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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Barren Advice: Thirty

This is the 30th installment of Barren Advice. You can ask questions that are fertility or non-fertility related.

Barren Advice is posted each Tuesday-ish. If you have your own question for Barren Advice, click here to learn how to submit. Please weigh in with your own thoughts in the comment section and indicate which question you're addressing if there are multiple questions in the post.

Dear Mel:

At what point do you stop trying to repair a relationship, and just move on? What if this relationship is with someone you've hired to care for your child?

The situation in brief is: my babysitter e-mailed me that she was quitting, because she disagrees with how we're putting V. to sleep. She's been trying to do it our way but has been very frustrated. We've been e-mailing back and forth about it since Friday. I'm waiting to hear from her whether she's willing to give it another shot, making some compromises but not doing it her way (15-min CIO), but at the same time I'm wondering whether the relationship will be sustainable in the long run if we have such philosophical differences.

It's like, do you quit the RE who proposes a plan you don't feel right about?


I always believe in listening to others; especially if they're adamant. Who knows--they may make a really good point and make me see the world from an entirely new angle. You can pick up advice in places where you least expect it. But I listened to your babysitter, and she didn't change my mind.

You're the parent, you make the rules.

This is not to say that there can't be differences in the way you do things or rules that apply when they're with some people and not with others. But those changes need to still reflect your overall philosophy and how you put your child to sleep--one of the first ways we nurture a child--is usually tied to a larger picture of how you want to be as a parent or what you believe works best for your family.

In other words, our twins can have an extra sugar when they're with grandma because complete hedonism is part of our family philosophy (I'm joking...but only a bit...there is only so much joking in my joking), but they can't break kashrut. It just isn't allowed in our family and anyone who wishes to be alone with our children needs to respect that. It is too hard to teach a child the basics of life when they are getting conflicting information. I can't expect them to keep kosher if they don't see the point of it and I can't expect them to see the point of it if we only follow it when it's convenient. Or if they only follow it here or there. It is just too important to our family's overall philosophy to let that one change from caregiver to caregiver.

Sleep training is very similar--it's something that you are teaching your child. So it is understandable that you want consistency. And it sounds as if your feelings about sleep training are tied to an overall family philosophy. In addition, from your blog posts, you sound far from inflexible but you also sound like you've given this a lot of thought without dismissing the babysitter outright. In other words, you heard how she wants to put your child down for a rest, considered it, and decided that it didn't really work right now with your family.

And that decision should be respected. She is free to quit, but she isn't free to give you advice on everything from the way she likes to do sleep training (if it differs greatly from your method) to which toys she believes you should be buying to how you set up your home. She gets to do all of those things in her own life, but she doesn't get to go into another home and tell them how to run it. The only exception to this thought would be if you were doing something that was physically or emotionally detrimental to your child, and this, of course, is a slippery spot. I am talking about things that would fall under the guidelines of CPS (child abuse or neglect) and not differences in parenting.

It's funny that you used the example of an RE because when you hire an RE (because that's what you're doing when you use his clinic), you are asking someone with specific knowledge to fix a specific problem. The RE should be focusing on your ovaries, uterus, fallopian tubes--he should not be focusing on your marriage, cooking advice, or what he thinks of your wardrobe. At the same time, you may have opinions on how he should do his job, but ultimately, what you are paying for is his expertise and therefore, you should take his advice because he knows more than you on the topic. Plumbers work on pipes and not in doling out commentary on your choice of wall paper. Interior decorators should be concerned with the choice of wall paper but not with the contents of your refrigerator and your caloric intake. Most of the people you will hire have specific knowledge that you are paying to access.

But here's where the analogy fails--a babysitter is there to fill a need rather than fix a problem. The need is that there must be someone at all times with the child and if it isn't going to be you, it needs to be a replacement you. The babysitter is not hired for her expertise (and with the exception of a sleep trainer or Super Nanny, is not there to fix a specific problem), but for a very specific reason--she can replicate you. She can provide nurturing as you provide nurturing; she can provide education as you provide education; she can provide safety as you provide safety. Which is why I have a deep respect for babysitters, nannies, and caregivers--they are the parents when the parents cannot be there.

Lest I sound like a hardass just with hired babysitters, I want to reinterate that I feel this way about anyone you trust with the care of your child from five minutes to five days a week. It doesn't matter if they're friends or family or someone you hired from a nanny agency--everyone should want to know about how you do things and should want to work with you rather than against you in raising your child. They can be the nicest person who knows how to entertain children for hours with origami butterflies and making macaroni-and-cheese from scratch. But those things are secondary--I'd rather have someone that I trust will be forwarding the core beliefs of our family or the necessary rules than someone who is going to teach me how to be a parent. And this isn't to say that we can't learn from one another and pick up tips from babysitters or other parents. But once you've weighed the advice and decided that it doesn't work for you, everyone should be respecting your decision.

If she believes that your family isn't working, it isn't her place to fix it. It is her place to match with a family where everyone works well together. I think Super Nanny has gone to some people's heads, but truly, unless you are asking for advice in terms of core parenting issues, she should not be weighing in on the main issues: food, sleep, and discipline. And therefore, even though there are drawbacks in changing caregivers--major drawbacks that need to be considered too--weigh the drawbacks against your feelings on your core beliefs and see which one weighs heavier.

No really, the beauty of a blog advice column is that you get to weigh in with your two cents too. Let the questioner know if you support the advice, add to the response, or dispute it completely.

Leave a comment in the reaction box below--only keep in mind that conflicting advice is embraced and rudeness is not. Want to ask your own question? Click here to see what you need to send in order to be included in a future Tuesday's installment of Barren Advice


Lynn and Mike said...

I have been following your blog for about a week now- I was lead to the blog by a friend. I thank you for all your postings and the resources that are helping to make my struggle with infertiltiy much easier to navigate. I also can't wait for the release of you book. THANK YOU!!!

Julia said...

Ha! My MIL could so stand to read this. But she won't, cause 1) I am not suicidal enough to leave her breadcrumbs to my layer, and 2) she won't get it. We've been saying this for years, and she doesn't get it. Bitter? Who, me?

Elizabeth said...

Thanks, Mel! You're right about the breakdown in the analogy; I was thinking the same thing the other day. Where I do see a comparison is in that you need a professional and stranger to come into what are usually private spaces in your life.

I'm feeling like the situation isn't working, for the reasons you say - you put it so clearly and concisely. But now that I've wooed her back, I'm chickenshit to let her go... I've never fired anyone... I would want to do it in such a way that I wouldn't feel awkward about running into her on campus (yes, she is a college student).

Thanks for dealing with my question on your blog!

Jen said...

As a former babysitter, all I have to say is what? I did what the parents wanted, end of story. I was their employee. Also, I went to your blog and read a bit. I babysat for a baby that didn't want to nap and I did nothing other than carry him around the house, bouncing him, for the whole four hours his mother was gone. Se's been hired to watch the baby. Who cares if she has to go in every twenty minutes to put her back down? Baby care is what you are paying her to do. (I say as I type this with one hand, holding my non-napping baby in the other arm.)

lassie said...

I totally agree with Mel. An employer who considers advice given by an employee is open minded and probably a good employer. The babysitter should count herself lucky that she was heard. Advice given should be a jumping off point for discussion and thought, not a directive from employee to employer.

I could go on, but Mel said it best.
You're the parent, you make the rules.

areyoukiddingme said...

The bigger problem I see is that it is so hard to find someone you trust to care for your child. Once you do find someone who is perfect in every other way, you find yourself wondering how far you have to bend in order to retain that person. Then you essentially become hostage to the babysitter. It's her way, or she quits and you are left hanging. So, I would say, if you've gone to the trouble of luring her back, fine, but start interviewing new candidates who are willing to work with you.

caitsmom said...

I'm all for listening and learning, but it's important to always defer to the parent. So, you're the mom! It sounds like you've been listening and thinking carefully about this. I wish you the best of luck. I can't help but think that if you sever the relationship, it should (we hope) be understood that it's because it's what's best for your child. Not everyone gets that, but frankly, I think that's their problem.


Guera! said...

The babysitter should do what the parents request unless there is abuse involved. The babysitter is wrong in the case and out of line.

Geohde said...

My two cents would be that if the babysitter doesn't like how YOU raise YOUR kids, then unless you're doing something illegal or abusive, which you're not, it's none of their beeswax. They're paid for a service, not to tell you how to raise your own kids.

Sigh. That hit a bit of a nerve with me because it seemes that everybody seems to think they have the right to butt in on how to raise my twins. A: they don't, they're MY babies and B: they never had multiples, and it is different.

COming back to the point- new babysitter :)


Princess Jo said...

Ok: I am coming here as a long term childcare worker (I have worked in childcare centres, been a nanny, and babysat), and also as not yet a Mum.

I have always approached my work with the perspective that those children are not mine, and the parents have ultimate say in how their kids are raised. I completely agree with everything you have had to say.

Interestingly enough but, I am from the other side as well as I have had a few run-ins with the family I had babysat for the past 3 years up until recently. This was a family whose children had often stayed with me overnight: and additionally the parents were close friends of my partner and I. All childcare was unpaid: and just done out of the goodness of our hearts: we loved having those kids!

Recently however the cracks began to show. They recently slammed the gates on our friendship, in a very accusatory way...a lot of jealousy of the relationship we had with their children, and a lot of nasty, hurtful and just plain false things were said to (and about) my husband and I. Like I said, I am ok with following parental instruction (eg: they are very big into controlled crying, but I am completely against it: so therefore, I compromised on it and carried out their wishes to the best of my ability: even though I am no tough nut and did break down eventually on occasion): however even I baulked when the kids started being told that they couldn't tell us that they loved us: only "liked" us. And having my husband being accused of changing their daughter's nappy on the word of a 4 yr old, really topped the cake (we have a strict nappy changing policy, partially on their request, partially because of our own firm beliefs on the topic).

All my other childcare experiences have been extremely happy and successful ones (and in some cases, I am still in contact with the families). And sadly, this babysitting experience has put a sour taste in my mouth and I am not sure whether or not I will return into that realm which is my passion.

So yes, I guess I am here to say: please go easy on us: we are doing the best job we can. And, in turn, we will more than respect you and the way you want your child or children raised. Most of us don't think we have it all figured out: in fact, more often than not, we go along with your advise (against our better judgement, thoughts and opinions at times), simply because they are your children: and that you do know better than us because of that. I am just sorry, Elizabeth that you haven't found that.


Jendeis said...

Wanted another sugar, but then I got fingerboarded. You know how it goes...

Chickenpig said...

Everything you said, Mel, and then some. My mother baby sits for me from time to time, she's my mom, AND she has reached Super Nanny status by having her Master's degree in early childhood ed, and over 35 years experience in the field. Even with all of her knowledge and experience, and the fact that she is my mom, she would never dream of refusing to babysit just because I didn't do something her way, or followed her advice to the letter. And these are her GRAND kids we're talking about here...sometimes I wish she would jump in an help toilet train my kids. As she keeps reminding, me though, I am the parent.

The fact that this babysitter is only a college kid and she'd trying to push her own agenda is really troublesome to me. Even if her ideas are good ones, the fact that she is standing by them so strongly hints to me that she is too close to these kids. If I had a babysitter like this, even if she totally agreed with me 100% and did everything exactly as I wanted without question, I would want to have a serious talk with her. It seems that she is taking too much of a parenting role, in her own mind, which makes my skin crawl a teensy bit.

Eva said...

Well, I don't actually think a babysitter always should or have to do things the same as the parents. It's not practical, and it's not likely, and part of living in society is interacting differently with different people, and I think even little kids can learn that.

But it also depends on the caregiver. If it's some 15-year-old then I'll be more specific about how I want things done, but with my kid's in-home daycare provider, I don't even know HOW she does a lot of stuff, include get them to nap. I think she just tells them to lie down? But I don't know? And frankly I don't care. I hired this lady because I trust her with my child and her expertise.

If it's family that's more complicated, and if people feel strongly about the different techniques (CIO) that would also complicate things. But I don't think it's possible to be unilateral about care other people are providing. That's the price you pay for having a caregiver in place of you!

That said, I was a nanny, and I had to make the baby CIO, and I didn't like it, but frankly it WAS easier for me, so...okay. Put the kid in the room and walk away. It IS a job, so if the employer has strong opinions (esp, to me, on the topics of food and entertainment) you gotta respect that. But you're not working with a computer, you're working with kids, so some flexibility on everyone's part is in order.

Bea said...

A child carer is a complicated relationship. On the one hand, they're part of your family. On the other hand, they're family you get to choose. There is definitely a need for flexibility and listening to each other's advice/suggestions, but if you're not going to cohere as a family - I'd say that's the point to move on.

So, basically, I agree with Mel.


helen said...

SHE wants to make a unilateral decision to impose cry-it-out on YOUR child ?! (and therefore you, because it has ramifications for you too)

This is a HUGE difference in child-nurturing philosophy (where the final call is YOURS, not hers) and a massive overstepping on her part in both boundaries and expertise.

If a sitter/nanny tried this with my children, they'd be out of a job just like that.

And Elizabeth, I feel you on the awkwardness, but I think the potential discomfort of firing her and later seeing her around town/campus is far preferable than having her force your baby to cry it out, and force her philosophies on YOUR family. What a nerve.

Good luck!!