(OK, so I know that this is probably more information than any of you are interested in, but I wanted to record this part of our experience partly for my own sake. I was a full-time Stay-at-Home Mommy for the past 3 years and it has been emotionally draining to transition from that existence to this new one of the Working Mom.)
Of all the challenges we have faced in the last couple months, this one has been the most difficult.
During our first four weeks in Venezuela, we officially hired four nannies. For a while we were feeling desperate — like we’d never find someone trustworthy and reliable and loving to take care of Graham while we’re at work.
First up was nanny “E” (I’ll protect these women’s privacy by only using their initials). She was referred by the person at school whose job it is to help new-hires settle in smoothly. Thankfully, two of our colleagues were there to translate. We weren’t really prepared and didn’t quite know what type of questions to ask, since we didn’t know she was coming that day.
We tried to put ourselves in her place: being grilled by four people — two potential employers and two translators. Since she was the only contact we had at the time, we decided to start her off on a trial basis, i.e. “come work for us for us this week, go home on the weekend, and if we like you, we’ll ask you to come back Monday.”
During that week, we got in touch with a former ECA family who had employed E in the past, and they didn’t exactly have glowing praise for her. In fact, it turns out she was their least favorite of the 3 nannies they’d had during their tenure in Caracas. While E was pleasant enough to be around (kind if not energetic around Graham, a fair housecleaner and cook), we decided we’d better continue our interview process to see if someone “clicked” more than E.
We were super excited to interview nanny C — a 23-year old part-time college student who didn’t have any prior experience as a nanny, but had been a babysitter in the past and came highly recommended from a coworker’s trustworthy nanny. Because she lives closer to our neighborhood than E, it would be easier for her to get to our apartment on time, and in general we got a really positive vibe and liked her bright, smiley disposition. So we asked offered her the job and called E to tell her she’d been replaced by C. (Not an easy call to make — we’ve never been in hiring/firing positions before. Awkward!)
Things seemed to be going so well with nanny C. Graham seemed to like her a lot, and my mom (who spent the first 4 weeks in Caracas with us, helping us to settle in) had good reports. C was energetic and playful, and she was eager to learn some English while willing to teach Graham Spanish. Monday through Friday went by without any problems and on her way home Friday afternoon, C cheerfully called out, “Hasta Lunes!” (See you Monday!)
But…come Monday, C was nowhere to be seen. We tried calling her cell number and reached out to the woman who had referred her to us, but no such luck. Apparently it’s not uncommon for Venezuelans to simply “disappear” like that rather than face an uncomfortable conversation such as calling an employer to quit one’s job. Alas, we were once again nanny-less.
It was at this point that we were really starting to feel desperate. My mom was set to return home in 10 days, leaving us very little time to find someone reliable and trustworthy to take care of Graham. Our ECA colleagues really came through for us and grilled their own nannies, maids, and helpers for referrals. A few days later, we interviewed nanny R.
Nanny R’s pros: she is bilingual, has worked with young children, and was willing to work as a live-in nanny. Her cons: she seemed lazy, apathetic, lethargic, and forgetful. But like I said, we were feeling desperate, so we reluctantly offered her the job and agreed that she would start in 2 days.
That very afternoon, we got an exciting email from a colleague Andrea informing us that she had just heard that her neighbor’s former nanny, Dora, was back in Caracas after recovering from surgery in Colombia. She urged us to hire Dora before anyone else did. She reassured us that she’d seen Dora in action and that Dora was consistently engaged and positive with the girl(s) she nannied for. In fact, Andrea’s exact words were, “Call her before anyone else. Seriously, she is amazing and I often wished I could “steal” her from my neighbor. I still would if she wasn’t friends with my nanny!”
So we did. We called her and loved her right away.
Of course, that meant we had to fire nanny R before she even worked a single day for us (but we didn’t feel so bad about that one as we were never excited about her in the first place.)
The past 3 weeks have been great. Dora is so patient with Graham, even when his huge, difficult, nearly-3-year-old emotions overwhelm him. Moreover, she’s patient with me (and my very mediocre Spanish skills), helpful around the house, and her easy laugh brightens up every interaction.
Every day she brings him to campus to play on our soccer field or tennis courts, bathes him, cooks and feeds him lunch, reads to him in Spanish, gets down on the floor to play trains/cars/duplos/whatever, *attempts* to help him take a nap, and paints or colors with him.
And after only 3 weeks together, she reports that Graham is able to understand her (most of the time) when she makes requests in Spanish and that he very often repeats the vocabulary back to her. Stay tuned for updates on his Spanish acquisition!