The imminent departure of our early morning babysitter necessitated a search for a suitable replacement two weeks ago. About a dozen women responded to our advertisement on a caregiver website. We set up a few appointments with the white women who applied, and then we received a response from a woman of color, a determination we could make from her profile picture. For the reasons outlined in my previous posts, we would ideally like to hire a person of color for our children. We jumped at the chance to set up an appointment with this woman, Miss S, and she graciously agreed to come by two days later. The morning of the meeting though, she emailed me to say she couldn’t make that evening’s appointment. I wrote her back immediately, asking if she wanted to reschedule. We never heard back. We felt defeated. Living where we do and our country being segregated in the ways it is–housing, economics, education, health care–we have had to go well beyond our personal boundaries and social circles to find caregivers who will provide a reflection of our kids’ outer and inner selves. Clearly Miss S did not meet the latter criterion, but we felt like the carrot that had dangled in front of us was too quickly snatched away.
We then met with Miss E, a lovely young Brazilian au pair from São Paulo. She seemed competent, interacted well with the kids, and even had some experience with African American hair in spite of her light complexion. Best of all, she is living with a family within walking distance of our home, and she daily begins work with them shortly after our morning stint ends. We also loved the idea of her speaking to the kids in Portuguese, helping them pick up a few words here and there.
This was followed by Miss M, a white woman from a neighboring town who conveyed herself as both experienced and strange. We were most put off by her list of references, which included a woman with merely a first name and last initial. By means of explanation, Miss M said, “She’s Indian and she has a really crazy last name that I could never remember.” M’kay, thank you…buh-bye.
Then we received an email from Miss N, a woman of color from a town about twenty minutes away. We set up an appointment with her, and she was lovely in disposition and appearance. She’s in her 40s and has an eight year old son (her mother has agreed to take him to school if she were to work with our kids in the morning). She had several years experience working in a preschool, and her references unflinchingly sang her praises when I contacted them. Miss N was hoping to find a part-time nannying job, and she felt our position was perfect because of our proximity to the commuter rail, which would provide her easy transportation back and forth with arrival and departure times perfect for our kids’ morning schedule.
We were torn between Miss E and Miss N, both of whom seemed especially reliable. The former would provide our children a diverse world perspective, while the latter would give us that added component of serving as an adult role model of color, something of which we feel our kids can never have too many. As my husband and I weighed the pros of each side, we opted for Miss N, thinking she had the potential of being a multi-year caregiver if things worked out.
I was sure we’d made the right decision when I called Miss N to offer her the job. “I’m just so happy!” she shouted into the phone. She seemed genuinely excited to be working with us and our kids, and we’re hopeful that she’ll be a great fit with our needs, a woman who will care for our kids by providing a structured and positive atmosphere to start their days. (She also agreed to give us four weeks’ notice if the mere two hours a day and travel time didn’t pan out for her, which we think has been an unnamed deal breaker for others.)
This week we’ll bid adieu to Miss T, and next week we’ll welcome Miss N into our home. We’ll keep our fingers crossed that the stars will align, that two dads in suburbia will grow increasingly comfortable handing our children over to a relative stranger who will help our kids feel safe and happy.