Laying Off the Nanny Sucked for All of Us

Laying off our part-time nanny was difficult — and she was angry!

I loved our nanny. Working part-time from when school let out until I go home from work, she cooked for A — and made extra veggies for me. She cleaned a little, did laundry with care, changed his sheets — and changed our sheets as well. She is over 60 years old, and she would play with my son, now 6, in the park — run with him or kick a soccer ball. She’d dance with him. She’d help him with his reading and organize playdates (our whole neighborhood loved her). She’d make sure he had eaten dinner, showered and was in PJs when I got home from work, so we could just read and have ‘fun’ time. Our adoption social worker told us to call her the babysitter, so A wouldn’t be confused by who is parents are.


She works really hard with few complaints. In the park and at the Y, she introduced him to all the other nannies. She scolded them for chatting on their cell phones or gossiping — distracting them from their charges as the kids ran around the park.

She’s from the Caribbean, and she treated A like he was her own. At least once, someone asked her if A were her grandson and she replied yes. After all, A is from Ethiopia so he looks more like her than me, but that was weird. I don’t think she said it in front of A, because, as he is adopted, all these changing parental roles is confusing enough. But she clearly loved him, as if he were her grandson.

And she’s gutsy. She would constantly let others know what’s what. The bathrooms aren’t clean at his Y camp? She talked to people about it. There’s a mix up with the after-school classes? She’d complain. A would sometimes say “Dammit!” (perhaps while playing UNO) after hearing her say it, so I had to remind him that’s an adult word.

I felt A was safe and secure with her, so I didn’t have to worry. She, who has her own grown daughters and was the nanny for my friend’s kids for 10 years, was so reliable and considerate, she always arrived early. Even even when A had a play date, she would show up at the school pick-up to make sure it went smoothly. The only thing she didn’t do was return text messages, which was a tad annoying, but I could live with that — and it confirmed she wasn’t on her cell phone 24/7.

But — there’s always a but — I didn’t like having just the last two hours of the day with my son. So I planned to quit my job. I had planned on giving her plenty of notice — two months — and having a long talk with her. Yet there we were in the kitchen in the spring, when she proudly told me she was offered a job to take care of a baby, but she said, she turned it down because she already had a job. So after a long day for everyone, I had to say, “Um, about that,” and reveal I planned to quit my job in August, spend that month upstate and work part-time and/or from home in the fall. “So you may want to talk to that family again,” I told her. I was caught off guard, and wasn’t nearly as eloquent as I had wanted to be. I hadn’t planned to have this conversation that night, standing beneath harsh kitchen fluorescent lights with A demanding attention from the next room, but that’s how things happen, isn’t it?

The next day, she said she couldn’t sleep very much as she was upset. Understandable. She loved A and I could see she was more hurt than mad. Then she said, the woman (a friend of mine) who referred her to me was mad.  “Why was she mad?” A piped up. Our nanny quickly backtracked, said she was annoyed, not mad, but I thought, “Really? She’s mad because I want to spend more time with my kid?” I told her I knew tons of moms who needed nannies and could help her, but she told me not to, the parents of the baby were still interested after all. I’m not sure my friend was mad actually. I think our nanny was. Mad and hurt. I wanted her to be happy that I could spend more time with A, but she wasn’t there yet. 

And, I know relationships with nannies are complicated, but we want her to stay in our son’s life. Because she’s great. Because she took care of him beginning just three months after his arrival in America, when he was 5, and they are part of each other’s lives. And because A doesn’t need more any caregivers leaving his life.

On her last day in early August, we made promises that we haven’t yet fulfilled. On one recent afternoon after school was out, we went to see her in the park with the baby she’s now caring for (no more kicking a soccer ball!). A walked in like a celebrity (although he was a little shy). All the other nannies were thrilled to see him. She was too, and yes, we will have dinner. Because, really, one can’t have too many “grandmothers,” can they?