Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Wanted: Mary Poppins
Now don't worry. I'm not going to go on and on again about watching Mary Poppins with my kids. (Although my babbling did actually spark a bit of a revival around the country last time...)
No, right now I just need to say that I am feeling really burned out on searching for a new nanny. I hesitate to even post this because I can just see some of you rolling your eyes and thinking this is some privileged rant, right up there with, "Oh, my! I simply can't decide between the Land Rover and the BMW!" or, "I'm having a hell of a time deciding whether to take the cruise or the ski trip this winter!"
Well, of course I do know that in the scheme of things, having a dual income and a nice condo in a big city, and a car, and being able to afford any child care at all is a privilege in this crazy country. But, this is no "nanny diaries" scenario; a nanny has a basic child care provider role in our household. It's just that, well, no one calls them "babysitters" when they work for you long-term. And it doesn't mean we're raking in the big bucks, either; no, we actually - when it comes down to it - can't afford a nanny.
So why do we do it? The prestige? Um, no, not our style. After all, have I even mentioned here that we have a nanny? Is it because we turn up our noses at the other more affordable options, believing that any other type of child care is sub-par for our darling angels? I'm gonna have to say "no" here, too. (Oh, and "Barf.")
Quite the contrary. In fact, we've tried it all, including a home day care, a small child care center, a large child care center, a couple of nannies who brought their own children, a nanny-share with another family, and our own nanny. Each option had its pros, for sure, and there are days when the nanny calls in sick or "dead uncle" and I daydream about a child care center that's always open when it's supposed to be.
I should say here, too, that the other option we tried was me just staying home, because when I worked for a school part-time, my salary pretty much covered child care and not much else. But none of these child care options made me less happy than being at home full-time. It's simply not for me. And you know what they say: if Mama ain't happy, ain't NOBODY happy. After six months at home, I started my private practice, which was the perfect solution for me and my happiness. It still didn't make child care easy, however.
Because here's the problem for our family - when your small child gets sick (which mine have been - with their chronic allergies and asthma - a LOT), you just can't bring him to a center or a home day care, because of course he'll get everyone else sick. (And he'll get sicker, just by being there!) So, when you own your own business, as I do, and your child gets sick, you are totally stuck. I am not on a salary; I get paid by my clients for the hours I spend providing therapy to their children; when I stay home for a day or two, we take a significant hit. Matt and I have taken turns, but sometimes he has a business trip or big conference call, and can't stay home. So, in the end, a center is more expensive for us, because of how much money we lose when a child can't go. With a nanny, we have coverage if one of the kids gets a cold, or a low- grade fever, or has some mild asthma. I can still go to work.
Also - and this may scare the pants off of working parents with small children - those big kids in their free public schools? You know, the ones you're looking forward to NOT paying child care for anymore? Well, we have been really stunned by how many frigging days OFF they have ALL THE TIME! I'm not even just talking about the 10 weeks in the summer, 2 weeks over the holidays, and a week for spring break...it's the random, seemingly-constant full- and half-days off that will drive you bananas! And if you're both at work all day, who's with your child? Who the heck is free to pick him up at 12:25 at least a couple times a month?? So, we have been very grateful to have a nanny with Lyle who can also provide all that back-up care for Baxter at no extra fee.
All in all, it makes the most sense for us right now, even though I cringe when I write those checks every Friday and an accountant would surely insist we find a cheaper option.
But the point is, the process of hiring someone new is heinous. The ads, the emails, the phone interviews to screen them, calling their referrals, meeting them, negotiating. We can't pay top dollar, so we meet lots of wonderful nannies who we end up unable to hire. This is depressing. We always find someone eventually, but it's so much work. I knew our current nanny would be taking a teaching job this fall and that we only had her for a year; I hope this next hire will get us through until kindergarten. It's almost exhausting enough this time to make me want to go through an agency, but when I think about spending so much money for a middle-man, I figure we can do it ourselves just one more time.
Please, let it be just one more time.