Monday, July 21, 2008

The Nanny Horror Picture show (is finally OVER!)

I blogged in the past about Milo’s garde partagée with another little boy, a very frequent solution for the Parisian working parents who are often denied day care because there simply aren’t enough.
Milo’s garde lasted almost 2 years, and ended when Zeno was born, I went back to work and the nanny refused to look after Zeno as well. Milo was then 2 and a half, so he went to a private day care for 6 months, before starting kinder garden. Despite the abrupt conclusion of this first experience, we enthusiastically tried the same system with Zeno, together with a neighbour family living in the same building, parents of a little girl same age as Zeno. We got along well and there were all the premises for a successful venture (especially since living in the same building made things MUCH easier from a logistical point of view). This time around bad luck stroke in finding the right nanny. We changed 4 nannies during the first 5 months, which was simply traumatising (for us, as the kids did not seem to mind the carousel of care-givers), and I will spare you the appalling reasons for which we had each time to start from scratch. Those were awful months where I spent ALL of my free time dealing with this: making phone calls, arranging interviews, dedicating time to trials, consulting with the other mum at least 5 times a day on any of the above, getting to know someone new, opening our house and life to them to just, after a few weeks, throw it all away.…I was exhausted and was getting really hopeless.
Nanny number 4 seemed finally a decent bet: in her early 40s, gay personality, mother of 4 older children, hence all of the experience we could possibly desire. After a good start, the lady, nevertheless, took some serious risks during the first few months, despite the fact that we had discussed in detail our expectations as well as undesired behaviours. But, above all, she begun collecting mysterious illnesses at the rate of a week per month, never justified by any doctor. Every time she did not show up, it would devastate our work week: the Belgianite and I had to take time off alternatively and repeatedly, to the point that it was getting simply ridiculous; I was paying dearly someone, to end up being with my kids! I burned my holidays for the year by April and things at work were getting tense. Not to mention, I was a nervous wrack! It was just not worth it. So, after 13 months, we called it the quits and decided to put Zeno in the same day care Milo went to. This took a lot of consideration and pondering, as we did not want to leave the other family abruptly (they, however, had 2 sets of grandparents nearby that could always jump in when needed). We observed the firing procedure and gave them a month notice. The news were far from being well received.

The bitter-sweet aftertaste of this experience is due to the fact that none of these people (the nannies and the parents) we were in very close contact with for over 2 years, seem to have understood the amount of stress this whole ordeal has meant to us; it also baffles me that keeping in touch does not seem to be on their agenda. Our kids have grown up together, shared daily life, games, meals, important milestones of their early development. These nannies have seen them crawl, then walk, then talk, have received much of their affection (not to mention much of our money...). But for the nannies it is just a job and for the other families we were probably just a mean to save money. This coldness, in retrospective, is quite disturbing.

Perhaps the system is just too complicated to guarantee everybody's happiness; despite what I have been reading on parenting magazines, in reality all the people I have met that had engaged in the garde partagée have experienced some level of frustration and discomfort. I was ready to pay that price (a little). but I wasn't expecting all the doors to shut closed once the adventure was over. Is it the big city individualistic attitude? Is it a facet of culture shock? The French distance vs. the Italian relational bonanza? One thing is certain: I am done with it!

I feel very reliefed we found a way out eventually and I’m very comfortable with the new arrangement. Zeno adapted in no time to the new day care, loving the plurality of interaction and all of the additional activities. His French is skyrocketing too (the last nanny was a foreigner and her French was not very easy to understand.)

In the meantime we met Sofie, a bright, young motivated student who has a gift for dealing with kids. She picks up Milo and Zeno from school during the week and plays with them until I get home. Milo and Zeno fell in love with her instantly, it all flows naturally. I say we deserve her!


Susanne Ek said...

Darling Claudia, i read your blog, but I truly suck at making comments. Sorry!! Your kids are amazing, such linguists!!! Oh, and it is a relief to leave your kids with professionals every day, isn´t it? People who actually have some pedagogical thought behind the work with the kids. We are very happy with our daycare!!

Love, Susanita

Eddie Lin said...

I feel for you, sister. You were living my worst fears regarding pre-school and home care. Lots of "what ifs" and stress. So far, so good but anything can happen. Keeping my fingers crossed. Hang in there, Cloppy.