Posts Tagged ‘ full time help ’

(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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Why Vacationing With a Mom is Easier

Monday, October 8th, 2012

I loved my mom-cation. I am not sure if the official definition means vacation without your kids, but I did the opposite. Fia, Emmett, Courtney, Teddy, and I loaded up and went on a short trip to San Diego for two nights last week. I did it because my nanny was off, and I was scared of getting bored and antsy in our 100-degree non-air conditioned house.

I wrote a blog about it and my favorite tweet back was from @MothaKim, who totally understood. She said,  ”I preferred our 15hr road trip to Chicago over 2hrs spent at the mall with them.”

I SO get it.

I realized a few things on this getaway. With another mom there, even though she was taking care of her own, it felt easier than if a spouse had been with us. That’s because moms just seem to “get it” more. The schlepping didn’t bother us. In fact, we double-schlepped. The hotel we stayed at the first night was full so we had to move to another one for the second night. Instead of griping, we embraced it. It allowed us to see two different properties and assess whether we’d go back. (Answer: Paradise Point: yes–for the pool and the accommodations. Beach was full of pine needles. The Catamaran: probably not. Rooms old. But bay front convenience and beach were far nicer).

I think with a spouse, it would have felt like more work. Or you could easily get resentful. Probably both. Why am I doing all the packing? Phil, did you remember the sippy cup? Answer: NO. Cue eye rolling and storming off to “do it right.” You know, the typical martyr behavior that is oh-so-easy to get sucked into.

The other thing I realized was slightly more profound. I don’t think I need full-time help.

We got home on Saturday. Turns out, my nanny had to take off more days this week. I didn’t have an escape plan. So I just decided to Mom-Up. (Cassandra is beaming at my progress.)

I had to return a rental car, get my car out of the shop (20 miles away), get a tire fixed, get Fia to swimming then gymnastics…taking Emmett along for the ride…all before noon on Monday. And guess what? I did it just fine. With both kids. Okay okay, it’s not like I haven’t done stuff like this before. But honestly, with a nanny, I often do the mundane, annoying errands on my own. Yes, it’s easier. Plus, I don’t like to drive my kids on the highway when it’s unnecessary (driving in LA still makes me nervous at times.) But the thing is, at the end of the da,y I felt far more accomplished than I have in a long time. Almost proud of myself. Oh, I also had 2 families over for dinner (yes, Courtney and Teddy were there. Told you we were inseparable).

I wrote a blog recently about how tragedy struck a family member. I had to leave the kids for a funeral. I was worried that the household would fall apart without me. It didn’t. Now, the tables are turned. I was worried about not being capable of doing it on my own. Or at least getting super stressed out. And guess what? I did fine.

Emmett is eight months now. Fia will be 3 in December. I think it’s time to take the reigns on my own more. Mom-Up! Here I come.

Fia is having the time of her life. Rules went out the window. Clearly.

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Can They Parent Without Me?

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

The week before last a tragedy hit my extended family. The loss has been tremendous. But throughout the grieving process, you find moments of humor. Something my mother-in-law said to me is one of them.

We were leaving her house after Emmett’s baptism, heading to the airport. Phil was taking the kids home on his own while I went on to South Dakota. I was rushing around in a panic, telling Phil everything he had to remember to do for the kids while I was away. I was calling Cleo, explaining everything to her as well (as if she isn’t there every day already. Hello control freak!).

We got in the car and I turned to his mom and said, “Whew. This is going to be hard. I hope Cleo and Phil will be okay on their own.” To which she replied, (and yes, I’m putting this in bold), “You know what is really hard? When you come back and realize they’ve held it together just fine without you.” AAAHHHHH. Eh. She was obviously speaking from her own experience and we both burst out laughing. Thing is, she was absolutely right.

I am happy to report that I got home and my kids, my husband, my house, even my cat–were all unscathed. Thriving in fact.

It feels good to know we can laugh again, even in the worst of times.

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(My) Milestone Monday: No More Mommy Guilt! I Refuse It

Monday, August 13th, 2012

 

Last weekend Phil was away. I don’t have help on the weekends. I was by myself with both babies.

Here’s the scene:

Up at 6 a.m. Throw Emmett on the boob. Park Fia in front of Super Why.  Make coffee. Get Fia breakfast. Switch to Sesame Street. Let Emmett roll around on the carpet while I supervise and sip coffee (2 minutes of quality time). Feed cat. Emmett poops. Explosively. Put Fia in her high chair with a coloring book and bathe Emmett. Then feed him again. Fia starts to whine for eggs. Put Emmett in the swing and make eggs.  Plop eggs in front of Fia. Emmett starts to fuss. Pick him up. He poops again…a crazy amount. I am covered. In sh-t. I keep Fia locked in her high chair and give Emmett a sink bath. Put him back in swing, go change my clothes. Fia is finished. Begins to throw crayons. I am so happy she earned herself a time out, because for those 2 minutes I take my Lexapro, my Wellbutrin, and debate a shot of tequila.

I look at the clock. It is 7:30. Well f–k me.

At that moment, standing in my kitchen, dripping with sweat and both babies screaming, I had a complete and utter revelation. NO MORE GUILT.  Divine Intervention of the Non-Guilty Mom spoke to me.

I’m totally going to “out” myself here. I have full-time help and a part-time job. Not even. I’m a freelancer. I even have a night nurse a few times a week. It was almost every night in the beginning (I’d pump and bring her the bottle.) With Fia, I lost my mind with lack of sleep. It was so stressful for all those around me; I decided with Emmett I would do things differently. I would take my therapist’s advice and throw money at the problem. Lots of it. I could have sustained a village in Africa. Maybe two. Instead, I’ve sustained my mental health. And my marriage.

Up until now I’ve been afraid to fully confess. I’ve been nervous about the backlash from moms who will say I’m indulgent, that I’m not taking care of my kids, or even the “extremists” saying, “Why did you have kids if you’re not going to raise them?” Because here’s the thing: I am raising them and I now know I am doing a far better job with hired help than I could ever do on my own.

I shouldn’t have to justify this, but before I go further here’s why I have a full-time nanny: with Cleo in my life, I can pick and choose which child I want to be with. I can get quality time with both. That is key. But, I can also go to the bank, the grocery store, the nail salon and get a massage, all without carting a kid around. I can pay bills without sticking Fia in front of the TV. And blog. Added bonus: Cleo sometimes cooks for us. I still feel like I have zero time and I practically have a staff. Yet I often battle the demons of guilt. Shouldn’t I just plow through this on my own and be with my kids every hour that I can?

First of all, carting my kids to the store isn’t quality time. But now I think holding down the fort alone with your kids isn’t quality time either. For me, it was about keeping them alive. It was S-U-R-V-I-V-A-L.

Yet, my battle is constant: When I’m not with them, I feel like I should be. When I am with them at my house with the to-do list staring me in the face, I think of everything else I have to do.

While I’m at it, here’s another confession: I don’t love to “play.” As in, sit on the floor and build blocks or have a tea party.  I love watching Fia play though. I like to see the creative way she invents characters or stacks things. But pretending to pour tea over and over again? Honestly? I get bored.

So what I’ve done is carve out specific mornings and afternoons that Fia and I “do” things. We ride the kiddie train near our house, go on playdates to waterparks, museums, whatever. But usually it’s somewhere outside of the house. To me, that’s where I find my quality time with her.

Granted, throughout my solo-parenting day, we did have 9 more minutes of pure fun at home.  Fia and I were watering the lawn and she took the hose and squirted me. A mini water battle ensued. We chased each other around laughing. Emmett was taking one of his 20-minute cat naps (which is about all I ever get). “Ahh, see I’m doing it,” I thought to myself. “This is what the full-time moms get.” But then she fell, screamed for a Band-Aid, Emmett woke up arching his back (ready to release 11 more fart bubbles), and the moment was gone.

So why do I feel guilty for having help? Without it, I wouldn’t have quality time. Or maybe I would for a mere 11 minutes per day. Hardly enough to justify the guilt.

Sometimes I envy the full-time working moms because they can totally justify their nannies or  daycare. Other times I envy the SAHMs (Stay-At-Home-Moms) who I picture doing this in an orderly way.  I think I fall in this in-between area and perhaps that is where my guilt comes from. Or used to come from.

But ever since my revelation last weekend, I am trying to stop second-guessing how I raise my kids and just feel lucky I have this luxury.

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Emmett’s Mid-Week Milestone: Shots

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

I can’t believe my little man is already 9 weeks old.  We went to the pediatrician today and I didn’t hate them this time. Probably because nothing is wrong and I’m not getting mixed messages on advice. Today he was there for his two month check-up, which meant his first round of shots. Bleh.

I really do hate seeing him cry like that, and he’s been fussy all day. But I know that it’s a necessary part of our world and I’m a believer in vaccines, even though they make me shudder a bit. I can’t help it. I’m a mom. And even mercury-free, you still have that little bit of angst.

I’m happy to report his head circumference is now 40%, up from 25%. I’m sure he’s now 15% smarter. He is 11 pounds (45%), and almost 23 inches long (50%).

He rolled over two days ago, but I think it may have been a fluke. He does have a super strong neck though and can pick it up to about 70-degrees and turn it from side to side.

His diaper rash is gone. He is pooping less. His gut is maturing. He will sleep for a 4-5 hour stretch at night. So we’re getting there.

I’m finding that juggling the two kids, even with full time help, leaves me exhausted most of the time. So I’m going to end now because my brain is a bit mushy. Sorry to bore….

 

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