My nanny is the most important person in my life. Let me rephrase that. After my children, my nanny is the most important person in my life. Sorry to dis my husband, but let’s be honest, I simply cannot function without my nanny. I can survive without Michael – it’s Sally without whom I truly cannot live.
This became abundantly clear at 7:30 a.m. today when, after nine days of Sally’s trip home to Belize, she didn’t show up at my house for work. It started with a message left on my cell phone late last night – a message I, of course, did not retrieve until 7:30 this morning.
Sally was stranded mid-return route in Miami because flights to Newark were canceled. I got this message as I was walking out the door to catch my train to New York City for work. As my husband was making his coffee, I announced that Sally may be a no-show. Michael swung between denial and rage, unable to contain himself. “What do you mean Sally may still be in Miami? She can’t be. I need to get to work! Call her again!” As this is a family-friendly web site and Michael’s language sounded like out-takes from “The Sopranos,” I’ve paraphrased this exchange.
While Sally was away, my husband and I had taken personal and vacation days to alternate staying home with the kids. But one more day – another unplanned morning – simply threw us over the edge.
The boomerang effect Sally’s absence has on our family is almost embarrassing. Because we tend to operate in chaos even on the good days, having no Plan B feels sort of irresponsible. But with no family around, the truth is that we have no backup child care. No one to call in a pinch.
As my husband proceeded to implode in my kitchen, I started making calls on the train, scrambling to get coverage, begging friends, neighbors and my daughter’s pre-school director to help out. With two children in three different schools of varying pick up times, the logistics are as complicated as a space shuttle mission. My friends rallied. The pre-school offered to move my daughter around a couple of times into different classes that stayed after hours until I could pick her up. Even my boss was sort of sympathetic to my plight.
But it’s at these times that I am reminded just how fragile my safety net is. Without a caregiver, I cannot go to work. Without work, we cannot pay our mortgage. If our house is foreclosed…well, you get the point. With both parents commuting daily into the city to work, and two school-age children, our world revolves around our nanny.
I know I’m not alone. Child care is the number one issue for working parents, particularly working mothers. Having safe, affordable, high quality caregivers is truly a crisis in our country. Today’s drama aside, I know that I am fortunate that I can afford a loving, wonderful nanny. But the stress of caregiving, or lack thereof, affects your work, your day, your life…your sanity. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. For my life to work, it’s all about my nanny. I think I better give her a raise.