Wednesday, June 10, 2009

While I've never had a nanny for my own kids, Sarah's post brought back memories of the housekeepers we had when I was young. Actually, I did stumble across a biography of my dad once and he'd indicated his current job as nanny to our baby. But I digress. I've heard the good and the bad about nannies on the old blogosphere, but what I remember most about our nannies, who we called housekeepers or babysitters, were the oddities and funny quirks they brought to the house. Not to mention the numerous skills they taught us.

Both my parents worked full time, and they hired people who would basically watch us when we came home, made us dinner before we were old enough to take care of that ourselves, and took care of the occasional school obligation, like when it was my mom's turn to make cookies for school. One of the main jobs of our babysitters in later years was to watch us when we swam. After spending all that dough on a pool we'd better get a lot of use out of it. We were allowed to swim without an adult, but none of our friends were.

One couple who watched us took that to an extreme. They taught my brother to do a front and back dive, as well as front and back flips, by threatening to cut out his tongue if he didn't. They knew enough not to try that with me, since I don't think any sort of threat would overcome my sheer physical incompetence, but they saw the talent in him. These were also the ones who kept their dog's food in an unmarked container, and my dad ate it like cereal once. They would also occasionally lock us in a room at their house while they got high. We never knew enough to realize that was wrong, just enjoyed watching TV in bed. My parents finally fired them when they discovered they'd been growing marijuana in our back yard.

Another one kept our house virtually spotless, but essentially never had time to watch us swim. We were not an obsessively tidy family, but appreciated a clean house. This woman would sweep both the garage and front porch daily, and cleaned out the fridge about every other day. She couldn't play with us, but could find the time to polish a seldom used teapot. She didn't last long.

One of our favorites taught us to play pool. She was a tall good-looking blond from Germany and ended up marrying my dad's co-worker. I'm unclear whether there was an affair involved, I was pretty innocent in those days. And there was the hippie who fell in love with the garden. We had a huge garden, and the harvesting got to be a total pain at the height of summer, but if you didn't keep it under control the zucchinis might literally take over the house. She went crazy with the bounty, and in a house of organic vegetables, tofu and bulk whole grain cereal and a compost bucket by the sink, she managed to stand out. The limit for my mom was when she put yogurt in the tuna instead of mayo, even my mom could not eat that.

My kids have had very few babysitters, getting their childcare from preschool and the grandparents, who bring their own brand of oddness. I fantasize about a housekeeper to get my house and kids in line, but the reality is even if I could afford this, it would likely never live up to my dreams. We were kept pretty insulated from the trials of hiring babysitters, although I do remember the decision to finally fire the Japanese couple. The wife was our housekeeper, but spoke no English and didn't know how to clean or cook. Her husband would rush over between his own jobs to cover for her.

Originally posted at Silicon Valley Moms Blog.

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  1. Babysitters are quite the "lot". I had one who was also a compulsive cleaner. Miss her, that one.

    Jessica - TMH

  2. Growing pot in your parent's garden? That took some nerve.

    Though I have to say, I blend light mayo and lowfat yogurt when I make tuna salad and it passes muster with my family.