Ask Wendy

Jewish World Review / Nov. 21, 2000 / 23 Mar-Cheshvan, 5761

battling brothers; how to keep a nanny

By Wendy Belzberg -- My daughter has many children. The two older boys, ages l5 and l3, have serious fights with each other and she does not know how to stop them. She fears they will injure one another. They never fight when their father is home; he would not allow it.

I don't care how tall they are or how strong, the boys are children and your daughter is the adult. The cowardly way out is for her to sit down with the boys and her husband and lay out the consequence for fighting. But if your daughter doesn't want to have the same problems with the other children coming up the line, it's time she stood tall, fearless and alone on this issue. Simply put, it should be clear that, at the very least, mom's the boss when dad's not home.

Bubbie: It's nice that you're concerned, but perhaps you play a larger part in this situation than you let on. What was the dynamic between you and your husband when your daughter was living at home? What kind of a role model were you? Instead of writing to me, maybe you should be at your daughter's house trying to model and instill self-confidence. Better late than never.

* * *

Our nanny has been with our family for 6 years. She lives in our home, gets room and board and what we consider a generous salary. She recently asked to borrow $800. She did not offer an explanation for why she needed the money and I did not feel it was my place to ask. Is this an appropriate request or has she crossed the line of professionalism?

(Portions of my response may be offensive to men. I advise male readers to stop here, or at the very least, to the second paragraph.)

When it comes to childcare, my husband is dispensable; my caregiver is not. I would attempt any kind of contortion to make sure my nanny is not only happy at her job, but has no outside worries that could distract her from focusing fully on my children. This includes loaning her huge sums of money.

Having said this, if you can't afford the loan, the answer is simple. If you can afford it, ask yourself the following questions: Do you expect to get paid back or are you willing to write off the money? Will the loan come in the way of your professional relationship? Is your nanny willing to have payments deducted from her weekly or monthly paycheck? Your instincts are correct: She may owe you money, but she does not owe you an explanation for how that money will be spent.

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© 2000, Wendy Belzberg