When everyone commiserates your loss of childcare

I spoke with several colleagues and friends over the last two days about how our nanny quit with zero notice. It was very clear from the expressions on their faces who have not only experienced this situation before or something similar, but could empathize with how awful it was. When I told one of my colleagues on my team during a 1:1 chat today, her face fell as though I told her that an immediate family member of mine had died. That was how distressed her face looked.

Before I ever had a child and had to navigate childcare, I could academically understand why this would be terrible and extremely inconvenient. I just never realized how emotional the entire experience could be. It was like in one fell swoop — or rather, one long, ranty, angry text message, I was having a massive judgment made on me as a human being and an employer: “You are an awful, demeaning, condescending, slave-driving boss, and I hate you enough to give the ultimate ‘fuck you’ to you by quitting without any advance notice whatsoever because I want you to feel pain.”

And I suppose the reason it hurt so much to see this long text box on my phone was… I tried so, so hard to make sure she felt comfortable here. I constantly asked her if she felt comfortable. I got her all the food and snacks she ever requested, and then some. Once, she told me that the Trader Joe’s version of Cheerios didn’t taste the same as real branded Cheerios. So the next day, I returned the Trader Joe’s version and went to Target to get the real, branded Cheerios. And she said she was shocked, not only that I did it, but that I did it so quickly. She even went home and told her husband. I occasionally bought her lunch. Once, I even sat down at a restaurant with her when she said she never had Turkish before but always was curious (I got so many weird looks from friends when I shared this). I always, always offered her food I made and even occasionally PACKED it for her to eat when she got home. We gave her rare foods that even we had a hard time sourcing, but we knew she liked. I made her ginger tea when she had stomach pains. I double boiled her chai. I made her a full breakfast a number of mornings. I sent her home early many days when she said she either had a headache or when I just became free earlier (which Chris got mad about because he said we were paying for her time, so we need to USE her time). Some days, when she complained of foot pain, I even helped her clean up after Kaia’s dinner (I really, really regret this now). We always brought back gifts from our international travels. We got her lots of thoughtful things she said she liked, plus cash for her birthday earlier this year. I gave her Chinese treats from Chinatown that I thought she’d like. I even got her Easter flowers.

But the hurt and sadness I feel at her leaving is juxtaposed with the anger I feel about all the things she did to assert her nonexistent authority in my house and in raising my child, plus things she flat out went against and openly defied me, and agreed to do but would regularly skip out on and make excuses for. In fact, the thing that I found most puzzling was that her demeanor on her first day onward with us was like a total 180 from when she first did a FaceTime interview with me, when she was warm, sweet, and even had a higher pitched voice (that was manipulative in retrospect), to when she did her trial. On both those occasions, she was generally warm, open, and amenable (her baby log notes were extremely thorough, too). Yet on her very first day, it was like she was a totally different person: she criticized everything from how we set up Kaia’s bassinet and crib to the changing station to how frequently we empty the diaper pail (“all my other mom bosses ask me to do it at the end of every day.” Apparently, asking her to do less work was worth critiquing for her). She constantly compared our methods to her former bosses’ in a disparaging way. She gave me attitude about the level of detail on the white board we set up for her with explicit instructions on what to do (because apparently, an employer being clear with instructions is not wanted by any employee). Every time I added a daily or weekly task for her to do, whether it was to clean Kaia’s baby bath tub, spray down her changing station or play mat, or shake out the cushion under the changing station, she’d give me this look as though I told her to go jump off a cliff. Many weeks, she’d skip a lot of these weekly tasks completely and get angry when I asked her why it wasn’t done. When I recently asked her to use the dust buster to vacuum the stroller seat and under-basket, she flat out didn’t do it at all. When I told her to remember to spray and wipe down the stroller seat/handles when she fed Kaia in it because she still had food remnants speared on the handles she never cleaned (which I had to clean!!), she scowled and reluctantly agreed to clean the stroller after feeding outside.

When we started feeding Kaia solids, I educated her on baby-led weaning by discussing the method with her and sending her several Solid Starts articles and videos. I even suggested she download the Solid Starts app (she refused). She insisted babies needed to eat purees and would choke otherwise, and I had no idea what I was doing (Nanny: “I have been doing this for over 20 years, and you are relying on the Google for help? You first time moms are crazy. You think you know everything but you don’t”). She’d mash Kaia’s food behind my back and I’d catch it when I’d go the kitchen or bathroom between meetings. I confronted her several times, to which she always responded defensively and arrogantly and said she had to ensure Kaia’s safety (because apparently, I wanted my own child to choke and die). But she finally let it go when she realized Kaia hated to be fed, that she wanted to self-feed, that she was more than able to feed herself. Our ex-nanny also got upset when I suggested she practice straw and open cup drinking at about 7-8 months. First she mocked me, laughing and saying, “Ha, she is too young for that. There is no way a child her age can do it.” A few weeks later, after a few tries of the pipette method on the weekends that I showed my baby, Kaia got drinking out of a straw down pat and loved it. The next Monday, I gave our nanny a dead look and said, “Look what Kaia learned over the weekend. She can drink out of a straw (motioning to Kaia drinking milk out of a straw in a cup)… and you doubted her.” She gave me the same mocking, defiant attitude when I suggested the open cup drinking, as well as utensils. It was beyond exhausting to always get her insolent laughs. In the end, she admitted that Kaia was the first baby so young she ever knew of that could drink out of straw, an open cup, use utensils decently, and feed herself food; it was a little astounding to even hear her admit she was wrong (though she still thinks Kaia is an anomaly and that the average baby cannot do any of the above).

She took little care for our belongings; anytime something got lost or broken, she never even once apologized or took ownership for what happened. Instead, she would lash out at ME for even asking about the item. In her time here, she lost at least three pacifiers, two of Kaia’s toys, and one stroller rain cover worth over $50. Every time something like this happened, she said she didn’t think it was a big deal and that we could always buy another one (with OUR money of course, because money just grows on trees for us). She broke Kaia’s teether pop, one of our ceramic ramekins, and even a picture frame (and the picture frame was the worst because she didn’t even proactively tell me about it and tried to hide it. I realized it was broken, confronted her, and while she owned up it, she never even apologized!). With all of the above except the rain cover, she never openly told me the items got lost or broken; I had to ask her where they were. And each time this happened, she would respond defensively and arrogantly, saying that Chris and I were causing her stress, making her feel worried every day she left that she lost something when all she was here for was to ensure Kaia’s safety and happiness. “I take care of your pride and joy every single day and return her to you in one piece. Is that not enough?? And Chris just obsesses over a stupid pacifier?!”

She repeatedly shared horror stories of her previous mom bosses to me. It should have been a red flag to me; if she rants so openly about previous bosses, there’s no doubt in my mind that she will do the same to me and of course, twist the narrative to make her seem like the victim and me the villain. She mostly complained about their white privilege, how they supposedly were verbally abusive to her and thought they “owned” her and her time. She distorted the meanings of likely innocent old Christmas cards they wrote and cried about them for days, saying they didn’t see her as human. She frequently ranted about white people and how entitled they were; she constantly brought up how awful Trump and the Republican Party are until one day, I finally just told her to stop ranting about this to me. She clearly hates white people even though they are the only people other than us she’s ever worked for. But she masks it so well because all her references gave her such glowing reviews. They have no idea that the sweet, loving nanny that they see is actually a dragon who would blow fire on them behind their backs.

Everything above is just a fraction of alI I had to deal with. I put up with it all because I was never ready to put Kaia in daycare when she was younger. I also knew I would miss my sweet Pookie a lot if I couldn’t see her throughout the day… even if I couldn’t hear the happy sound of her hands slapping the floor when she crawls. Plus, with nannies and personal caregivers, there’s no such thing as “perfect.” So I turned a blind eye to a lot of things and let them go because I knew at the end of the day, yes, Kaia was safe and happy with this nanny. I’m just so tired. Although the last two days have been a lot, I’m so relieved I don’t have to deal with her insolence any longer. I don’t want to have to convince my employee every single fucking day that she NEEDS TO FOLLOW THE RESPONSIBILITIES AS OUTLINED IN HER EMPLOYMENT CONTRACT, that no, that doesn’t make ME an evil, awful employer. I can already hear the false narrative she will tell her nanny friends, her future employers, her family when she “took a chance” on working with an Asian family — us: we repeatedly made her feel like a slave. We were inhuman. We worked her like a dog. We constantly demeaned her and criticized her. We treated her like a slave or child. We never respected her or gave her anything. But well, I will always know the truth of what happened. And I just have to ignore her falsehoods. Because apparently to her, working for a white family, as a black woman, is just so, so much better.

I wish her well. But most of all, I wish her inner peace that she so clearly lacks, and I hope she is able to find help or therapy for herself to manage her emotional instability and past traumas, which clearly continue to play a huge role in her life and she has unfortunately chosen to take out on my family. As Chris said, it’s a new era for all of us.

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