Hiring someone to take care of my children after my second baby was not easy. It wasn't easy to find "the one," and it wasn't easy to acclimate them to my home (honestly, I'm not the most fun person to work for). Once I'd gone through the process of hiring a nanny, I felt like it was up to me to make the relationship work, even when things started to feel a little weird (and when things got really uncomfortable). In the end, there were plenty of reasons I felt bad about letting our nanny go, even though my gut was telling me it was the absolute right thing to do.
Things get really complicated when your employee is someone who is taking care of your most precious belongings (yes I'm talking about your kids), and this person is working inside your home. It is intimate. It is confusing. The boundaries are a little unclear, and there isn't a rule book you can turn to on how to act or how to be "a boss" in this situation. As a new(ish) mother, I didn’t exactly trust my own inner voice at the time.
Slowly, things started to gnaw away at me about the nanny I had hired. Nothing major or like something you would see on the news at night, to be sure. It was just a lot of little things, and though there are plenty of articles about how you're not supposed to let a nanny go for reasons such as "different parenting styles," I think you can (and should) draw the line when you've made your parenting style clear and they still do their own thing. Like how I would ask her to give the baby bottles at a certain time and she would agree, then proceed to give them on her own schedule. Or how I had asked her not to plop him in front of the television for an hour (he was only 2 months old) and I would come home at an unexpected hour to find she was doing just that "because it was just the news." Then, of course, little things gave way to somewhat bigger things, some of which I only found out about after the fact (how she often walked across the street with my toddler on his scooter behind her, without even looking back, while she talked on her phone. He was 2.)
I should have listened to my gut from the beginning, but there were a lot of doubts and reasons swirling inside my head that prevented me from doing what I should have done from the get-go. Here are some of them:
Because He Was Baby, So What Would He Know?
My youngest was not jiving with the nanny at all. He was an infant, though, so what did he know about people?
Still, even when I was home, I noticed that she was impatient, distant, and sometimes even a little rough with him. She didn't really baby him at all, instead preferring to prop him up (he was still too young to be able to hold a bottle) so that his bottle was balancing on a towel so she didn't have to hold him while he drank. "Look, he's feeding himself!" she said. I thought that was pretty innovative (and quite honestly, there's probably a wildly successful invention waiting to happen right there), but my own personal style (and what I asked her to also emulate) was to hold the baby while he ate at least most of the time or whenever it was possible. He always seemed cranky when I relieved her (no matter what time of day) and he was my "good," agreeable baby.
I wondered if my infant was trying to tell me something. Did he not like her? Or were my postpartum hormones playing weird tricks on me again?
Because I Was A Newish Mom, So What Would I Know?
Moments of confidence were often followed up and usurped by moments of doubt. Any time I had a thought like, "This doesn't feel right," or, "This kind of bothers me," it would soon be chased away by something along the lines of, "You only feel that way because you're new at this," or, "You don't even know what you're talking about."
Even after the birth of my second child, I still felt like a newbie most of the time, and like my own feelings about my children and my parenting of them weren't completely valid (especially if I was challenged by someone who claimed to know more). I know, completely lame, right? I looked to nannies, with their years of raising their own children (in many cases) and their years of raising other people's children, as experts whose advice and wisdom paled in comparison with anything I could offer.
However, and while professionals do deserve a sense of deference to some degree, in the end it is up to us, as mothers, to go with what is in our hearts and in our guts when it comes to decisions about our children. For example, she had decided that lunch time should be at 10:30 a.m. for my toddler. I had never thought that made sense, and told her so (since he ate breakfast at around 8 a.m.) Still, she assured me that all the other children she had cared for ate at that time, and that it was best for them. Later, I learned that that was simply when she wanted to eat lunch.
Because I Knew She Relied On This Job
I knew that money was tight for her. She had two kids in high school, and a couple of medical problems. I knew that she had suffered some kind of accident years ago (she didn't offer details) for which she continued to receive treatment. I also knew that it had taken her a while to get the job with me and my family, and that finding the right job wasn't easy. I really struggled with what it would do to her and her family if she lost the job with me.
Because She Reminded Me How Lucky I Was To Have Her
When those moments in which I began to have my doubts about her arose she had a sixth sense for it, because it was right about then that she would regale me with tales about her previous jobs and how amazing she was with the families that came before me and how much they appreciated her. You would have thought that she worked with some pretty A-list (but very low-maintenance, and generous celebrities) because her former employers whisked her away on exotic vacations or weekends in the Hamptons where they asked her to do little else but enjoy herself (not sure who watched the kids?) and gifted her with tickets to Broadway shows and fancy bags. But no, these were just regular folks in Manhattan, she said. "This is normal for employers to do," she told me. "I was like family." No explanation, however, on why she wasn't currently working with these families.
Because I Had Already Invested So Much Time And Energy
You know the feeling of having already spent so much time on something or someone that even when things aren't working, you're like, "Ugh, but if I end this I'll have to start all over?"
Starting over is hard, and also really annoying. The idea of introducing a brand new person to my world, and the subtleties of each of my children's individual needs and the general how-to's of running my household, was enough to make me stick with what wasn't working even if it was not working in a big way. I kept on having this unrealistic expectation that, over time, something would click and she would magically start jiving with our family and I would feel differently about her.
Spoiler: it never happened.
Because There Were Some Things She Did That Were Really, Really Good
If you were a picky toddler, you would give her five stars for her crustless egg-salad sandwiches. I still don't know what her secret recipe was for getting my then-toddler son to eat egg-salad (he swears he would never eat the stuff in a million years, but I have photographic evidence) but I think mustard was part of the ingredient list.
Also, she introduced the term "monster bites" to our household, which is something we still employ to this day, with giggles, to describe taking an enormous bite of something. I didn't think it would stick after she left, but about six months after, my older son (who hadn't mentioned her since the day she stopped showing up at our door) just out of nowhere said it, and it's stuck around since.
Because I Wanted Her To Like Me...
Even if there was no reason at all for the two of us to continue having a relationship after our professional one was over, and even if the possibility of running into one another was slim, I hated the idea of having someone out there hating my guts. I almost couldn't tolerate it to the point that it nearly inhibited me from letting a bad nanny go. I didn't want her to hate me, or put any kind of negative energy about me into the universe after I had fired her. It was way easier just to flip out about how much she annoyed me, or the thing she did to undermine me that day, every night to my husband or my BFF or my mom.
...And I Didn't Want Her Friends To Hate Me
My nanny's crew was a pretty tight one. They met nearly every morning in my building's lobby to chat, and to gossip and make plans or playdates for that day. Just like me and my work friends back when I worked in an office, and we'd crowd around someone's desk in the morning and shoot the you-know-what over coffee before digging into emails.
I don't know how she did it in so short a time, but people liked her. That is, until they didn't. As soon as I let her go, nannies would pull me aside to report on this horrible thing or that, that they had observed her do with my children, or my dog, but that they hadn't wanted to say because it wasn't their business. "It's good she's gone," was their consensus, so either she committed some grand nanny treason and broke some unspoken code of conduct and a tarnished rep was her punishment, or worse, what they told me is true (I'm going with the latter).
Because I Didn't Want To Believe It When I Caught Her In Several Mistruths
Even as certain lies started to reveal themselves, I didn't want to believe them. I began to explain them away, almost in the way that an abused person might explain away being pushed down the stairs by her lover. "He didn't mean it," she might say. "He was in a blind rage, and he is so sorry."
I chalked up most of her lies to miscommunications on my part. "Maybe she didn't understand what I had asked because I'm working on five brain cells these days?" was what I usually fell back upon. I wouldn't have been surprised if, in my mind, my directions could be as clear as, "Please don't feed them dinner until 5 p.m." However, due to my being braindead from having an infant and a toddler, it could actually have come out like, "Cheese sticks are yummy and I have toes." I made many excuses for the things she did that purposely defied my directions, and the things she claimed she did that she definitely did not do, until I could not ignore all the mistruths piling up.
Because Confrontations Make Me Want to Vomit
I knew what I had to do and I knew I had to do it for a very long time. Everyone close to me in my life, who had had to suffer through countless conversations that focused solely on "What to do about my nanny?" knew what I had to do. It was just up to me to do it. However, confrontation made my stomach turn and my heart beat fast, and I was terrified that instead of talking I would just throw up on my shoes. I had to prepare notes, speak in front of my mirror, practice on the phone with my mom, and practice to my husband in person (if you've never fired your partner, I highly suggest it because damn, that was fun). Letting our nanny go was the last thing I wanted to do even though, by the point, when it happened it absolutely had to be done.
The final straw was when she said something to me one day when we were both home that was the equivalent of, "You don't expect me to go out in the cold and pick up your kid from school, do you? I didn't think I'd have to walk that far once winter came." Even though I hadn't planned on having "the talk" right then and there, it felt like as good a time as any, and I was overcome by a spontaneous desire to just let it all out. It just happened, and five minutes later, it was pretty much over. I was shaking, and I came down with an instant migraine, but I had never felt so free.