I’m not saying she’s blown into the front door of our house by a gust of wind while carrying an umbrella and a bottomless carpetbag, but my daughter’s new nanny otherwise couldn’t exude more Mary Poppins-ness if she were a relative of Julie Andrews who dances with magical broomsticks and sews dresses from curtains.
Initially the idea of having a stranger look after my baby made me queasy. I imagined Rebecca De Mornay in “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle” or Glenn Close in “Fatal Attraction” (not a nanny, but seriously psychotic nonetheless). The anticipation of bringing an unknown into my home was nagging, like a paper cut on the inside of a knuckle — a stinging and constant reminder that something isn’t quite right.
I feared being the subject of a tawdry news program, with my neighbors giving interviews about how they saw suspicious activity at my home as soon as I’d left. It’d be one of those stories on “Dateline” or “Nancy Grace” that you feel dirty for watching, yet don’t change the channel.
Getting past the nanny fear was one thing. However, after spending 21 months with my daughter and nary a baby-sitter of note, necessity finally dictated I bite the bullet and call in some official back-up. An ad was placed in the paper, and within six days, I received somewhere in the ballpark of 35 inquiries.
The first woman I met with was fine, except she would have to commute more than an hour twice a day, had no local references and balked a little when I told her I would be conducting a background check. One candidate showed up for our meeting 90 minutes early, complained incessantly about an interview with another potential employer and then told me dramatically about the recent murder of a relative.
I met with one woman at a local park who immediately grabbed my daughter, dragged her to the swings and then manically tried to engage her in “Ring Around the Rosie.” She seemed lovely, if not a little hopped up on cocaine or Adderall.
There was a guy who expressed interest in the job who would have made an exceptional manny had he not been on the verge of leaving town. A woman with a strong background in early childhood education told me she prayed to Jesus before every meal. When I told her my daughter and I are Jewish, she said, “Oh, that’s OK, I don’t mind.”
The shortest interview — clocking in at eight minutes — was with a college-aged young woman from a family with offspring in the double digits who neither made eye contact with nor acknowledged my daughter. She seemed like she could have been one of the kids from “Big Love,” but from one of the creepy groups on the compound, not from the normal family of polygamists.
The whole process was sort of like the iconic scene from “Pretty Woman,” except instead of designer dresses, I tried on women to replace me in my daughter’s life for roughly 28 hours a week.
My haute couture — our Mary Poppins — finally arrived on the last day of interviews. She immediately got down on the floor with my daughter and started stacking blocks. At one point she started singing, my daughter and I looking at her with our jaws dropped as if we were at a private Carole King concert.
At one time I think I thought having a nanny might make me feel guilty for leaving my daughter’s care to someone else, but the effect has actually been the opposite. Instead of me turning on “Barney” out of frustration so I can get some work done, there’s now someone whose work is to play and have fun with my baby. And in the short time she’s been with us, our Mary Poppins has gotten her to sit still long enough to put her hair in a ponytail, which has actually stayed in for longer than 11 seconds.
Our Mary Poppins arrives each day with her own stash of art supplies. They make murals in chalk on the sidewalk, paste letters on construction paper and draw with crayons on what appears to be any available surface in the house. They go to the park and play on the swings and slide, and no one’s worried about checking the Blackberry for business correspondence. To the best of my knowledge, there have also been no purple dinosaur sightings since the arrival of our Mary Poppins.
And I feel secure enough in my daughter’s love for me that I don’t worry about being replaced in her heart. (I’m just not taking it personally that she’s been having epic meltdowns within an hour of me arriving home. Or that she’s been hitting me in the face way more than usual.)
While my daughter’s room has yet to get clean upon hearing fingers snap, I have faith that’ll start happening any day now.
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