The Jamaican nanny becomes more Asian

“You know, by the time I stop working with you, I will have become completely Asian!” the nanny joked with me this morning after I handed her a matcha oat milk latte I had just whisked.

Since starting with us just over two weeks ago, she has been introduced to matcha I’ve made. She’s sampled multiple Asian dishes I’ve made. She regularly drinks our Sri Lankan Dilmah tea. She’s enjoyed hand cut and peeled fruit, including Mexican ataulfo mangoes, which she revealed she’d never purchased before because she thought they looked small and wimpy compared to the larger Haitian mangoes she was used to buying in New York during mango season. Since I introduced them to her and she realized how good they were, she has started purchasing them because of me.

She’s also regularly listening to Mandarin Chinese nursery rhymes with Kaia and also trying to learn how to sing them, which I think is the most adorable thing. That’s one area where she’s totally one upped Chris. Her Chinese pronunciation, even though she has no idea what she’s saying, is far better than his.

Even though I wasn’t sure what our dynamic would be like with my working from home and her being in the next room with the baby, so far, it seems to be going pretty well. We talk occasionally and get to know each other, but when I’m working, she respects my space and doesn’t interrupt me. Hopefully, it continues to go well.

Mommy thumb on both hands

So just as I thought my mommy thumb, or de Quervain’s tenosynovitis, was getting better on my right hand, lo and behold, my left hand decides to rudely raise its hand and say, “hey! I want mommy thumb, too!” It came completely out of nowhere without any warning one day as I picked up a full mug of tea and felt that sharp, shooting pain down my wrist that was unfortunately far too familiar to me.

And I thought, WHYYYYYY???? Why does my body not discriminate? Why do I always have to have all these physical ailments on BOTH sides? It doesn’t matter if it’s carpal tunnel, cubital tunnel, mommy thumb, or just general pain in my fingers and hands… it’s always on both sides, just in varying degrees.

This is really not fair, I thought. And why does it seem so difficult to get help that doesn’t include medication or the suggestion of what I can already find out via a quick Google search…?

Taking the baby to Queens

Today was the second time we took the baby to Queens. She’s already been on the subway a number of times, and so this is now our new Saturday routine revised. Pre-baby and during the pandemic, Saturday was our neighborhood exploration day to taste and try new foods and restaurants. Now, we’re doing it in a more condensed fashion since baby isn’t as fast moving as we are, not to mention I still have to go home and pump.

“You took the baby on the subway?” the nanny asked me a few days ago in shock. I told her about our usual Saturday outings and how we wanted to integrate her into them now. I told her we didn’t take her on the train until early April, after she had her two-month vaccinations.

She seems to be okay with the train, as long as the train is moving or I am at least standing up. She really hates being in the baby carrier while I am sitting down. The baby is also adjusting to warm weather given that today was the hottest day of her life at over 90 degrees F.

“This child likes to move, just like me!” Chris exclaimed gleefully.

Uh-huh. Right.

Treatment of hired help

I think it’s generally a good rule of thumb to treat people you hire like human beings. That seems like a basic thing to ask, but it apparently isn’t so basic. As the saying goes, “Common sense is not so common.” Common decency isn’t so common, either.

I’ve read nightmarish nanny stories of nannies who were offered food by their employers only if it was expired or unwanted by the families. I’ve heard of nannies who were told they were not allowed to use the family’s microwave because their food smelled and would stink up their house. It’s really sad what some employers do with their nannies — basically treat them as though they are lesser human beings who deserve no kindness or respect.

One of the things our nanny said to me she was looking for when choosing her next family was “respect.” I was a bit caught off guard when she said that during the interview, as I wasn’t expecting to hear that, but it makes sense when I think of all the stupid stories above. A few days a week, I prepare a fruit bowl for her of fruit that I peel and cut up, and she initially had this look of shock on her face when I offered it. I mean.. I was already cutting and prepping fruit for myself, so it’s not much more work for me to do it for her. This morning, I offered to prepare her a cup of tea, and once again, she had this look of surprise on her face that I was doing this one thing for her. Preparing a cup of tea is simple: all I’m doing is putting a bag into a cup and filling it with hot water, but she was just so appreciative and thanked me multiple times when I handed it to her. It made me realize that she probably wasn’t treated that well by some of her past employers, and the thought just made me feel sorry for her.

I am not blind to the fact that we live in a classist society. The US is a country that likes to pretend it has no classes, or that everyone is “middle class,” but that frankly is just not the case. The people with big paychecks pay people with smaller paychecks to do to the work that they don’t want to do, or perhaps cannot do. The paycheck of the CEO of my company is likely at least 6-10 times what I get paid. He may look at my paycheck and think it’s pocket change. But the size of your paycheck is relative: I have a larger paycheck than my nanny, but then otherwise, how would I pay her…? But living in a classist society is not an excuse to treat other people like shit or as though they are lesser than you. Your worth as a human being should not be tied to the employment choice you make or the size of your paycheck.

When your nanny thinks you’re dirty and cheap

It’s been an interesting week with our new nanny. Of course, it was rough the first two days when our baby was still getting acquainted with and used to her. It was brutal for me to sit in the second bedroom with my headphones on, just one wall separating me from my crying, screaming baby with a new nanny just trying to do her job and calm her down. Regardless of what call or what recording I was listening to, I could always hear her screaming, and it really broke my heart and made me feel like a terrible mom. I would occasionally come out of the room to try to comfort her, and while it would work, I didn’t want to get into the habit of doing it too much because I didn’t want to undermine the nanny or make the nanny think I didn’t trust her. These things just take time, as the fourth and fifth days have been going really well so far.

Our nanny certainly has opinions, though, and ways of doing things with other families that we just don’t want to do. For example, I will have Kaia wear the same onesie to sleep and the same outfit two days in a row assuming that they aren’t dirty or wet. Kaia is a baby, so she doesn’t have body odor the way adults do, so why bother changing the clothes if they aren’t dirty?

The nanny noticed I laid out the same pants for the baby to wear that she undressed her from the previous day, and she asked, “Aren’t these the same pants she wore yesterday?” I said they were, and there was no point in washing them if they were still clean.

“They aren’t clean, though; she wore them yesterday,” the nanny insisted.

“Did you have her roll around in dirt or grass at the park yesterday?” I asked her. “The pants look and smell clean. She doesn’t get body odor like adults do, so she’s fine.”

“She’s a baby, though! Babies are dirty!”

I told her that unless the baby was all over the playground or in mud, she wasn’t dirty, and adults were far dirtier because we actually smell and sweat. “Okayyyyyy, you’re the mom!” the nanny said, shrugging her shoulders in an exaggerated manner and putting the pants on the baby.

At the end of the first day with us, she asked if I wanted to have her empty the diaper pail every day. I told her that whenever it looked full, she could empty it.

“Most moms I’ve worked with ask that the diaper pail be emptied daily,” she said, looking confused.

I told her I didn’t think that was necessary given the whole point of having a diaper pail was to contain the smell of poop/pee, and if we emptied the pail every single day, that would create far more waste of garbage bags and be worse for the environment than necessary. And none of us would really benefit from that given what I said originally about smell.

She also wanted to have the baby use a new bib for each feeding. At that rate of use, we’d have to cycle through all her bibs every 2-3 days, which seemed ridiculous. If the bib only had a little spit up or could just be rung out, I wanted her to reuse the bibs. She gave me this look as though I just smeared baby poop all over her face.

Fridays are baby laundry days now, so when I told the nanny not to put the washed clothes in the dryer and instead to lay them out around the dining room table (yes, we’re hobos), she asked why we didn’t have a drying rack to hang the clothes on. I told her it just felt like unnecessary additional clutter, and given she was only going to be a baby for a finite amount of time, we’d just air dry the clothes up until the point we would add them to the dryer once she got bigger. She gave me some side eye and complied.

She is probably going home to her husband and telling him that her new nanny family is cheap and dirty. Well, that’s all right by me. We’re still getting used to each other. Things are going well given it’s now day 5, so we just need to get through the initial 2-week hump, and then we’ll be acclimated to one another.

When the nanny insults you on her first day

On Monday when the nanny started, she seemed a bit warmer than she was when she did the trial. During the trial day, she seemed a bit formal and stiff, almost on edge probably given she knew I was evaluating her and watching closely. She hadn’t really given us any information in regards to what snacks she’d like to have in the apartment, so I told her we had lots of mangoes, and I heard (from one of her reference families) that she enjoyed mangoes. She smiled and said she noticed all the mangoes in our fruit bowls and was wondering where we got them from.

“But I have to tell you something…. you don’t know how to pick mangoes,” she said, with a somewhat mischievous, cheeky smile on her face.

Did she seriously just insult me and accuse me of not understanding mangoes… ON HER FIRST DAY? What does she know about how I choose the mangoes? She didn’t even look at them up close!

She explained that she grew up in Jamaica, so she always had many varieties of mangoes growing up, especially fresh ones picked super ripe off the tree. She said here, it didn’t matter if they were red, green, or yellow, that she knew how to choose the ones that were picked ripe vs. not ripe, and the ones picked ripe were always the best.

Okay, that’s a bit ridiculous and presumptuous for a couple reasons: 1) mangoes don’t grow in the U.S. other than in Florida, and I don’t really care for Florida mangoes. 2) the majority of mangoes in the U.S. are imported from Mexico, and when you are crossing borders with fruit, especially fruit as delicate as mangoes, it’s pretty much impossible to pick the fruit ripe and transport them long distances without destroying them or having them go rotten. As a result of this, mangoes need to be picked green and unripe and then ripen off the tree. That’s sad, but it’s just a fact of living here and eating them. 3) There is just no way in hell she is getting mangoes picked ripe off any tree anywhere in the northeast of the United States no matter what she tries to tell me. She may have grown up in the tropics with mango trees galore, but I understand food transport and what is real vs. fantasy.

“You do realize that the majority of mangoes in the U.S. come from Mexico, right?” I asked her pointedly. I told her that the yellow Ataulfo mangoes were generally the safest bet here. She disagreed, but hey, we’re all entitled to our own opinions.

We’re still getting into a groove. She tends to get a little defensive when I give suggestions or try to correct her, but well, this was always going to happen regardless of how good she was because I’m working from home and will see her interacting with my child, and well, I AM this child’s mother, so I know how she behaves generally and what she likes and doesn’t like. Overall, she seems a bit timid and like she is still coming out of a shell, but her opinionated side comes out at odd times like it did with the mango scenario. Hopefully she’s just quirky and things will smooth themselves out over time… Because I really do not want to have to search for another nanny.

The day before returning to work

It’s the day before returning to work, and I”m feeling pretty blegh today. We took the baby out to Central Park since it was warm and enjoyed the sun and grass, spent some time on the roof with her, and went to Target. I made steamed Cantonese ginger scallion barramundi, stir-fried gai lan, and rice for dinner. I set my alarm a little earlier to try to condition myself to wake up earlier to allow myself to not only pump and fully empty my breasts, but also go to the gym before work would begin. I’ve come to terms with going back to work: it is what it is. I wasn’t that excited to hear that I’ll have a new manager in a few weeks, as a new manager always introduces more uncertainty about everything, but I just have to wait to see how things unfold.

My friend was asking me how I was feeling, and I just said I felt whatever about it all. I’m not excited about going back to work, but I’m also not dreading it as much as I did about a month ago. It’s just the reality now. Our nanny will be starting soon, so we’ll need to find a new groove with her, as well. It’s a lot more “returning to normalcy,” whatever that means, just with a tiny baby to care for and think of now. I’m finally going to learn what it’s like to really be a working mom soon.

The wedding that reminded me of high school and the terrible babysitter

Tonight, Chris and I went to a wedding of a former colleague friend of mine. When I originally got the invitation late last year, I wasn’t 100% sure that I wanted to go. This colleague was a good friend of mine while I was at my former company. But ever since I had left this company, we really hadn’t spoken much at all other than a few texts here and there. I saw her just once last October. So I was actually surprised to have gotten an invitation. But Chris just said that we should go for the food and drink. We hadn’t been to a wedding since before the pandemic, so why not go? After ensuring that a friend that I actually still keep in contact with from this company was going as well, I reluctantly decided to RSVP yes. That friend ended up bailing out last minute because she tested positive for COVID the day before. Ugh, just great.

Well, we went to the wedding tonight, and it reminded me of all of the things that I hated about my last company. Don’t get me wrong: the wedding was beautiful. It was really well done. I enjoyed the fact that both the bride and groom wrote their own vows. I thought that the best man speech was really heartfelt and sweet. The food was amazing, particularly at cocktail hour when there were multiple food stations and endless hors d’oeuvres being served. There was an open bar, which of course made Chris happy. But I was reminded of things like… The bro culture with a number of white guys in the New York office. And some of the prissy, gossipy, dramatic women who used to be in that office who unfortunately were also in attendance. And some of the HR bullshit that I had to deal with while I was there… Like the one person who tried to report me to HR because I told her that she needed to lower her voice while on a call in the middle of the floor because the rest of us were on our own calls, and her voice was carrying. She actually was invited to this wedding to my disgust. Back then, she apparently got really upset and told HR that my tone of voice was very rude and unprofessional. And if you can believe it or not, HR told my manager and asked my manager to talk to me about it. Yes, that’s the kind of ridiculous bullshit that is a high school like that I had to deal with at my last company. And you can bet that I absolutely did not speak with this person at the wedding or even make eye contact with her. This is definitely the last time I ever go to a wedding where I know that there’s going to be a lot of ex-colleagues who are going to be there. 

And what made this even worse is that the babysitter that we hired was a complete moron. And I think that our baby got the sense that she was terrible because she was crying and screaming nonstop when we left. I should’ve taken that to mean something. This babysitter put our baby to sleep in her bassinet without her swaddled as I requested, and she even left a bib on her. You never, ever leave a bib on a baby when she goes to sleep. That is considered unsafe sleep because the baby could potentially get strangled! Plus, the swaddle blanket was just hanging on the bassinet above her! The babysitter apparently told us that pretty much all of the time when she was not eating and awake, she was crying. My baby hated this person. And this person left a bunch of her trash on my kitchen counter and a bunch of her food bits all over my sink. She also left food stains on our dining table. When we got home, our baby was in her bassinet sleeping, and the babysitter was on her phone on our couch. She didn’t even bother cleaning her trash before she left.

This is why people prefer to have trusted family and friends babysit. Because you wouldn’t have to deal with shit like this. Or, they just don’t go out at all once they have a baby.

Cherishing the last days before returning to work

I only have three more business days before I have to return to work. Granted, “returning to work“ just means getting on my computer in the second bedroom and being stuck in front of a screen all day, but it still means that I will have to work and not be in front of my daughter all day the way I’ve been used to. The last 20 weeks have flown by so quickly. It makes me sad that I have to go back to work and not spend every minute with her anymore, but I actually don’t feel as bad about it as I did a few weeks ago. I have come to accept it, especially since we just hired a nanny. My friend was right: she told me that I would get more comfortable with going back to work once we secured childcare. And that’s kind of what happened.

We have had a lot of visitors in the last week before I return to work. I had friends come over on Monday. A friend/former colleague came to visit us after work on Tuesday. I went out to lunch with a friend today and took the baby. On Friday, we also have a friend visiting who will meet the baby for the first time. I have also been very intentional about getting out of the apartment at least once a day with the baby, particularly when the weather is good. It’s what I originally wanted to do when it started warming up, but it’s just that there have been a lot of cold days, and I don’t really want her outside when it’s too cold. I want her to have some fresh air, even if it’s “fresh air” by city standards. She clearly hates the wind. Every time we have been on the roof and it has been windy, she makes this shuddering breathing sound that doesn’t sounds good.

I took her to a bakery on Tuesday, and on Wednesday, we ate outdoors with my friend. Even the baby ate outdoors as I gave her a bottle while sitting outside. I am planning to take her to Central Park tomorrow, perhaps to Sheep’s Meadow for some fun time on the grass and among the cherry blossoms. A nanny that I interviewed told me that babies just need to take in every little thing, but that requires us to expose them to all of those little things. All of the things that we as adults take for granted, like staring up at a blue cloudless sky, hearing the rustling of the trees, birds chirping, and the sight of full blooms are all things that are brand new experiences to babies. It is up to us to expose them to all of these beautiful things. It was a good reminder to me. I am looking forward to seeing the baby’s reaction when I put her feet on grass for the first time. I want to be there to witness as many of her “firsts” as possible.

When your mother looks for horror stories to freak herself out and think that her granddaughter will get kidnapped

My mom called this afternoon to tell me that I needed to be careful with the nanny that we selected. Apparently, my dad has been fueling her fear of a non-family member taking care of our baby during the day by sharing stupid and ridiculous YouTube videos of babies getting kidnapped. The one that my dad showed her was of a mom who was unloading her car of groceries. She was running in between the car and the house and left her front door open. At some point, a stranger snuck into her house and grabbed her baby and left. Of course, this completely freaked out my mother and made her even more paranoid. My dad has an amazing talent of further instilling paranoia into my mother when she is already naturally paranoid and untrusting. It’s almost like he gets some sick thrill of scaring my mother even more than she already is. And when I have previously pointed this out to him, he pulls out his bullshit “what aboutisms,” which futilely attempts to divert the attention from him and immaturely tries to imply that whatever I do is worse. What-about-isms are one of the most immature responses because it refuses to accept the possibility of wrongdoing on one’s part. My dad has been doing this pretty much since I was a young child, so it’s nothing new to me.

Then, she suggests that my aunt had a suggestion. What she really means to say is, she has a suggestion but she wants to say that my aunt or my dad or my uncle or someone else she has spoken with suggested it so that it would come off as lighter to me. She says that my aunt suggested that Chris’s mother fly over and live with us until the baby was at least one so that a family member who actually genuinely cares could take care of the baby. Family is best, my mom said. “You can trust family to take care of your child. You cannot trust outside people to take care of your child.” She said that she would do it, but her arms and back are not strong enough; she could drop the baby, and that’s it!! So, she concluded, Chris’s mother would be good for this because she is able bodied.

While in some families, this would be normal, this is not going to happen here. Chris’s mother has never offered to do anything like that. They live all the way in Australia; that’s a 21-hour flight away!!! Does my mother ever use any real logic ever?? They are coming to visit in the summer, but it is exactly what it sounds like: it is a visit. They are not coming for the purpose of child rearing. I don’t even think that something that she is interested in. She is probably more interested in using our baby as a trophy to be able to tell everyone that she finally has a grandchild! She’s never given any indication of wanting to help with rearing her grandchildren, and that’s completely fine. Plus, she works. Not everyone has the luxurious life my mother does where she has all of these paychecks coming in and she doesn’t have to work. And my mother also ignores the fact that people from other countries cannot just fly over and stay here for unlimited amounts of time legally. She does not understand anything about this. 

I tried to explain this to her, and of course, she just gets really defensive and angry and says that I am causing conflict. She says I am overreacting and raising my voice when she didn’t mean any harm. And her favorite thing to say of all time is: “you may have more education than me, but I have more wisdom.” Because that is so relevant in a stupid conversation like this. 

If she really had more wisdom, she would not be getting paranoid and frantic over stupid ass YouTube videos that my dad shows her to freak her out and hate the world more.