Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Nanny Dramas

A good babysitter is hard to find. In the year and a half Antonia was working with me and Phoebe, she was often hard to find. She had a cell phone she would put minutes on, then not have enough money to renew the card. She was evicted from the first place she lived, and I never knew her next address– only that it was a basement apartment that was moldy and rodent infested and landed her asthmatic child in the hospital more than once. Antonia had it hard. A single mother of two, an illegal alien from Trinidad, a struggling 7th Day adventist who tried to put her trust in God every day and for 10 hours on a Saturday church pew. But for all her troubles and failings, she was wonderful with Phoebe. I often envied how she could make her giggle. Those two were always laughing and dancing and singing. Antonia is also an incredible cook. Because of her, Phoebe eats everything from spicy spinach to garlicky daal.

Then one day, she just didn't show up. And not the next day or the day after. She literally disappeared. I could not reach her on the phone she did not have. No one knew what might have happened to her. Her Aunt works for family friends of mine, and they had no word on her at all. I thought she might have been deported, or that something may have happened to her or her children. We had been so intertwined for more than a year of Phoebe's life, I couldn't help but be worried. Then a few days after the disappearance, one nanny in the building said she heard from Antonia. She told the woman that she had fallen into a depression and could not call me. Then after days of not getting in touch, she was too ashamed to call. Depression is an illness for the moneyed classes. If you are poor you won't get medication or therapy, or perhaps even understanding from those around you. You either deal with it, or you can't. How very sad.

Phoebe still asks for "Toni" every now and then. I just tell her she's gone home and leave it at that. She was not the easiest person to deal with. We had our conflicts and troubles as most people have with someone who works in their home. As professional and detached as you want to be, when someone is caring for your child, when they are in your apartment all day long, a very different employer/employee relationship emerges. I tried to strike a balance between compassion and detachment. No small task. Antonia had all the odds against her. But she was wonderful to my child and we will miss so many things about her.

These days, I'm in transition. I am struggling with a new combination of people and more time with Phoebe. I get to save some money and have more time with my amazing child, but I am exhausted. Every mother needs help one way or another. I'm just trying to find the right balance and the right people to place around my precious girl. Hopefully, I'll get there.

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