by Risa Green
A couple of years ago, some friends and I were talking about taking on a pretty big volunteer position at our kids’ school, and we were discussing who else we should ask to do it with us. We brought up some names – no, I heard she wants to be a room parent this year; no, I think she’s going back to work full time – and then another name came up and my friend said, yeah, she’d be great, plus, she’s totally nannied up. Nannied up. It’s a term that’s stuck with me, and if I had to write a dictionary definition for it, I think it would go something like this:
na·nnied up: adj.
Being in mother in a state of complete and utter freedom as a result of having one (or more than one) nanny who is always available to drive, cook and clean. Even though she has three kids and doesn’t work, Karen is always free to grab coffee at four o’clock in the afternoon because she is so nannied up.
I think that the whole idea of being nannied up causes people to make a lot of judgments, (i.e., she’s so nannied up, she never even spends any time with her kids or, in the alternative, poor Sue, she spends half her salary being nannied up because she has to put in such long hours at the office) but that’s not why I decided to write about it this week. No, I decided to write about it because I’ve started the next book in my Secret Society of the Pink Crystal Ball  series, and it’s come to my attention that I am not set up for working full time, especially in the summer. I am, decidedly, not nannied up, and it’s becoming a bit of an issue for me.
When my daughter was born eight years ago, we hired a nanny to live with us both because we had an extra bedroom, and because we couldn’t afford to pay for a nanny who “lived out.” Although I was working in an office at the time, it wasn’t a problem for us that she didn’t drive. We live in the middle of the city, with plenty of parks and malls and bus stops within walking distance. By the time my kids started preschool I was working as a writer, from home, and the preschool is just a five minute walk from our house. So when I was working on a book and I needed to work full days, she could go pick up my kids and walk them to the park or to a playdate, while I stayed at my computer, working away.
Now, however, everything is so much more complicated. Our elementary school is a fifteen minute drive from my house, and my kids have art classes and soccer practice and God knows what else after school, all of which require me to essentially end my work day at two thirty so that I can become an unpaid chauffeur. And in the summer, it’s even worse. Camp doesn’t start until nine, and in order to give them both some much needed downtime, they only go three days a week. Which basically means that my work week has now been reduced to three, five hour days. It’s as if I’ve been furloughed by my children.
I feel it the most when I’m actually working on a book. During the school year, when I was just doing some edits on The Secret Society of the Pink Crystal Ball, and also plotting the story and creating an outline for the next one, I didn’t mind the shortened hours quite so much. There’s only so much thinking a person can do in a day, anyway. But now that I’m actually writing, it’s just so hard. The other day, for example, I was smack in the middle of writing a dinner conversation that some of my characters were having, and I looked up and realized that it was two-twenty, and my son gets out of camp at two-thirty. So I quickly hit save and dashed off to get him, but the conversation was still going on in my head, and I spent the rest of my afternoon drive time itching to get back to the computer, trying to type notes on my phone while sitting at red lights.
At the same time, though, I’m reluctant to get myself further nannied up. As much as it kills me to have to stop writing when I’m so in the zone, I just don’t know if I want to pay someone three times what we pay our live-in, non-driving nanny to go out and get my kids and schlepp them around for me, especially when I have the flexibility to do it myself. Not to mention the fact that with all of their activities and practices and homework, I sometimes feel like the only quality time I get with my kids is when we’re in the car, and I’m not so sure I want to hand all of that precious QT over to a nanny.
So in the end, it’s just another one of those working mother, you absolutely can not have it all kinds of choices. Get nannied up and churn out two or three books a year like a lot of other authors who don’t have children are able to, or keep things the way they are and work at a slow, constantly interrupted, incredibly frustrating pace, where my limited working hours can’t possibly keep up with the flow of my ideas. For now, I’m choosing to keep the status quo. I know it will get better once the school year starts, and I think I can hold out until then. But if you happen to see me while I’m sitting at a red light, talking to myself and typing furiously, please don’t think I’m crazy. I’m just not nannied up, and I’m trying to get some work done.