When toddlers attack

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Where's Mary Poppins when you need her?

On TV or in the movies, nannies are usually British. They often amaze, delight and instruct your children with magical powers.

No one knows where they come from, but somehow, references are never required and, even though you suspect these women may spend their days off riding their broomsticks to a sabbat in the Black Forest, their charges never end up boiling in a cauldron over an open fire.

Or maybe she has a heart of gold and a smoking hot body that makes you overlook the fact that little rivulets of blood stream from your ears every time she opens her mouth. With her quirky ethnic warmth, she saves your poor, dysfunctional WASPy family from itself.  And then she marries you.

We both have to work, so we need a nanny.  There's no indication of how much it costs to hire a magical one, but in Manhattan, along with caring for your children, nannies teach them Mandarin, manage art collections, and groom your horses.  Oh, and they also make $180,000 a year.

The nanny we spoke with on Sunday doesn't have magical powers.  She didn't arrive on a breeze grasping an umbrella, or on a broomstick -- she arrived in a giant SUV, driven by a friend since she doesn't drive herself. 
And she doesn't speak Mandarin.  She speaks Spanish, only Spanish, which would be sort of redundant in a household that already speaks the language of Cervantes much of the time.  So that's the language we spoke as we sat around our coffee table for 45 minutes, as my mother craned her neck and cocked her head as if that would help her to understand (actually, she understands far too much Spanish for us to have any sensitive conversations within her earshot).

"You just came from church," asks my husband, who's always ten times more blunt in his own language than he is in English.  I cringe.  "I'm sorry, I have to ask... but do you have any problem with the fact that we're two dads?"

"Oh no," she says.  "To each his own.  At our church, everyone is welcome."  I'm still thinking about my sister's former nanny, who left religious tracts lying around the house for her kids to find and called my sister's ex-husband a "fornicator" in front of them because he was shacking up with his girlfriend.  But for now I'll give this nanny the benefit of the doubt.

No, la señora is my mother, not Adrián's.  Yes, I know she looks more like she'd be his mother.

She'll care for the kids as we direct, as long as we don't mind suggestions.  Good.  We need suggestions.

She loves that we both speak Spanish.  And that my mother doesn't, because it will make it easier to pretend like she doesn't understand when la abuela tries to meddle. 

She'll work for what we can afford to pay her -- good.  It's a far, FAR cry from 180 grand. 

Do we expect her to clean?  Not much. 

Can she make her lunch with the food in the house?  At first we don't undertand the question, but it turns out her previous employer made her bring her lunch.  Yikes.  No, you're welcome to whatever is in the fridge.

Do we like Mexican food?  Because she likes to cook.  Now we're talking.

Her friend asks us when she can start.  We say we still aren't quite sure -- and we still need to speak to her references. 

One down -- how many do we have to speak to before we feel comfortable giving her the key, leaving our kids, and leaving for the day?


  1. She sounds perfect. Did you put down a deposit? And I love Mexican food. Maybe you need to take a vacation to Hawaii with the twins, and bring the nanny! I'm not sure that Bill, as the stay-at-home-Dad, is going to be cooking anything for the first several months. Bologna sandwiches here we come!

  2. Preguntele si ella tiene una hermana... yo necesito una tambiién!! :)

  3. I think you just "know" when you meet thr right one. We interviewed 3 on Tuesday..all lovely, but were missing the "it" factor. Wednesday, met a lovely woman, from Venzuela, who TOTALLY had the "it" factor. You will know when its the one. I cannot believe you are less than 10 weeks away!!

  4. We just turned our cleaner into our nanny. She is great, she cleans when Toby is asleep - and he's learning a Thai accent : )) Meg

  5. Our nanny was a pain in the ass. But, I couldn't fire my own Mother, could I? Yes, my Mom watched John for the first few years and then Claire on and off. Thank God we had/have her! Plus, she worked for hardly anything AND, cleaned my house. How great is that!
    Yes, I've hogging up my comment time on your blog to brag. I'm shameless.
    Good luck boys!

  6. 180K? Clearly I need to rethink my career choices. And learn some magic.

    I get nervous with pet sitters - can't imagine going through nanny stress.

    I'm sure you will find a great one. Make sure you post all the interviews. :-)

  7. Wow, I need to become a Yankee and move up north, I think! I made nothing close to that when I was doing the nanny thing down here. In fact, I even did home daycare and still made nothing close to that. Be sure to ask her how she handles discipline problems, what kind of things she would be taking the baby to do during the week (storytime, park playdates, mommy & me music classes, etc.). Also, when you call her references, ask how she handled discipline issues with their kids. Take everything with a grain of salt.

  8. I don't envy you one bit having to make this decision! It was bad enough when my 2 oldest were in a daycare. Which was across the parking lot from my office... and everything was on video 24/7. Good luck in your search, although this first one sounds like a good possibility!

  9. Hello! My first visit, will visit you again. Seriously, I thoroughly enjoyed your posts( really interesting blog). Would be great if you could visit also mine...Thanks for sharing! Keep up the fantastic work!

  10. Derek and I are both fluent in sign language and we're pretty sure the nanny we'll be hiring is deaf. I'm sure our parents will freak out. "How can she hear the babies cry? How will they talk to her? How can she take them out to the park?" It does make it easier that we can talk about the grandparents in sign if we have to! :-) Heeheehee.

  11. Great post! Just looked at the ticker and damn you guys are close, we're trailing behind at 26 wks...All the best and good luck :)