My wife left me. Well, actually, she wasn’t my wife. And, actually, we helped her leave. I’m talking about my babysitter, my nanny, my Girl Friday, my mother’s helper, my when-I’m-on-the-road, Chief Cook and Bottle Washer. My stand-in chauffeur, chaperone and referee. My sitter, we’ll call her “Hanna,” did so much for me, she was kinda like my wife.
We knew this day would come and I personally approached it with both fear and a sense of relief. Fear because I wondered how I would survive without her. Relief because the enormous weekly payments would finally cease. And you’d think we were paying her a Warren Buffet-sized salary, based on the big plans everyone has for this newfound income windfall. As my husband put it yesterday, when one of my boys suggested a new video game account on top of our already established plans to finally get cable TV and some patio furniture, “Let’s stop counting the Hanna chickens before they’ve hatched.”
Hanna didn’t live with us, which is part of why I eschewed referring to her as our “nanny” and preferred to refer to her as our babysitter. “Nanny” just sounded too, too, I don’t know, not us. Even though nanny is what she was. Hanna started her new job on Monday, the same day I left for work. And when I leave for work, it’s not like I’m driving out to Schaumburg. I depart the continent. My kids are all teenagers now, and we probably didn’t need to keep her around as long as we did, but we wanted to create some stability while my daughter transitioned to her new life in the United States and I loved having the help around the house. As luck would have it, on Tuesday, one of my sons got sick. Go to the doctor sick. This isn’t something we would have ever delegated to the babysitter, but it always seems to occur when either my husband or I are away, leaving the other to handle it more or less alone.
Could the Universe have conspired more completely to drive a guilt-stake through this mother’s heart? My husband dropped everything at work and raced home. Of course my son’s symptoms—fever, chills, headache, aches and pains—matched the criteria for that brain-eating amoeba thing, and since he’d been tubing on a Michigan lake the previous weekend, that is of course where both their over-developed internet-fed brains went. My husband says the doctor didn’t even crack a smile when he suggested it. And no, an amoeba is not eating either of their brains. My son is fine today.
When I arrived home yesterday, the house was still standing after my teens (and the husband) had spent two full days unsupervised. The kitchen counters were more than their usual train wreck and the cats had thoughtfully left big hair tumbleweeds in the hall. A basket of laundry was a work in progress on the kitchen table, along with a lot of bread crumbs and a day-old newspaper.
People often ask me what my secret is; how do I find the time to raise kids and work and write on the side? My secret was always Hanna. As for my new life, post-Hanna, we’ll have to see how it goes, now that my “secret” is out. I think my world will be a whole lot messier, with more dust and a hell of a lot more Post-It notes. And even though it's fun to count those "Hanna chickens", all that money we spent was, in retrospect, a small price to pay for me to have a happy work-life balance, for me to not come home and be completely overwhelmed. Thank you, Hanna, for all your years of hard work for this family. I will be forever grateful, because for a long while there I had a "wife" and it allowed me to have a life.