The Nanny Diaries

December 15, 2010 at 8:18 pm | Posted in little bug, Little O, SAHM, the firm, Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Sometimes I am convinced I am working to afford a wife.

After Little Bug was born, we hired a nanny.  Janet was a shy, 40-something mother from the Caribbean who was an unassuming balance to Tim’s and my rather type-A, talkative personalities. Leaving a new baby for the first time with a stranger is terrifying. Janet came highly recommended by a friend of a friend, and all I wanted was for her was to love and keep my baby safe.  Which she did — I couldn’t have asked for more.

But also: I didn’t know to ask for more.  For the first year JJ worked for us I was still in law school, and she only worked part-time. When I started at my firm, we upped her hours, but never discussed her doing anything other than what she had already been doing so well: strolling Buggy around the Back Bay in the Bugaboo, swinging her on the swing, reading her stories, cooking her spicy chicken curries.

Then we moved to the suburbs and had another baby. For a variety of reasons — most of which had to do with my fear of other people driving my children around — I decided not to hire another nanny when my maternity leave ended (JJ didn’t stay with us through my long, seven-month leave). Little O went to a wonderful family-based daycare where the majority of the working moms I knew in town (and, granted, I don’t know that many people yet!) sent their children. For Little Bug, I took advantage of her preschool’s full-day option.

I went back to work September 1. By October 15 we had to make a change. Trying to pick up two kids in two different spots by that hard, 5:30 deadline was difficult even when the Expressway didn’t have one of its usual afternoon fender benders. Then we’d get home and I’d throw together some dinner (which my exhausted toddler usually didn’t want). The kids were melting down, they were dirty, they were tired. And so was I.

A very senior associate — a friend and mentor whose career and family-life choices I admire more than perhaps anyone else at my firm — had a come-to-Jesus talk with me. “You have to hire a nanny,” she said. “Like, now. And you have to hire more than a nanny — you need a household manager.”

Two weeks later, it was done. I pulled Little O out of daycare and scaled Little Buggy back to mornings-only at preschool. Gail showed up at 7:30 a.m. in her fleece (spit-up friendly!) sweatshirt with a steaming travel mug of coffee, and all of our lives changed for the better. Now she oversees the end of the children’s much more leisurely breakfast — Little O still in his pajamas — while I finish getting ready. Tim or I still drop off Little Bug at school. Gail spends all morning with Little O (one-on-one attention this poor second child rarely gets!), and then picks up Buggy at 1 p.m. In the afternoons she takes them on outings — the library, the Children’s Museum, the playground. They make crafts (which you know I wouldn’t do!). She cooks them dinner and gives them a bath. And I come home and get to play with my well-napped, wet-haired, pajama-clad kids.

She also takes care of me. A good friend once told me she thought her nanny was the only person who had her, my friend’s, back. When Gail started, I immediately felt the same way. Gail makes sure I have my own travel mug of coffee when I walk out the door. Before she started, the house always felt like a disorganized disaster, the laundry never done, and we were always running out of something essential — orange juice, Cheerios, diapers. I now come home to a calm, straightened up, orderly house where the laundry is folded and — get this — dinner is plated and tented with tin foil, waiting for me to heat up after I put the kids down.

She’s a better “mom” than I would be were I home. I mean it. Ok, well, she’s a better “housewife” at any rate. A repair person can come if we need it, library books are returned before we’re fined, and she can run to the market for milk. Of course, the obvious flip side is that I have to work my crazy job to afford a professional like Gail — and she is a true professional. She is former preschool teacher and a mother who considers nurturing children her calling.

But she also sees it as her job to make our home run smoothly. Every time I have an idealistic (or even realistic) urge to chuck it all and stay home with the children I think, “I wouldn’t have Gail!”  Being a household manager-type isn’t my natural affinity to begin with, so it was increasingly stressful for me to try to be both lawyer and house manager (i.e., housewife). Am I working, then, to be able to hire someone to — apart from caring for my children — do what I would do were I not working?  I might just be. And I’m a bit unsettled as to whether I’m actually OK with that…

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  1. I feel the same way about my nanny! Crazy day today and my laundry was folded (and kids done), kitchen clean, dinner for kids prepped. She is so much more efficient than I am, it’s amazing. I’m glad you found someone who fits in so well!

  2. oh, I hear you. We had a nanny for 5 wonderful months and everything was well organized and clean. Absolutely: you cannot have two kids, a more than full time job and a commute without household help, not just daycare. One kid, its doable. two, absolutely NOT. And I feel the same way, that I am working to have a wife. But you know what? This is reality. And honestly, I appreciate that work more now because I had it done for me…I do think housework is work. I read Barbara Ehrenreich, and I appreciate her point of view. But I pay well and am a good boss, and the truth is most of us cannot have the flexible life of a writer, we have to be somewhere for 8-10 hours a day. If you make those choices, you have to deal with it…and hire help!


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