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Stepping Away From the Sitter

Goodbyes. They're never easy. And the one that my family is going through now will be no exception.

For four years, we've employed our dream nanny. She came to us through another nanny we liked and trusted. She'd worked with other families in our neighborhood for 17 years and raised three children of her own. And we hired her three months before we intended to hire someone because she was such a find that we didn't want to risk losing her.

There's no way I could have accomplished nearly as much at work without her. There were countless times I'd leave my youngest son home coughing his croupy cough and she'd care for him as I would have if I'd been home. When the youngest was ready to potty train but I thought he was still too young, she pulled out the stored away potty seats and proved me wrong. She encourages the boys to play with worms and caterpillars -- even though she's too squeamish to touch them herself. She makes sure they clean up one toy before starting with another. And she expects good manners of them -- just as I do.

Through the years, we've helped her through the birth of a grandson with Cystic Fibrosis and the death of her father. She's taught us about the struggles that immigrant parents go through when they come to this country. Her story is not all that dissimilar to others. She left her family in her home country for a better life in the U.S. She both saves what she can and sends money back to her mother and siblings to make their lives better.

Funny thing. She credits how good our boys are to us. But I give her all the credit in the world for teaching them, disciplining them and encouraging them.

And that's what makes this so hard. We've now told our nanny the change is coming in September -- the new school year. We want her to have enough time to figure out her next steps.

But now that she knows, what's next? When do we tell the boys? At the end of the summer when the change is about to happen or earlier so they can get used to the idea of life without her? And how do we explain that this fabulous woman won't see them quite so often -- if at all?

How have you handled such transitions with your kids? Do you ever see their babysitters and nannies from when they were small?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  May 1, 2008; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Elementary Schoolers , Preschoolers
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We have kept up with nannies that we employed when we lived abroad and ones here. They helped raise our children and are part of our lives. We try to keep up with them--via mail and email and special occasions and visits to the countries we have lived in.

From your description, your nanny does not treat your children like a job but truly loves and cares for them. She will always have a special place in her heart for them. It would be cruel to her and your children to not try and keep some contact.

With my firstborn, I traded off babysitting with another grad student who also had a newborn. We scheduled our classes so that we babysat while the other mom was in class. We did this for 3 years and I still think of that child frequently even 14 years later and he is now a young man.

Don't totally break with your Nanny if possible but invite her for birthday parties, kindergarten graduation, etc. and always send her a Christmas card with photos of the kids. I know it meant a lot to me to see the little boy I baby sat grow through the years. I plan to invite our Nannies to our children's high school graduation parties because I want to publically recognize their contribution and remind my children what an important role they played in raising them.

..important note...if she is a Spanish speaker help her advertise at immersion schools where families would love to have someone provide language support as well as daycare often to toddlers that will be entering the school that their siblings'attend. It is wonderful to be encouraged to interact with children in your native language!

Posted by: samclare | May 1, 2008 8:07 AM | Report abuse

I too had a great nanny for 8 year who lived with us and had her daughter and raised her in my house for 2 years as well. But when my sons where 13 and 8, it was time to say goodbye. I thought that my 8 year old would have a hard time but I was wrong. He did shed a couple of tear but it was also cool for him to feel that he has grown up and doesn't need a full time nanny anymore. So, beleive me they all do fine. She will call every once in awhile and talks to the kids but you know life goes on and you'll be surprised by how strong our kids are when they need to deal with these situations.
Good luck to you.

Posted by: Maggie | May 1, 2008 8:33 AM | Report abuse

When I went back to work, my son was less than a year old, so we wanted a nanny, who I said we'd have til he turned 1. Then we'd do daycare, which was less than 1/2 the price. Oh, well, she was the best nanny we could have hired. She is so caring and wonderful. She had been a live in au pair for two years, so it was a new experience for her, but she was great.

So, when our youngest was almost 2, she told us that she had to go back to school, and that the evening classes she was taking weren't going to be offered, but she had to go back because of her visa. We were so sad - she had given us two weeks notice cause that's what she thought she had - then we found out a few days later that she really had 3 months. I could hear in her voice that she was happy as well, that she would have a few more months with our family.

It was definitely tougher on us (the adults) than the kids - kids can adapt to anything. We all cried that last day/evening (she stayed for dinner). She came a couple of weeks later for our son's bday party, and we actually just saw her this week for my son's birthday. She is so wonderful, and we consider her a member of the family - even though she hasn't worked fo rus for over a year - we haven't needed a babysitter since we have the au pair (who is leaving us soon too - :( ).

The au pair is leaving us too - I can't believe it's been a year already. Hopefully, DH and I will start earning some more big bucks and we can get another one. The experience has been incredible - I do so like having an extra pair of hands around.

With both the nanny and au pair, though, they are near by and I suspect they will be around for parties and stuff. The nanny got my son a present, then as she was leaving she said she'd see us next month for my other son's birthday. She really is wonderful.

Posted by: atlmom | May 1, 2008 9:44 AM | Report abuse

i think it depends on the child. some kids roll with the punches quite easily & others don't. your children will follow your lead. if you think this is the greatest drama of all time then they will be sad. if you matter of factly tell them that yes, it is sad but life goes on then they will follow your lead.
when my day care provider moved out to loudoun county my son took the change in provider in stride. i was the one who was upset. actually, my son had more problems transition from day care to pre-school where he went from being the big boy to being a small fish in a big pond.

Posted by: quark | May 1, 2008 9:53 AM | Report abuse

PSA from yesterday. I realize that we're done with yesterday's topic, but I did a little research about hormones in milk that I wanted to share. I'm a neuroscientist. So, I'm not an expert in the issues involved with milk hormones, but I understand the basic biology well enough and I know how to use PudMed to get some answers.

So, first off, the hormone cows are treated with is recombinant bovine growth hormone. This hormone is not, as far as I can tell, what anyone should be worried about. However, rBGH increases levels of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), which has been detected at increased levels in rBGH-treated cows.

So, what's the issue with IGF-1? Well, the cow IGF-1 is nearly identical to the human version (as far as I can tell from the literature).

So, the next question is, though: Can IGF-1 be absorbed whole from the intestinal tract? This is an important question because it is not as if food is absorbed whole. Your intestines break it down. The answer to that question is that I don't know, at least for humans. In one study with rats' intestines, the IGF-1 was absorbed, though it's not known whether it was still active. That is, IGF-1 could have easily been broken down into its amino acids, just like any other protein.

Next question: So what if IGF-1 is absorbed whole and intact? Well, assuming that the intestines don't break it down, the liver could break it down. Assuming that the liver does not break it down, this could increase circulating levels of IGF-1, which is naturally found in your body.

Now, here's the important part: IGF-1 has been linked to increased risk of certain cancers. HOWEVER, it is still under considerable debate as to whether or how causative IGF-1 is.

As you can tell, there's a lot of assumptions and unknowns throughout the science of this issue. Moreover, when you have that many steps involved, it is extremely likely that other variables play increasingly larger roles. Just to give you an idea of how difficult it is to translate IGF-1 levels into meaningful actions to take in your life: Smoking AND exercise increase IGF-1 levels. So, should you quit smoking and exercising? Exercise is known to reduce cancer risks, while smoking increases cancer risks.

Anyway, that's my PSA for the day. Oh, also, organic milk means much more than milk from cows not treated with hormones. I buy "regular" milk from the grocery store and it's all from hormone-free cows.

Posted by: Ryan | May 1, 2008 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Tell them NOW. There is no such thing as "too much time to say good-bye." Give them a chance to ask questions. Plus, they will need to be told over and over--they will forget, etc. Do a countdown, make good-bye presents, etc. to help make it 'real' for them, because "absence" is a very abstract concept, not easy for young children to grasp. Not that I'm saying to make a big drama about it--Iwith 'quark,' be matter-of-fact. But tell them ASAP, and mention it many times between now and the big day.

Posted by: Judy | May 1, 2008 10:30 AM | Report abuse

We have had the same nanny for nearly nine years, but we're down to just three hours a week. So you can see we are ripping that band-aid off slowly. ;-)

We have, over the years, weaned to our current 3 hours/week by helping her find the other jobs that filled in the hours we no longer needed. We have been like an employment agent. It sounds like a lot of work, but it's really been only two major transitions over all this time.

It helps that we have a nanny that doesn't mind having a couple of different employers.

At one point, I helped arrange a situation where she was with us three days a week (my work schedule) and with a neighbor the other two days. This was a dream -- both families were flexible, and we shared many hours with them. If my neighbor changed her work schedule, our kids would be together, and vice versa. If the kids were together, we double paid the nanny rather than paying some stepped-down rate. We had the same attitude ... she deserved it.

When my family really needed to ramp down (kids in school all day), we helped find another family for her to work for for "our" three days, so she could continue working across the street the other two. For two years now, on one of those days, she takes the girl across the street with her to pick up my kids at school, and they are together all afternoon.

It turns out the new family has been very flexible, too (if not actually in the neighborhood), and the two main families continue sharing and being willing to change schedules, etc.

Our taking an active role in "placing her" wound up meaning that we could continue our relationship with her. In addition, we helped identify nice families for her to work for. Everyone's been happy, and my kids are still with their nanny!

Posted by: MarylandMom | May 1, 2008 11:22 AM | Report abuse

This post was really interesting to me, because I grew up with a nanny until I was 10 years old. I'm still too young to have kids, but I hope I can find someone as great as her! She was a neighbor so we saw her very often after she stopped working for us, and she recently passed away at 90 years old. I can only hope I can afford a nanny when I have kids!!!! I know it is pricey.

Posted by: lauren | May 1, 2008 12:08 PM | Report abuse

We are in a similar situation - we have a great nanny but since my son is starting full-day kindergarten we don't really need someone all day anymore. But we still need after school care and coverage for all those early dismissal days and closure dates. We decided though that rather than say goodbye completely we are going to try to find her part-time work with another family while our kids are at school. She is willing to do this and there are lots of moms in our area who need p/t help. They either work from home or stay home and need a break here and there. I told my kids right away because I think it's helpful for them to know.

Posted by: PT Fed Mof2 | May 1, 2008 1:59 PM | Report abuse

PT Fed - have you looked at your schools after care program? DD, who is currently in kindergarten, is walked from her classroom to the multipurpose room in school. She can only be released to me, DH, and my parents.

DD has a great time and is learning a lot of good things from the older children. Her art work has improved. At the beginning of the year the older children read to her and now they let her read to them. I am sending her to the camp they run over the summer because I now she will be happy and safe. The teachers also said they are happy to have her. My cost is $90 per week.

I use them for half days of school and some of the vacation days during the school year.

Posted by: shdd | May 1, 2008 4:14 PM | Report abuse

Don't allow this women to walk out of your children's lifes. She means so much to them, and to you all as a FAMILY. You might pay her, but she is not 'just' hired help.
My bridesmaid was married last year. Her nanny was at her wedding ceremony and banquet. Now that's what I call keeping up!

Posted by: LondonMom | May 2, 2008 9:03 AM | Report abuse

This nanny stuff is a joke isn't it. I thought you guys were eventually offer tips on where I could get my Bentley washed. In this economy, this conversation is a real joke.

Posted by: kween bee | May 3, 2008 11:33 AM | Report abuse

What you should be asking yourself is who is going to raise your kids now that you are letting their caregiver go. Sounds like she has been the one doing all the work.

Posted by: Jane | May 7, 2008 10:46 AM | Report abuse

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