The Nanny Spy

Being a “stay-at-home” mom (who doesn’t stay home that much) is still a bit strange. I’m out and about during the day, when so many people are at work. It’s kind of a nice time; the city feels much less crazy when most of its denizens are sitting at their desks.

However, it means I see the leftover folks, many of whom are “leftover” because they’re taking care of kids. Some of these people are moms like me. A smaller number are the dads, and I see a lot of both kinds in our own neighborhood as well as nearby ones — Noe Valley, Bernal Heights, the Mission — when we take walks. The rest are nannies, many of them non-Caucasian women pushing strollers stuffed with Caucasian kids, ages ranging from 6 months to 3 years or thereabouts.

You see them walking — as slowly as humanly possible — through these neighborhoods. Some are humming to the children in the stroller, or sitting with the child and doing something that actively engages them. Not all of these conversations are sound; I heard one nanny today telling her young charge that hyenas “didn’t exist anymore.” (I hope that boy learns otherwise before too long.)

Unfortunately, many others are not really engaging with the kids at all. They’re sitting on a bench somewhere, talking into a cell phone and absentmindedly handing their charge a toy/book/bottle/piece of food. I’ve heard about people who take nannying jobs so they can get other things done while the babies sleep. These are people who make nearly as much money as I used to make as a reporter (more, if they’re taking care of two kids, usually). You’d think they could at least make an effort.

I see so much objectionable behavior from local nannies that I’ve secretly fantasized about starting some kind of Private Eye business where moms hire me to spy on their nannies during the day. You know, for $10 an hour I’ll tell you where she goes with your kid, what she does, and jot down the phone calls she makes — and the jist of what she talked about to the person on the other end.

I’m sure there are many fantastic nannies (we have a pretty great babysitter, I must say), and I’m sure that some of the ones I see out & about have their more-engaged and less-engaged moments, and it’s possible I’m seeing them in a bad moment. But I’ve also wished a few times that I could tell a mom or dad what I saw their nanny doing that day. Maybe this is a sign that I should mind my own business. :)

Speaking of which, we haven’t updated much because Laurel is working on much the same stuff we reported last time — pulling up to standing, over and over, all day long. After about six weeks of pulling up, she’s finally working on getting back down again. And she’s almost sitting up by herself these days, although not really getting into a sitting position on her own unless it’s to get down from a standing position and then scoot off to whatever has most recently caught her attention. She still has no interest in sitting still for long periods, and she definitely doesn’t want to be bothered with crawling on her hands and knees.

She also produces a great variety of sounds these days, including a burbling raspberry noise when she’s concentrating, and plenty of laughter. She also loves squealing and chatting, as well as clapping.

We also think she’s starting to sign. I’ve seen her sign “milk” several times this week, although mostly when she was already having the milk in question. The few times it seemed like a request, she turned out to be a bit perplexed (and not all that hungry) when presented with actual milk. It doesn’t seem like she realizes this is a way to get what she wants, which is something we’ll have to fine-tune.

— Beth

The Vaccine Scene

One of the (few) things Devin and I put off researching before Laurel was born was the very thorny topic of vaccinations. You wouldn’t think this would be a thorny topic at all, what with how vaccinations have saved millions of lives that could otherwise be lost to polio, whooping cough, measles, etc., but it is — especially in San Francisco, where people host parties to expose children to the chicken pox. When we were kids, I don’t remember vaccinations being an issue, but since the rumors kicked up that vaccines are somehow related to autism, suddenly people are much more interested in avoiding the slight chance of autism (a connection that has been disproven) than in avoiding the, say, 1 in 100 chance their child will die of pertussis if he or she is unlucky enough to get sick.

We thought we might turn out to be the sort of parents who wanted to delay vaccines a while, so as not to overload Laurel’s system with pathogens. One thing that has changed over time is that kids get more and more vaccinations. By the age of six months, it’s recommended that kids get three sets of shots, protecting them against nearly a dozen different things, some of which they can’t get unless they have sex or share needles with someone. So, while I was at home laid up with a nasty bout of mastitis, Devin trundled off to a several-hour panel on vaccinations, and came home with a sheaf of notes from the opinions of child-health experts, homeopaths, Wiccans-or-something, and a couple of middle-of-the-road types. After talking about it, and realizing just how many things Laurel could be exposed to on your average Muni ride with dozens of passengers, any one of whom could have just stepped off a plane from Sri Lanka or Tanzania, we decided we’d play it safe and get her vaccinated against most things as quickly as possible. Plus, because I wasn’t making enough milk to satisfy her nutritional needs, it seemed like I wasn’t providing her with a full set of immunities, either.

In addition, one of our baby friends — a girl who was born two days before Laurel and delivered by the same midwife — contracted pertussis when she was just three weeks old. Her father drives a taxicab and, after being exposed to whooping cough, probably by a client, came home with a cough. In adults pertussis is mild, but the little girl was in the hospital for roughly two weeks. She was lucky to be one of the ones who didn’t die from it, but she was still coughing for weeks afterward. And this was before she was old enough to be vaccinated.

So Laurel has had most of her shots up until now, and she’s taken them well. She cries a little at the injections, and is maybe a little fussier or more tired for a day or two afterward, just like we are when we get shots.

Still, we waffled recently when deciding whether to get flu shots for her. We debated whether having the flu would be very serious for her, or whether she’d build better immunity by getting sick than she would by being vaccinated. We held off until a couple of weeks ago, and then decided that all of us should be vaccinated, both against seasonal flu and H1N1. Our research suggests that the flu is generally mild for babies, but in a few cases can be severe and fatal, just as with adults. Our pediatrician’s office says its patients have only had mild cases of H1N1, but that’s been in children old enough to describe their symptoms; we felt babies are still pretty vulnerable. Of course, now we’re waiting to see when — and whether — they will get any of the H1N1 vaccine. We’ve already done the first round of seasonal flu shots (babies get two, while adults get just one), and although she’s been sick for a few days, the bug seems unrelated.

Living in this city does mean treading carefully when it comes to other people’s opinions. Many do choose not to vaccinate, or to delay vaccinations until a child is older. If you’re like us and generally feel they’re a good idea, it can be tempting to ask someone what on Earth is going through their minds. But for those whose kids don’t ride public transit, don’t play with other babies and are generally more isolated from disease, it may make sense to wait or not vaccinate at all (or at least until the child is old enough to decide for him- or herself). Still, vaccinations are about protecting the community as much as the child, and that’s yet another reason we’re choosing to vaccinate Laurel — because so many of her peers aren’t getting the same protection.

— Beth