Tag: Nannies

The Single Baby Mama’s New World Order

When the universe the universe hands you a gift, you grab it with both hands. And I did just that when Julia’s sitter, oops I mean Julia’s Personal Assistant arrived to the house early. Natasha rejects the terms nanny or sitter.

“I’m here crazy early,” Natasha said after I opened the front door of the apartment still sporting my ruby red bathrobe.

“I’ll just drop off my bag and go do an errand,” she said.

And that was the plan until Julia caught on.

“I want to go! Can I come? Please Tasha!”

“Sure, come on Jules.” Then Natasha turned to me and said with a sly smile. “I’ll give you a little time to yourself before you go to work.” Then the two of them scooted out the front door and into the warm morning.

I thought of putting this luxury of time towards hauling out my fall/winter clothes, or pruning down the books I’ve deemed unimportant enough to keep, for about seven minutes. Then through the living room windows I caught a glimpse of the honeyed light. I peered down eight floors, and sported a woman clad in tights and a tank top jog along side Central Park.

After four years of running with Julia while I pushed a SUV-sized Bob Revolutionary jogging stroller, and now with her running beside me, I can say, alone time while running was a huge gift. So I jumped in tights, tee shirt and sneakers and bolted from the apartment, crossed the avenue, and podded into Central Park. Normally I don’t run on cement. This was no normal morning.

Autumn in New York is a beautiful time in the city. Trees are still green and lush. The air smells a little fresher because of the moderate temperatures, mostly rising only to the low 70s. There was a reason why Vernon Duke was inspired to write a song about autumn here.

An overhead view of the Central Park Reservoir which hosts a 1.6 mile dirt running track.
An overhead view of the Central Park Reservoir which hosts a 1.6 mile dirt running track. One of my favorite places to run in the world.

So I ran and ran until my barely charged iPod burned down. I kept ran until I could not run another step. Forty-five minutes later, I crawled out of the park, towards home, sweaty and happy. As I reached the entrance of the building I noticed the doorman talking to the porter a bit further away from the door, on the grey sidewalk, standing in the sun.

Everyone seemed to be enjoying the day, I thought.

I pressed my key into the lock, opened the front door, and pealed off my sneakers and socks as I clambered down the hall.

“Mommy’s home, Mommies home!” Julia said running up to me, lassoing her thin arms around my knees, Then she stepped back and plopped her hands onto her skinny hips. Natasha stood next to her and did the same.  They glared at me.

“We want to talk to you,” Natasha said.

“Yeah, Mommy!”

“We didn’t know where you were when we came back from our errands. Your phone was here and iPad so we knew you hadn’t left for work. But we couldn’t find you. We went down to the recycle area, we asked the building porters, and still couldn’t find you… so then started think that maybe it was episode from Law and Order SVU.

Stared at them both blankly and chuckled. They didn’t laugh. They were dead serious.

“We thought something happened to you.”

“Yeah, Mommy!”

Natasha leaned in close. I wasn’t sure if she would hug me or slug me. Heat radiated off her skin. “We were really worried we didn’t know where you were.”

“I went running.”

“But you didn’t tell anybody.”

The thought did cross my mind to send her a text but I didn’t because the fact is: I haven’t had to tell anybody where I was going for a long time. As the only adult in my house. I make and execute the rules around theses parts. But with a new sitter, opps I mean Personal Assistant for Julia, everything is clearly different. Albeit in a good way.

“I’m sorry guys I made you worry,” I said and hugged them both, sweaty and all.

“We went down to the basement and called out,” ‘Jenine Holmes answer if you can hear me.’ “Then we finally went and asked the doorman had he seen you, Carlos said you went jogging.”

Geez, if I had spoken to Carlos he could have warned me that I was in deep doo doo at home. 

“Really guys I’m very sorry.”

“Mommy you deserve a butt spank!” Julia said with more than a little bit of gee.

“She sure does!” Julia’s PA said backing her benefactor.

I smiled. “Okay Jules, I’ll take my medicine,” I said, bent my bum over and braced myself.

Let’s just say, for a five-year-old kid Julia has quite a wind up and a heavy hand.

After a few hundred swats Natasha pulled Julia’s tiny hand away, “Okay, Jules that’s enough.”

But it would never be enough. There was so much love in the swatting, some much love behind their angry eyes. It was right then and there that I knew. We three, on a serious level, had formed a real and vital bond. All summer I worried about finding a sitter who could work with Julia’s longer days at school, worried how this child care scenario would play out with Angie  leaving our home seeking full time work. Who knew the universe already had the answer? Already had the new world order worked out. A new lesson for the Single Baby Mama. I just had to step forward, and say yes.

For the Love of Angie

After the firing and release of Donique, Julia’s first nanny, the universe, delivered Angie to my small family. From the start, my Mom knew Angie was the right woman for the job. However, in fairness, I had to keep my word, and allow all four applicants to interview for the position of nanny. My mom could give a hoot about fairness. She wanted to lock and load Angie for Team Julia.

As each applicant came through the front door, and took a seat at the dinning room table, my Mom sat across from them, her word search puzzle book game set in one hand, a ball point pen in the other, typically used to keep her seventy-five-year-old mind sharp, but in that moment, employed as a social shield. While I conducted the thirty-minute interview, Mom listened and then lobbed a question or two over her book at the applicant, then returned to her preferred preoccupation. After the interview wrapped, I’d escort the applicant to the front door.

“Thanks for coming,” I said say with a smile, closed the door and lumbered back down the hallway, mentally sorting over the pros and cons of the woman, settling into my chair to take a closer look at her resume. From behind the folded book, the voice of my Mom would exclaim, “She was nice. But she was no Angie.” By the time the third applicant had come and gone, Mom got testy, “Why are you even still interviewing people?” she said. “Just call Angie.”

I, like a jittery, burned bride that had been abandoned at the altar, sought certainty. I wanted to be sure as I could be about the new nanny. After I week of hunting I realized there was no 100% certainty in anything. 95% was as close as I would come.

The day before Angie started work, my brother Jeffrey called from Michigan. “You better tell the new nanny what happened with the old nanny,” he said.
“Really?”
“Sure. You don’t want her thinking that she works for a hot head, that if she breaks a plate or something then she’s out of job.”
Married moms have husbands. I have Jeffrey.

Following my sage brother’s advice, while I sipped the cold dregs of my cappuccino, on the morning of first day, I gave Angie the low down. Unvarnished. The Reader’s Digest version, sans fireworks. Any good writer knows the truth is dramatic enough.
“Well, first she said after opening the envelope with her Christmas bonus ‘Am I going to be happy after I count this money?’ Then she tried to tell me what her friends had received. Twice.”

Angie listened, her eyes low, her lids shielding her thoughts. Then looked up at me through her shoulder length wedge of light brown hair and said. “This lady who worked for you, she wasn’t Mexican was she?”
“No Angie,” I said child like, puzzled and curious to see where this question was leading. “She was Trinidadian.”
“I didn’t think so. No Mexican person would say such a thing.”

Less you think dear reader this response was an anomaly, a bit of goober smooching of  the new boss, know that three months later, when I offered Angie a small bonus, a lagniappe in the form of cash for taking such good care of my daughter, for being such a lovely consistent force in my home, Angie’s small, honey-colored hand, shot-up in the space between us like a stop sign.
“No. You pay me well, Jenine. I don’t want this money.”
“Angie, take it. Go out with your girl friends, have a nice dinner. Take it.”
“No. I did not earn this money.”
“Take it.”
“If I take it, I’ll just buy something nice for Julia.”

And with that Angie left for home, the bills still clutched in my hand, my jaw unhinged from shock. I went to my cell and dialed my Mom back in Michigan, and as best as I could, told her what had happened.
“I would have taken the money,” Mom said.
“Me too. Everyone could use an extra fifty bucks. I know Angie could.”
Mom sighed. It wasn’t heavy groan. For an expression of air over a phone receiver ,it was a light, breathy breeze. “You got the right one this time,” she said.
A sigh of relief.

Angie has reaffirmed my certainly of goodness in the world, that right finds right. Good connects to good. I treat her with fairness. She treats me with respect, and sometimes something even greater.

A month later, a week ago, I came home on a Friday, hauling a bag of Trader Joe groceries, a large plastic Buy Buy-Baby bag, containing a Talk and Learn Elmo toy, my work tote stuffed with files, print outs and books— my ass dragging through the door, twenty minutes late. By the end of business on Friday—between motherhood and the mayhem of advertising-my body is burnt down to the ground. I girded myself for the nanny backlash I’d become accustomed to with Donique; a poked out lower lip, a sour attitude, after all, I was twenty minutes late. On payday. But I just could not move any faster. Too loaded down to even send a “I’m running late” text.

I limped through the door, carrying a broken smile on my face. I’d read that Maya Angelo said, a child should always feel when parent looks at them, after an absence, that they are the light of the world, no matter what happened at work, no matter what ad concept was bashed, or what panhandler was doing their stage show on the Uptown B train, as you cling to the last minutes of adult reading time. So at the threshold I gave my daughter the light she deserves. As Julia did her welcome home dance, her tiny little samba of joy in the hallway in front of me , I let the bags and the weight fall to the floor then scoped Julia up into my arms. Angie studied the scene closely.
“I’m late, sorry,” I said. “It was the best I could do.”
“I’ve been meaning to tell you something,” Angie said.
I braced my shoulders, my will, my resolve.
“I so proud of you,” she said. “You’re such a good Mom.”
Instantly, my eyes flooded; fatigue and flattery, a potent mix.
“Angie, you’re going to make me cry,” I said, blinking back tears.
“No. You do every thing around here. Take care of Julia. You make the money, and pay the bills. Really you are taking care of the three of us. You do a lot.”

I pulled Angie close, and hugged her tight, simply because I didn’t know what else to do. Grateful. No. It’s more than gratitude. Angie has become a new north star, a fresh illustration of divine order, that the universe has intelligence, knowledge of what I and my daughter need. And in what order we needed it. When I came to Julia, Donique did a lot of good. But Angie does a lot of good for both Julia, and me.

I never knew at the onset of motherhood, that the small village I told the judge in Ethiopia I had back in the States, that among my great supportive friends and family, Angie would be at the center.

The Big Bang Theory of Nannies

It happened. Out of the blue. (People always say that, but it’s a cliché for a reason) In just a few words, and my happy mommy train was knocked off the track:

“I’m I going to be happy with this money after I count it?”

This simple sentence, uttered by my nanny, imploded our system of supply and demand. What she was supplying, I wasn’t buying anymore. Namely, her services.

All over the amount of her Christmas bonus. A bonus. A gift. Not a given.

As a writer I treat words more seriously than civilians. So, when my nanny made what she considered a simple question, there was no going back; her greed, her ingratitude, now exploded across the Holmes Family universe.

So, from the last of December when I informed her that “ I wouldn’t be needing her services in the New Year,” ; the search for a new babysitter began, lasting until the third week of January, thanks to an assist from my Mom who came from Michigan to help care for Julia, with my sister in law in the wings waiting to provide coverage, while I worked and interviewed new child care workers on the side, in the evenings, I thought of the gift my former nanny had given me.

For a long, long while I believed the goal in life was to get all my ducks—or sippy cups— in a row, with all the tops matching, aligned then everything in my life would be ducky. Once Julia came home, I thought my Mallards looked marvelous. I’d hired a great nanny. My job was going well, my grad school thesis, accepted.  Things seemed to be going along swimmingly until that sentence was launched from my nanny’s mouth, when she revealed her true self. And in that Big Bang I understood, there’s no perfection. No time when the machine runs without a hitch. There’s always, a Big Bang waiting to expand the universe, to stretch it, pull it into a new definition of life. And reality.

Change is eternal in life, especially true in the Big Bang Theory of Life and Nannies.

Childcare workers, like all people, are complicated creatures. An email reply from another mother from my Upper West Side Mom Yahoo Group put it best,” This is person who’s giving your daughter examples to live by when you’re not around. Get rid of her.”

Life as a money-grubber is not on my Julia list.