into the dryer at Sears last week)–or in a structured, safe environment where he can learn and play with other kids? The answer is obvious. Of course I had the usual mom guilt–for about 3 seconds.

Today is his first day and I think he is as thrilled as we are. The director has been sending me pictures and text updates, “Emmett is doing fabulous. He sat through circle time beautifully, he ate ALL his oatmeal and is loving yard play with his new friends.”

I, too, am doing fabulous. I’m sitting across the street from his preschool catching up on my life, writing, and breathing a big sigh of relief. The boy is happy and safe. And I’m free. In another 2 hours I’ll be ready to grab him back and kiss those curls. Until then, his new friends and teachers can.

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(My) Milestone Monday: Why I Let My Nanny Go

Monday, January 14th, 2013

I’m going to do a complete 180 here.  I got rid of my nanny and my life is easier. This is  contrary to my post a few months ago when I wrote about why full-time help is necessary.

It has taken me almost 2 months to write about this. It was a painful experience and really hurt me to the core. These people become part of your family; they are taking care of the most precious entity in your life. And even though I know we made the right decision, and it was our choice, the loss hit me hard.

I don’t know why, but I just feel like telling my story. Maybe because I’m still hurt, even though at the same time I’m so relieved.

I won’t go into all the reasons. But the main reason was her complete inability to get here on time. I spoke to her former employers to find out if she was late for them. They claim she wasn’t. She also lived nearer to them, which, in LA traffic, makes a difference. They also had full time jobs in which they had to be out the door at a certain time. Phil and I work from home, so we naturally create a more laid back atmosphere.

I did every sort of tactic. I switched the times around to help her avoid rush hour (didn’t work), I gave her a cushion time, as in between 8:30-9. Not only did that NOT work, it backfired and made things worse. I gave her pep talks, threaten-talks, and on two occasions I lost my sh-t and yelled. And then she cried. And I felt terrible.  So after a year of dealing with this–yes, a year–I realized the situation was exhausting me.

It was time for a final ultimatum.

Phil and I told her calmly and clearly that one more time and she was done. Communication had been a problem in that her accent is heavy and she also doesn’t text (which was another issue altogether). I wanted to make sure she understood how high the stakes were. She said she understood and reiterated that if she were late again, it was on her. She cried saying she would miss our kids so much–the mere thought of it broke her heart. I could tell her feelings were genuine.

That’s the thing about her. I had such a soft spot. Yet she would drive me crazy.

Her life hadn’t been easy. Her mother pulled her from school at a young age in El Salvador so she could care for her handicapped sister. She crossed the border when she was 17. Now she’s 50, a legal resident, and has 5 grown kids. But even though we paid her well above the market rate, money was tight (in part to bad decisions that drove me crazy–though I know–none of my business). With no formal education she is part of the true working class.

She became my project and my boundaries went out the window. I was going to teach her how to read and write (she was extremely limited in that regard, which I found out after hiring her). I offered to give her time off for ESL classes. I told her I could help her learn.  She cried, saying it was her dream to read the newspaper. Never happened. I mentioned it from time to time and she’d say she was going to do it. Then nothing.

There were other things too, because as we all know, no one is perfect. But as mad/frustrated as I’d get, at the end of the day, she did a lot of lovely things for us and ultimately, loved my babies as her own. If there were an earthquake, she would throw herself in front of a crashing beam to protect them. She is that kind of person.  I would tell myself that that is really all that matters. But it’s not. She was still an employee. And there to make our lives easier.

The ultimatum came right before we were giving her a week off (paid) for Thanksgiving.  That following Monday morning she was supposed to be at our house by 8:30. Fifteen minutes later I see a missed call on my phone. Phil called her back. She said her car battery died and she was just leaving her house. Wait, huh? If your battery had died, you would have known before 8 and called us. Which is what Phil said to her. No response. He hung up the phone and looked at me. We both shook our heads. He called her back and told her not to come. I haven’t seen her since.

I then sent her a check for 5 weeks severance. My friend Delia is the one who coaxed–and coached–me on that. I was just going to send her a week’s worth. Delia said, “Jill, there are the haves and the have-nots. We are the haves. You won’t ever miss the money. Consider it one less charity donation. To her, it is everything.”

I remember when I was in Al-Anon; there was a saying about detached compassion. “When the alcoholic is passed out on the cold, hard floor, rather than leaving her in anger, or trying to get her back on the bed, just drape her in a warm blanket.” So, even though I’ll admit the check was a little hard to write, I felt like that was my version of detached compassion. I wanted her to have a nice Christmas. I know how excited she was to buy gifts for her grandkids. And I know what a relief it would be to pay her rent.

She left us a message a few days later, after receiving the check. She thanked us profusely. I could hear her voice cracking. She knows she messed up.

I guess I felt betrayed. Hurt. Why didn’t she call us at 8 that morning? Why, after having a week off, would she not show up on time? On some level, my mind says, “Did she not love my kids enough to get out of bed on time?” But then I know: You can’t change someone.

I did get word that she found another job close to her house. In fact, I gave the woman the recommendation before all this happened, as we were going to take her down to part-time anyway and help her find a family to share with.

I’m sure this post sounds like an “upper class problem” to many people. Some would tell me to just get over it. And I am. But dealing with another human being on a deeply personal level is tough. I’ve never had a nanny before. And I doubt I ever will again. She was with Emmett from the day he was born. He is a special baby and I know she must miss him dearly. But at the end of the day, we are better on our own.

I have now hired a few sitters to work a couple times a week. They are young college graduates from New York. I won’t be taking on their problems. My boundaries are in place.

I also realize I’m utilizing my time far better. Instead of napping when my kids nap, I write or pay bills or make phone calls. I think having full-time help without a full-time job myself gave me license to be lazy. Now, every minute counts. Energy begets energy. I have cleaned out closets and organized photos that have sat for a year. I feel good. I have spent more quality time with my kids in the past 2 months than I did all year. I still don’t have any regrets in how we did it. I had some crucial time to myself and I needed it. I had plenty of delicious moments with my babies. More than most people probably. But now I get even more.

I’m looking forward to 2013 knowing we’ll have loads of adventures. Even if “adventure” means a trip to the grocery store with both babes in tow (something that 6 months ago sounded impossible to me. Granted, Em is almost a year now, so having him older makes all of this a helluva lot easier).

My mind goes back to a line I read not long ago. It’s from Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project and gives me great perspective when I do get tired from the daily grind.  ”The days are long, but the years are short.”

Like I said when Fia turned 3,when my kids are older and out late with friends, I will be watching the clock, wishing they were home.  I will yearn for these sleep-deprived nights. They are all mine (almost) all the time. And for now, I don’t want it any other way.

Took Em to a fun playspace the other day. Making it a weekly thing now because he had so much fun. And  I had so much fun watching him!

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Full-Time Help: And Better For It

Tuesday, March 27th, 2012

I’m not ashamed to say that I now have a full-time nanny. Cleo started part time, with the understanding that we go full time once Emmett arrived. She is an amazing woman with a heart of gold. She is honest as the day is long. She is head over heels in love with my babies. She takes care of me too. For example, last week, she made us a WHOLE chicken–restaurant quality. She helps me with house keeping. And most importantly, she gives me the opportunity to enjoy each of my babies one at a time.

Having Cleo is also preventing me from falling into the “mom martyr complex,” which I’ve seen some of my friends do. They constantly complain about how tired and frustrated they are, how they hate their husbands, yet choose to do nothing about it–whether it be a nanny or part time preschool/daycare, etc. It’s one thing if you can’t afford it. It’s another if you make a choice to be miserable.

I also think it’s really hard to juggle two kids without one inevitably feeling the shaft. If I can just be with Fia or just be with Emmett at different intervals throughout the day, and get some “me time” to boot, I am a happier human being. I know Fia loves having my undivided attention at times. I’m sure Emmett appreciates it too, as I don’t have to let him cry for very long if I have Cleo there to help.  In other words, the reason behind hiring a full time nanny wasn’t so I could go out and play tennis all day, everyday. It’s so I could give 100% of my attention to my children, my writing, my husband, the bill paying, etc, one-at-a-time--without feeling frantic, followed by angry, then losing my sh-t.  Or popping Xanax all day. (Kidding). For me, I’m a better mom because of it.

But I know this is a controversial issue, as seen by my “sitter chronicles” last summer. A handful of moms railed on me for not being with Fia 100% of the time.  And now that I have full time help–gasp–I’m sure some think I’m terribly indulgent. Frankly I just feel lucky and blessed that it’s all worked out this way.

Anyone care to weigh in?

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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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My Sitters Are Driving Me Crazy Part 1

Saturday, June 18th, 2011

Good god. I know they keep my child alive and out of harms way, but is it too much to ask that my sitters keep track of all her “stuff”? I’m talking sippy cups, snack traps, the play stroller, a soccer ball, her hat, to name a few. All of which have been lost–some, multiple times.

Granted, I’ve done it too. I’ve lost some mom-crutch items and been thoroughly scattered (see post). But then I pay the consequences and buy more, or whatever. And, I’ve gotten better on the scattered front.

But my problem is two-fold. Sometimes they don’t restock and reorganize the diaper bag. And leave dirty items in it. I’ve even put a checklist on the refrigerator. Yet, today, I was out with Fi. I went to get a diaper, only to find a dirty spoon, two dirty sippy cups and no diapers. And the playstroller and ball are missing too. I mean, isn’t this childcare 101?

My disorganized diaper bag

I know what you’re thinking, find new sitters, idiot. And I may have to. Except that one of them gives me something a lot of others won’t: complete flexibility to book her at a moment’s notice. She is a college grad and very laid back. She hasn’t found a real job yet–which is to my benefit. And truth be told, I really like her. She cares deeply about Fia. And Fia adores her. And even though she loses more than my other sitter, it’s just been small things. And I honestly don’t think she’ll lose my baby. Plus, she just rocks. I can’t say it any other way.

The other one I use on Friday afternoons. She is a career nanny,  paid no matter if you use her or not. But for me, since it’s just 5 hours a week, as long as I give her ample notice if I don’t need her, I don’t have to pay her.  (It may sound crazy, but “pay or play” is the nanny culture in our neighborhood. They practically have their own union.)  I know her from the neighborhood and have complete trust–at least in keeping Fia safe.

So here I sit on a Saturday morning, totally annoyed because I spent an hour texting  one of them to track down Fia’s soccer ball and play stroller, both of which went missing on her watch. A neighbor had the ball, the stroller is still MIA, which means I need to go buy a new one. (BTW–Those things are like crack for tots. What’s up with that?)

My other sitter did offer last week after she lost Fia’s baseball cap–the only thing she will wear to keep the sun off her head–to pick up a new one. And I thought that was a really cool gesture.

But honestly, am I being a bitch here? Or do I have a point? Do I need to accept this as the price of doing business and keeping my tot safe? Does anyone have any ideas for me?

Before I waste any more time, I need to sign off. But thank you for letting me vent, because I kid you not, it infuriates me. Which probably means I’m overreacting.

AAAAA—RRRRR–GGGGHHHHHHHHH.

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