I live in Los Angeles, which is not a normal place to live. I once had to sit across from Minnie Driver in a Mommy and Me music class and pretend that she wasn’t Minnie Driver. It wasn’t the worst experience in the world (she’s a very lovely woman), but pretending that Minnie Driver isn’t Minnie Driver isn’t something you have to do often if you live in, say, Duluth.
But not everyone who lives in L.A. is rich and famous (for example: me), but rich people are just freakin’ everywhere. And honestly, most rich people aren’t even assholes. I know some mighty nice monied folks. But money can occasionally result in a startling lack of awareness, like when rich people humblebrag about shopping at Target or doing their own dishes.
When I first became a mom and didn’t know yet that I didn’t have to be friends with every mom with a same-aged kid, I sat through a lot of circle time discussions about how to deal with “the help” even though I had no help. “Can you believe that you have to give nannies vacation time and pay them for it?” Oh, wait. I just remembered something worse than humblebrags about Target: when rich people brag about how little they pay the help. That is the worst. I have been instructed to “hire an illegal because they’re sooooo cheap” or — I can’t even believe someone said this, but they did — ”Make sure you hold onto their passport so they can’t run off.”
But I digress. The point is that many people in Los Angeles have money and that leads the people here who don’t have money to be…jealensive. Yes, jealensive. Jealensive, like in the conversations I’ve had many times with my similarly situated friends about “even if I had money I wouldn’t…” or “money can’t buy taste.” We say those things because we are burning with jealousy. And we are defensive because raising your kids without much money in a land where everyone has money can make you feel negligent for not being able to supply your children with even a single item of Burberry clothing. Not even a raincoat. And it doesn’t even matter that I don’t want any Burberry stuff. I just feel bad that it’s not an option…so I am jealensive.
And so it is that I have a bipolar perspective on childcare and stay-at-home moms. I have known so many stay-at-home moms who employ full-time nannies. Many of them are my friends and honestly, I get it and I would have done the same if I had the cash. But also: jealensive RAGE. Take typical rich Angeleno, television host/Parents blogger Jill Cordes. She can hardly write two sentences before I’m fantasizing about smacking her smug face and yet, in fundamental ways, she’s not wrong.
Here’s the first few sentences from a post last year about hiring a full-time nanny after her second child was born:
I’m not ashamed to say that I now have a full-time nanny. Cleo started part time, with the understanding that we go full time once Emmett arrived. She is an amazing woman with a heart of gold. She is honest as the day is long. She is head over heels in love with my babies. She takes care of me too.
“Honest as the day is long”? “Head over heels?” “Heart of gold”? Really? Does a rose by any other cliché smell as cliché cliché cliché? Also, saying she’s “not ashamed” is tantamount to saying “suck it, bitches! I gots me a nanny!”
But she goes on to say, “Having Cleo is also preventing me from falling into the ‘mom martyr complex,’ which I’ve seen some of my friends do.” People, that shit is real real. And I am speaking from personal experience as one of the afflicted. My children started going to school during the day just a month ago and I am deep in the process of shedding the shell of resentment I built up during the four years that I stayed home with them (while also working!) without any help.
To be clear, I don’t resent my kids. They are the jam. And being a mom is the jammiest jam in all of jamdom! I am hella into this shit. But it is crazy hard to take care of kids all day, which is why many stay-at-home-parents who can afford to hire nannies do so. I get it. I spent a lot of my time as a SAHM frustrated, then guilty for being frustrated, then frustrated by my frustration and so on. For the price of a nanny, those parents get to buy their way out of all that frustration and I would have done it if I could have. But I couldn’t. And most parents who stay at home can’t. And it’s certainly a non-issue for working parents because work.
I really, really, really want to get sanctimonious about how I did it without a nanny and THEY SHOULD TOO, but that’s me being jealensive. However, that said, the last few years would have gone entirely differently for me if I lived in a country with universal, state-funded preschool. Now, important note here: universal preschool is not the same as MANDATORY preschool, just as public elementary school is not mandatory. Parents can choose to homeschool or unschool or whatever they want, and many do for a variety of reasons and it works out great for them. Should Obama’s promised universal preschool ever come to fruition, no one would ever be forced to send their child to preschool. Ever. As it should be in a free country. Woot! Freedom! Right, Free Your Kids?
Dude, I want free kids too, but WTF is up with the linked article being called “Will Obama’s national daycare get your child duct taped to the wall?” Nooooo, that’s not inflammatory at all. I’m sure that it’s totally reliable journalism and not “an horrendous” bulleted list that wouldn’t even make it past a Fox News editor.
If anything, all the horrors detailed in the article are an argument for an improved childcare system with better oversight, because heck yeah, the current system is the shamefully dysfunctional result of a country so obsessed with self-sufficiency that it leaves parents with childcare options that are only a little bit better than adopting a rottweiler named Carl to take their kid around on his back to the park, to play in the snow and on a boatride (don’t worry, he can put on lifejackets with his teeth). But sure. Let’s let one case of a sadistic asshole serve as an argument against improving the system. Rottweilers for everyone!
A commenter named Heather had some thoughts on the matter:
Avert your eyes. I’m going to talk to Heather directly for a sec.
Hi, Heather. My name is JJ. Nice to meet you. If you’re not a fan of daycare it’s probably because the current system is rife with underpaid workers, poor government oversight and myriad other problems. However, not only do some parents like to work, but many, even some who aren’t down to their very last option, need to work. And when they do so, they’re still raising their kids. Daycare is just daycare. But kudos to you for arbitrarily defining the norm and giving yourself a pat on the back for eschewing the thinking of those daycare-lovin’ simpletons. Protip, though: if you are stepping out from the norm, you’re moving to the part of the bell curve with the lowest ceiling, where it would likely be the stuffiest. Under the middle of the bell curve, with all the sheep, that’s where the fresh air is in this metaphor. Also, I do not even mean this to sound judgmental AT ALL, but you sound like an asshole. Sorry. It’s just a perspective thing. And, dude, even Carl’s been to daycare.
Bless her heart, Jill Cordes came back to her readers earlier this year with an admission she’d been sitting on for a few months: she let her nanny go. Jill says, “I won’t go into all the reasons. But the main reason was her complete inability to get here on time.” I’m not going to say what I think of what Jill writes next. But I will say that she is basically the argument against everything from capitalism to white people. Like when she says of her 50-year-old El Salvadorian former nanny, “she became my project.”
Jill goes on to say, “I’m looking forward to 2013 knowing we’ll have loads of adventures. Even if ‘adventure’ means a trip to the grocery store with both babes in tow (something that 6 months ago sounded impossible to me…).” And now I’m back to being jealensive. To be sure, taking two little kids to the grocery store sucks and is difficult. Trust me, I did all the grocery shopping when I had two-under-two and when I had two toddlers. That shit can be rough. But impossible it ain’t. (However Jill, if you can’t handle it, Carl’s available for shopping. Maybe call him? A rottweiler would make a great “project” because he’s a dog and not a fucking human being. Just sayin’.)