October 4, 2007

If you can’t afford to pay me like a servant, you sure aren’t going to treat me like one!

Posted in Babysitting tagged at 9:42 am by Lauren

I had my first run-in this week with a crazy person posing as normal. Just kidding, that happens all the time! But I usually don’t run into actual crazies when looking for a babysitting job.

 On Monday, after having been rejected by my job of choice (who later came back and said they’d gotten in touch with my references after all – duh, why didn’t you just mention you were having trouble with that instead of kicking my dreams to the curb in the first place!), I registered for the French site bebe-nounou (baby-nanny, literally) to respond to some promising ads. This particular one would be 2.5 days (20 hours) of work a week, with a bit of house-cleaning in the morning before picking up the 2-year-old at noon and spending the afternoon with her. I thought it sounded nice to maybe have a few hours of quiet working time in the mornings, and I certainly have a soft spot for 2-year-olds, so I called.

 Actually, I emailed first. Who wants to get on the phone in another language? I emailed, and I got an email back from the woman that, somewhat literally translated, said, “I’ll thank you to call me at this number. Mlle Folle.” (Names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent.) Now, I knew I was reading that translation too literally and that the bad feeling I got from the literal translation was not valid. But honestly, I’ve never had a babysitting “boss” make me call them by Mrs. or Ms. at all, so that did put me off a bit.

 When I got home that night, I meant to call. I really did. But five minutes after stepping in the door, the phone rang and it was the Mademoiselle herself. We chatted a bit about the position, and it was all quite pleasant until I told her two things she didn’t want to hear: my hourly fee of 10 euros per hour and my legal status in the country. I expect she doesn’t have a high regard for immigrants because the immediate reaction was that she usually pays babysitters 7 euros per hour and that’s declared besides! (Declared positions basically means something similar to childcare deductions in the US, and in fact, I think she pays the state pre-tax and then they pay the babysitter.) She said she was willing to pay more than 7 euros this time around but that she certainly would not pay 10, especially as it wasn’t declared!

At this point, a normal person would say, “This person is not for me.” In fact, both of us should have said that to ourselves. But the Mademoiselle was looking to take advantage of an immigrant, and I was having trouble sticking up for myself in French. She said she’d speak to her husband about the question of hiring someone undeclared, and she’d call me back in 5 minutes.

An aside: is referring to yourself as Mlle when you’re married the French equivalent of calling yourself Ms./”Mizz” in the U.S.?

While I waited for her to call back, I checked the day’s voicemails and found that I had no fewer than 3 calls from her during the day (though I’d clearly stated that I wasn’t home before 6). Hmmm. Did she read my original email all that well? I had already been wondering by the redundant information she’d asked me on the phone. But my thoughts were interrupted by another ring.

I answered, fully ready to say I was going to just find something else that paid more, and I was completely bull-dozed. “I propose that we meet tomorrow morning. Are you free?” I said that no, I didn’t come home until 5:30. “Okay, let’s meet at 5:30 at my house then.” I thought: Teleporting costs extra, lady. I said: Okay… Then I stammered, “What about the fee?” She said, “We’ll see about the fee. Maybe something weekly, maybe something that’s based on what you’re actually doing, whether it’s taking care of the house or the little girl…We’ll talk about it tomorrow.” And that was it. I felt kind of sick. I didn’t even want to go! And I felt like she was trying to exploit me. I decided to call her during lunch the next day to cancel.

So Tuesday, during lunch, with that same sick feeling in my stomach I picked up the phone for another delightful conversation in French. I rushed out the fact that I was going to keep looking and find another position that would pay more, and that I didn’t want to waste her time, but thank you for the opportunity, and goodbye. PHEW! Relief! No more dealing with the aggressive woman.

That is, until she started stalking me. It started about five minutes later, when she called me back on Allen’s boss’ phone (the number of which she got from her cell). She called me twice on that, and I had to explain to Allen’s other officemate that it was some crazy woman I’d called to turn down a job with. (Then I regretted using the word crazy, since I don’t know the officemate well. I should have said aggressive because the truth of that was clear.) Shortly after, we went upstairs, and I don’t know if she called again on Allen’s boss’ line. What I do know is that when we got home, we had one voicemail and seven missed calls. Anyone want to do the math? Since noon, the woman had tried to reach me a total of TEN TIMES. (Mind you, it was 5:30.) She had left a message saying that I should still come and meet her and that she’d see about the price. (What? Waste my time and not even commit to paying me what I asked for, which is why I turned you down?) As Allen and I marvelled at this, the phone rang again. “Don’t answer it!” Then it rang again. And again, about twenty minutes later. Then Allen unplugged it for about an hour while I took a nap. And then it rang a few more times, with the total calls for the day ringing in (ha) at 17. Her total disrespect for my time and privacy – and with me not even working for her yet! – was truly very disturbing!

I just want to add something here. I have no problem if you cannot pay 10 euros/14 dollars an hour for babysitting. That is more than I charge in the States because people are paying that here, and because I’m providing a specialized service as an English-speaking babysitter. (Did I mention that I’m a “highly qualified,” licensed ESOL teacher? Just checking.) But if you don’t want to pay that, don’t! That is your prerogative. But it is my prerogative to turn down the job.

I emailed Mlle Nutso and told her plainly that I was no longer interested in her position. But she didn’t get the email until the next day, so Wednesday morning we had one last voicemail from her saying how hard I was to get in touch with. Clearly she was having more difficulty getting in touch with reality than she was getting a hold of me.

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