These days, I blink back tears when people try to make me laugh. I am too edgy to eat proper meals, and crave supersized sundaes with extra hot fudge. For breakfast. I tune out during business strategy meetings and scribble wish lists into the margins of my legal pads — “Good sense of humour. Cooks like Jamie O. Remembers birthdays” — then hastily rip them up, because everyone knows that Happiness Comes When You’re Not Looking For It.
If I act like a mooning teenager, it’s because forty is the new fourteen–When your beloved nanny hands in notice.
My kids took the news in their stride. ”We have to share Louisa,” my seven-year-old noted, as he reached for another Lego brick. So I can’t justify my punched-in-the-stomach gloom as selfless maternal concern. It’s not about them—it’s about me. They are losing their nanny, but on a personal level, I feel jilted.
This is what happens when a MacBook-wielding, deadline juggling She-Pro morphs into Kit-Kat scoffing, self-pitying pubescence. Reader discretion advised.
I play an Oldies break-up soundtrack on perma-loop inside my head — Always on my Mind by the Pet Shop Boys, Yesterday, by the Beatles, and I will Survive by Gloria Gaynor.
Sometimes, all three play at once. Help! (Also a go-to track for the lovelorn.)
I try make sense of her decision by listing my transgressions as an employer – “I forgot to leave money for the plumber. Spot me?” . . . “No time to get cash today. I’ll pay you back for the plumber tomorrow.” . . . “Only one ATM working at Victoria Station, so I missed the 5:45—I’ll be home soon(ish)!” Ashamed, I retaliate with a counter-list of her flubs. Face it: The first list is longer. Bring on the Pet Shop Boys.
When my nanny says that of course we’ll remain friends, I nod mechanically . . . but secretly, I’m planning to boycott all her favourite pubs, restaurants and bookstores. If I’m too fragile for a chance “hello,” forget a planned meet-up.
I stall for two days before I finally return her new employer’s call for a character reference. When I finally do, she’s warm, funny, and sympathetic. Which makes it all so much worse.
I register with NannyMatch.com and check the web-board
five tentwenty times an hour to see if anyone “likes” our family.
In the lunchtime post office queue, I chat with twenty-somethings wheeling other mums’ prams. ”Hmmm,” I wonder, “would she go girl shopping with my daughter for hers&hers matching Converse trainers, and text my son the scores after football games?” That’s when my loss really hits me. I wander back to the office to the mournful strains of Yesterday.
I ring up my ex-nannies in a pathetic attempt to rekindle things. Even though they turn me down, it’s comforting to hear the almost convincing — “Oooo, why would she do that?! You’re such a lovely family!!”
I use my Domestic State of Emergency as an excuse to suspend all jogging and flossing–then panic that no one will want to work for a mum with flab-itosis, and redouble my attack on the track and plaque.
- I buck up by writing cheeky articles about my distress — or am I subconsciously hoping that my nanny will stumble on this manuscript, read the love letter etched between the lines, and have a spontaneous change of heart?
Dream on, subconscious. My nanny handed in notice because she is ready to go. And that’s okay. That is, it had better be okay.
Because, here’s the most important thing that a nanny has in common with a high school heart throb: Even if she makes life sweeter, fuller, and (let’s admit it) easier, she should never be literally indispensable. As a teenager, I had to learn to function independently, without a beau. Now, as a mom, once again, I need to marshal enough self-reliance and resourcefulness to cope. No matter how many times I told her, “I could not survive without you,” it’s healthy to realise that if I actually have to, I just about can.
So, one more Kit Kat (dark chocolate, not milk—I’m a big girl now) and I will fire up my MacBook. I will draft a job spec–a real one, not a wish list–and ring up the agency. I will work my way through a roster of candidates until once again, I connect with a special someone who makes me smile, tolerates my many shortcomings, and whom I can trust to raise my children — 40 hours a week (with overtime when I miss the 5:45).
And once I do, it’s just possible that my ex-nanny and I will become friends after all.
I hope so. Because unlike ex-boyfriends, ex-nannies come back to babysit. And I’ll be due a night out to celebrate another parental rite of passage — cue Gloria Gaynor nonstop.