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The Nanny

October 14, 2012

Do you all remember that sitcom, The Nanny?  It played for several seasons in the 90’s, starring Fran Drescher with the big hair and nasal, Jewish voice?  Funny, cheesy, sweet.  You remember the youngest daughter in that show?  She was in a movie called The Hand That Rocks the Cradle back in the early 90’s.  You know who else was in that movie?  Yours truly.  But, moving on…

We hired a nanny.  I actually don’t mean “we” as in Matthew and I, though I suppose that would also be correct.  I mean “we” as in me and Jocelyn, my fantastic Canadian friend and fellow MAF wife, also new mom to three-month-old Ruth.  We both wanted some help, especially since Jocelyn’s living situation is different than ours and she currently does not have anyone helping her like I do – she’s in an apartment, so she has sentinels and people who work on the landscaping, but they are not her employees and thus, cannot come in and do the dishes, for example.  Any new moms here, especially non-Congolese ones, are expected to have house help.  Her vegetable lady, Georgine, actually scolded her when she first got back after having Ruth, for not having some help right away!  However, neither of us wanted (or could afford) a full-time nanny/household worker.  

So, Jocelyn conducted the whole hiring process, since she actually speaks French and because the nanny would primarily be hers, in the hopes of many years of friendship ahead.  Through the grapevine, which is just how things work here, we knew of someone looking for work who was the sister of someone else who had worked for a MAF family and was very well liked.  She came and brought her youngest sister, who had just graduated from the equivalent of high school.  We eventually learned that we were actually hiring the youngest sister, who had never worked in a job like this before and wanted to be trained and to save up money to become a nurse.

This wasn’t what I expected.  I had expected, and mentally planned on, someone coming in who had done this before and simply needed to be told my methods and preferences and then, voila (see? there’s some French right there!), I get to go shopping without a care and spend time in the kitchen without interruption and Matthew and I could have date nights!

But, my expectations, as usual, were unfounded.  Though, I was not entirely disappointed.  See, I had two problems with hiring a nanny.  One: I already had plenty of house help.  There will be more on this in a upcoming post, but mainly, I already have several wonderful people who clean my floors, wash my dishes, take care of my animals, and any other little things that I see needing done.  I really didn’t need to pay someone else to do that.  Two: Guilt.  Of COURSE, I had guilt with pawning my adorable children on some unsuspecting Congolese person while I went shopping without a care and spent time in the kitchen without interruption.  I didn’t NEED to do that.  None of my American friends, whose lives are busier than mine, have nannies.  They can schlep their kids along shopping, though they can do so without worrying about getting caught in a sudden hours-long traffic jam or getting stopped by police officers for no reason.  They can have interruptions in the kitchen because chances are quite good that there will be power the rest of the day to continue baking at a time more convenient.  

Yes, I can verbally rationalize having a nanny here in Congo and taking my kids shopping here is still, truly, torture for us all, but I can also verbally rationalize eating an entire bag of Reeses cups (which, by the way, are NOT available here) but I would still feel guilty about doing so.

Thus, I came to realize that, instead of having an easy hand-my-children-off nanny experience, now I get to be a part of this young girl’s life and help form her into an experienced and highly recommended employee.  And, anyone who has ever trained anyone for the first time knows that their addition to the team is no time-saver for a long while, thus I would still require all of my house help while taking the time to train someone new.  Guilt free nanny, people!  

And now, we introduce Jocelyne.  It is not confusing at all to have two Jocelyn/Jocelynes.  Levi calls one Mama Jocelyn and the other Miss Jocelyne (said differently, too – JocyLEEN – because it’s Frenchy).  She is 20 years old, has five or six sisters and one brother.  She also happens to attend our church, so I have been seeing her each week since April and just never knew who she might become in our lives.  She sings beautifully in the youth choir.  She knows a few English phrases and enough English words that we aren’t totally talking past each other.  

She is GREAT with both kids and they fell in love with her right away.  Levi thinks she is so fun.  I will start working with her on how to say no to Levi, which is no easy task, let. me. tell. you.  But, it needs to be done.  Amelia is a fan, as well.  One area we’ve had to start working on right away is being on time.  It’s hard because, culturally, it’s not really important to be on time, so I think it’s really pushing her to expect it.  Jocelyn made sure to stress that it’s important to OUR culture, not that it’s personal to Jocelyne.  Jocelyn and I are trying to help her learn how to operate with Western employers, rather than change her culture, but it still wouldn’t be responsible if we just let it go due to cultural differences.  

Another perk is that she can work evenings.  Matthew and I can now be a part of a weekly evening Bible study.  We even recently went to support the MAF teens in their high school talent show – which was awesome and incredibly multicultural, though they all came together to do it Gangnam Style (the first time I’d heard of it…we are so out of touch…or old…ugh).

One day Jocelyne braided my hair.  We kept making fun of my mundele hair and how hard it is to braid.  It was definitely not my best look, but the picture I posted on facebook after taking them out was pretty epic.

(We’re currently dealing with some computer issues right now, so pictures had to be postponed…sorry.)

So, pray for Jocelyne and me and the kids.  Pray that we can be a helpful time of employment for her and that all will be benefitted.  Pray that I can figure out how to teach her through the language and cultural barriers!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 14, 2012 0829

    I totally agree with everything you said! I know it will be difficult to believe that needing house help is not a reflection of my lack of abilities, but a cultural responsibility!!!
    I can also always talk myself into eating a whole bag of Reese’s!!! 🙂
    Miss you guys, and you have to share about this “Hand That Rocks the Cradle” role you had!!!

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