January 30, 2011
Good help is hard to find, or so the saying goes.
Preface: I fully acknowledge that this is a first-world problem, as well as the kind of problem that childless people don’t want to hear about. But, if you are so inclined, I could use some help with a child care conundrum.
Preface #2: Pre-babies, I ranted about mommies who have nothing better to talk about than poo and diaper rash. Poo and diaper rash do come up in this post, but they are critical to the larger questions of managing employees, work-home struggles, personal standards, et al.
We have a nanny who has been with us about a year. We have some other babysitters who help out as well (some regularly like one 3-hour shift every week, and some only occasionally), and all of them are fantastic, but they don’t have enough available time to add up to a full childcare schedule. The nanny and the other babysitters are all college students. The nanny usually does about 30 hours a week, though this semester she’s doing less, and across all of them we have less coverage than we would like.
It used to be that I would say that the nanny is great with the twins, and very eager to do anything we need around the house. Reliability has been a problem for a long time (DH says that at any regular job, if she cancelled and no-showed this much she would have been fired long ago), but we felt that when she’s actually here, she’s great.
When the twins used to sleep a lot during the day, she used to do a lot of cleaning on top of the usual baby tasks. Now, there are typically about 2 free hours each day during naps to get stuff done. Not enough to do the regular daily tasks plus major cleaning. Fine, we can forgo major cleaning, bring someone else in to do it sometimes, or have the nanny clean when we happen to be out of town but have to pay her anyway, all of which have happened at various points.
Increasingly, the nanny has gotten lazy about household tasks. There was a time when she would anticipate everything that needed to be done. Now, she only does things if we specifically ask her — she does them willingly, but then the next time, we have to ask her again. Some things never get done unless we do them ourselves because she keeps “running out of time,” like the pots that sat in our sink for a week until I got sick of staring at them and washed them myself. More and more, she’s been doing her schoolwork (at least I think that’s what she’s doing on her computer all day). I can tolerate her doing some amount of work when the twins are playing, because I understand that it can be a bit much to play with them all day long. Then, she started working more and more during naptime too. We have never told her that she couldn’t do her schoolwork, but usually by asking her to do other tasks, she ended up doing less. None of the other babysitters ever do their schoolwork — they don’t even bring their books into the house, let alone computers.
Yesterday was the worst ever. At the end of the day she left the house a mess — the full day’s worth of bottles (6!) unwashed, high chairs covered in food, floor under the table hadn’t been swept in more than a week, a dirty diaper on our fireplace mantle. Basic stuff that ANYONE doing child care would have taken care of. The tasks that most other babysitters are willing to do were also undone: diaper pail not emptied, empty trash cans still at the curb from the day before, none of the laundry washed in the past week put away in the nursery, crib sheets visibly dirty, etc. Oh, and the dirty dishes from her lunch were in the sink for me to do.
We’ve tolerated living in squalor for a while because it’s hard to hire someone new, especially when we don’t know if we’re moving soon. The nanny has gotten worse since the possibility of moving arose — lame duck — but the reliability and laziness problems predate the move question by many months.
We felt like we could put up with it because the twins were happy — they love her. But, every other babysitter reads to them often and plays with them the whole time they’re here. Obviously I don’t sit and eavesdrop on her all day, but I’d be surprised if she read one book to them every day, and it’s been weeks since I walked in on her sitting on the floor playing with them.
Yesterday, DH stopped in during his work day to say hello to the twins. The nanny was at her laptop as usual. The twins’ faces were crusted with food from lunch an hour before. Burrito had a poopy diaper. That was the third time in three days that DH had walked in to find Burrito in a poopy diaper.
The really bad part is that Burrito has been battling a terrible diaper rash for the past two months, requiring three separate visits to the pediatrician and several different medicines. I literally sniff his butt every 5 minutes just to make sure he’s not sitting in a dirty diaper — but it’s rarely necessary, because when I’m in the room with him I can almost always see it in his face when he poos (TMI, sorry, though it’s actually pretty cute to watch). I know for sure that the nanny isn’t totally to blame for his rash because he also had big problems when we were away, but I’m pretty sure that yesterday’s resurgence was due to her negligence. I guarantee that she is not looking at his face often enough to notice when he’s making his pooping expressions.
We’ve talked about firing her several times over the past few months (usually when I receive a text message after she’s supposed to have already arrived telling me she won’t be coming), then we always decide to stick with her. But yesterday may have been the last straw… or maybe not.
What would you do?
- Put up with status quo: keep asking her to do each task, and let her do her homework much of the time.
- Have a conversation about moderate changes that need to be made.
- Have a conversation about major, nonnegotiable changes that need to be made.
- Fire her and hire someone new, not knowing how long they’d be working for us due to possible move (and definitely knowing that the process of interviewing requires kissing many frogs before you find your princess).
- Fire her and make due with existing babysitters part-time plus hire a regular housekeeper.
The last option is quite a departure from having almost full-time care, but honestly, as long as someone else does all of the grunt work, I can probably get by work-wise, at least until I know what’s happening with the move.
I love spending time with my children. I also love my work, and I am fine with paying sweet young women to give them loving, stimulating care, which used to describe everyone, but now describes everyone except the nanny. I am decidedly not fine with paying someone to fully ignore the house and half-ignore the twins. Which I suppose means that I’ve crossed #1 off the list of possibilities.