Thoughtful Thursday: Tolerant

October 20, 2011

Thoughtful ThursdayAfter detailing some of my nanny woes here earlier this year, with lots of helpful advice from readers with all sorts of relevant experiences, the situation was resolved when that nanny quit before I could fire her. Firing her hadn’t really crossed my mind before my blog post, because I am a very tolerant person and because the prospect of hiring someone new is horrible, having gone through the hiring process several times. But, she quit on her own and gave me the impetus to replace her.

We replaced her with a dream-come-true nanny who was everything I could have hoped for and more. She was wonderful enough that I was reluctant to move away and lose her. Then we thought we might move somewhere exciting temporarily and I was totally going to bring her with us to Europe or whatever. And when her housing situation became uncertain, I was going to let her move in with us. When DH and I both went out of town on business, I had no reservations about leaving the twins alone with her for a couple of days. Can’t get better than that.

Our relationship changed a couple of months ago from honeymoon phase to on the rocks, and now I’m strongly considering a breakup.

She used to be on time consistently; I never questioned whether she’d show up. Then, some things in her life went to hell, totally legitimate things that would trip anyone up, and she started being late. And later. And later. It started to become a surprise if she showed up less than half an hour late. Her record is 3 hours. At almost any job you’d get fired for being a little late just a few times, and virtually no boss in the world would let you get away with missing several hours of work per week, but I put up with it. The twins adore her and she is fantastic with them in every way. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t like it, especially that week when I missed four appointments including a medical appointment for me and one for Tamale because of her lateness, but I tolerated it. When DH and I had a sit-down with her, the lateness improved. And then it unimproved.

She also started watching TV. Burrito and Tamale are not allowed to watch TV or any other screens, ever, and the only TV in the house is in a room where they don’t go. She started watching TV during their naps, ostensibly when eating her lunch and when folding their laundry, but there have been plenty of times that DH or I has had to inform her that they had been awake and talking — or crying — for a while, because apparently when you watch Glee you need to turn up the volume really loud during the musical numbers. Except that I went downstairs yesterday when Burrito and Tamale should already have been napping and she was watching TV on her computer while they sat playing… in poopy diapers. Seriously not cool. I told her firmly how seriously not cool that was, I reiterated my stance on screens around my children, and I banned her computer. Okay, so she made a mistake, but the problem is solved, maybe.

She doesn’t have a car so I lend her our car once or twice a week to be helpful and kind. I don’t mind her putting on a hundred miles sometimes, and I don’t mind paying for the gas, as long as I don’t end up with a totally empty tank, which doesn’t happen, usually. I didn’t even mind that time she got a parking ticket and didn’t pay it and didn’t tell us and we got a notice in the mail a month later. She was very apologetic and paid the ticket — or rather, I paid the ticket and took it out of her salary, because I wanted to make sure it got paid. Fine.

Then there’s the lying. I caught her in a silly lie not long after she’d started; she was embarrassed to say that she’d done something that I didn’t even care about in the first place, and she lied to cover it up, and the truth came out. I told her that I didn’t care, and that we were delighted she was with us, and that she should just be honest. That was fine. Lately, there have been a bunch more little silly lies which are annoying but not dealbreakers. Then I discovered that she falsified her work history, which is far more than just annoying. She had the experience she said she had, except that it was for her mother instead of a stranger. I would have hired her if she’d applied with her true background, but she presumably thought that she needed to “boost” her experience to get anyone to take her seriously. She doesn’t know I know, because if I confronted her I’d presumably have to fire her on the spot. That one is bad, but not enough to push me over the edge.

The last straw? She has taken up smoking. She swears that she hasn’t, but several times after she’s borrowed the car it’s been totally smoky — each time she has an excuse about giving a different friend a ride who lit up before she could stop them — and also she smells totally smoky and also she has started randomly going outside. The other day she locked herself out of the house and I had to come home from work and let her in while my children sat inside crying, then she had a bizarre excuse as to why she had gone outside. That was totally not okay. But, I don’t expect it to come up again because she’s actually rarely home alone, but c’mon, do I really have to babysit the nanny? I object to the lying and I object to leaving my children alone but really, I mostly object to the smoking. I would never, ever, ever hire someone who smoked, so it stands to reason that I should fire someone who starts smoking. That’s it. That’s the last straw.

And then I see Burrito gleefully kiss the nanny, or I see Tamale throw her arms around the nanny’s neck in a big hug, or I hear her singing to them with her incredible professional-caliber voice while the twins sit in her lap enraptured, or I hear Tamale ask hourly every Saturday and Sunday when the nanny is coming back, and I mentally un-fire her.

How tolerant are you? How far do you let yourself be pushed?

18 Responses to “Thoughtful Thursday: Tolerant”

  1. St. Elsewhere Says:

    It is totally turning into a nightmare. She might be very good with the kids when she is paying attention, but it seems that she is getting comfortable to the like of getting unprofessional. Is it possible that she is not the one smoking, but is rather having trysts with some boyfriend in the car who is a smoker?

    I don’t have a nanny situation, but yup outright lying would made me climb up the wall or nail someone back.

    I let my maid take unannounced offs and not mind it too much if it is not on a extended stretch. Sometimes, she borrows money from us, and that is okay too. There are times she has my cook make her tea or breakfast, but I am okay with that too.

    What I dislike is when she lies. If I catch her fibbing, that is when she gets it from me. One other thing I have with her (which I totally dislike), is how she handles gifts that we give her. She is almost never satisfied with whatever I give her. And I can’t always bend myself backwards and give in to what she wants. That’s when I cross the bridge.

  2. Elizabeth Says:

    It’s so hard. It’s hard when your kids have a loving relationship with someone and you see that person let them down – and in ways that actually put their safety in jeopardy.

    It’s hard hiring someone else to care for your small children. A friend of mine commented once that just finding and managing child care is a part-time job.

    It’s hard when someone who works for you also feels like a friend and like part of the family.

    It’s hard to know exactly where to draw the lines sometimes.

    From an outside perspective, it looks like an easy and obvious decision – fire her! But having been in a somewhat similar situation I know how hard it is to be IN that situation.

    I’m pretty tolerant, and in our case it helped that the nanny was the daughter of long-time family friends and it felt like there was an accountability network that was bigger than just me and her. I knew her mom was looking over her shoulder as well and working at keeping her on track (e.g. I smelled cigarette smoke in her car a few times early on but then after just those few times never again). I also found that in our situation just one “little talk” would do the trick for her to step it up. She was young and trying to get her life on track – graduating from college and looking for a more permanent job – so I took those things into consideration. But at some point it’s true, you have to think about your kids’ safety and wonder how much further she’s going to push you? At what point is she doing more harm than good?

    Funny, I also had a she-quit-before-I-could-fire-her situation which was kind of a relief and also kind of unsatisfying – but yeah, it’s such an anxious process to interview and hire child care – it sucks to have to jump back into that pool again.

    I’m really feeling for you right now!

  3. Two Kayaks Says:

    I am likely the least tolerant person of my friends. I know how hard I work every single day with the twins and how much energy, time and effort I put into their education and their lives in general. I think I said this on your post about your other nanny situation, but I don’t stop at all until the twins are napping and then I’m able to have lunch and be on the computer. When they wake for the day (which should be any minute) my attention is on them. I know the standards I have set for myself are high and I wouldn’t expect any less than that for my children. Listen, I understand that it’s just a job to her and that Burrito and Tamale are not as priceless to her as they are to you and your husband, but being a nanny entails more than just showing up. It’s a job where littles are watching and learning more from behavior than anything else.
    We have recently cut immediate family members out of our lives because we didn’t want Chick and Pea to be influenced by their toxicity. Yes, I’m intolerant and make no apologies for it. My family is sacred and should be treated as such.
    Good luck with everything. It can’t be easy.

  4. Heather Says:

    I know I wouldn’t be able to be as tolerant as you are. I’m sure she’s great with the kids, but if she’s consistently late and not paying attention to them because of TV, computer, smoking, whatever, I think she’s getting too comfortable into thinking she can get away with it.

  5. strongblonde Says:

    just lost my whole long comment b/c of a random power outage!!

    in a nutshell: you are VERY tolerant. I am more middle of the road and tend to create lines in the sand that I continually push back and redraw. I talk a good game, but tend to only stand my ground when safety or welfare is involved.

    I think that it might be time to start looking again. It sounds like she has not really recovered, never really returned to her baseline? I know that it sucks, but chances are that you WILL find someone again….the process is just painful.

    or maybe tell her that you feel like she’s giving you no choice? that you want to keep her, but these things are bothering you? then maybe that will be incentive to change?

  6. a Says:

    I’m pretty tolerant, and I hate that I take more crap than I need to. I don’t know where my limit is, but I suspect it would have been at the 3 hours late mark. If I am relying on someone to be somewhere at a particular time so I can be somewhere else, they’d better damn well be there or I will be PISSED. I guess that’s the thing – she’s crossed a bunch of lines, but she hasn’t crossed THE line. The one that will make you fire her on the spot and refuse to give her a good reference. Ugh. I know it’s hard to let go of someone that your children like so well, but is she really worth the aggravation?

  7. Ana Says:

    I thought I was tolerant but your nanny situation sounds beyond what I could deal with. Then again, it’s easy for me to say so, objectively…much different in the midst of it. Like strongblonde wrote, I am also frequently redrawing the lines and letting myself be pushed further and further. For me, the most egregious thing was being locked out WITH KIDS INSIDE! What if you couldn’t get there quickly???? Also the smoking. Ick.
    We had to let our housecleaner go bc of much less…but my husband put his foot down . I wanted to keep her, seeing as how 2mths later we still haven’t found anyone & have to do it ourselves newborn, toddler and all.

  8. Tara (TIMO) Says:

    You are much more tolerant than I am and I consider myself pretty tolerant. Individually they don’t seem too bad but that combination of things would have surely put me over the edge by now. She is at the point where B&T are going to notice and start copying the things she’s doing (if they haven’t already). And it sounds like she has the potential to put them in danger (leaving them in dirty diapers, leaving them alone in the house to smoke). Your house, your kids, your rules. It sounds like she’s not living up to them. Sorry but I’d start looking again.

  9. MeAndBaby Says:

    I agree with Tara – she is either already or going to be a bad example for the twins. Your babies were left alone. And she lied about it. That would be more than enough for me.

  10. Change is hard, and I detest finding a new person-or-whatever, but I think Nanny crossed the line somewhere back around lying/smoking/being late.

    All those things make the twins’ affection for her not really matter much. There’s YOU to consider, too — your time, your trust, everyone’s health.

    I know it’s easier said than done, but it’s time to get a new nanny. You and your family deserve better.


  11. Oh, and to answer your question, I’ve been told I have “healthy” boundaries. I think that is code for “intolerant.”

  12. BB Says:

    Oh my… again? The current behavior of your nanny doesn’t seem too far from where your previous nanny left you! Besides having to find the right fit, it is probably tough on the kids to adjust and trust another nanny too. Good Luck!

  13. Mel Says:

    I am very very very overly tolerant on things that affect me. But when they affect my children, I become a freakin’ bear. I know I couldn’t handle the lying thing. The lateness I could deep breathe through and the screen time as well. But the lying feels like an enormous breach of trust. At the same time, it can’t be black-and-white. There’s how well she gets along with the twins, how difficult it would be to hire someone new, etc.

  14. Kate Says:

    She’s gone too far. Even if they love her, you can find someone they care for who’s reliable and safe. It doesn’t sound like she is any more. I’m sorry you’re dealing with all the crap!

  15. Elana Kahn Says:

    I’m really quite tolerant because I don’t like confrontation. I talk a big game behind someone’s back, but the thought of actually calling them out on something…I just can’t do it. Also, usually they have a pretty solid excuse for whatever happened, so I just can’t continue being upset about it. But in any case, someone would have to screw up hardcore to get me to fire them. Even the evil au pair from hell left before I even thought of firing her…and she was AWFUL! Yeah, I’m a total pushover.

  16. Rebecca Says:

    I would have had it with her before now; get rid! She’s lying and sneaking around!

    I’m tolerant – but once I’m angry that’s it I’m done. I recently cut a friend completely out of my life. I’ve been putting up with her crap for almost three years. It was something trivial that finally did it, but now she’s gone, completely.

  17. ernessat Says:

    We had a similar problem with our first and last nanny. She consistently showed up late — only a 15-30 minutes usually, but still. What got us to finally fire her, was that she let her phone go dead and then was 20 minutes late returning our daughter and she was soaking wet with a poopy diaper. She was a very, very nice woman, but we couldn’t trust her after that. Being ditzy is not an option with other peoples’s children. That turned me off of nannies all together and we put our daughter in daycare. 1) Like you I’m a little too tolerant. 2) I hate telling other people what to do, even if I’m paying them. I work alone for a reason. And this is the same reason we never got around to hiring another housekeeper. I just hate dealing with people in the service capacity. 3) I like dropping my daughter off at daycare and knowing exactly what she’s doing. 4) I can work at home in peace and quiet without worrying about every little cry that comes from the next room.

    We recently enrolled our daughter in morning preschool, and every other kid has either a full SAHM or a nanny — often both. Our daughter is the only one in PT daycare, but I really love her daycare, and I really, really love that I never have to worry about them mistreating her or not changing her diaper or not putting her in front of the television when I’m not looking or getting in a car accident or … there’s a whole list of things — but basically I love that everyone is accountable. And if a daycare teacher has personal or medical problems or shows up late, it’s not on me to babysit until she gets there or gets better or whatever. Basically, I now realize that I just wasn’t meant to have a nanny. And extra bonus, daycare is cheaper, so more money for life-enriching extracurriculars.

  18. Oh, that’s no fun situation to be in! Maybe instead of immediately firing her, or just letting it be as-is, you can have a good talk with her and say that if things don’t change asap (and stay that way) that she’ll be fired? Glad I’m not in your shoes though…

    I’m pretty tolerant I guess. I can get really p*ssed off at people sometimes, but mostly in private, and when I then see them again I will say it’s not that bad, or I understand why it happened, etc. Not always a good thing because it doesn’t improve things and I keep my frustration!

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