Friend or Foe
On January 30th 2018 my little Alyvia turned 2 years old!!! CD and I had both taken the day off work so that we could spend the day together as a family. Little did I know that a petty misunderstanding with our nanny before heading off for the day would leave me without childcare and most important of all, without my daughter’s closest friend.
When I recall that particular day, so many things come into mind and I still question my actions and my words. I did not foresee the repercussions of our nanny walking out on us until I became desperate.
I’ll call her Rita as it would be unfair to reveal her true identity. Rita was our first nanny whom we hired in December 2016. Alyvia was 10.5 months old and I would be returning to work full time from January. I was 6 months pregnant and having discussed all our childcare options, we thought it would be more cost effective to keep a nanny. Alyvia had a routine, was still very young in my opinion and needed attention.
We must have interviewed a dozen potential nannies and had our heart set on another lady. Unfortunately due to her family circumstances, she was unable to start work with us and when I interviewed Rita, I was pleasantly surprised with her kindness and instant connection with Alyvia. She had never been a sole charge nanny and previous jobs all involved looking after children as a mother’s helper. She also had little experience looking after babies. In hindsight she was poorly qualified for the job but I liked the way Alyvia wanted to play with her instantly. Having called her previous employers for a reference, there was no hesitation about how trustworthy and helpful she was but a lasting comment about laziness stuck in the back of my mind.
I had 3.5 weeks before going back to work to show her Alyvia’s daily routine, how to make her meals, how to put her to sleep and where the local playgroups were and also to allow Alyvia to warm to her, trust her and be happy being alone with her ALL day. CD was very concerned with such a tall order but I had made up my mind.
Initially, she needed help with most things but she learned quickly and in no time I was back at work and Alyvia was in the hands of Rita. Rita was always gentle with Alyvia and grew to love her dearly…I still believe she does.
Our relationship grew over the next few months and Rita was always happy to learn and to teach Alyvia. She met both our families and they also loved her. She just couldn’t do anything wrong.
Before I was due to go on maternity leave for the second time, I noticed that Rita was using her phone more often. While I didn’t make it clear when she started about using her phone while working, I refused to let that become an issue. Alyvia was not being neglected and Rita had family abroad whom she often needed to contact.
Then, smaller things started to happen which began to annoy me. One day while CD was at home, Rita took Alyvia out to the local playground. I reminded her to take a snack for Alyvia and give it to her while in the playground. When she came home, I asked her if Alyvia had her snack. She replied yes. When I was out of the room (CD was working on his computer but could see her from the corner of his eye), she opened Alyvia’s bag and removed the uneaten piece of fruit from the bag, hid it behind her back and went to the kitchen to replace it with the other fruit. CD was livid and immediately took me aside and told me what he saw. We then confronted her and told her we saw her replace the uneaten snack. She had nothing to say other than she forgot to give it to Alyvia. We stressed that that was absolutely fine but it was important to tell us rather than lying to us and hiding the food.
On another occasion, we decided to take Alyvia out for a babyccino locally and thought it would be nice that she went with just her parents (I was due to give birth soon and wanted to spend as much time with Alyvia as possible). We told Rita that we wouldn’t be longer than half an hour. Alyvia’s clothes needed to be put away into her cupboard and I asked her if she could do that while we were gone. She replied in a somewhat rude manner snapping at me that struck us by surprise. CD was compelled to say to her that there was no need to be rude and that we were only speaking to her.
From then on, there were numerous occasions she would be using her phone and face -timing friends/family and involving Alyvia in the conversation. We decided to approach her about her phone usage and told her we would prefer if she didn’t use her phone for personal reasons while working. She could obviously use it to contact us if we were out or for any emergency. She agreed but kept her phone closeby to take pictures and videos of Alyvia. The minute Alyvia saw her phone, she would want to play with it. As much as we asked her to put her phone completely away, it appeared again an hour later. It was as though she didn’t care about what we had asked her to do.
Two weeks before she left, we went to the local playground together. Sophia was 9 months old at the time. There was a class at the library that we wanted to attend so we took the opportunity to go to the playground before going to the library. It was a cold day and I decided that I would take Sophia to the library earlier while Alyvia continued playing in the playground for a little longer. We agreed to meet in the library 20 minutes later. I set off with Sophia but decided to pop into the coffee shop and grab a coffee. As I sat down with my coffee, I saw Rita and Alyvia walking past. They walked past the library and into another coffee shop. I texted Rita inviting her to join us in the coffee shop I was sitting in but I got no response. 5 minutes later, she re-appeared and came into the coffee shop I was in to find me. When she sat down, she told me she needed the bathroom urgently and had to go to the nearest place. I then asked her what Alyvia was doing while she was in the bathroom. She replied ‘She was waiting outside the bathroom in the buggy’. I was shocked and asked her to explain where exactly she left Alyvia waiting. She said it was indoors but just outside the toilet. I got very upset and told her that she should have left Alyvia with me and then gone to the toilet or alternatively taken Alyvia with her inside the toilet. I explained that was unacceptable and she nodded and said she knew for next time. She didn't understand the gravity of the situation and it felt she just wanted to brush me off and not acknowledge the danger she had put my daughter in.
The incident bothered me all day and I told CD that night. He was not as forgiving as I was and spoke to Rita the following day. He was firm and possibly a little angry as she had added in bits of information to her account to make it seem less dangerous. She told him that she left the door open while she was in the bathroom so that she could see Alyvia. We doubted that very much. We told her that we couldn’t trust her. Rita was clearly upset and so we eventually smoothed things over but the damage was done. We didn’t trust her and every little thing that she did from then on, made us more annoyed. I suppose it was building up inside me.
Fast forward to Alyvia’s 2nd birthday. A simple conversation regarding nappies turned into Rita threatening to leave. Clearly one thing led to another and in anger, I told her that she could leave whenever she wanted but she would be breaching our contract. She didn’t care, left her keys, asked for her outstanding money and walked out of the door. We didn’t want to accept what had just happened and didn’t want to spoil Alyvia’s day. We continued with our plans expecting Rita to call us later so that we could talk things through. We heard nothing. Luckily I hadn’t returned to work then but was due to at the end of March (in 4 weeks).
The next few days went by and Rita had eventually contacted us complaining about us. She had said that she could no longer work for a family if they didn’t trust her. She didn’t care about the breach of contract, nor that she had left us without any notice to find someone else. We didn’t reply to her heated comments and just tried to put our heads down and think of a solution.
So many thoughts would go through my mind at the time. I wondered if I had done something wrong and had driven her away. I wondered if this was a blessing in disguise and now was the opportunity to find someone I actually trusted and who I could trust my children with while I was at work. CD and I would often sit and argue in the evenings about how and why this happened and whether we could have prevented it. He often blamed me for it all.
Alyvia started to ask about Rita, and that’s when things started to destroy me mentally. I would tell her that she went home every time she asked. She stopped asking about her eventually but I could tell that she missed her closest friend. I was distraught and tried very hard to fill that gap. I was now looking after both children on my own all day until CD returned from work. I had family come and help me when they could but it was just not the same. I stopped eating (I had no time), started arguing more with CD as I was exhausted by the end of the day. We interviewed potential nannies every evening. There was no one we liked. We thought that it would be easy. This time however, we knew what we wanted, we wanted experience and someone we could trust. I personally wanted someone similar to Rita's personality who could replace her as Alyvia’s friend.
Weeks and weeks went by, I was depressed, hadn’t eaten anything and was snapping at Alyvia for no reason. We were no closer to finding anyone it seemed. I hated who I became. Breastfeeding was making me hungry but I had no time or energy to eat anything. Alyvia wanted attention and I struggled to meet her developmental needs. I honestly felt I had lost control. CD was frantically booking interviews with nannies in between seeing patients at work. I was supposed to be getting ready to return to work but I couldn’t possibly think about that until we had childcare.
One evening I was so distraught, I phoned Rita and begged her to come back. I sobbed on the phone to her and accused her of leaving my daughter who loved her so much. She apologized for the way she left and said that she missed Alyvia too but she had found a new job and couldn’t leave now. It was too late to bring her back and I felt even more pressure to find someone.
After several interviews and trials, we came across Wendy. Wendy was not like Rita. She was much older and quieter and we thought maybe Alyvia could warm to her. Sophia would follow her sister and warm to anyone her sister warmed to. After a few days trialling with us, we decided to hire Wendy. Two weeks later, I started work (part time). We made a contract and before she started, spoke to her about using her phone while with the children. We tried to be as open as we could from the beginning to ensure we didn’t have the same problem that we did last time.
Four months on, Wendy is still with us and we are very happy. Alyvia and Sophia love her and she absolutely loves them. I am still cautious though as this is how things were with Rita initially. Our communication with Wendy is much better and hope we are approachable so that she doesn’t feel she has to hide anything from us.
When I think about the time Rita left us, I still become very upset. I was unhappy, desperate and in my eyes a bad mother and wife during that period. My whole world turned upside down and I felt terribly sad for my children especially Alyvia. I mourned the loss of her very first friend.
There are obviously two sides to every story and I am not in any way implying that I was innocent. I wished I had communicated better with Rita so that it wouldn’t have gotten to the stage that it did. It wasn’t a right match and I wish her all the best.
So here we are now and I have finally managed to write this story up. So many of you have been asking me where I disappeared to. Not only was I offline for months but I felt I was in a large black hole. I apologise for my absence and assure you, mummycleverdoc will be back with another blog post very soon!
Let me know if you would like me to write about what qualities I look for when hiring a nanny now that I have been through this twice and have learned some valuable things since my first nanny left us.