Catching a Cold

So I got an interview for the nanny job.

Depressing house. Even from the outside: there’s a sort of meanness about the front garden, utterly devoid of plant life and with a too small step up to an ugly front door that is split in two narrow parts so that not only I, who am very wide, but even the petite mum has to turn sideways to get in and out, and I am thinking about doing that several times a day with buggies and shopping and fractious children.

Inside, two boys. One is aged 5 and is watching tv. Chatting to him, I discover watching tv is one of the things he likes best. The other is 3. His mother excuses him: he has a cold. She also says that in the ad she had been ‘a bit light on details’ about his developmental issues for fear of putting people off. She goes on to explain that he suffers from a very rare condition that has a number of symptoms affecting just about every part of him. He has very poor vision but refuses to wear his specs. He also has epilepsy. She talks about administering medicine, and the need to restrain him. While talking to me she is offering him some food for his lunch. He is not interested. I notice that he doesn’t speak but grunts and waves his arms around. I imagine he gets very frustrated. I imagine she does. I imagine I would.

The parents are nice enough but I don’t really warm to them. They are remarkably matter of fact, verging on heartless: I guess this happens when people are dealing with long term afflictions. There is a bit of gallows humour. She seems weary and fed up and makes it plain that she prefers being at work to being with her children. The father also seems careworn, and says little.

Still, even while I am thinking ‘do I want this to be my office?’ and ‘do I want these children to be the people I spend my time with?’ and getting the answer ‘no, not really’ I am still also thinking ‘I could do this.’ Not just in a martyrish ‘I could help them all’ way; also because I want to make some money and the hours might suit.  Maybe I would go plum out of my mind. It’s just that, considering this job over the last couple of weeks has made me feel that doing the same for my own kids is about the only thing I ever did well.

We talk about hours and duties. OK. Though the house is a tip and I am not sure I fancy the ‘light housework.’  Then we talk about money. She is thinking £7-10 an hour. She makes the point that they’ve had many people wanting to do it for less and evidently settling for minimum wage to salve the conscience of the employers. This is, needless to say, a lot less than I get when I am working as a consultant. My day rate is about double what I would be getting for the shorter, term time weeks of this job. But at the moment I am getting nothing. The consulting people have not called for months and I can’t go on like this. I would rather know where I stand and have a regular income. This job wouldn’t be forever but it would start almost immediately and the money would help a lot.  Especially since my former husband is not only not paying child maintenance but is not even responding to requests to do so, and the spare rooms are still not rented and I am ineligible for tax credits.  In other words: nothing.

A couple of days later I get a polite rejection. They are confident that I would do a great job of looking after their children, but fear that if my consulting work took off it would put them in a tricky situation. I can see what they mean.

It was interesting, but all I really have to show for it is the little kid’s very nasty cold.  Now what?

 

Image: detail of the poster outside the Colour exhibition (about illuminated manuscripts) at the Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge.

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Florence Feynman

I am a middle aged, middle class woman, thinking.

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