Samantha Yaffe’s frank take on motherhood with allergies
Almost two years ago, I wrote a bit about my absent-minded nanny who I felt I was stuck with for life on account of allergizing myself out of the “good nanny” market.
In my painstaking efforts to find a new one to better meet my family’s complicated needs, I was outright rejected by a bunch of great candidates and downright depressed by the disproportionately bigger selection of, ehrm, not-so great contenders (yes, speaking English and showing up to work is a must). So I held onto Absent-Minded Nanny through what was a slow and painful self-destruction.
I envied every mother in the schoolyard for what appeared to be their uncanny ability to employ good nannies and maintain strong, trusting relationships with them. I envied the kids with nannies I was sure wouldn’t forget to call 911 in the case of an emergency (as I believed mine would) or feed them French fries from a food court if they had life-threatening food allergies (despite repeated instruction about not to ever feed the children food from outside the house).
I just couldn’t trust Absent-Minded Nanny to get it right so, by the end, I had her almost entirely relegated to housework. This of course made it impossible for me to work, made her feel useless and pushed our mounting mutual resentment over the edge.
She had to go and I finally let her. But in retrospect the whole move was stupidly impulsive. As one wise friend advised, “you’ve gone this far, six more months is summer and your kids will be gone all day – a much better time to make a change.” Words of wisdom, but ones I didn’t heed when the premenstrual moment took hold. I dropped the axe, leaving myself high and dry in a world where top nannies aren’t looking for families with work-at-home moms and young children with multiple life-threatening allergies.
This was the end of November 2007. And I was back on the nanny hunt. A revolving door of interviews and nannies-by-trial ensued until I finally decided to forfeit the fight. It wasn’t worth my sanity, which I completely lost after nanny Number 9 didn’t show up for work – no warning, no call (and I thought she really liked us) ….
But here’s the silver lining. I decided to put Judah, then just over 2 years old, into a Montessori daycare around the corner. By some stroke of serendipity, it had a vacancy mid-year. Then, just as we’re about to overhaul the menu to accommodate him, the allergist discovered that he had out-grown his milk allergy. By end of March he’s in full-time and I’m thinking I’ve just discovered a new planet in the solar system. Daycare. Who knew?
Older brother Lucas, the really allergic one (peanuts, tree nuts, egg, shellfish), meantime, is still in SK. It only runs from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., so my career is derailed for the time being, my expenses are as big if not bigger and my house is messier than ever. But I was LIBERATED.
No more nanny nightmare, but more importantly, no more leaving – fretting or freaking out about leaving Lucas in anyone else’s care but my own, aside of course from school and programs. After a few weeks, I felt like mother of the year. I could finally breathe, which I don’t think I had done for any prolonged period of time since the day Lucas was diagnosed four years earlier. It had become clear that I was unequivocally un-nanniable. And I wore that revelation like a badge of honour for months.
Fast forward to present.
I am now the proud, happy and well-adjusted employer of one fabulous new nanny. Shocking news, I know. But after feeling great about my tenure as the do-it-all mom; the economics, the yearning for my career, the domestic disarray (sorry, I’m a writer not a homemaker) got the better of me. So I caved in and sponsored a nanny from abroad. I interviewed a bunch of women over the phone, chose the one I liked most (great English, obvious sense of humour, excellent references, several years experience and the right reaction to my description of Lucas’ allergies) and a nanny agent did the rest.
I made this decision while I was not in a state of duress. My life was relatively under control – Lucas was now in Grade 1 and gone a full day, Judah still in daycare, so why not? We’d been paying just as much in cleaning and babysitting, and if we scare her off, well – oh well.
It has been four months now and so far so good. Capable Nanny is well aware of Lucas’s allergies and her level-headedness and good judgment assures me that she’d be adept at handling an emergency. She doesn’t have to manage much, as I still punch out at pick up. So, my reliance on her, the risks and my emotional investment in the nanny-mommy relationship have been lessened exponentially – three key ingredients to my newfound work life-domestic balance.
The truth is, my nanny nightmare was no coincidence. Like with everything in this high-risk, upside-down allergic life, we, allergic moms, must prepare ourselves and the path before we enter. It wasn’t enough for me to train my nanny or to try to find a better one. I needed to pave the way to having one in the first place. So I can now admit I sabotaged myself for good reason.
Because sometimes it’s just safer to allergize ourselves out of things than take challenges we’re not quite ready for. And most of the time, it requires taking the rough road to finally get it right.