Monthly Archives: June 2012

My Nanny Diaries

Written
on June 19, 2012 by Anjum in Parenting

By Sheba
Siddiqui
@shebasid
and online www.shebasiddiqui.com

I used to think having a nanny was the most pretentious cop-out ever to being a parent. The first time I came across the concept of a nanny, other than in movies like The Sound of Music, was a friend of a friend who had three kids and a nanny. At the time, being a newlywed with no kids, I thought I knew it all when it came to what kind of parent I wanted to be and what type of kids I would have; well behaved, smart, respectful and of course, ones who never watched TV because we’d always be outside learning and discovering. I judged anyone who had a nanny and I swore that no matter what, I would never be that ‘selfish’ or ‘inconsiderate’ to my children.

A couple of years later, my son Yusuf came along and then 18 months later, his brother Zeeshan popped out. I had a few girlfriends by this point that had nannies they would rave about. I had also matured in my opinion of nannies and although I did see the benefit and realized the cost was nowhere near what I thought it was (much more affordable actually), I still wanted to do it ‘on my own’. So that first year of my second son’s life, I managed two babies by myself. With no help from my strong mother, who lives four hours away, or my mother-in-law, who has her hands full taking care of her own aging mother.

My husband would walk through the door at 5:15pm and I would be ready to run out, yelling that I needed a break and would be at the Starbucks down the street for half an hour or so. This is how life continued: me being exhausted and my husband working double duty with work and evening daddy duty. Never mind our relationship, which was non-existent.

Regardless of how worn out I was, both mentally and physically, I remember secretly judging my friends with nannies, especially the ones who weren’t working. The concept of having ‘outside help’ in North American South Asian communities is often received with judgment, ignorance and misapprehension.

As a South Asian woman, you are supposed to do it all on your own. Be an energetic and happy mother who is always challenging her children with new lessons, life plans and outdoor adventures. A wife who can manage a spotless house, make a healthy meal and have enough energy left over for her husband to ‘always be in the mood’. A working woman who can handle her deadlines, projects and coworkers without batting an eyelash. A friend, daughter and sister who is always ready and willing to lend a supporting ear. We are supposed to be superwomen – all with a smile on our faces.

Well, I was no superwoman during that first year with both kids. And I certainly wasn’t smiling. I was drained, hormonal, overworked and overwhelmed. I had zero energy left for my relationship, which used to be one of my favorite passions.

When my husband suggested the possibility of a nanny, I had every excuse in the book: we couldn’t afford it, there was no point since I work from home, the idea of a stranger in my house creeped me out. I had convinced myself that date nights were a thing of the past and this was going to be our new life. Secretly though, I think I wondered what people would think of the idea of me doing something so seemingly ostentatious.

The idea of having an uninterrupted conversation with my husband or having a spotless house with two toddlers running around started to win out and I relented. I crunched the numbers, did some research and realized that a nanny is much more affordable than people think. We went through about 40 interviewees in search of our Mary Poppins and finally found someone we liked. It’s now been ten months since she’s come into our lives. We chose a live-out nanny as opposed to a live-in and she has been a huge blessing.

I get to start my day off with a long shower, a luxury I gave up when I became a mother of two. I regularly go out with my husband on date nights now where we can actually connect. Many people think a nanny is a replacement for a mother, which may seem threatening to some. But while I’m out at the splash pad with my boys, my house is being cleaned, laundry being folded and dinner being cooked. My kids rarely ever watch TV anymore because mommy has energy to run around with them. On the days when mommy is working, our nanny has them exploring the outdoors.

For those of you who have children, you already know how much your relationship changes after having a couple of kids. You really have to work at it to stay connected; otherwise you’re just going through the motions. Our nanny has re-opened the doors to our relationship. My husband will openly tell people that the biggest change in our lives since we’ve gotten a nanny is me. I am a completely different person. No longer exhausted or overwhelmed, I am full of life and energy. I find him funny. I like him again!

I still have those friends who smirk when I bring up my nanny and I can’t even judge them. I used to be them. They just don’t know what they are missing. For those of you out there who are considering the nanny route, I say go for it. It is LIFE CHANGING. Your kids will have a happy mom who is full of energy, who can go to work, run errands, see friends, go grocery shopping. It doesn’t make you a bad mother to have a nanny. Think of it this way, if you are South Asian and your parents are immigrants, chances are, they grew up with nannies, they were just called maids or naukhars.

Sure, there is no doubt we are capable of doing it all. But why should we have to? If we have affordable help, why not take it? I did and it changed my life. To all those I judged, I’m sorry. I had no idea what I was missing!

If you would like to hire a nanny or caregiver, please contact International Nanny and Homecare Ltd. in Canada for qualified nannies.

 

Your Open Work Permit Has Arrived? What Next?

Tips once your open work permit arrives:

After at least two years of working as a live-in caregiver, the arrival of your open work permit is very exciting! While some caregivers may consider childcare a lifelong profession, for others, an open work permit signals a chance to seize fresh opportunities.

As enticing as it sounds, simply jumping from one job into another isn’t the best way to manage your new found freedom. If anything, there are some important steps to take after receiving your open work permit (and even before!)

1. Tell Your Employer: When the time arrives to apply for your open work permit, you must tell your employer about your plans. Will you continue your employment with the family after the permit arrives, or do you plan on finding a new job?

2. Give Your Employer Notice: If you do plan on leaving your employer for another job, it is best to give your employer a formal notice of resignation. What does this mean? You must provide your employer with a written letter explaining  that you are “giving your notice”, or in other words, “quitting your job”. In your letter you must provide the date of your last work day. The standard is two weeks’ notice however; your employment contract may provide a longer notice period. Some may state 4 weeks, or even 8 weeks.  Since finding a suitable nanny takes considerable time, you should stay with your employer until they find a replacement, or arrange for alternative care.

3. Consider Your Options: Although the world beyond your employers’ home looks promising, finding work in Canada is a challenge, even for Canadian citizens. That being said, it is wise to research your job options. How much do you realistically need to earn in order to afford rent and other living expenses? Is your plan to save money for family sponsorship? Are you interested in attending school? Many live-out nannies earn approximately $15/hour. While this may seem like a significant increase from your minimum wage salary, after factoring in new costs, you may not have much extra cash to save, or put towards other expenses.

4. Maintain Your Work Ethic: If you do plan on leaving your employers, the receipt of your open work permit is not an excuse to lower your work standards. You should, until the day you depart from your employer’s home maintain the same high level of work.

5. Take Care of Business: Give your employers ample time to complete your Record of Employment and to calculate your final pay cheque, which may or may not include vacation pay depending if you took vacation during your employment period. You may also want to ask for a letter of reference so that you have a record for future employment opportunities.

Above all, treat your employers with respect. Although an employer-employee relationship exists, your family not only provided you with an excellent job opportunity, but also welcomed you into their home and their lives. Receiving you open work permit is worth celebrating, but not at the expense of the people you’ve spent two years or more, caring for.

Contact International Nannies and Homecare Ltd if you have further questions.

Live-in caregivers waiting longer to be reunited with families.

(Photograph
by Les Bazso, Vancouver Sun)

When Maria Rabino left her family in the Philippines to come to Canada as a live-in caregiver, she imagined her three children would join her in a few years, in time for high school.

That was 2005. Seven years later, Rabino’s eldest — just 10 when she left — is almost old enough for university and Rabino still has no idea how long it will take for the family to be reunited.

Rabino’s expectation was not an unreasonable one. Live-in caregivers come to Canada
from abroad to care for children or seniors. After they have completed 24 months of work in the field, they are eligible to apply for both an open work permit, which allows them to work in any field, and permanent resident status, which enables them to sponsor their families to join them.

Waiting times for open work permits, which used to be up to two years, have been reduced to a few months thanks to changes introduced by the federal government in December, but permanent residence application processing times have increased in recent years, said Citizenship and Immigration Canada spokeswoman Caroline Hickton in a statement.

Figures provided by the department suggest the time it takes to process permanent residence applications for live-in caregivers in Canada increased to 24 months from 21 months between 2010 and 2011; and to 29 months from 24 months for applications processed overseas. This is mainly due to a surge in the number of live-in caregivers who entered Canada between 2007 and 2009, Hickton said, adding the government is cutting the number of caregivers it allows in each year in an effort to deal with the backlog.

But the permanent residence process is taking considerably longer than that, said Vancouver Kingsway MP Don Davies, whose riding is home to many of the mainly Filipino women who come to Vancouver as live-in caregivers. Most are separated from their families for an average of seven years, he said.

“I miss my children when I go to Ottawa for four days. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be separated from your children and your spouse for years,” he said. “The rate of divorce, the family breakup, the trauma suffered by children, the psychological damage is incredible and well documented.”

The long separation has taken its toll on Rabino’s relationship with her husband and children.

“You could imagine … their teenage years that I am not with them,” Rabino said of her children, now 17, 16 and 13, who she said are constantly asking her when they will move. “It’s so hard … I feel so bad. But, you know, I keep it on myself. I have to fight, I have to survive here for my kids.”

According to the government’s Hickton, Rabino received confirmation she had fulfilled the requirements of the live-in caregiver program in November 2008. The delay in processing her permanent residency application occurred because Rabino was late paying right of permanent residence fees — which Hickton said should have been submitted with her initial permanent residence application — and responding to government requests for information.

Rabino disputes that, emphasizing that she and her family were always watching for any communication from the Canadian government and responded to requests right away.

The immigration department confirmed receipt of her permanent residence fee in November 2011, but by that time Rabino’s background check — valid for a year — had expired and visas for the family could not be issued, Hickton said.

During the waiting period, the family’s immigration medical exams — also valid for a year — expired twice. The family’s passports also expired during this time.

The medical exams cost $100 per person and require the family to make an overnight trip to the city in the Philippines, Rabino said.

Immigration Canada requested that the family undergo a third medical exam in April, according to Hickton.

“Currently, CIC is waiting on the results of the new background check for Ms. Rabino. As well, the mission in Manila has requested that Ms. Rabino’s dependants undergo new [medical exams] and renew their passports.”

Live-in caregivers say such bureaucratic delays are typical. Some have started a petition, signed by more than 1,000 people, calling on the government of Canada to cut the red tape that keeps families separated and to shorten the processing times for permanent residence applications.

In an effort to reduce the strain on families posed by long periods of separation, the NDP advocates allowing caregivers’ families to come to Canada with them and that anyone over 16 be granted work permits, Davies said, noting that the live-in caregiver program is Canada’s only temporary-worker stream deliberately designed to result in permanent residence.

“You know that the woman … is going to sponsor her husband and children,” he said. “You know they’re coming. The only question, policy wise, is when.”

Caregivers should have the option of accepting less money if they choose to live off-site with their own families, since they are not taking room and board from their employers, Davies said.

But Hickton said this would defeat the purpose of the program.

“The live-in requirement is important to employers in need of this service since live-in caregivers offer the highest flexibility of care. The people that live-in caregivers assist often have special needs and may require their services during unusual hours or on short notice,” she said.

By Tara Carman, Vancouver Sun

June 2, 2012

[email protected]/tarajcarman

If you would like to hire a nanny or caregiver, please contact International Nanny and Homecare Ltd. in Canada for qualified nannies.