Finding childcare is difficult. It's hard to know, with your first kid, what to look for, and harder still to know, through interviews and trial runs, whether what you're seeing is in fact, what you'll get.
The context is this: S is 8 months old. Since she was 3 months old, "Heidi" has been caring for her. We host a nanny share in our home, and Heidi, who has nearly a decade of experience as a nanny, has been loving, sweet, and responsive to both babies. Heidi has also been falling asleep -- literally -- on the job.
The first time this happened, we brushed it off. The second time, we talked to her about it. The third time, we warned her, and the fourth time, we gave her her final warning (if this sounds like a lot of warnings, it just goes to show you how much we actually did like her). Monday, home for lunch, I shared with Heidi the terrifying news that there had been an attempted kidnapping in Hyde Park. Monday, at day's end, B and the other parents walked through our unlocked front door to find Heidi sound asleep on the playroom floor. S was sleeping, too. The other baby was not. After rousing her (more difficult than it should have been), sending her home for the afternoon, and a brief panic attack on my part, we called to fire her. There's not a lot of online direction for how to handle this, so here's our experience:
Step One: Lay out clear expectations.
For example: "Heidi, we expect that you will provide for the girls a safe environment, with a locked door." or "Heidi, we expect that you will perform your duty as nanny by staying AWAKE and caring for the girls."
Step Two: Create an environment for success.
S can be a difficult sleeper. Though she doesn't require her caregiver to lay with her, she does still need to be put to sleep, and Heidi had trouble getting her to continue to nap when she was lying along (S naps on a pallet of blankets on the floor). We did what we could to offer Heidi quiet entertainment options for this downtime: books, a TV in the playroom, an account on B's MacBook.
Step Three: Be firm in warning about behavior.
There's little to be done by way of discipline, right? We weren't going to dock her pay, and there was little else I could think of to ensure she heard our concerns. It actually seemed (the fourth time, her final warning) that she understood us. She was apologetic -- she cried, in fact, which was difficult -- though there was a degree of defensiveness and she did lay some of the blame on wee S and her high-need sleep patterns. But she seemed to understand.
Step Four: Do not freak out.
Luckily, I was in my office Monday. All three other parents arrived at our house at the same time, and two of the three (my B is the most level-headed human on the planet) FREAKED OUT. The other dad, flabbergasted, simply grabbed his baby and fled. The other mom, in tears, called me. Had I been in the room, I would have fired Heidi on the spot, and it would have been a challenge to do so without a certain, embarrassing degree of angry hysteria.
It had been a difficult day overall and this news sent me over the edge. For the second time in my life, I had a panic attack, steadying myself against a tree on 58th street, trying to breathe against dizziness and nausea, sweating and shaking. (Where Step Four is concerned, I failed. B did not.)
Step Five: Follow through.
We'd given her a final warning and we'd been clear about it. We parents all conferred and agreed the only next step was to let Heidi go. So B (the reasonable one, capable of having a conversation without swear words, in a normal tone of voice) made the call, and kept it short and simple.
Here's a script:
"Heidi, you [insert unacceptable behavior here]. This is something we've talked about before and we've been clear about our expectations and the consequences of you not meeting them. At this point, we're going to have to let you go." End scene.
Step Six: Drink.
I opened a bottle of wine. I ate some Halloween candy with said wine. Despite the giant monkey wrench now thrown into our working and personal lives, I felt satisfied. My gut told me -- still tells me -- that this was the right decision, that my job as S's mom is to make sure she's safe and well cared for. And, though we loved Heidi for many reasons, not a single one of those reasons is compelling enough to overlook the fact that we could no longer trust her with our kid.
So Step Seven? Be proud.
Because it sucks to fire anyone, and it really sucks to have to fire someone who has, for all intents and purposes, become a part of your family. It's messy and difficult. But a good parent is capable of making difficult decisions, and a good person is likely to feel pretty crappy about it. But you know what's best for your family, just as I know what's best for mine.
For the record, we were under "contract" and paid Heidi two weeks' severance. We are also lucky enough to have friends and family nearby, so we've put together a patchwork of childcare providers for the next couple of weeks while we plot our next move.
And there you have it. A step-by-step guide to how to fire your nanny. Stay tuned.
Filed under: Parenting