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'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.


Becky said...


Shan said...

Ooof. This whole process is so stressful-sounding to me that it is a huge part of why we have me stay home full-time and in that way avoid trying to find a childcare provider altogether. It sounds absolutely hellish--vfinancially, emotionally, and otherwise. And, of course, it is too bad that in this country it is so hard to find childcare. Especially part-time childcare (which I've been told here in Northfield is pretty much impossible to find and/or afford, especially for two--and I'm sure that's the way it is everywhere).

I don't think I know one family who has had a nanny for childcare that has been able to keep that provider longer than a year--and sometimes it was much shorter than that. So then, like you, they go through the whole process again. Awful!

Good luck! I truly wish you the best possible outcome!

Jordan said...

Becky, I knew you could relate!

Shannon, I hadn't heard that about part-time child care. Do people say that about centers, or nannies, or what? I haven't experienced that in SF or Chicago - is it because more people are looking for full-time? We found a great center that would've been terrific for Lyle part-time for this year and were just going to try to do a center again for the financial benefit, but the waiting list was a mile long. If only we'd known when he was BORN that we'd be living in this neighborhood this year! Sheesh!!

And that's true, we've usually had a nanny for a year and no longer. In our experience they are at a transitional phase in life between college and something else, and often leave when they get married, get pregnant, move, etc. I have recently talked to nannies who were with families 5-10 years but they are more "career nannies" who intend to do it long-term and also need to get paid a lot more than we can afford. So the ones we're going to get are generally going to be short-term, it seems. And now that we've done it, oh, at least 6 times, I'm very tired of it!

Shan said...

Yeah, I've heard from several moms around here that it's pretty impossible to find part-time center-based care (I heard that in Mpls. too). Maybe it's more accurate to say that you CAN bring your child there part-time; you're just paying for full-time!!! I don't know if this is true for smaller home-based group daycares or just for the commercial ones.

I'm not sure why it is; I just know that the story is that most places have only full-week openings. It must be a money thing.... Maybe it's harder to find another child to take up the rest of the one child's part-time week, so the center would end up with fewer bodies (total) in childcare for the full week, meaning they would make less revenue? I don't really know.

And I do know there is NO WAY we could ever afford full-time daycare for two--probably not even part-time for two. So...I feel like I would either have to land some ridiculously, unusually, lucrative position (very unlikely given the fact that we now live in a small town in the countryside--meaning, there are limited workplaces here!), OR I'd have to go back to working in the evenings when Christopher is home to be with the girls--which would be much too exhausting right now on top of taking care of two little ones full-time during the day. Therefore, I'm not working right now (for pay, I mean!) other than occasional freelance consulting.

Selfmademom said...

It's very stressful, but I totally understand your rational for wanting a nanny. I have searched for nannies in the chicago area, and may know of one looking for work, so e-mail me if you want...