Friday, June 25, 2010

Why a spoonful of sugar won't make the truth about nannying go down any easier

Once upon a time having a nanny was considered a glamorous thing, much like having Jeeves the Butler or Rex the Gardener. Only the exceedingly, ludicrously wealthy were known to have hired help. These days having a nanny is virtually the norm for DIKs (dual income with kids). The influx of nannies has meant the middle class mama can have her cake and eat it without the calorific guilt. Seen as a less shabby alternative to day care, the nanny often subs as butler, cook, and gardener. (Case in point: I once saw a nanny weeding and raking up fall leaves while the kids played in the front yard.) In some households she is little more than a paid slave, her job spec as long and loosely defined as suits her bosses.

Before I overstep the mark, and piss off all and sunder -- let me clarify:
There's nothing expressly wrong with having a nanny. On the face of it the nanny-parent relationship is a beautiful thing, a symbiotic godsend which provides the (oftentimes) landed immigrant with paid labour and decent accommodation while allowing working parents to do just that, since few families today can survive on a single income even if they wanted to. At the risk of sounding like a smug mama, I am (for the time being at least) able to stay at home with my son. I know I'm in a privileged, minority position -- one which I make the damnedest conscious effort not to take for granted. That said, I also see a lot of nannies on the job, and am concerned enough at my findings to rant about it...

While some nannies are undeniably 3-carat diamonds
Many more are lacklustre and downright rough. At play dates such nannies can be seen clustered, texting or conversing together in a far-off corner, utterly oblivious as little Marcus thumps another child on the head, or as little Megan nibbles on a pastel chalk stick. Half the time in such clusters there is no telling who is the guardian of whom. Half the time there is no one looking out for little Megan and no one reprimanding little Marcus. While children should have opportunities to engage in 'free play', this doesn't mean they are ignored and unsupervised. Regardless of whether they are behaving or misbehaving, all children need interaction and guidance. And this, above all, troubles me. I shouldn't have to parent other people's children. But often I find myself stepping in because no one else does, or will.

You don't have to tell me
Caring for a child is a demanding, exhausting, tedious, and sometimes mind numbingly boring job. I'm there. I so get it. And I can only imagine that when said child belongs to someone else, that job is exponentially more demanding/exhausting/tedious/boring. But all the more reason to care. After all, nannies, and anyone else who chooses childcare as a profession, has a duty to the kids they are looking after. Like it or not, it is not enough to feed little Megan and cart little Marcus to the park. You are their moral compass, their educator, their friend, and trusted guardian. You are the beacon in their puny universe when their parents can't be there. I worry that some nannies care too little. Nannying has to be more than just a job. At the risk of sounding trite and all Jacko on you:  kids are everyone's business because they are our future. We all have a charge in whether they turn out to be 'good' kids or the kind who knife other kids at parties. I know it may seem like a stretch, but today's neglected and isolated children risk becoming tomorrow's Columbines.

If you have a nanny or are in the process of finding one
Don't beat yourself up about it. But pay attention. How does your kid react in her presence? Does he freely go to her or show her affection? Kids are terrible liars. Their actions are infinitely more telling than words. And certainly more telling than any words your prospective nanny will come up with in order to sell herself. Unless your kids convince you that she's worthy, don't be sold.

You tell me
Is childcare a job anyone can do? Or is it a vocation for the select few? And how can you tell if a nanny is supercalifragilisticexpialidocious?

Friday, June 18, 2010

What makes a dad delicious?

Is it aviator sunglasses, à la David Beckham? Foppish hair à la Rob Pattinson? How about George Clooney's wit? Or Salman Rushdie's mind? A six-pack -- and I'm not talking Molson -- or how nicely he fills his Calvins? 

Read more here
Thanks to the yummies at YMC for featuring my two cents on what makes a dad delicious.  Please feel free to add your own two cents in the comments section. 

Last but in no way least...
Happy D-Day, fathers everywhere. Carry on being your delicious selves.  And may the Oreo cookie be with you!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Dr Jackal and Mr Pain in my Hyde

LGO has a split personality.  The schism is getting more and more pronounced by the day, I swear.  And he can switch at the drop of a hat, in the blink of an eye, and at just about any other cliche you can muster. If I wasn't so close to the fire, I'd find his behaviour fascinating.  Really, the toddler mind is fascinating.  Problem is, no one can stand to be around him for long enough to study it. 

When he's good, he's good. When he's bad, he's unbearable
Think that sounds harsh?  You obviously don't have a toddler, or the memory of having a toddler is now distant and hazy. Lucky you. The triggers that generally bring out the Hyde in LGO are other kids.  Not just the prospect of sharing toys but sharing attention.  While it's perfectly normal (mis)behaviour at his age, I wish I knew a better way to handle the situation without wanting to reach for the aspirin or, depending on the day, the vodka.  I feel like he's too young to grasp a timeout.  I've tried taking him into another room to defuse the bomb.  But the only time he really tends to calm down is after the offending party has left.  Then he's triumphant, of course, and I'm despairing. And contemplating what Supernanny would do in my shoes.  Who bloody knows. One thing's for sure, though: she wouldn't reach for the vodka...

I'm not a raging alcoholic, but
I feel on the brink of some kind of hair-tearing madness when Hyde makes his appearance.  One minute LGO will be hurling toys, or food, or kicking and writhing on the floor.  In the next breath he's belly laughing, exposing those irresistible Chicklet teeth, or nuzzling into my lap for an impromptu cuddle.  My incurable cuddle bug, he knows what squidgy buttons to press, let me tell you.

I never thought I'd cheat on my husband, but
Here I am, in love with another man.  He may be just three feet tall, and yet my heart swells whenever I lay eyes on him.  I'm punch drunk on the smell of his skin, especially when I burrow in the crook of his neck.  I seize every opportunity to hold him close.  No matter how many times I do it, it never feels like nearly enough. Yes, I've got it bad and it feels so good.  I've said it before, but man oh man that Mother Nature is a sly fox.  With all the love hormones pumping around my system, it's the only way I can tolerate that bastard Hyde's cameos.  It's like U.S. of Tara without the punchlines.

I don't even have to beg, borrow, or steal his affection, either
For now at least he comes to me, and I'm lapping it up. Hearing his little squeak of a voice pronouncing -- and mispronouncing -- his latest words is too cute for words. I now know why people keep on procreating far beyond sense and dollars. Never mind cloning sheep (as if the world needed more dumb sheep -- there are, like, omigod, already so many), if scientists could find a way to bottle up and encapsulate both the squeak and the cuddles to see us through the meltdowns and the teenage years, they'd get my vote for the Nobel...

And you? How do you go about civilizing your little savage?

Sunday, June 6, 2010

For better or whatever

With D(ad)'s day fast approaching, I thought it only fair to devote some blog space to the other man in my life, Big Green One.  Those of you who know us personally know that we hemmed and hawed over the kid question for an inordinate amount of time.  For nine years to be precise.  Aside from one pregnancy 'scare' early on in our relationship, we were perpetual fence-sitters when it came to starting a family.  I'm not sure why that is, exactly. 

Two's a couple...
And three is certainly a threesome.  We are/were deeply in love and committed, so the Green expansion should have been a most natural progression.  But there was the Fear of the Unknown, since neither one of us had had any prior exposure to babies, and even children were extraterrestrials we rarely encountered in our day to day.  But on the flip side, for me at least, the Fear of Regret was all the more palpable and ultimately swayed my decision to procreate.  To put it plainly (because when do I not?), I didn't want to be that woman -- you know, the one who gets on the wrong side of fifty and suddenly feels bowled over by an emptiness that is more than just the product of a lapsed biological clock. 

We're not in Kansas any more, honey
I sometimes take risks, consequences be damned.  Anyone who has kids, no matter when they have them, knows that rugrats have a habit of throwing your so-called life into a tailspin.  The image of Dorothy's whirligigging, tornado-stricken house springs to mind.  Of course now that I am one, I can't imagine myself not being a mother any more than I can imagine myself without a nose.  Now, there's a picture...  And yet my marriage has weathered the storm of parenthood these past two years in a way it never did in the first eight.  Everyone says that marriage is the big life changer, but I disagree -- parenthood is the maker or breaker, hands down.

The best of times... or not
Even at the best of times, if you're not scrupulously careful, your child can dominate your focus until you and your partner lose sight of each other.  Even when you aren't both frazzled and short tempered (which in my case is 99.9999 per cent the case), finding the Da Holy Grail seems like a walk in the park compared to finding time to connect and reconnect with your partner.  But it's imperative to the happiness of the entire family for the couple to put in the hours, or even the minutes.  Many couples are reluctant to take vacations sans enfant and are slack about organizing child care for 'date nights'.  Even it it's just a walk or drink together, I know it's hard but try to seize any opportunity to talk about something other than the breadth and texture of your child's latest b.m.  Rediscover what made you like this person once upon a time.  And I don't just mean how he looks in his Levis.... although it goes without saying there is that, too.

Sex is not the be all, end all
Did I really say that?  That may be so, but it's still a hugely important aspect of staying connected.  And nothing makes your physical relationship take a nosedive more than parenthood.  If you're not careful sex, and all the aggregate intimacy that leads to it, can easily fall by the wayside, especially for moms who are often preoccupied with the business of keeping the house afloat.  As with parenting, coupledom is all about quality, not quantity.  Make the iota of time you have together really count.  Rather than plonk yourselves in front of Gray's or Lost, share a bubble bath or sit outside together once your little jelly bean goes down for the night.  Computers and televisions are the enemies of romance and, ironically, of communication.  You know this; I know this.  So limit the time you spend in the artificial glow.  This is a sore point for me, I admit it.  But as the computer is a necessary evil for a blogger and a freelancer and a wannabe novelist, I'm working on making better use of my time on the www.

Say it again, Sammy
Parenting is bloody hard work.  Bloody, bloody bloody hard work (yes, you needed to hear it four times!).  For the record, I'm glad Mr Green is my co-director, my partner in crime in the gory business that is parenting.  I still feel blessed to have his arms to fall into at the end of every long day, be it glorious or gruelling.  If I must grow old and grey -- as we all must, eventually -- then there's no one else I'd rather do it with. 

Quid pro quo
In what ways has parenthood changed your relationship?  What steps have you taken to stay connected to your partner?