Last year I read about a major nanny crisis over at The Underwear Drawer and thought, "Phew, I'm so glad that's not me!" Except now it sort of is.
We have had the same baby sitter, Sharon, since 2004. For 2 of those 3 years, we loved our childcare situation. But ever since we had Little A things have soured. It started when I cut back on childcare hours because I wanted to spend more time at home with the kids. While I know that babysitters are naturally not going to like cut hours/pay, I was shocked by the level of personal offense she seemed to take at something whose root cause was completely unrelated to her. I did my best to reassure her that we were satisfied with the care our kids got and this wasn't personal. And I tried make the change as easy as possible for her. For instance, I gave Sharon several months notice before my schedule change. I wrote up a glowing reference for her on a popular online parents network resource, and the reference seemed to get her multiple interviews with new prospective clients. Hell, I even agreed to declare less than what I actually paid Sharon last year on my income taxes, thereby netting her some under-the-table cash. Finally, since I would only need Sharon's services 2 days per week starting in June, I even allowed her to select the days she felt were most convenient to watch the baby, and then worked my schedule around hers.
In response to my attempts to make nice, I got a greatly increased per-day rate, far less flexibility in scheduled hours than I've ever had, and a ton more grousing from her about issues that seem ludicrous to me. Is it really my fault that she didn't get a new client because that parent has a son and wants him to be around other boys, and Sharon happens to only be sitting girls right now? Is it fair to complain about losing my full-time business when her son casually mentions that Sharon has turned down a full-time client of late, because she wants to work 4 days a week now instead of five? These things left me simmering, but still I did nothing.
This past week was the last straw. Sharon took a full week off without giving me proper advance notice. Rather than apologize for the inconvenience that caused, she actually asked for more money when I requested she make up a day of childcare. On top of that, I discovered that some of her drop-in clients (who only use her sporadically) pay 20 percent less per day than I do! I understand that full-time clients get a cheaper hourly rate than part timers. But it's ridiculous that I pay more than drop ins do when I still give Sharon steady income week in and week out.
So, we had the talk. At first it went fine. Sharon actually offered to lower my rate a smidgen, since I have been picking up Little A earlier than I used to now that Big A's preschool ends at four. And she gave me a little more flexibility regarding the days Little A attends in the case of certain short weeks where holidays fall. All that was good. If it had been left at that, I would have been pretty mollified.
But Sharon had to get nasty in the end. She said that if I am getting the lower rate now, then on those occasional days when I pick up the baby and other parents I am friendly with happen to also be there picking up kids, it is not acceptable to chat for a few minutes. "You gab in my living room when I'm busy and have things to do," she said. "You all need to leave promptly!"
This really pissed me off. Because it is very rare that I pick up Little A when other parents are there these days, and on those occasions when it does happen, even when talking ensues, it is over and everyone is out the door before Sharon's work day officially ends. How dare she get mad at people for being in her house a few "extra" minutes when in fact, she is still on our dime during that time.
I wish I could have resisted the urge to sink to her level, but instead I frostily said I would certainly make sure that my I never spent a moment of extra time in her home from now on. And I glared and said, "Now, if we're done, I'm already late for work."
The hardest thing was trying to decide if I should leave Little A in her care for today or not. I should say that if I felt she would ever take out the argument on Little A, of course I would never have left her there today or for one other minute in the future. But I actually think she would be fine to Little A despite what happened between the two of us. It's just that given the nastiness of the discussion, it felt so wrong to leave her there. But I'm so desperately short on child-care hours that I also felt like NOT leaving Little A as planned would give Sharon one more freakin' day of free pay that she clearly doesn't deserve.
So I left, and then I got in my car and cried. Then I called DH and asked if he thought I should go back to the baby sitter's immediately. He said he thought Little A would be ok, and that we'd go into crisis mode as of that moment and spend all our time searching for a new sitter. The sooner we can get Little A out of there, the better.