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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!
Categories: Fearless Feisty Mama, Have Baby, Will Travel, Milestone Monday, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips, Must Read, The Sitter Chronicles | Tags: childcare, daycare, firing, firing employee, full time help, Happiness project, late, milestone, milestone monday, milestones, nanny, on time, preschool
Thursday, November 29th, 2012
Could it really be this easy? Or did I just get über-lucky? Did something that I have anticipated (and dreaded) having to do for 3 years just come and go without a fuss or protest? I was envisioning sleepless nights, Fia calling out to us, begging for her pacifier back. I pictured me begging Phil to just give in. I hate to see my baby sad. (Yeah, I know, get over it. At least when we are talking about a piece of plastic that has long worn out its welcome.)
None of my fears came to pass.
Maybe it’s because her lip rash gave us such a good out. “Honey, the doctor says you can’t use your pacifier anymore.” Maybe it’s because she’s going to be 3 on Sunday. “Fia, you’re about to be a really big girl. And only babies use pacifiers.” Or maybe she was just ready to let go.
On Sunday we watched the Elmo episode for the 103rd (and hopefully last) time, about Bye Bye Binky.
On Monday night, 6 days before her birthday, we packaged up her “Bagdee,” wrote a note saying that Fia hoped the baby on the receiving end would find comfort in it, and sent it off. To, well, my mother-in-law’s house. I didn’t know where else to address it. Knowing her, she’ll keep it and someday when Fia is really a big girl, we’ll show her the note and the pacifier that gave her parents such angst (and even made our former nanny pissed at me).
She came down with a stomach flu and fever on Wednesday. “She’s really uncomfortable,” I said to Phil. “Should we give it back to her?” I got an emphatic NO. And further pointing out that she hasn’t even asked for it. So why would we offer it up?? Um, right. Good point. I don’t know…because I’m a mom and want to do anything to make my child feel better???? Maybe I need a pacifier.
At any rate, I have written at least 11 blogs about the pacifier and posted many a picture with Fia and that thing. I’m happy to say, I think those days are over. (At least until Emmett has his turn. But so far, he doesn’t seem to be as attached.)
This is one milestone I’m not overly sentimental about. In fact, I’d much rather see her smile…and now I will. Even at night.
The picture above was when she was about 18 months old. I always wanted her to have one in reach.
This pic from Halloween. Such a pretty mouth.
Why cover it up?
Pacifier picture at top via Shutterstock
Categories: Fearless Feisty Mama, Milestone Monday, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips, Must Read | Tags: binky, dentist, Elmo, fever, milestone, paci, pacifier, smile, stomach flu, teeth, travel
Monday, November 12th, 2012
It’s official folks. My little man is on the move. He started crawling at about 8 1/2 months, but at first it was just a couple inches. Now he scoots and can make great strides. His technique is different than Fia’s was. He uses one leg to push off each time. It’s kind of like what you see a dog or cat doing when they want to, well, scratch their butt. I’m just explaining that so you can visualize how he looks.
I assure you, his butt is spotless. His only purpose is to gain ground and get to a place where he can pull himself up. Like the trampoline.
I can see his wheels churning. “Crawling?” he’s saying. ”Puulleeeazzzze. I just want to stand and walk. Then run.”
It’s time to babyproof. Time waits for no man. Especially this one.
Dog picture via Shutterstock
Categories: Have Baby, Will Travel, Milestone Monday, Mom Situations, Newborn Care | Tags: baby milestones, baby moves, baby proofing, crawling, first crawl, first step, milestone, milestones
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.
Categories: Fearless Feisty Mama, Milestone Monday, Mom Situations | Tags: daycare, full time help, guilt, guilty, infant, milestone, milestone monday, milestones, mom guilt, nanny, newborn, night nurse, playdate, quality time, sahm, Sesame Street, Super Why, tv, working moms
Wednesday, August 8th, 2012
No, he’s only 6 months, so he hasn’t spoken yet. But when he does, these will be his first words:
“Hold on, Emmett!”
“Almost there, Emmett!!!”
I swear with kid number 2, it feels like a constant race to get to him. But it’s a race with metaphorical boulders to climb and streams to cross. In other words: Fia.
The first kid just seems to take precedence. Not because she is any more important, but her needs are. Or seem to be. After all, she could choke from the crayon she is putting in her mouth, fall off the chair she is trying to climb, or get scratched by Wayne Sanchez whom she is trying to smother (in a nice way). In essence, I’m just trying to keep her alive. With Emmett I’m just trying to keep him happy. Plus, Fia can voice her needs so I instinctually go to her first. I guess this is precisely why they say the second child usually goes with the flow more. They have to by necessity. They learn to wait. And wait. And wait.
I kinda feel badly about this, but then another friend told me about a mom she met who had extraordinary kids. She asked what her secret was. “Benign neglect.” I love everything about that word combination. I want to marry that mom.
To me, benign neglect is gently and kindly letting the kids do their own thing–within reason, of course. Not always having to entertain them or give them center stage. It certainly takes the pressure off (and the guilt I struggle with). For Fia, that means playing on her own so I can tend to Emmett. For Emmett, that means learning to wait if I have to tend to Fia. And the best case scenario is when they are both content without my help. But my attitude can’t be one of frustration or annoyance. It has to come from a gentler place.
In the meantime, I’m going to work on saying, “Mommy” before the “hold on wait!!” part. This way, maybe “Mommy” will be his first word instead of “Sorry-Hold On-Wait”!