Dr. Mom, My Adventures as a Mommy-Scientist

Discussion of my journey from grad school to postdoc to tenure with two kids, a husband, (and a bit of breast cancer) in tow.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Your week in three words...

I got tagged by this meme (via email) from a friend and am now tagging all of you.

My three words:
Steaming pile of dung (whoops that's four).

This has not quite been the worst week of my life. [That honor still goes to the week that I moved several thousand miles, moving truck got lost, fell @ night while taking care of a 5 week old requiring three stitches, with no medical insurance, cat died, sister-in-law had miscarriage, and mother-in-laws house was hit by a hurricane.]

It all started in September (yes we must go back that far), when our nanny quit, or tried to quit, I should say. She saw that my son was starting full day preschool and that she wouldn't be needed as much (at least in her mind). Eventually, we talked her into working part time, three days a week. We tried to get by with this, but it became clear that it wasn't enough help about a month in.

At that point, we decided to get an au pair. My husband has a friend with young twins and highly recommended the au pair arrangement, especially for us, since we need someone mostly in the morning and evening, but not in the middle of the day. We contacted an agency, filled out the paperwork, and interviewed au pairs, all of which took inordinate amounts of both of our time. We identified a good "match", but she wanted to spend Christmas with her family (reasonable since we are Jewish), so we waited yet another month and she showed up in mid-January.

From the moment she arrived, she professed herself homesick and after only a week in the country, said that she was going to go home. We kept her for one more week then she left. For the short time that she was there, she was very good at her job and I acutally found myself sitting around in the evening with free time!

After she left we were frantic. It takes about a month to get a new au pair because of visas, etc. So we looked primarily at "in-country" au-pairs, which can arrive immediately. These are usually au pairs that, for whatever reason, didn't really fit with their first family and are therefore trying to find a second match.

The girl that we picked had several warning signs, at least in retrospect, but we were stupid and missed them all. She said that she was leaving the current family because they have a special needs child that she thought she could handle, but couldn't (very reasonable). The host family (whom we received only third-party written communication with (our first mistake)) also said that there were some hygiene issues and that she was lax with the children. We were undeterred and had her on a plane within 48 hours.

From the moment she arrived it was clear that it was a horrible mistake, and yet somehow, we allowed it to persist. After her arrival we had dinner together and she chewed with her mouth open spraying food everywhere. It was one of the more disgusting things I have seen in my life. She also is a close talker, so that's a bad combo. I chalked this up to "cultural differences" and discussed it with her after the dinner and there was slight improvement the next day. However, she also said she had been driving for five years, yet when my husband took her out for practice, she nearly wrecked four times, was honked at by several cars. She tried to turn left from the far right lane, didn't seem to understand the concept of turn signals or lane changes, stopped dead in the road several times upon being told that she missed a turn, etc. Given that 50% of her job is schlepping my kids around, this is a problem. But we, undetered, decided to enroll her in driving school (and for that matter were thinking about etiquette school).

The real kicker was the next day when my son had an inservice day. She was home with him while my husband was in and out of the house. He returned from a lunch meeting at 2 PM, and the au pair asked him, "Son says he's hungry. Should I feed him?" Apparently, it didn't occur to her to serve him lunch.

After that, I posted an add for a temporary nanny on our sitter services page. When I got home that night, I was making dinner and she was supposed to be helping my daughter do her homework. When I walked in from the kitched, I found her in the middle of a Cheeze-it food fight (all taking place over carpet) between my daughter and son. She made no attempt to stop it and it appeared to have been taking place for some time. [In case your wondering this is not a normal event in my household, and while my son is at times challenging, my kids are not crazy and uncontrollable.]

At this point I decided we should call to have her removed right away. We finished dinner, and I sent her and the children downstairs for baths. I did the dishes, and went to check on them, everything appeared to be going relatively smoothly, except that my daughter was acting a bit hyper. I sent her to her room to put clothes away, but based on subsequent events, she didn't stay there long.

I returned upstairs and had barely had time to suggest to my DH that we fire this girl, when we heard screaming. You know what I mean, the kind of scream that tells you something is *really* wrong. We ran out of the room and were met on the stairs by daughter and au pair.

Appears that daughter did not stay in her room, and that au pair shut door so rapidly that it crushed daughter fingers. Daughter begs husband and myself to accompany her to hospital, feeling guilty we both go. As soon as car is parked, I ask husband to call au pair agency to have au pair removed. At this point, I am a little worried that au pair is home alone with son and that someone will need to oversee the eviction. So, I return home to boot her out.

I am met at home by the agency local coordinater. Au pair is very upset, but clearly sees why we want to fire her and leaves without much of a scence. Problem now is that DH and daughter are at hospital with no transportation and son is sleeping at home. I cannot leave him alone, so I go to neighbors. Neighbor is happy to watch son, but her DH is away so she can't leave her kids either. So, son is wrapped in blanket and carried (through about 10 F weather) to neighbors house. Fortunately, he doesn't wake up.

I get in car, pick up daughter and DH. Daughter has broken finger, splint for unknown length of time. Get home, carry son back from neighbor's and crash.

I am happy to report that mother-in-law is currently here taking care of whole family (G-d bless her). But after she leaves on W, I am facing a month of no childcare which includes an international business trip for DH and a domestic business trip for me.

If anyone knows a good nanny available right now.....


At 8:34 PM , Blogger Rebecca said...

Oh. My. Gosh. What a week! Glad everybody is okay though. Good luck this month.

At 10:34 AM , Blogger Amelie said...

Your poor daughter! I hope she recovers quickly, and that you find a good au-pair soon.

At 10:45 AM , Anonymous Courtney said...

omigod.....insane! Are you going to press charges?! I would think that the au pair agency is terrified and might be actually helpful. Got any spinster aunts? Uncles? Makes me glad I'm moving in with my mother this spring....

At 1:11 PM , Blogger Wendy said...

Thank goodness for grandmothers and grandfathers.

I wish academia (along with the rest of the working world, I presume) would recognize that high quality child care is a key part to succeeding in our careers, and that need doesn't stop with grade school. It shouldn't be so hard!

At 3:44 PM , Blogger Nicky said...

I'm a new reader, and happened upon your blog just as you're going through the same childcare mess as we are (though my son hasn't been physically injured). We are also without childcare for a month.

What's helping us right now is the "nanny network" -- talk to your friend with nannies and have them ask their nannies if any of their friends are between nanny gigs. Good luck!

At 7:03 PM , Blogger Marianne said...

I have heard good experiences using both Craigs List and Sitter City to find a nanny. Sitter City charges a fee to post a job opening, but it might be worth it if it gets you through your current situation.

At 9:05 PM , Blogger Jane said...

oh dear god! Sending good daycare vibes your way---good luck and hope you find something soon!

At 8:53 AM , Blogger Janus Professor said...

If we lived in the same town, baby Sparky would be happy to help baby sit ;)

At 8:58 AM , Blogger Fia said...

Uch.... And I always thougth it would be great to have an au-pair...

At 6:46 PM , Blogger Bully mom said...

Yikes! Sounds awful. We got a great nanny with Craig's list. It did take a lot of time, but it was successful. And, I do have a difficult child who needs a LOT of attention.

At 12:14 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so sorry to learn what happened to your daughter, which could possibly be due to the au pair's negligence.

But I have heard stories that are even crazier, in my home country. There are maids (the equivalent to your au pair in the USA) who hit the children, maids who abuse children by either starving them or drugging them so that the children are asleep most of the time and need little attention, there are maids who bring men home and do fancy stuff, and there are also maids who abuse children!


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