Wednesday, January 02, 2008

breakin' up is hard to do: nanny rebound

i had to fire our beloved nanny yesterday. by all means, the circumstances that have transpired really gave us no other choice, and this fact was corroborated by an informal poll of family members and friends. it still broke my heart.

for almost one year, she cared for our little baby. she helped him learn how to eat food, encouraged him to walk, and logged in hundreds of miles on the macwagon all around the city. almost every summer day, the two would head west to the portage park pool for hours of splashing and sun, and then she'd tuck our tiny tanned towhead in his crib for a much-needed siesta. she figured prominently at his very first birthday party, hoisting him blow out the candles on his toppling cupcakes. the picture of the two of them dressed on halloween keeps shuffling to the forefront of my mind and the tears start to flow. otto doesn't say very many words, but at 9:30 in the morning since she left, he walks to the front door asking for "ah-na. ah-na. ah-na." and it kills me.

not for nothing, as a WAHM, the only other face i saw was hers until casey got home. we chatted for a few minutes over coffee when she'd arrive, and then i'd lumber off to my office while she danced and sang and did dishes and the laundry, practically simultaneously. we'd visit a minute or two later, and then off she'd go. we'd laugh and console and help each other with our spanish-to-english translations, passing otto back and forth all day long. at 5:30 she'd hug otto goodbye and head for the bus, leaving us with a clean house, a stocked closet of clothes, and a very content child. in so many ways, she was wonderful.

things just started eventually falling apart, however. once the weather got cold, she huddled to bad influences for warmth. when she returned my call yesterday, she was friendly and chatty, so i could barely contain my sorrow as i began to let her know the nature of the call. only hours before, her landlord called to verify that she was employed by us, so i knew she was probably behind on rent.

when the words finally tumbled their way out of my mouth, she was silent. she asked if she can have me as a reference -- she really doesn't get it: how can i possibly recommend her to another family? i'm firing her!

i told her a box was coming to her with all her things and a check for three days of work; the three days she missed for an unacceptable reason or the three days she would have worked this week had we not fired her, you decide. she intoned, "ay, paola, that is not nice that you are not giving me two weeks." tears streaming through my clenched teeth, i explained that, had we had to let her go because we were moving or no longer financially capable of keeping her employed, we would have given her two weeks, maybe more. "you should give me another chance," she finally asked. angry, heartbroken, frustrated, i spat "i'm sorry. i just can't. i know otto really loves you, and we sincerely appreciate everything you've done for us, but we have to do what is best for our son and our family."

"thank you very much," she warbled softly, and hung up.

now, we are with what i affectionately refer to as my rebound nanny. i'm not sure she really fits the ticket yet -- older, quite short, not very proficient with english, allergic to cats -- but we're enjoying a three-day trial run. though it's never fun to break a new hire in, i must say, in many ways, she's a breath of fresh air. she works. she kept otto laughing. she maintained the roughly-hewn schedule i had cobbled together for her to the minute. i don't hear her cell phone ringing constantly [well, because she doesn't have one]. whether her fate as our new nanny is determined by her lungs and their tolerance for the feline fecal fiesta that is our home, or that i feel otto needs someone to nurture his lacking verbal output, i have a few days to escape, stop feeling sad, and keep my sites set on a new, loving replacement.