No Should ’19: We Got a Nanny

Yup. It is happening. We got a nanny.

It was so weird, my kids wrote a poem, my husband read it aloud, ripped it to shreds and threw the bits into the fire place. The next morning – tah-dah! – a nanny with an umbrella and this wild handbag was at our doorstep! 

Ok, it didn’t happen EXACTLY like that. That’s the premise of Mary Poppins afterall.

Instead, I posted an ad on Care.com. Many very nice people responded, some of whom even read the job description that I so carefully crafted. I narrowed it down, did a couple of phone interviews, did a couple more phone interviews, fell in love with a nanny that ultimately went with a different family. Womp womp.

We trudged on. It’s like an online dating process. (Matt and I met on Match, so we have experience here. #onlinelove) You read a profile, get excited, and once you get on the phone and the first question from them is: “Would it be cool if you stripped your house of all wi-fi connections and anything that plugs into a wall? It really aggravates my electromagnetic hypersensitivity.” I’m totally supportive of a positive working environment, but let’s get to know each other first.

We interviewed more people. And found a total gem, after a phone interview, she hung out with the girls for a couple hours. After which, even discerning Old Man Mavis didn’t want her to leave. She did a trial run day, and the littles fell in love with her. We did a background check, talked to references and tah-dah, a nanny was be born unto our family!

Phew. It was a PROCESS. And I had been resisting it, I was and still am nervous to be someone’s employer, and finding the right person was work. But worth it now that we are here.

Hiring a nanny is a key part of my 2019 self care plan. And it was overdue. We need help. With my family in Vermont, and Matt’s family, well, dead, there are no grandparents to swoop in for a last minute pick up or poorly timed business travel. We are a little Malutich island.

Which, on the one hand has lead to a very cool Four-Musketeers-esque-one-for-all-and-all-for-one-type-of-vibe. And on the other hand IS FUCKING EXHAUSTING AND COMPLETELY OVERWHELMING.

Most days Matt leaves for work at 5:30am and returns at 6:30pm. He commutes 90 minutes to Westchester, New York. That means, I do the soup to nuts routine with the kids Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I get myself ready, I get the children ready, feed them breakfast, hustle everyone out the door, drop off at daycare, commute to the office, werk it, commute back to daycare, hustle the children back home, cook and feed them dinner. The patience and energy it requires feels beyond my capacity some days.

On one spectacularly bad morning, carrying overfilled backpacks and other miscellany I missed a stair going out to the garage and spilled myself on the concrete floor. Laying in a oil stain, hoping my work outfit wasn’t destroyed, I took stock of my pathetic self, I thought, “it doesn’t have to be this way.”

And don’t misunderstand me, most mornings aren’t falling-down-the-garage steps-bad. Veda, for all her issues going to bed, wakes up like a dream. She is happy and cooperative pretty much every morning. Mavy is two, so it’s not always the case. When Mavy is having a tough morning, Veda, god bless her, turns on the nurturing charm, offering encouragement like: “Sissy, you will like the oatmeal! Try it!” or “Can I get you nook?” (‘Nook’ is a pacifier in our house.) It’s completely heartwarming.

In general, the glacier-like speed at which we can accomplish our morning routine is maddening. It takes about 2.5 hours from the time I wake up to the time I get to the office. Of course, I should speed the routine along and wake up at 5:30am, get myself ready, pre pack the car, and have breakfast on the table before they wake up. But I’m not that good, and I over all this ‘should’ bs anyway. Right? Right.

Kids are SLOW. Oh sweet mother of god, I love the independence but JUST PUT THE SHOE ON. Please, let’s get out out the door, mom has to commute 50 minutes and then look presentable enough to sell some LEGO toys to the buyer from Target who is going to be waiting for me in 60 mintues. MOVE!

But it’s not the slowness, exactly, that feels the most draining. It’s just…it’s just everything, it’s just all the things, all the time. Most mornings feel like a bag of snakes, yup, a bag of snakes. (Stay with me, let’s see if I can make this simile work.) Now, I have nothing against snakes, but they are not like, puppies for example.

Imagine, every morning, as part of some diabolical alarm clock, a bag of snakes is released in your house. The snakes are nice, not poisonous ones or anything. They don’t want to hurt you, they just want to do snake things.

You have to get ready for your grown up job, take a shower, comb your hair, put on makeup, find clothes to wear all while finding and gently coaxing all the snakes back into the bag. Maybe you find one in your shower, maybe there is one in the closet. Who knows! Every morning is an adventure!

After you find them all, you have to dress the snakes, which is easy because they only wear socks, annoying because they want to put the damn socks on themselves and they don’t have thumbs, or even hands for that matter. Then you feed them a snake breakfast, during which they hiss demands for a different snake breakfast than the one you made and say ‘mom/mommy/mama’ 197,439 times.

Then you buckle the snakes into snake car seats (you can’t IMAGINE how many buckles it requires), drive them to the snake daycare at which you release them to the trained professionals for 9-10 hours.

It can be done. All of that can be done. But some days, I just want to walk out the door of my house and go to work. I don’t want to charm the snakes. I don’t want to do all the things it takes to get those snakes out the door. I don’t want to be responsible for ALL THE THINGS.

*Takes deep breath*

Of course, the solution is more help. And the Malutiches are a deliberate people, so it only took me another 9 more months after that spill in the garage to pull the trigger and post the job on Care.com. It also took me realizing that when Veda goes to Kindergarten this fall, mornings will include TWO drop offs, Veda to before-school care, and in the opposite direction to daycare for Mavis. That just seems like more crazy-making bs.

The cost. Before we could even start the process, we had figure out what we could afford. Childcare is expensive. It’s our largest household budget item, more than our mortgage. The delightful little daycare that we will be leaving costs $31,260 American dollars a year. Thirty-one thousand, two hundred and sixty dollars. That’s $1125 a month for Veda, and $1480 for Mavis. For those keeping score at home, the full deal (tuition, housing, meal plan, fees) in-state tuition at UConn is $28,604.

And don’t misunderstand me, I am more than thankful that we have that money to pay. And compared to some parts of the country it’s a bargain – my friend in NYC pays $43,200 a year FOR ONE KID and she was lucky to find a daycare with an opening. I’m grateful I have a number of high-quality daycares in my area, we have a choice of whom to give our hard-earned $31,260 to.

We knew a nanny would cost more than daycare, and we had to find that money in the budget. (For our nanny’s privacy I’m not going to reveal her salary, obvi.) It was not only the salary expense, but now as a Household Employer we also had to pay 7.65% of her base pay in FICA taxes, and we hired Paychex to process the payroll and generate W-2s ($600/yr). All this adds up and had to be accounted for.

And a nanny wasn’t in my original 5-year financial plan. (Everyone makes one of those right? No, just nerds like me? Cool.) In fact, we had planned on banking the daycare savings when Veda went to kindergarten…

Where was the extra money going to come from? Fewer doppio con pannas? No more pedicures?

Well, we had some good luck here that gave us an extra $1100 a month – we paid off both our cars in late 2018. My rule of thumb when car shopping: if we couldn’t pay off a car in 3 years, we couldn’t afford it. For all the crappy lessons on relationships and emotional well-being my parents taught me, they role modeled some pretty excellent ones when it came to living below your means.

The other big ticket item – housing. No, our mortgage is not paid off, far from it. But we did buy an affordable house (with it’s original 1984 bathrooms!) When we applied for a mortgage I was SHOCKED by the amount they were willing to loan us. At the time, in 2014, I had about $90k in student loans, we were cash poor, I was pregnant with Veda and knew we were about to add a $1300/month daycare spend. Those mortgage people were straight up HIGH or they thought we were about to win the lottery. I couldn’t get the math to work. So we pretended that we got approved for half the amount and went house shopping.

Keeping our overhead costs low and maximizing free cash flow have given us the little flexibility we needed to make the switch to a nanny. 

The guilt. Beyond cost, there’s guilt, there’s the ‘should’ lurking around.

I should be better at all the snake catching, a Real Mother would ENJOY the snake catching! I should be more organized, or just better at life. We aren’t fancy enough to have a nanny. Like, who am I to have a nanny? A whole extra person to watch the children? It’s too expensive. I should quit my job until Mavis is in kindergarten. (I don’t want to quit my job!) Or I should at least tough this pick up/drop off madness out until Veda goes to kindergarten in the Fall.

That attitude of “I can TOTALLY manage this terrible thing that is slowly snuffing out my life force for at least another 4, maybe 8 more months,” is one of my many character flaws. I endure things beyond their purpose to avoid the bother of change. The devil you know and all that.

But I’m done with should. (Or at least I’m trying!) We made the budget work without derailing our financial goals, and the nanny starts March 1st! We are so excited, and a little nervous! Wish us luck!

P.S. If you are wondering what all this ‘should’ talk is about. Check out my previous post. I’m working to wring out all the ‘shoulds’ from my life!

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