My friend Yvette is about as calm as can be. Her life got really complex a few months ago, however. After several years living abroad and moving around the world, her husband’s work in dangerous countries came to an end — rather rapidly. They had to leave their base country quickly and move back, with their two children, to the States.
Now, they own a home in Washington, D.C., but they had to give the renters time to leave. So they were living out of suitcases at a friend’s house. They had to find new jobs. They had to enroll their children in schools. And they had to find a live-in nanny. And everything had to be done very, very quickly. They went through one of those sites that promises to do a background check and they hired a young woman who interviewed well and had a great resume. The parts I remember most were that she’d been to cooking school and she described herself as a neat-freak.
Yet from the moment they all moved in together, things never seemed quite right. Within a few weeks, differing standards of cleanliness were a huge issue. When she left for Christmas vacation, my friends found her room was already more like a sty.
They’d already talked to her about how she left candles going in her room with nothing underneath them to catch the wax. But while she was gone, they discovered that she kept — in her room — many dirty dishes with rotting food on them. Some were under her bed. Some were under her clothes. Candle wax was found on the baseboards, walls, carpet. She’d left the space heater on — for days. Her window was also wide open. There was broken glass on the bathroom floor. And the worst part? I can barely write it — there were used tampon applicators under the bed.
I honestly encouraged them to fire her then and there. But my friends discussed the condition of the room with her upon her return and she said she’d work to improve the situation. They’d have to ask her every once in a while about dishes that had disappeared but they’d reappear within a few hours. But they kept having to have conversations about standards for the house.
As for her cooking, well, Yvette caught her twice trying to serve the children raw chicken. Must have been some cooking school! She also had an accidental kitchen fire and had trouble making brownies out of the box. Which is not the end of the world, of course.
There were other problems, though. Sometimes her stories about a given event didn’t line up with what the kids said. Yvette’s oldest, in particular, is a natural-born truth teller. And yet the nanny would accuse her of lying. And the nanny would lie about things she didn’t need to lie about. One morning she arrived home from a date shortly before it was time to get the kids ready for school. She claimed she’d just come back from a run.
Another night she came home late from a date and left the front door unlocked. No big deal except that they don’t live in the safest neighborhood and, oh yeah, the police had been to the house the night prior because someone had tried to break in to the house through the windows. Even the window break in was not enough to keep the nanny from keeping her windows open when she left the house. One time she left the windows wide open and had the air conditioner on high. In Winter.
It wasn’t all bad. The nanny did the basics of her job fine. She made breakfast for the kids and took them to school and picked them back up. She was pleasant and open to correction. My friends wanted things to work out.
Last week my friend, on a whim, Googled her nanny’s given name (different than the one she goes by). She doesn’t know why she did it, exactly. She says she always felt that there was something wrong with her nanny’s license. The nanny acted very nervous when she gave it to my friend, who needed to photocopy it for the children’s school as they keep records on who is picking up children if it’s not a parent.
The first link was to something about how the nanny been arrested. Now, many people have been arrested, but my friend kept clicking on other links. She saw that the nanny had been arrested for “operating under suspension,” meaning her license had been suspended. Yvette called the state DMV to find out how to find out if someone’s license is suspended. They said they could tell her if they have the person’s name and birth date. The response? The nanny’s license was still suspended.
I don’t know about other states, but in Washington, D.C., if you’re pulled over while driving with a suspended license, you get arrested on the spot and your car is impounded. My friend began imagining her kids in the back of a cop car as the nanny gets hauled off to jail.
Yvette went home and had a sit-down talk with her immediately. The license had been suspended for failure to pay fines for moving violations. She’d also been busted in a shoplifting sting. Still, the nanny said she was surprised to find out her license was still suspended. She’d thought her parents had taken care of it. Long story short: they hadn’t. And they won’t. They paid her bail but they’re not going to pay anything else.
So the nanny was let go. My friend says she’s learned a few lessons. For one, don’t outsource background checks to a nanny service. They may not do what they promise. For another, trust your gut. My friend always suspected that there was a problem with the driver’s license.
Finally, my friend says “in the end, our nanny is what she is. I can’t be angry at her. It’s just that she’s a bad fit for our family.”