Nanny time

4 Mar

In my memory, I grew up in a household where my dad worked, my mom didn’t, and my brothers and I were raised by my mom. My birth mother, who died when I was 7 or so, may have had a job (I think she was a teacher). But I mostly recall her being a volunteer for Women’s American ORT – an organization originally devoted to job training education for Jews worldwide, now devoted to tech training for Jews and non-Jews around the world. My step-mother, who mostly raised us, was also a former teacher (of high school music). So my brothers and I were raised, in the suburbs, by a stay-at-home mom, and a working dad. A typically upper-middle-class existence.

But memory is a stupid, faulty, reconstructive monster, rewriting the past through the lens of the present. In reality, there were people who have always stood behind this memory. Pat, who used to wield a wooden spoon for when we misbehaved, and once tried to lock my oldest brother in the basement (he broke the door in response). Julie, our ‘summer girl’, who took vacations with us – maybe to the Lake of the Ozarks, in Missouri? Could it have been to Mackinac Island, in Michigan? To Hilton Head Island, in South Carolina? Pete, a seminary college student, took us hither and thither throughout high school. So did another woman, whom my mother called Helga because she was Norwegian, and whose name I can no longer remember. These babysitters, summer girls, and college helpers were prevalent in my childhood, and yet they were absent from the formal family structure of our lives. We never called them nannies. But maybe that was because they were White. But they certainly were caregivers, and they weren’t family.

I’ve had Pat and Pete, and Julie and Helga on my mind. We have decided to hire a nanny for our Brooklyn Baby. Three days a week, as baby mama goes back to work and I finish out the semester, to take care of our little one. The evolution of childcare, from ‘I’ll do it,’ to a day care center, to a home day care, to a part-time nanny, is just one more thing in the ever-growing list of things I never imagined that I would do in my life. I don’t like to hire people to clean our house – it feels like we should pick up our own junk and clean our own toilets. And now we’re hiring someone to take care of our child. It’s fraught, man, just fraught. I’m willing to outsource the feeding of my family, the education of my family, sometimes the house-cleaning for my family, but not the care of my baby. That line is such a moving one.

Adding insult to injury, my wife has, like most women, done the vast majority of the work in securing someone to care for our baby. It wasn’t supposed to be this way – last fall, while we were overwhelmed with the list of baby stuff to do in anticipation of our bouncing baby boy, I took on the responsibility for finding childcare. A long series of procrastinations, too-timid outreach, failed sign-ups, and overly optimistic self-assurances, I ended up passing the task back to baby mama a month or so ago. She left my sad excuse for task management in the dust, with a cyclone of phone calls, center visits, pre-screening phone calls to women, reference checks, and try-outs. So basically, I took on a responsibility, wildly underestimated how much time and energy it would take, failed at it, and then passed that responsibility back to my nursing, sleep-deprived wife.

This is also why many men’s (or at least my own, to the extent that I do make them occasionally) claims to ‘equal childcare’ are so obviously silly. The 1-2 punch of breastfeeding and finding childcare means that I’ll never catch up, no matter how many diapers I change or baths I administer.

At the end of all this, we have a nanny, that most ambivalent of childcare professionals. She is a woman of color, and a Caribbean immigrant. All signs point to her being filled with awesomeness, and she will be a boon to us as baby mama and I both figure out what to do next for long-term employment. We don’t know at this point how things will work out in the short- or long-term future, so it’s a little premature to angst over the whole matter. It solves the problem in the immediate future of what to do about childcare. I do wonder if our baby will remember the lovely Black woman whom we hope will help take care of him. I hope so.

And now, for those keeping score, regarding the ‘raising a normal kid in Park Slope’: hyphenated last name? Check. Classical, yet top 20 most popular name? Check. Nanny? Check. Bottle heater-upper? Check. What’s left? A spot at the Berkeley Carroll, natch.

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4 Responses to “Nanny time”

  1. Ivy March 5, 2011 at 9:41 pm #

    I wouldn’t be so hard on yourself re: hiring a nanny. My takeaway from being a parent is that you need to do what you need to do for your little one, and if it takes you outside of your previous comfort zones, well, you learn to stretch. Besides, from what I gathered on your search, it’s not like there were legions of available, affordable, and convenient daycare options for you. Blame our government if you like – Human Rights Watch is: http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/24/maternity-leave-and-human-rights/

  2. Peter March 7, 2011 at 1:01 pm #

    Well, I think we could have swung it with changes to Baby Mama’s work schedule, which of course occurred after we hired the nanny…

  3. Davin March 7, 2011 at 10:25 pm #

    …and, hey, at least the task you failed at was something of legitimate benefit to the whole family.
    I’m currently (sullenly, and yet with great fanfare) attempting to finally find the right mats for our jiu-jitsu play area in the new apt. This is pretty much a toy for me (and Vanderlito) and yet it totally hasn’t happened yet.
    Sigh.

  4. Ivy March 7, 2011 at 10:56 pm #

    This comment might get me judged as totally inconsiderate, but you *can* call up the nanny and say (in the nicest possible way), “So sorry, but our plans have changed.” Just a thought. I’m sure you wouldn’t be the first parents known to caregivers to change their mind.

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