A Tenuous Thread

A TENUOUS THREAD When fellow blogger Anne Tergesen wrote last week that
Amy Dunkin


When fellow blogger Anne Tergesen wrote last week that "managing a nanny is not easy in part because the relationship between parent and caregiver is so complex," I could relate.

I’ve always said my nanny is the thread that holds my life together. It's such a tenuous thing, that thread. But as long as it’s intact, it lets me walk out the door in the morning, get on the train, and go to work with peace of mind.

Our nanny has been with our family for six years, since shortly after my younger son was born. She’s a responsible, loving, lovely person who keeps my children safe, treats them as if they were her own, makes sure the house stays clean, and even cooks us dinner. Lucky me: The childcare dilemma so many working parents face was a non-issue in our household.

Then one morning, she announced she was pregnant.

Snap! There went the thread and my sense of complacency tore apart. After absorbing the initial shock--as the mother of two teenagers, she had told me repeatedly she was finished having babies—my first concern was the obvious one. Who would take care of the boys while my husband and I were at work?

There was a secondary issue as well: What were my obligations as an employer? The good news was she intended to come back. But she wanted—she needed—maternity pay while she was out. I quickly realized that the one benefit I might derive from this upheaval—the chance to save a bit of money on childcare—wasn’t going to happen.

Thankfully, I’m here to say that we all survived the pregnancy and the maternity leave. On the childcare front, I patched together a hodgepodge of arrangements. Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, the boys went to the after-school program at their school. Wednesdays I work at home, so I was covered. On Fridays, the cleaning lady agreed to get them from school and keep an eye on them for a few extra bucks. About a month into this, I found a woman who was willing to fill in until my nanny returned. That took a lot of pressure off.

Regarding maternity benefits, I’m no McGraw-Hill. But I do believe a loyal employee shouldn’t be penalized for having a baby. I paid my nanny part of her salary for the two months she was out. To help ease her financial pressures, I also gave her a loan, which she will repay through salary deductions and by working some Saturday nights.

Now that she’s back, things at home are back to normal. But every time I think of that thread, I now know how easily it can break.


BLOG ALERT: We came across an interesting Working Mothers Blog. Check out this recent posting on Recharging Your Batteries.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.