Thursday, August 21, 2014

Nanny up

Let's play catch-up, shall we?  In Lagerfeld news, I am now:
  • responsible for an entire family in the Philippines
  • preparing for two major job interviews next week (5 person panel, 1.5 hours long)
  • trying to extricate myself out of the daily doings of the house after a year of Casa Lagerfeld-Dotytron being my own personal fiefdom
  • packing up 5 year's worth of ephemera from the basement, to be stored at Momma D's house
  • re-organizing Momma D's basement to prepare it for the graceful acceptance of said ephemera
  • making a quilt for my new fav lil' baby in the universe (Dr. Rei had a baby!  He is the cutest chicken in the universe!)
  • preparing to go back to work in T minus 22 days
  • trying to squeeze the marrow out of these last two weeks of summer

Our nanny started this week, part-time, as part of her introduction period.  She will be full-time as of next week.  The process of hiring a nanny was a little stressful (HUGE UNDERSTATEMENT ALERT!), given that it happened during renovations (more on that later, I've still got post-traumatic stress), and while we were coming off living with my outlaw mom.  Unlike the adage, you really CAN'T go home again.  Living in someone else's home, while they're there, for an extended period of time (we were there for four weeks), with three kids, under any circumstance is going to be trying.  Momma D is lovely, but she was sick during that time frame, and I was trying to project manage a major renovation, and you know, I HAVE THREE KIDS AND TWO OF THEM ARE TWIN INFANTS.  There's just no way to be graceful about things in that scenario, especially when your partner is working full-time and DJing a million high school proms and winding down the school year.  

To give you a sense of how desperately we wanted to be home, I moved back in, WITH THREE KID AND TWO OF THEM ARE TWIN INFANTS, into a house that had no working: fridge, stove, shower, and the only running water was in the upstairs bathroom sink.  

I'm going to let that sink in for a moment.

For about a solid week, we were trooping to our neighbour's houses and having showers there (imagine a family of five, showing up bedraggled on your doorstep with towels - reason #58971005200 why I live on the best street in the world) and I was taking our dishes to be washed at their houses.  But we were still HOME.  

Anyway, I signed up for one of those Facebook-for-caregivers sites ( and put up an add.  Out of the 20+ replies, I ended up finding about 3 people to interview off of there, and 1 person who was referred from this Facebook twins page I'm part of (the awkwardly acronymed TPOMBA - Toronto Parents of Multiple Births Association), and one which was a referral from a nanny I knew and admired from one of our local drop-in centres.

We literally Googled a list of "interview questions for nannies" and I worked a million hours on spreadsheets to figure out what we could afford to pay.  Here is (one of the ways) where having THREE KIDS AND TWO OF THEM ARE TWIN INFANTS screws you:

1) I need to pay for 3 kids in care, 2 of whom are infants (daycares traditionally charge more for infants)
2) The Canadian government offers a child care tax credit of $7000 per child, per calendar year.  This credit reduces the taxable income of the lower wage earner in your family.  Whereas some people can afford to pay their nanny, part-time wages on the books and top up the rest with cash (an arrangement that works out well for both parties), the amount of "on the books" money I have to have each year is $21000 - which is basically someone's minimum wage salary.  
3) Some people can share a nanny, so that their monthly expenses are say, $2000 for childcare but the nanny is taking home $4000 (an arrangement that works out well for all parties), but because I have three kids, no one is going to share with me, so we are on the hook on our own.

Basically, I'm getting owned here.  Because we are two civil servants making middle-class wages, it's not like we have a lot of room, here.  We live in Toronto.  We couldn't offer a lot of money, and then you have to factor in that as an employer, doing everything above board, we have to deduct the employee's portion of CPP, EI, federal/provincial tax, etc. (which hurts the nanny's bottom line) and then we have to pay the employer's portion of all of the above, and quarterly WSIB to boot, which hurts our bottom line.  

To compound matters, we found that a lot of our interviewees or people we contacted liked to discuss a net hourly wage (so, I expect to be making $15/hour after tax, based on a 44 hour work week), which means that I was basically killing myself on the government's payroll deductions online calculator page figuring out different models of gross versus net wages for the nanny, plus what our actual monthly would be, once you factor in our portion of the taxes, etc.  Finally, I talked to a neighbour and he said that he experienced similar when hiring their nanny and finally put his foot down.  It's not the employer's responsibility to figure out your take-home income.  You get offered an hourly and you either accept or you don't.

At the end of the process, we found a lovely woman who has wonderful references (an old high school friend of mine who lives nearby nearly hired her himself) and is sweet and warm and loving and patient and also has her own ideas about childcare practices and believes in open communication.  After hanging with her for a half day yesterday, I truly feel we made the right decision and I hope she stays with us.  

It is a very difficult situation when you hire a nanny from the Philippines.  Our nanny has an 11 year old son who she hasn't lived with since he was one and a half.  ONE AND A HALF.  Instead, she has spent the past ten years looking after other people's kids.  She hasn't been able to afford to go back home more than 3 times in that span.  The Dotytron and I are committed to making it so that we can buy her a plane ticket home every year, if not every other year.  

One of the things we could offer that we thought would be a plus in our negotiations with prospective nannies was the fact that we could do a tonne of paid time off, with the Dotytron's teaching schedule.  So we offered 3 weeks paid vacation and a week of paid sick days, with more paid vacation available if they were willing to take that time during the summer when the Dotytron is off, to offset our slightly lower wages.  In our experience, nannies from the Philippines were less interested in time off.

Our nanny is also supporting her husband and her aging parents and has no siblings.  Her elder sister passed away in a car crash so she's also responsible for her sister's 4 kids.  SO OBVIOUSLY I SLEEP WELL AT NIGHT WITH THAT INFORMATION.  I now know a LOT about the consumer price index in the Philippines the Philippine-Canadian exchange rate.  One of the reasons we hired her is because she was looking for employers who would treat her like family.  We really really like her and she lives close by and I want to be able to help her in any way I can.  

 Last week we spent about 4 days at the Executive Director of my work's cottage.  I spent a good portion of those four days screaming, "DON'T. TOUCH. THAT!!!" The cottage is beautiful.  It was built in 1957 and is as charming as you would expect.  It feels like a home and is charming and individual.  It's on a lake that remains shallow for like, 40-50 feet off from the shore, and the cottages are all fronted with sandy beach.  Perfect for the kids (minus inevitable sand consumption).  We had one glorious day of sunshine and then it was rainy and cool, but honestly, our summer has been so bucksauce and filled with stress and socializing that it was nice to be holed up at a cottage with just my immediate family.  We loved it.


Finally, big things going in haircut news.

The Quincess has had some unfortunate, wispy, old man, Doc from Back to the Future hair for a while now (see below).  SMckay did some shaping and now he's looking way more legit.

SMckay also gave the Big Yam the same haircut as Sosuke from Ponyo (so, the classic Asian boy haircut) and it's the best.  He looks so freakin' cute!

Gotta go and make sure inflation is holding steady in the Philippines.


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