Monday, 11 August 2008

English Cheddar, Diect Coke & Meatloaf

When the 4 year old was born I worked from home as a childminder. It suited me as I wanted to be at home with her. When I became heavily pregnant with the two year old I had to let my childminding children go. I said goodbye to the mute boy who only ate bananas, the five year old who knew the names of every English Cheddar, the four year old who tripped over every two minutes, the three year old who only ever asked why? and a six year old who knew every ‘Boogie Beebies’ move.

I had to temp for my former employer before giving birth. We travelled round nurseries looking for suitable care for my precious one year old. I’m not sure if it was pregnancy hormones or they were all crap but I found it really difficult to find somewhere that was up to standard. My friend the Christian Teacher & Mother of 3 sat me down, gave me a Diet Coke and some advice. She told me “You’re looking for a 100% all rounder with the credentials of Mary Poppins. Even you don’t offer your child that sort of care. Lower your standards”. So I did.

We found a lovely nursery. The first time we left her there I walked away listening to her wail. I sat in the car and wept. Every time I dropped her off or picked her up she would wail. I was being punished for abandoning my child. The girls at nursery would reassure me that the wailing stopped when I was out of view. I had been a childminder, I knew the drill. Children would punish their parents and then spend the rest of the day happily playing and laughing until they heard the parent approaching again and would immediately start bawling. I rang the nursery every day for the first two weeks. The Manager, who must have thought I was a whack job, humoured me. On one occasion I sat in her office and wept that I was worried my daughter wasn’t settling in; again she humoured me. It took 2 months for me to get over my separation anxiety and then I gave birth to my beautiful bouncing boy.

At the same time we moved house. The nursery was too far away for my daughter to stay so I investigated other forms of childcare and came up with the idea of a part time nanny. Someone who would come to us and look after our children in the familiar surroundings of our home. We interviewed three. The first was a bit rough, had a child who looked like he ate lard by the bucketful and no transport. The second was a hardcore Meatloaf fan. Her love for the Loaf was so strong she had given birth and attended a Meatloaf concert in the same day and in that order. Despite this she had a great CV and we all got on well; we offered her the position. It wasn’t to be. She confessed to being pregnant and unable to commit to anything after the birth (but we would have to pay her maternity leave and find alternative childcare). To be honest I was tempted to go with it, after all her dedication was such that she would have probably birthed the baby in a Wacky Warehouse ball pool, nipped to the park, whipped up tea and put the children to bed all before cutting the umbilical cord.

The next one was our last hope. She had an excellent track record, had worked with twins, triplets and a variety of other formations and seemed chatty. We took her on. It slowly transpired that she couldn’t have children of her own and had ‘hormonal problems’. The 4 year old’s face would drop when I told her the nanny was coming, the tears would fall and like clockwork just as the nanny walked through the door the 4 year old would shout “But I don’t like her, please don’t leave me here” and I would have to peel her fingers from my leg and run. I felt terrible for the nanny who hadn’t actually done anything wrong and terrible for the 4 year old who just didn’t get on with her new carer. The 2 year old wasn’t concerned, he was being fed regularly – his needs were being met. I felt joy when 3 months later she handed her notice in. She’d been offered a full time post elsewhere. My joy departed when I realised she had handed her notice in the day our contract expired with the agency – therefore no replacement would be offered and our fee was being spent on new handbags in Selfridges by the agency owners. We were stuffed. The husband decided now was the time to state that he had never really liked her and had a bad feeling about her from the start. That information would have probably been better shared before we offered her the position.

Unwilling to repeat the experience we decided to go down the local childminder route. I felt confident that I would single out out the rubbish ones and find the right one. I dismissed the harsh faced chain smoker, the woman with a cinema screen and 4 children sat 2 inches from it like zombies, the non driver whose idea of fun was walking 10 miles in fat sideways rain to do her daily shopping. Then I stumbled across my saviour. She is the reason I can go to work without a thought for my children. She cares for them as if they were her own but is firm and fair. She can stop bad behaviour with just a look and has taught them manners which leave me both dumfounded and ashamed!

These days my only worry is to remember to ask the 4 year old if I can leave the table when I’ve finished eating … and I can still make her squirm by mentioning the ex Nanny’s name.

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