Enter with caution; this one's a loooong one....
It's been a month of big changes in our house. I don't really know where to start.... back in September, one of my dearest friends here in Calgary called me. She had recently had her third baby and had hired a part time Nanny to help out while she was on maternity leave. The Nanny would work for them full time once my friend returned to work. My friend knows our family very well. She suggested that we hire her Nanny 1-2 days/week, temporarily, for the fall. Gary was going to be gone for 7 weeks, we were going through a rough patch with Ellie and Brad's juvenile diabetes, and were spending 2 days/week at the hospital. I had a few other issues on my plate, and because we live so far away from our families, we have no back up support at all with the kids. I know many people are in similar situations, but a lot of other people aren't. When we are at the hospital with the kids, there is poor Katey, not getting any naps, spending her time, unhappily, waiting with me. The last time I had dental work done, Ellie and Brad were in the room with me, and Kate, 18 months old at the time, squirmed on my belly while the dentist worked his magic. Don't even ask about the dreaded annual... "rhymes with tap" test, because they come to that, too. I digress...
After much fence-sitting, we hired "E" one day/week. It would soon increase to 2, sometimes 3 days/week. I had a lot of anxiety going into it, because anxiety is part of my charm. I thought I might feel funny being in the house with someone who was paid to help me out. I felt uncomfortable with my position as "ladyboss" which is how E refers to her female employers. I knew that I respected Canada's foreign worker program and how it assists qualified workers from disadvantaged homelands (in this case, The Philippines) to find work in Canada and eventually become citizens. But, again, I felt torn. Life is just so random... that this lady who would soon become a good friend to me was working in my house bothered me. Life isn't fair. If our birthplaces were reversed, I'd be working in her house; not her in mine.
To make a long story short (not my strongest suit...) E was with us for over 3 months and we all loved her. Gary too. During long weeks, or even a full month that Gary was away, I could go for a run, in the middle of the day when she was here. I got my haircut, alone! Best of all, I was finally able to regularly volunteer in Ellie and Bradley's class each week, and they loved that. While Gary was gone, it was a comfort to me to have another adult in the house through the night. When Gary was here, we went to our first movie together in 7 and 1/2 years. We met for lunch a few times. It was fanfreakingtastic. I often joked, only really half joking, that if I ever wrote a book, I could title it, "Lessons my Nanny Taught Me". There are many quotes from E worth printing, believe me. She has been working fulltime for my friend's family now for a month. We miss her, but she is happy, has a wonderful 'ladyboss' and family who love her, and we are still in touch. So, a happy ending there.
Except, it kind of sparked something inside me. I've been home raising 3 babies for almost 8 years. And, the last 2 years have really put us to the test. Ellie's being diagnosed at the same time Kate was born, and then Bradley's subsequent diagnosis... oftentimes the stress, anxiety and raw nerves have been palpable in our house. Kate was a twin and before we lost her twin, we'd planned to hire a nanny to help us out that first year. Gary travels a lot and works long days - he was terrified just considering leaving me to nurse twins all night, then take Ellie and Brad all over the place the next day for months on end. Once there was only one baby, we thought a nanny was no longer necessary. But, in light of the eventual special health needs of our oldest children, all of our family and our close friends who spend real time with us have said that we probably needed the nanny more with the reality we are living now, than we did with the reality we imagined with twins.
Boy, this is getting long. My apologies. If you've made it this far, there really must be nothing to watch on tv. Having some part time help made me realize how isolated and lonely I've become for adult company. Most of my friends have long since gone back to work. The lunches and playdates that maintained my social life when Ellie and Brad were preschoolers are gone. Kate naps everyday from 1-3pm, while Brad is at Kindergarten... my schedule is limited. But, I craved doing something. I wanted to volunteer somewhere. My biggest natural interest was in working with women newly immigrated to Canada. But, JDRF was also on my radar, as is the Red Cross. So, I called them all. I first heard back from JDRF. I spoke for almost 2 hours (2 HOURS!!) on the phone with the head of JDRF Calgary. She said I should forget volunteering and come down to interview for a job with her. I was adamant about not wanting fulltime, and that was what the position called for, but she thought she/we might be able to work something out. We weren't. It was fulltime or nothing. So, nothing it was. At the same time, I was seeking part time help; a part time nanny. I know that is a luxury. I know I am lucky to even be able to contemplate hiring a nanny so that I can go volunteer somewhere. But, we can't hire teen babysitters like everyone else can. There's no dropping them off at the grandparents or cousins while we take someone else to the hospital. We need an adult who can comprehend the gravity of juvenile diabetes.
We couldn't find a part time nanny. Understandably, nannies in the foreign worker/live-in caregiver program are all seeking fulltime work. Then, we met Liezel. Because we had a crazy week of Dr's appts, Liezel came for an interview with us AT THE CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL. She met us there!! And we all loved her! She's a bit too cute for my personal taste, but so, so lovely. That was a joke, btw. Mostly a joke, anyway...
So, we've hired a nanny and she's moving in this weekend. She will live here, in the basement ensuite previously used by visiting grandparents, uncles and friends who enjoyed more wine with dinner than would have been responsible to drive home with. (That's true.) She'll work 5 days/week, starting this Monday. And I am working 2 days/week at CIWA - Calgary Immigrant Women's Association. It is a volunteer position, working as a translator in an ESL course for immigrant women who are studying Early Childhood Care. This will enable these women, most from tragic backgrounds in refugee camps, to work in daycares, despite language barriers. I am pleased and excited.
The whole time E was with us, I didn't ever drop into conversation that we had a part time Nanny.... it wasn't a secret, I just didn't tell anyone. Obviously, my close friends knew, as did my parents. But, I'd gotten a few bitchy comments from one individual and it disinclined me to be too open about it.
I know I'm lucky. I know that some people will change their opinion of me. I know life is unfair. Some countries are rich, and others still have people starving to death. Or selling their child, to feed their other children. I know life is unfair when I give one of my kids a needle that they get 4 times/day, but still cry through, even though it keeps them alive. I worry a bit about what some people will say. Gary, a bit tougher than I, says, "**** 'em. Who are they to judge us, and what we face, alone..." He has a point. Other marriages have not weathered half of what we've gone through. I know, cue the violins...
I should add that all of my friends who knew we'd hired some help have ALL been wonderful. Most have hugged me and said 'It's about damn time!!' I love them for that. Just one miserable person put in a good effort to make me feel bad. But, I've been tuning her out for years and she's crazy anyway. No, seriously, she's crazy. B*tch be trippin'. For realz.
I'm so gangsta, sitting here in my turtleneck/cardie sweater set.
Before I sign off, I have to mention the horror in Haiti. I have a co-dependent personality and compulsive brain when it comes to bad news in the world. I have a hard time getting it out of my mind. That's why I haven't been writing anything here. No one wants to hear me go on and on about this tragedy and what we've decided to do about it in our house. But, we certainly hold the people of Haiti in our hearts and minds and hope for some relief to the unimaginable suffering there. There's now more orphans in Haiti than there are people in the province of Nova Scotia. We received a call today from the Red Cross thanking us for our donations, and the lady told me that Canada has contributed more than any other country on a per capita basis. Yet another reason to be fiercely proud of being Canadian.