By Feature Writer Rebecca Nelson Lubin
A couple of weeks ago ISYN had posted a request for departure stories and I wanted to share a double whammy. Mine was getting unceremoniously dumped by both of them. It began very nicely. I began with Family #1 over the summer of 2002. They lived in Pacific Heights, had adorable blond twins and the Mom was heavily pregnant. The job was to be only a temporary gig until she delivered. We all got along wonderfully and I quickly bonded with the children, taking them on outings to park, swim classes, and creating countless art projects. When the Mom went into labor, I took the kids to the San Francisco Zoo for the day, and then accompanied them to the hospital, where they met their new sister. As it happens with those who work closely with families, I began to feel a deep bond with them, and was delighted when the Mom asked me if I would continue on with them indefinitely, beginning set hours in September. The only hitch was that it was mornings only. She tried to fix me up with an afternoon family but I didn’t feel a good fit with any of the friends she had me meet. My agency told me that they had many potential full time families for me, but no afternoon part time. I gave myself two weeks to find an afternoon family on my own, and did, through a sort of low rent babysitting agency in Marin. Family #2 lived in Tiburon and really just needed a driver for their two youngest children, aged 12 and 9. The older two were teenagers and had their own cars, so my entire job would consist of picking the two younger kids up from school and driving them to their various sport practices, bringing them home and overseeing their homework while making the dinner that the Mom would leave both ingredients and detailed instruction for, and then cleaning up the kitchen.
So September came, and I began working a full day split between two families. From 9am to 1pm I would play with the sweet, adorable twins in the city, and the morning just drifted by peacefully. They were truly wonderful kids. At 1pm I would head over the bridge to be at the afternoon job by 2pm. I would be met by a long list of chores that had not been previously discussed, such as doing the children’s laundry and food shopping and some odd bit of household organization. I wasn’t sure when to fit that in with all the children shuttling I was required to do in the family’s Suburban, but I tried. I would be running around the house collecting dirty clothes and sports bags, clutching the shopping list and the Mom would breeze in and ask me coldly, “Shouldn’t you already be going to get the children?”
The children spoke to me in that same cold, detached manner. Let me correct myself. The younger two did. The sixteen-year-old girl never spoke a word to me. The eighteen-year-old son only hit on me. It was a miserable job, but I knew I could not afford to only work for family #1.
And then, about two months after this two part time job thing started, I received an e-mail from family #1 Mom. She wrote that their previous Nanny had decided to move back to San Francisco and go back into childcare, and if she was going to be in the city where they lived doing childcare, they wanted her to be doing it for them. It was a very short e-mail. Sorry, but we’re taking our old Nanny back. We like you but we liked her first. My services were no longer needed and she would send me my last check. I totally understood, but was seriously bummed out. They were a great family and the kids were sweet. Over time we stayed in touch, they sent Christmas Cards and I was a backup babysitter for about two years, but at the time they let me go I was stressed out over their decision. Now I was down to only one part time job with family #2. The job that I had only taken so I could work with family #1. Holiday season as coming and it was a hard time to look for a new full time job. I decided to tough it out. And it was tough. I watched all four children for a weekend and the 18-year-old constantly begged me to buy him beer for him and his friends.
“I thought you were cool!” he yelled at me as he stomped down the hall.
There was a severe winter rainstorm storm that night and all the power went out. The younger kids camped out in the living room with the flashlights, and me, shivering, trying to sleep. The parents came back much later on Sunday than they had promised. I decided that I at least needed to speak to them about the oldest kid’s behavior.
Their response to their 18-year-old berating the Nanny for Beer?
“I don’t believe he would do that.”
Besides, they said, I had broken their computer. The children had told them I had been responsible when they noticed that something was wrong with the browser window. I told them I had done no such thing. They asked if I was inferring that their children were liars. I hesitated and suggested that perhaps they weren’t aware of their children’s computer activity as the two oldest ones and their friends had been trying to upload pictures to the website “Hot or Not” the previous weekend.
They said, “They would never do that.”
The job with family #2 was disintegrating and I wanted out, and I had an incredible job offer, on Oahu, for a family that I knew from Mill Valley who lived in Hawaii during the school year. It sounded amazing, but it would mean moving for a time, and leaving behind a fledging relationship with a guy I really liked. If I moved 2000 miles away, we’d be done. So I trudged on.
In late November I drove up to work in the rain and sighed, thinking of all the cold looks and rude whiney voices I would be forced to deal with over the next five hours. As I walked to the front door I thought, I wish that they would fire me. I wish that they would just fire me and I’ll move to Hawaii and be done with all this.
As I pushed the front door open, I heard the Mom call my name. She was sitting in the living room appearing extremely tense. She told me to sit down, and began to list all the reasons why I was not working out for the job, the first and foremost being my mistrust of her older children. I put up my hand and interrupted her.
“You’re not a good fit for me either,” I said, “except I didn’t want to leave you hanging. But I agree, we shouldn’t work together anymore.”
She looked totally shocked, but she quickly regained her composure and handed me an envelope that she had been holding. She had written me two checks, one for my salary, and a $1,000 check for severance.
“Thank you,” I said, “this is very generous.”
“You’re welcome.” She said, very uncomfortable.
“Okay.” I said, standing back up, “I guess I’ll go now.”
And that was it. For the first time in my life I had been fired. Twice, technically. But I could not have cared less. I was elated, and had a phone call to make to my new employers on Oahu.
Rebecca Nelson Lubin is a writer and Nanny who resides in the San Francisco Bay Area. You may read more of her articles at http://www.abandofwives.ning.com/