Welcome, Mamma Crew, to another busy, chaotic, challenging, exciting, and always beautiful day of an older mom like you!
So recently, a mom was asking me what I thought was the biggest challenge I ever had as a mother. And I think it was in the early years. It wasn’t the kids themselves; you know what I mean? It was finding adequate childcare. That was the biggest challenge. Especially when the kids weren’t yet speaking and they couldn’t tell me when there was a problem or even when they started speaking but couldn’t tell me what the problem was even if they could tell me they were unhappy.
So, I was thinking about it and I was thinking, well if there is a silver lining to this pandemic, it could be that there’s a lot of women staying at home. No, the silver lining is not that women who are working from home have to take care of their kids, and also work, and also take care of a household. And no, it’s definitely not a silver lining that some women are currently unemployed and need to work. But it is a silver lining that these women don’t have to worry about what’s going on with their children.
And that brings me back to what it was like to have young kids and have to rely on somebody else to take care of them for me. Okay. I finished both my master’s degree and doctoral degree in the girls’ first year of life. I also found a job. I decided against working at a university because I was an older mom and I didn’t want to be dealing with the stresses of dealing with publish or perish. So, instead, I took a position at a community college. And I really thought that once I took that position it was going to be easier. We were moving into a small town in Michigan and my husband was going to be finishing his master’s degree from home (this was when the online teaching had just begun) and he was gonna grow his sales business — which he did at that point and it was very successful, eventually.
I knew I was going to be struggling through my first year as an instructor, especially since the instructor that had left did not leave any available materials! Still, despite all these challenges and the move, babies that were just turning one, a new job, my husband juggling a job, and trying to complete his master’s degree, I really felt comfortable in the fact that we were taking our nanny from California with us to Michigan. This was a great relief because she had been fabulous in California. I mean, she had been so good to the girls. She really seemed to love them and I had no reason to suspect that anything would change. Little did I understand that the next four years would be the most challenging of my life. My life as a mother.
Karen (and yes, I did change her name to protect her identity even though she certainly doesn’t deserve it), our California nanny had been such a loving and nurturing caretaker for 6 months. There was no reason to believe that it could be any different, as I said earlier. We thought everything would be wonderful. And in the beginning, it seemed like it was. We were moving to a new home, she was helping out, she had her own room and she was finding her way in the new community. She seemed happy. So, why would I think that Karen would change? But yet, little by little, I did start noticing some changes. I mean, I began to notice that one of our girls, Emmy, seemed more accident-prone than her twin sister, Andy. Now, Karen claimed that Emmy was just busier. Okay? More curious. Which absolutely makes no sense.
And why do I say it makes no sense? Well, because, we later found out that Andy has ADHD. Not just any type of ADHD but in the high, more than moderate range. She’s very hyper. And yet, somehow, Emmy had managed to climb on to a two-step and fallen and chipped her front tooth. My husband and I had been on the way to Walmart when we got a call on our cellphone saying, “You need to come back, Emmy is bleeding. She fell.” And we’re like, “What the hey?!” So, we rushed back home and there’s Emmy, blood all over her face, and Karen says, “I just turned my head around for just a second and she climbed the two-step and she fell.”
Okay. Now as a mom, I know that these things happen, you do turn your head for one second and the kid does something completely unexpected. So, while I was extraordinarily upset, the dentist assured me that there was no problem, this was not a big deal, this was not her permanent tooth. We didn’t even need to fix the little chip. So we left it off. Then a few weeks later (I was thinking maybe four or five weeks later), Emmy pulls a camera atop herself and this is kind of weird. The strap had been left hanging off the shelf and Karen said she didn’t notice this. She didn’t notice that she was taking pictures of Emmy and then she had put the camera back on the shelf and Emmy had just tugged on the strap.
Okay. Plausible, right? Emmy still has the little scar right here on her nose where the edge of the camera hit her, and once again, took her to the doctor, and the doctor said, “You know kids when they start walking, they really get into all these kinds of problems, ” and the girls have been walking for a few months they were really busy. They were constantly bruised, and they were falling, and they were getting into things they were not supposed to. So, once again everything seemed completely natural. My girls were very healthy, very rambunctious. But I was growing a little uncomfortable with the situation because I did notice that the accidents were not happening when I was around. They were happening when I was absent and that really started to concern me.
But my husband was at home, right? I mean, he was in his office. So, I realized he couldn’t see everything that was going on, but he was at home. At least, he was at home for the camera accident. So, having no reason not to trust Karen, I told myself that it was a coincidence because everybody around me said it was a coincidence. The emergency room doctors, my husband, everybody told me! You’re a new mom. You’re an older mom. You exaggerate everything because these kids are special to you. You struggled more than your average woman to have them. And I couldn’t argue against that, I mean that was the reality. I was an older mom. I did struggle to have them, and I love, love, them and still love them more than anyone in the world. So maybe they were right, maybe I was over exaggerating.
But then I began to notice the pattern. There were more bruises on Emmy, who was a better walker than Andy. So, I sat down with Karen and I pointed out this discrepancy. Now, this has got to be one of the most absurd conversations I’ve ever had with a childcare provider. Karen basically told me that she didn’t care for Emmy. Mind you, Emmy was and still is, my easy child. Every single person in our lives always wanted to pick up Emmy, always wanted to play with Emmy, because Emmy was always smiling. She was not a complainer. Oh yeah. She did cry every three hours on the dot to be breastfed but beyond that, Emmy was a happy-go-lucky child who was always smiling.
Not only did she tell me that she could hardly tolerate Emmy, but she also asked me to consider allowing her to return to California and take Andy with her. I remembered thinking, “What the fuck?! Are you kidding me? Seriously!” She was completely serious!
I mean this was just insane! She went further on to tell me that the tiny little town we were living in Michigan sucked — I understood where she was coming from — by then, I had begun to figure out, they did not embrace outsiders very easily and there were no Hispanics around. Both Karen and I being of Hispanic descent. So, it was like quite a culture shock for us. Yes, I could understand why Karen wasn’t happy but the idea that I would allow her to take my child back to California was just completely bonkers.
And then she continued on with her arguments to say, well, if I really love my child, I would let her take her back to California because California was the best place for her. Karen prattled on and on about how much she and Andy had bonded. I had no time, Karen informed me, to take care of two daughters. It would be a lot easier for me if I only kept one, Emmy. I honestly remembered looking at her with this, “Are you really fucking kidding me?” look on my face. “You’re really saying this to me? What the fuck is wrong with you?!”
So, I talked to my husband who at that time said, “You need to calm down. She’s just going through a rough adjustment period. We’re all having a problem adjusting to living in this town. It’s a small town. It’s definitely a culture shock. Give her a couple of weeks. Just see if as Karen socializes more with people her age, which she had just started to do if things changed.” I don’t know if it was paranoia, or if it was instinct or if it was fear.
As time went by, I began to notice that Karen was teaching Andy not to call me “mommy”. Emmy called me mommy, but not Andy. And Andy was already struggling with what we came to realize was a speech impediment due to developmental delays as a result of her being a preemie. So, the fact that she was communicating with Karen more, and that Karen seemed to be pulling her away from me, it really began to fill me with fear. And I also began to wonder, if Karen would one day just take off with my child! Would I ever forgive myself if this woman actually took that kind of action? Would I rather take that risk or be accused of paranoia? Needless to say, I fired her. I fired her. I didn’t make it a week after that conversation, changed the locks in my house, and finally was able to breathe when she returned to California and I knew she was in California.
Now, I told myself none of my girlfriends ever had these kinds of problems. So, perhaps this was an anomaly. Something unlikely to ever happen again, right? I mean, I’m not that special. Why would something like this happen to me and my family? Maybe I have been a little paranoid. Maybe I have been a lot paranoid. So what? The bottom line is I felt that once Karen was out of the picture and I felt Andy was safe and I felt our family unit was safe. And that was all that mattered. I think that’s one thing I definitely want to say to other moms. Trust your gut instinct, don’t listen to what other people tell you. You know in your heart of hearts, what is right for you and your child. I don’t care how paranoid people tell you you’re being. I’m a strong believer in what my grandmother used to say: “An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of regrets.”
Okay, so next, right? I had to hire Amy rather quickly because the truth of the matter was, I had let Karen go without having a subsequent daycare provider. So, like Karen, Amy came to our home to take care of our babies. Now in my defense (because I always get defensive when it comes to my choices of nannies), just like Karen. Just like Karen. Amy came with great references. Absolute great references. So, even though I hired her out of necessity, I had no reason to believe that there was going to be a problem. And the bottom line was my husband was working on his MBA and he was working on his business and he couldn’t take care of the babies.So, I went to work completely paranoid, all the time wondering what was going on at home if my babies were okay. And it seemed that they were.
Okay. Now, Amy had some odd habits. For example, she was constantly on the cellphone with her then-boyfriend and they were constantly fighting. And while the California girl in me comes out and I like to drop the “F bomb” when I’m frustrated or angry or really surprised, I really, really since the girls have limit using profanity. In fact, I rarely use it. This girl cusses like a sailor and it was constant. And I really was concerned that the girls would pick it up because they were at that age where they were starting to pick up words, more Emmy, to be honest with you, than Andy. Andy was really struggling with a speech impediment but nevertheless, I was concerned the girls were gonna pick up this type of language and I didn’t want that. I know some people think it’s cute to each their own, but I didn’t want that for my girls, and I didn’t want that in my family.
Beyond that, nothing seemed amiss and after my experience with Karen, I really thought to myself, if this is the worst that I have to deal with, with Amy, this isn’t so bad, right? The babies were safe, there was no bruising, there were no accidents. Everything seemed good. But just because things seem good didn’t mean that I trust that they were good anymore. Karen had left me with a certain level of anxiety. And unfortunately, there was another incident.
Now this time, for whatever reason, Amy said was upset, she was fighting with her boyfriend and she forgot to change Andy’s diaper. By the time I got home, Andy’s diaper was full of feces and urine and I mean she was overflowing! She had been pooping in her diaper all day. So had Emmy, but for some reason or another, Emmy waited till I got home to poop. She had just peed in the diaper, so she had a mild rash.
Not Andy. Dear Lord! She had this rash that looked like a second-degree burn. I mean this day was absolutely terrible! My poor baby couldn’t stop crying. You couldn’t clean it with anything! I had to wash it off! Literally, put her in the bathtub and hose her down. Ugh! It was positively terrible. So, here I am, trying to clean Andy’s bottom in the tub and Amy takes. I’m sorry can’t believe how upset I can still be about this. But she takes Emmy downstairs to the playroom. We had a really lovely finished basement at that time, and she takes off! Doesn’t tell me that she’s leaving. She leaves my one and a half year old all alone downstairs in the finished basement. So now, I have a baby in the tub that’s crying in pain and I have another baby screaming downstairs in pain.
At this time, my husband arrives, I don’t remember where he had been that day because I had not been at home, and he picks up Emmy and takes her upstairs. And I remember the howls of my little girl in that basement. She was left alone. She was a little girl. And I remember the crying, the hysterical crying in the tub. So, my husband rescued Emmy and I took care of Andy. I realized I’m probably going to need some help because now, Andy has blisters on her bottom. I tried putting medication on it. I tried getting her to sleep. She slept for a few minutes and then she woke up screaming and howling and it was already too late to take her to a pediatrician. So, I took her to emergency!
There’s no urgent care in that town (very, very, small town). I guess we were lucky we even had a hospital. So, I take her to emergency, and I explained what happened and by now, some of the blisters have popped and there’s little blood and you know, blisters hurt like hell! And the emergency room people are looking at me and they are acting like I’m completely nuts. They tell me, “We have kids that come with their bottoms completely raw, bleeding, that don’t howl like this child. She must have fallen, she must have hurt herself, something must have happened to her.” And I’m going, “No, look at her butt! Her butt is terrible, I need something for her butt!” They’re like, “No, no, she must have been in some kind of accident. Maybe the nanny abused her,” (and perhaps they were thinking that “You abused her but we’re not ready to accuse you of that”). I don’t know.
So, they take her in, and they do all these kinds of checking (they even did a CT-scan because they were sure she had fallen and injured her head!). And of course, they come back with, “This child is perfectly healthy. This child is properly taken care of except for the butt rash. No shit! No pun intended. Happy coincidence. So, yes, this woman let her have a terrible rash. Yes, other babies don’t cry when they have a terrible rash because neglected babies know that no one is coming. My baby had never been neglected. So, Yes! She was gonna howl and scream like it was the end of the world because she thought it was! And because she thought it was the end of the world, I thought it was the end of the world.
So, they gave me a special ointment with painkillers. I put it on her bottom, and they told me not to put on a diaper on her until her rash got better. So yes, we now had a baby running around our house, pooping, and peeing all over the place wherever she felt like it because she was used to having a diaper on. But that was my husband’s challenge, he had to stay at home with her. No working on the business, no working on his MBA until I got home because the baby needed to be taken care of and so as soon as we saw her start, we would run her to the bathroom. Now, she never got a clue. She’s really difficult to potty train, but that’s another story.
So, those were our first attempts at having nannies to care of our babies at home. We really thought that by having people take care of our children at home, there was less likely to be incidents. But we found out the hard way that’s not the case. So next week, I’m going to tell you about daycare hell.
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