November 11, 2007

The job I’d been waiting for

Posted in Babysitting, Uncategorized tagged , , at 12:34 pm by Lauren

After weeks of waiting, I was slated to begin my new job on Monday, October 29. The family had hired me for the five weeks between the end of October and the end of November, and I’d taken the job and put off finding anything else for the past three weeks. Now it was time to work! I plotted my route the night before to figure out how early I’d need to leave if I walked, and I slipped my cross stitch into my bag in hopes that the baby would have a nap during my watch. I’d be working mornings four days a week. I was excited about the schedule because it would allow me to wake early (having a purpose to my day), work early, and then enjoy the afternoon. (Of course two days a week, I’d go to my English lessons afterwards, but I’d have Wednesday completely off!) The little girl (a year and a half old) had seemed bubbly and personable when I met the family. The parents too had seemed very nice, and the mother had seemed very low-key, which is a quality I enjoy in mothers I babysit for.

I was allowed a later start than usual this particular Monday because the family had just returned from a trip and were all jet-lagged. It was the weekend after daylight savings time in France, and I was concerned that the mother wouldn’t realize it (and would think I was an hour late). But how much of a worrywort can you be? I arrived right on time, ready to start. (At some point during the day, we did find out that she didn’t realize the time had changed, and I had to specify that I had indeed been on time.)

It was immediately obvious that the little girl was going to cling to her mom, and her mom explained that between the jet lag and the recent trip where the baby’d been left with nannies all day, the baby was really feeling separation anxiety. The mom said she’d be hanging around to show me the ropes.

It’s not worth divulging all the details of the day, but suffice it to say that I spent a long, awkward day with the baby and her mom. The baby was fussy, jet-lagged, and hyper-aware of where her mother was at all times. And that was the easy part. I have come to some sort of zen with babies – they are going to cry, they are not going to like being in your company all of the time (especially when you’re new with them), and if you pay attention, you can figure out how to make them happy most of the time. And that’s fine. The mother on the other hand seemed stressed that the baby was fussy, stressed that I was there (I sensed she didn’t really want to leave me alone with her child), and stressed that I wasn’t taking more charge. Meanwhile, with the mom there all day, the baby didn’t know who was in charge, and I don’t blame her because it was difficult for me to figure out too!

The most awkward part came at the end of the day. I was supposed to be working until 2, so I thought the child needed to be at the daycare by then. It was her first day of daycare (just a little detail to add to the upheaval). The mom went to take a nap at 12:45 once the baby was down for a nap. She said to me, “I shouldn’t sleep more than an hour.” But when an hour had gone by, she was still sleeping, the baby was still sleeping, and I wasn’t really sure what to do. I waited, a little, to see if somebody would wake. Then at 2 pm, I woke the mom, apologizing for waking her, but explaining that it was 2 o’clock, and the baby was still sleeping. The mom springs into frantic action, saying we’ll be late for the daycare, and how is the little girl going to have time to eat, and what time did I go to sleep. It becomes clear from her indirect statements that her earlier (also indirect) statement about how long she should sleep meant she had wanted me to wake her after an hour. We throw the little girl into the stroller, bring some food with us, and race to the daycare in a frenzy. (Actually, for the record, neither the child nor I were frenzied.) The mom didn’t know what bus stop we were supposed to take, so we carried the stroller down the subway stairs. Once there, she got lost at the other end, and we finally arrived at the daycare at 2:40. It turns out we were supposed to be there at 2:30 (which I thought was curious, since she’d told me I’d be working until 2), and she was glad we weren’t that late. Inside, we found out that the woman who was supposed to orient us to the daycare would be there at 3. We sat inside with the little girl for a few minutes, and around 2:45-2:50, the mom offered to pay me and let me go home. She calculated, “10 am to 2:30 pm, that’s 4 and a half hours, so 45 euros.” I wondered if she was leaving off the last 20 minutes I had been there (because she knew full well it wasn’t 2:30 because we’d been late to the daycare!) to punish me for not waking her. I have been fortunate in the past to work for people who round in my favor, not theirs, but I kept my mouth shut. She said she needed to make a large cash purchase that day and could she only give me 40 euros for now. I said that was fine; what else would I say? (I was again slightly annoyed though; we had gone to the ATM for her to get out cash earlier that day!)

I left at the end of the day thinking that it was very likely that it would go better once the mother started leaving me alone with the child. That, and it’s only five weeks. I like to tell myself that I can do anything if it’s for a set time period. I can make it through the school year because I know when it ends. I can force myself to work through stressful situations (graduate school papers, for example) because I know what my deadlines are. So, it would only be five weeks, and the first week would only be Monday and Tuesday, and I’d already made it through Monday!

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