Thursday, February 1, 2007

Surviving nanny sick days

When the phone rings before 8am, my heart sinks to my stomach and tears start welling up in my eyes because I just know it’s my nanny calling in sick.

I love my nannies (I have the great fortune of having two wonderful women who job share and work alternating days for us - I'm always quick to add that explanation to ensure no mistaken impression of a full-fledged household staff). They are loving, smart, energetic, and endlessly patient. They are passionate and dedicated child-care professionals with creative problem-solving ideas. I have not a shadow of a doubt about my childrens’ well-being when I head out the door in the morning (or when I head into my basement, as the case might be at the moment).

Which is all the more reason why I’m a shriveled, deflated balloon, needing to be scraped off the floor on the days when I’m dressed and ready to run out to my first meeting - and the phone rings before 8am. For me, there is no harder test of putting the needs of another, suffering human being above my own. If God were a woman, this would be the test you would have to pass to get through the pearly gates. (My admission wouldn't be guaranteed).

Back when both my husband and I were working “outside the basement”, we did a better job of sharing the responsibility for nanny sick days. But now that I’m the one who’s physically at home, with the prospect of being the one who’s hardly at home at all just around the corner (when Julep opens), I’m usually the one picking up the phone. And the pieces to the day.

When I can struggle through it, getting done what I need to for work while keeping the children fed and alive, I feel utterly invincible. Like the time my friend Julie and I were both having sick nanny days at the same time. We called each other, and after drying our tears, we got it perfectly choreographed. I brought my two kids to her house, where they joined her two kids in breakfast while she went off to give her talk to an audience of psychiatry residents. During that time, I wiped up at least four different kinds of bodily fluids off the floor, trying not to get any on my blouse. Julie walked in, and I ran out to give a presentation on a new product launch to an audience that included my boss and the CEO of the company. By the time I got up to the podium, I had the confidence of someone who had waded through four different kinds of bodily fluid and emerged alive. There’s nothing like that feeling.

But then there are days when my daughter NEEDS her Piggy I SAID NOW NOW NOW! during a conference call, or my son NEEDS me to stop the car at the house down the street with the beads in the yard to pick a treasure or he’ll NEVER EVER EVER get out. And then I say, “Not now, sweetie” in a voice that is a little louder and more jagged than I intended, and on top of everything else I’ve got to squeeze in the time to process through my guilt.

On days like this, I try (mostly unsuccessfully) to remember that, on the other days, my life is full and rich. That I have the amazingly great fortune of being wildly engaged in my life. That everything worthwhile has a cost, and nanny sick days are part of the price of admission for the life I want. I just wish there were fewer of them.