Monday, November 15, 2010

Nightmare on Nanny Street

Things had been going well, as well as could possibly be expected, ever since my husband moved down to N.C. a few months ago. My dramatic post about becoming a single parent seemed almost silly in retrospect, since here I was, having a ton of help and support all the time, between my parents, my in-laws, my husband on almost every weekend (yes, driving the 6-8 hours each way), and our live-in nanny. Yes, I pulled more double bedtime duty than I had been accustomed to M-F, but it was hardly the hardship I imagined.

Tempeh, who has been through multiple deployments, and who is quite possibly The most supportive friend in the history of supportive friends and who has made offers weekly to help in some tangible way, joked a couple of months ago that I was overdue for a major appliance failing, a fate that befalls almost every newly-alone spouse of a deployed servicemember.

My appliances, thankfully, are all in good working order (I am furiously knocking on wood right now), but my once-rock-solid nanny situation disintegrated before my eyes.

I will save you all the gory details, but even before the sordid events that unfolded over the course of a couple of months, we had certain reservations about her as a childcare provider. Namely, that while she was perfect for an infant: loving, warm, patient, calm, she was highly ineffective with a toddler and a kindergartener:  entirely passive, indulgent, and without a limit-setting bone in her body. Yet, we were willing to ride it out until the new baby came in a few months and her primary focus would be, again, a newborn. The older two kids would be at school all day.

But, then, the sordid events happened, involving a quite-possibly mentally unstable boyfriend to nanny who would not stay away from our house or our children despite our many requests, and to top it all off, reports from the school that she and said boyfriend picked up our  two-year-old son from half-day pre-school and put him in boyfriend's car, without a car seat and sitting on her lap in the front passenger seat.

Stress? Yes, hello, it's me again. This all went down on my birthday, of all days, and right before a month for me that included 3 work conferences, including 5 presentations and being attending on wards.

We fired her immediately. My parents moved in temporarily. It was all very sad since she had been with us for over 2 years and was very much a part of our family. She had taken care of my son since he was 9 months old and he was/is very attached to her. When she moved out, she cried and hugged me for at least 10 minutes straight, telling me how very sorry she was and how I was like a daughter to her.

This has all highlighted for me how tenuous having a nanny can be. Great one minute. Disastrous the next. I can't tell you how many times my husband and I have told each other how lucky we were to have had our nanny over the past 2 years. Up until recently, it was truly great and made our lives many times over easier. And now, we're/I'm starting all over again. No one is going to be perfect, I know. But, it's scary how far from perfect they can be.


  1. A page from my own nightmare... We lost a semi adequate nanny last spring due to a conflict with my MIL who lives with us half the year. We hired someone new in a hurry. She is wonderful with my little one but has a personality clash with my oldest. This came to a head last week when oldest DD complained to guidance counselor about the nanny. This would be amusing except I am on service, of course and due to travel a lot over the next few weeks. I am with you, totally.

  2. KC, I'm so sorry to hear about this! Hang in there, and hopefully things will turn around very quickly....

  3. Anon: Hiring someone in a hurry is so stressful. There was a piece on NPR recently about finding good childcare providers and how usually a single provider does not excel at providing care to children at different developmental needs. It's so hard.
    And these things always happen at the worst times, it seems.

    Kelly: thanks for the support. At least my crazy work commitments have petered out for awhile. I want to write a future post about how it shouldn't be called work-life balance but keeping your work-life product to a non-toxic level, like calcium phos products.

  4. I never had live-in help, but I did have someone stay with my kids until they were three - then I sent them to Montessori (briefly - now we are in a more conventional school). Well, I had two someones. Number two is still with me in a babysitting capacity, and Number one came to a dramatic halt when C was 2 and J was almost born. It was very traumatic for me, but I like you saw that someone who was great with infants wasn't very stimulating or energetic enough for toddlers. I still give her job recommendations.

    Good luck! Sometimes things happen for a reason.

  5. KC - You are just an amazing person and keep it all together with such style and grace, doing the right thing when it was hard (firing her), and I simply don't know how you do it all and all so well. I'm so glad you have family weekends together and supportive parents plus functionning appliances! By the way, readers, KC's work-related presentations were pulled off expertly.

  6. KC, I think you made exactly the right decision. A nanny who is passive and unable to take a stand plus a mentally-unstable boyfriend who doesn't appear to have your kids' best interests in mind is a catastophe waiting to happen. Her lapse of judgment in putting a 2 yr old on her lap in the front passenger seat and driving off is proof of it! We have everything crossed for you that your new nanny will be a great fit for the family. Regardless, you know that we are here for you, come what may.

  7. My parents had to fire my first nanny because she was indebted to a loan shark. She cried, and my mother felt horrible about it. It was really too bad, since she was great with infants. Bad boyfriend seems to fit into a similar category. My parents found someone else, and you will too. Good luck and hang in there!

  8. Giz- think it's great that you have had such good relationships with your 2 someones: still babysitting for you + still giving recommendations. Our 2 former nannies ended so poorly, with so many fatal flaws visible, that we are no longer good references for them. (If I could only say the positive, glowing comments like I do for trainee LORs, I would, but there are some serious flaws that omission would be irresponsible)

    T- you are too kind and a good friend. 2 qualities that I find most endearing in people. Thanks for listening and always being such a support.

    Tempeh- Need to catch you up on current nanny events...

    OldMDGirl- Thanks,childcare stress is a special kind of stress. Wish I had a better way to screen out all of those loan-shark-or-similar-dating, emotionally unstable types. Those usually don't come out in interviews or references.

    Anon- thanks. I like thinking Gizabeth's suggestion that this could be happening for a reason and that Mary Poppins is about to float down from the skies with an umbrella.

  9. My sister, who is also an MD (FP) had to bail her nanny out of jail. In the middle of the night. It was some kind of domestic dispute, (bad boyfriend again). Jailbird nanny eventually left (not because of the jail thing) and by that time her oldest was old enough to mind the younger two for a few hours after school. Maybe you should look for an orphan who has taken a vow of celibacy?

  10. Yikes! Sounds crazy stressful. I think you made the right call and I hope you find someone more suitable soon.

  11. I'm so glad you have family weekends together and supportive parents plus functionning appliances!


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