Posts Tagged ‘ late ’

(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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Hellish Household Help–Part 2

Monday, August 1st, 2011

I’ll call her Dorothy. She was the new cleaning lady I was trying out who came highly recommended from my friend. This, after I let my other cleaners go (read why). I greeted her at the door. She immediately seemed a bit cold to me. I took it as shy. I welcomed her in, offered her coffee and showed her our place. As we moved from room to room, I could feel her getting tense. We have several levels of steps, including a spiral staircase, so I thought maybe she was nervous with heights. We walked down to the kitchen, and she exploded. Phil (and Wayne) were at the table feeding Fia breakfast and all of our mouths—even the cat’s—dropped open.

“I DO NOT do stainless steel,” she began, wildly gesturing to our appliances.  “M (my friend) didn’t tell me you had this or I would have never agreed to do this job.”

“Um, oo—kaaay,” I said, looking at Phil whose mouth remained on the floor.

She continued. “It is impossible to clean. I hate that stuff. It always smears,” she said stomping her foot.

For some reason, the codependent side of my personality made a surprise visit that day.

“Okay, then don’t do it. I’m alright with that,” I said, trying to calm her down.

Truth be told, my mom has just passed away, our house was a disaster, I had a packed day with Fia and I just wanted my house cleaned. I didn’t want her to leave.

She looked right at me, her eyes getting narrow. “I am not sure I even want to do this job. This is a big place. And it’s hot outside.”

A few things: our house is not an outdoor hut. It is inside and we have a HUGE air-conditioning unit. I offered to crank it up even more.

Also, our apartment, large by NYC standards, is about 1200 square feet. I don’t think that is insurmountable. And I’m a clean freak—so when I say it was a disaster—it was–by my standards. Any stranger walking in would not have thought so. Was I missing something here?

She stood there with her hand on her hip and continued.

“For me to do this job, it will take 6 hours and cost x.” I think Phil actually spit out his coffee. It was three times what we’ve ever paid. Before I could respond, she said, “But I’m here, I may as well stay. I’m going to change into my cleaning clothes,” and huffed off.

Phil looked at me and with a clenched jaw whispered, “Remind me what was wrong with our other ladies?” I started to cry.

I knew he was frustrated, but this wasn’t my fault.

“Okay, calm down. Just have her stay today. Then we’ll find someone else. Alright?” I nodded, wiping my face.

“I have to get to work,” he said. He sometimes works from his office at home, but he wasn’t about to hang out in crazy land.

“Do you want her to clean your office?” I asked.

“F-ck yeah. For that money, she sure as sh-t better clean it.”

I pulled myself together and approached Dorothy. She was at our closet going through my cleaning supplies. “This won’t work,” she said, tossing disinfectant wipes out of the bucket.

“Um, okay, use whatever you think is best. I’m taking the baby and going to the park. My husband won’t be home so go ahead and clean his office.”

She glared again. “I’m not sure I’ll get to it,” was all she said. Tersely.

By now, I was a wreck. What happened to my pit-bull personality? I knew I needed to go scour the neighborhood for it.  This woman was a b-tch and a bully and had no right to be so self-righteous.

Fia and I left. Came home 2 hours later. Dorothy was still there and the parts she had cleaned (including surviving the stainless steel, gasp) were sparkling.

I put Fia down for her nap, and sat at my dining room table to eat.

“Um, I’m about to dust that,” she said with bitterly.

I clearly hadn’t found my independent side yet. So I stood up, willing to accommodate, and said, “I’ll just go upstairs. I will put your payment by the front door.”

You ready for this? Here’s what she said:

(more…)

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Hellish Household Help–Part 1

Monday, August 1st, 2011

Disclaimer: yes, I have cleaning ladies. Yes it’s an indulgence of mine. I started it after Fia was born when I felt overwhelmed. I know this is a good problem to have, and I’m not overlooking the fact that I’m lucky. But tell me if this is whacked:

bucket of cleaning supplies

The two of them would show up 90 minutes on either side of the scheduled time. Consistently. Then they’d fry up food in my kitchen and have a leisurely meal before beginning the job. Now I don’t mind people eating in my house, but when you show up late to start with, then take another 30 minutes for your meal, we’re talking a 2-hour delay. If I showed up 90 minutes late to work and went in the kitchen and made pancakes and bacon, I think my boss would be a little annoyed–with good reason.

I’d plead with them to please come on time. They would just shrug and say they’d try. I’d explain that I plan my day around their schedule. We live in an apartment so Fia and I have to leave when they’re here.  They also know Fia sleeps in the bathroom.  And it’s hard to clean a bathroom with a sleeping baby.

So after a year of their services, I told them I couldn’t handle their lack of punctuality. I told them if they could be on time, I’d keep them on (didn’t even mention the food thing). They said they couldn’t. Shocking, but okay. At least they’re honest.

My sensible and meticulous friend recommended her cleaning lady to me. Said she was always on time and did a great job. And didn’t fry up a buffet before cleaning.

I had her come over.  And that’s where my story gets even more absurd.

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