Sunday, January 9, 2011

Return of the Nanny Diaries

I had been hoping after the last nanny debacle never again to have to write about childcare. But alas, two weeks ago, we had to fire our nanny.

The worst part is that I held on to her for months longer than I wanted to; within a few weeks of her starting with us four months ago, I knew things weren't perfect. Almost everything she did drove me crazy.

But she was taking good care of Baby; in fact within a few days of her starting with us, he'd made advances in language and general comprehension that I'd never thought possible. So I wrote off my complaints as petty and brushed them aside; I figured I was just projecting my own guilt about choosing to work and not stay home with my son.

Eventually it became clear that it wasn't just me, though; even my husband, who hardly ever saw the nanny, agreed she was crossing the line of professionalism and taking too much ownership of Baby and our household.

But nannies -- or rather good nannies -- are hard to find in Istanbul. Uneducated Turkish mothers whose families suddenly find themselves in need of additional income will often look for work as a nanny because their only other option is house keeping; illegal workers from Russia, Uzbekistan and Moldovia often work as nannies; as do Filipina women. As a mother, I've had to consider safety (do I accept someone who's in the country illegally?), language (what effect will broken English or broken Turkish have on my son?), and of course personality (what psychological effect will someone with obvious emotional baggage have on Baby?). And then there's principle: what percentage of my salary am I willing to pay for peace of mind? All of it? 75% of it? 50%? Considering the high unemployment rate and low wages for even educated people in this country, nannies ask a lot. They also want you to pay their transportation to and from work each day in addition to whatever monthly salary you agree on.

The general consensus is that the Filipinas are the best; but they are also the most expensive. The general consensus is that the Turkish women are the worst (even though not the cheapest); but wasn't our beloved nanny S back in Tarsus Turkish? And don't I feel at least a little patriotic to these adopted country-women of mine, to want to support them? The general consensus is that finding a good nanny is like playing the lottery; you have to try and try and try until you luck out. I have colleagues who have fired almost thirty nannies!

All this to justify why I, the perfectionist, put up with less than perfection for months -- I didn't want to deal with finding someone else!

But the day I came home and found my son's bangs chopped up to his hairline and looking like a monk, I knew Istanbul Nanny #2 had to go. She'd asked me that morning whether she could straighten the trim I'd given him, but I'd clearly said no; my own bad job would tie him over until the weekend when he and Daddy would go to the barber for the first time together. I'd just wanted to get his hair out of his eyes. And besides, his crooked fringe had a cute punky pixie look which I was kind of enjoying.

"But didn't I tell you not to touch his hair?" I asked in horror that evening?

"But it needed to be done!" was her only reply, as if it were up to her to decide.


"Because I straightened out his hair?"


"If I'd known you were going to make such a big deal of this, I wouldn't have cut his hair."



  1. Well said, and well done, Cécile!! Off with her head! Good job Nanny the Second didn't ask for severance pay.

  2. I think if one has fired 30 nannies, they need to take a look at themselves.

    Just my opinion.