When our nanny was suddenly out of commission two weeks ago, we panicked. We had come to rely- too much so—on Shpresa’s reliability and 24-7 availability. We had never considered the reality that we might need a back-up option so when we were faced with this reality late on a Wednesday night, we didn’t know what to do.
I only work part time and have pretty flexible hours but of course my Thursday was packed with meetings and deadlines not to mention the fact that one of my staff had recently left and the other was on leave. Glenn had his usual day of meetings. Somehow we managed to balance out our day- I went in super early and then came home. Glenn went to work and returned early and I went back to the office. Not knowing how long Shpresa would be out we asked our housekeeper to come in on Friday morning to stay with Sidney.
My goal had been to get through the week then come up with an alternative plan over the weekend. Frantic phone calls and emails to other Americans within the community netted several options that we had never considered. Offers of “borrowing” a nanny, hiring a new one, or enrolling Sidney in an Albanian day care/pre-school all became options.
Still not knowing Shpresa’s long term prognosis, I interviewed a new nanny- again someone who spoke no English but loved children, could start work immediately, and had been vetted by the Embassy. I liked her, Sidney liked her, and she could work the two evenings that very week when we required assistance. That sealed deal and I asked her to come back later that week to stay with Sidney. Thinking we might need a longer term solution I visited the local Albanian day care facility that is adjacent to the Embassy but decided that it just wasn’t right for us. (Maybe I’ve been spoiled by the rule and regulation order of American military day cares but I just couldn’t see Sidney in this environment). It was just too Albanian.
Much to my surprise, and Sidney’s delight, Shpresa returned on Monday morning insisting she was fine and crediting her rapid recovery to a homemade concoction involving raki (of course!). We had still committed to using the other nanny two nights that week and I justified this with the thought that Shpresa needed time to fully recover.
Having the conversation with her on Wednesday afternoon about not needing her that evening was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and I’m not just talking about my lack of Albanian fluency. I immediately felt guilty and spent the entire evening feeling like I was cheating on our nanny. I was panicking that I hadn’t been clear in my explanation of not needing her services and had visions of some other American family scooping up her services (yes, she is that in demand). First thing Thursday morning found me in Glenn’s translator’s office with him on the phone with Shpresa explaining how important she was to us. (Her response was that she knew that and that my Albanian was so clear that she fully understood what I had said.) Not for one moment do I believe that my Albanian is that good!
Friday, evening two of using the pirate-nanny, brought on a whole new level of anxiety. I had a late day in the office and needed to hurry home to get Shpresa out of the house before the new nanny arrived. Imagine my surprise when I entered the house and heard Sidney repeating the new nanny’s name to Shpresa. The rest of the Albanian conversation was lost to me but I let my imagination run wild.
I spent the evening number two also feeling horribly guilty. Not even having a full drink spilled all over me took my mind off of the fact that someone other than Shpresa was watching Sidney. Yes, Shpresa is a household employee who we have known for just over 8 months but she is charged with taking care of the single person who is most precious to us. Sidney loves his “nene” and misses her when she isn’t there. I never imagined I could feel this level of guilt over a simple action. I have no idea how people who commit affairs can live with themselves.
We struggled with how we could let Shpresa know how much we value her and we finally found a way that might seem strange to people who don’t know her or Albanian culture. Shpresa has been begging us to leave Sidney with her when we travel on weekends. Glenn and I have both been hesitant but decided that in April, in honor of our anniversary, we would take a trip and leave Sidney in Shpresa’s care for the weekend. You would have thought we were giving her the world when I told her of our plans. Her tears were those of joy and she quickly informed us that we could call Sidney once a day while we were away to talk to him (in Albanian of course!).