I am sitting in a café doing my very best to concentrate on writing this post and yet all I can think about is my precious baby boy alone with his nanny for the first time.
I should make it clear that I haven’t hired a nanny simply so I can sit in a café drinking tea. This is the ‘settling in period’. Her first day looking after my boy alone before I go back to the office in a week’s time. I am currently wiping tears from my face.
My childcare search had started in June ahead of my return to work in September. It seemed quite early, but after a friend pointed out that September is a particularly busy time for child minders as their ‘charges’ start school and places free up, I went into panic mode.
Cue a very stressful few weeks as childcare suddenly moved from an abstract concept of ‘what I think is the best childcare for an 11 month old’, to ‘I am really about to return to work. This isn’t a joke. This isn’t a drill. I have to find a person who I trust enough to look after the most precious thing in my life’. No pressure then.
At this stage I was still undecided about the best option for my baby and me. I was pretty sure I didn’t want to put him in a nursery, but I didn’t want to rule it out so booked appointments to visit a few nearby. Hubby and I decided pretty quickly that they weren’t for us though. In a few years perhaps, but not now. It felt good to make a decision. Even if we were ruling it out.
So having decided that I was going to go with a child minder, I printed off a list from the local government website and set about contacting those nearby.
It was a long and rather daunting list so hubby and I created a filter system. Firstly we sent the same ‘we’re looking for childcare’ email to all those nearby. Out of those who replied we created a yes and no folder. Yes to those who had availability and were literate, no to those who could not even string a sentence together. I could not leave my baby with someone who wrote things like ‘coz’ instead of ‘because’. ‘LOL’ was also in the no pile.
The next step was Googling them and Facebook stalking. Obvs. Then the list got even smaller. You would be surprised by the amount of time some of them appeared to spend playing Candy Crush.
When my childcare search first began I thought we’d need someone between 8.45-6.30 on account of my office hours being 10-6. The first person I spoke to (who I really wanted to like as she lived about 2 minutes from my house) started to choke when I told her it would be a 6.30 pick up. She told me that she had never heard of such a late pick up time and that it would be an incredibly long and hard day for my baby. “Surely I wouldn’t want to leave him for that long?”
I was in shock. What I wanted to say to her was “leaving my boy is not something that fills me with joy. In fact I am dreading it. However, I don’t know what part-time world you live in love, but these are my hours. In fact these are the hours most people I know work.” Instead I said, “not to worry”, put the phone down and cried.
One of the things I promised myself when I started looking (once I’d got rid of those who didn’t write in full words or spent their days playing games) is that I would be open-minded and flexible. I vowed I wouldn’t, for example, judge someone on their accent or what their house looked like. I didn’t want to rule out a potential Mary Poppins simply because they lived in an area I didn’t like. So, having spoken to hubby and agreed that perhaps he could change his hours to finish earlier, I called her back with a 5.45 pickup time. “Oh yes,” she said, “I remember you, half-six woman”. Oh piss off.
This was the start of a very long and very emotional journey during which I had to admit something I was in denial of – I WAS going back to work and HAD to find childcare. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Everyone tells you to trust your instinct, that you’ll know when it’s right. But how do you do this when your default start position is, “I hate having to do this, I hate you for not being me and you might seem lovely, but all I can think about when I look at you is that you might be a serial killer.”
Midway through my search (I met about 12 people in the end) I turned up with my bubba to meet a potential child minder in her flat. When I walked in it was very clear from the stench that she had not long ago had a joint. In her pathetic attempt at hiding it she has sprayed a bit of air freshener. Febreeze and skunk – lovely. She had a dry mouth, her flat was filthy and she was clearly off her head. It was 10.30 in the morning.
Had I met her at the beginning I would have resigned from my job there and then. In fact meeting her made me realise how lovely some of the others had been. I walked out as quickly as I could, rang hubby in total and utter bewilderment at what I just witnessed, and then officially complained about her.
At this point my neighbour, who I seemed to bump into every time I came back from an appointment and so was fully versed in my childcare dramas, began recommending nannies to me. Now it was my turn to choke. A nanny? Out of the question. Only posh, rich people have nannies and I am far from that.
But then I spoke to one, discussed what we could afford and amazingly, with childcare vouchers (which I’d completely forgotten about) and with me only going back for four days, it seemed doable. I was beyond excited. We invited her round to meet us and the minute she walked through the door I liked her. She was smiley, friendly, polite, and there wasn’t a spliff in sight. My boy also liked her. He crawled straight up to her and started grinning wildly.
She seemed quite nervous and I guess I hadn’t really thought about the fact that she was basically in a job interview. I was far more concerned with us impressing her and so began acting like a schoolgirl with a crush, so desperate was I for her to like me.
Whatever we did, it worked and she agreed to come and be out nanny. I couldn’t believe it. I feel very, very lucky. It’s certainly made going back to work a lot easier and I’m more than happy to sacrifice new clothes, going out, and even a holiday to pay for her. Being able to hand him over in the morning still in his pj’s and covered in Weetabix makes it well worth it. I still have working class guilt about having ‘staff’, but I’m so overly nice to her in case she ever wants to leave, that she feels more like my boss.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still totally paranoid and often wake up at 3am convinced that she is a serial killer who is going to steal my child. I’ve been tempted to get a nanny cam and I even asked my neighbour to listen through the walls (I wasn’t joking). I’ve also hidden the Febreeze. Just in case.