Wednesday, March 29, 2006

the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world

So the thing about Florida is that it was actually pretty cold. Not cold in the absolute sense, but relatively cold, with temps in the 70s instead of the 80s like usual at this time of year. Apparently there was some sort of "cold air front" (or insert equivalent meteorological justification here) moving through the area during the EXACT three days that we were there. Luckily, it warmed up just in time for our departure, making it a very nice walk from the cab into the terminal at the airport. But, as you can see, at least it was sunny. And the hotel was very nice and we ate lots of good food and Cal had a good time. So who cares if I had to wear a sweater?


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(Before we start this next part, I would like to warn everyone that we will be talking about our nanny. We call her our "nanny" because that's part of the lingo 'round these parts for "full time home daycare giver," but that's just semantics. But for some reason, the word "nanny" seems to incite ire in many, and seems for some reason to be emblematic of a culture where people cannot be bothered with raising their own children. See: "I would never get a nanny, I want to be a hands-on mom," sniffs Miss Britney Spears, prior to popping out her kidlet, and also, apparently, prior to actually hiring a nanny. So whatever, for some reason, the word "nanny" is loaded in this modern day warzone of competitive parenting, so if you're going to say something scathing about how COLD and UNFEELING and BOURGEOISE we are for hiring someone to help watch out kid while we go to work, rest assured that I have already ANTICIPATED such comments and therefore you can save yourself the energy of actually typing it out. De nada!)

Today's topic is what to do when someone has your nuts in a vise. We got back from vacation to an answering machine full of messages, one of which was our nanny Georgia calling to say hi and conversationally mention that she has been working for us for more than six months and therefore wants a pay raise, and also, by the way, the raise that she wants is 10% of her current salary.

Now, when we hired Georgia, we had talked about a pay raise system, but for a yearly raise, meaning to take effect on July 1st, not a raise every six months. The reason is because Joe and I get a yearly raise as we move up in residency every July, and since we already contribute one full salary in this two salary household towards paying for childcare, we can't really give Georgia a raise until we get a raise ourselves. The second thing is that a 10% raise is a lot. It is a lot, and it is more of a raise than we are each getting from the hospital, though between the two of us, we should just be able to cover it. Joe was more than a little peeved that she was so matter-of-fact in asking for such a large raise (I think the fact that she left the demand as a message on the answering machine was what bugged him most of all), but I'm more of the mind that look, this is the woman who takes care of Cal while we're away at work for 12 hours a day. She cares about him and has known him since the day he was born and he lights up when he sees her in the morning. Forget principles and propriety and the occasional questionable interpersonal dynamic. It's best for Cal if she stays with us. And if it means scraping together every bit of cash that we have to pay her, for me, it's worth the peace of mind to know that our kid is safe and happy and cared for during the day.

But basically, she has our nuts in a vise. Whatever she wants, we really can't say no, because we really don't have a good backup plan if she walks. No daycare is open early enough for us to drop Cal off before we go to work, and few if any other people would be willing to come to work as early as Georgia does for us to leave for the hospital on time. We could get a live-in person, but lord, aside from the awkwardness of having someone LIVING IN YOUR HOUSE, how the hell do you find someone that you trust? With your home? With your KID? We're not totally without options, but the options that we have are very, very limited.

So we'll give her the raise she wants. But not until July 1st, because we can't financially swing it until then. And when it comes down to it, we'll give her everything else that she wants too. Because what else can we do? We need her to stay. We have no leverage. And until she actually demands something that we absolutely cannot support (a three-day work week, for example, or a 200% raise and a car) the specter of her leaving us in the lurch is a real one, while the possibility of us letting her go and being able to find another nanny is almost entirely theoretical.

(Oh, one more thing: for the inevitable handful of largely anonymous people that always pipe up to say that I shouldn't "complain," because, after all, I CHOSE to have a kid during residency, I CHOSE this life, so it's my own damn fault, I say this: the right choice is not always the easy one. And noting that a situation is difficult does not mean that I wish I had chosen differently. Also, have you ever complained about having too much work, or bitched about having to study for a midterm in college? Well, you shouldn't have, because AFTER ALL, you CHOSE to go to college, didn't you? In fact, you should never ever note that anything is difficult, or vexing, ever, because AT LEAST YOU'RE ALIVE. Alrighty, sorry about that, with the caps and all, but you know how sometimes you can just see the comments pouring in even before you post? Just thought I'd deal a preemptive explanation. Not that it ever works, but sometimes I like to try anyway.)

Also, to further quell any possible rancor, here is an adorable picture of baby bunnies in teacups. Babies! Bunnies! IN TEACUPS! Rancor...fading.




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OK, push out the jive, bring in the love. Today, between running other errands, we finally headed on down to the new Trader Joe's that opened a few weeks ago near Union Square. A month ago, I really had no idea what Trader Joe's was (I actually thought it was "Traitor Joe's" the first time I heard it mentioned in conversation--like, who is this Joe, and who did he betray?) but had some vague notion that, like many California imports (see: Jamba Juice, Peet's Coffee, Scientology) it was some sort of a cult. So far I have not been proven wrong. We actually tried to go to the new Trader Joe's two weekends ago, but we couldn't get in. Because there was a line. Around the block. For a GROCERY STORE. Screw you, velvet rope! We left. But still, I was curious as to what kind of a grocery store inspires such an ardent following. Also, we need food. Hence the trip down there today. I just hoped that it would not be some sort of vegan food store full of Soy Nuggets and Nutmeat Salads (though I would enjoy pointing to the word "nutmeat" printed on the sign and snickering. Snerk.)

So, now I know. If Costco and Whole Foods got married, their child would be Trader Joe's. I wouldn't necessarily go there to stock up on my staples, but we did manage to get the requisite bananas and yogurt for Cal's food larder, and picked up a couple of interesting items for ourselves in the form of some prepared meals and snack foods. I just didn't see anything in there that was that insanely good, though, certainly not enough to justify the stories I'd heard of grown men driving four hours each way to stock up on some hard-won specialty item, like peanut butter-filled pretzels or chili-lime flavored cashew nuts. (These were items specifically mentioned in the New York Times article that ran when the store first opened, and I tried them both. Meh. Pretty good, but like I said, not mind-blowing.) Maybe I'm missing the really good stuff, though. Do you shop at Trader Joe's? And if so, what do you like to get there? So far, the only thing I can really pin down to get next time is a box or two of Trader O's, which will hopefully be a suitable proxy for the, uh, name brand O-shaped oat cereal we're currently shelling out for.

Currently watching:
"Flightplan." Well, not at this instant, but my sister lent me the DVD, and I may try and watch it tonight. I heard this movie was kind of bad, but Jodie Foster is all pretty and whatnot, so who cares.

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