A couple of weeks ago, I was drafting out a blog post along the lines of, “My Laura is better than your Laura,” all about our mother’s helper and how completely fantastically this situation was working out. I had advertised on craigslist, and she was the first to respond… she came twice a week, while I was here, to help entertain the kids, so that I could get some work done, or take a nap, or whatever. I didn’t pay a whole lot of money, but then again I was home the whole time, so she didn’t have a whole lot of responsibility; once we were comfortable with her, we fired her as a babysitter a few times, and compensated accordingly. (Bear in mind, too, that this was an under-the-table job, no taxes withheld, and that Emily is already old enough that I’m comfortable leaving her home alone for a half hour or so at a time, or even to be in charge of Jacob, as well… just not quite ready to be in charge of both boys yet. It all made for a big challenge, to land on what seemed like an appropriate dollar amount.)
I was very, very happy with how it was all working out. But then, very suddenly, she just vanished. Didn’t appear one Monday, but texted me to say that a friend of hers was having a hard time and she needed to go sit with her. Fine, fair enough, stuff happens. She would be there, definitely Wednesday, fer sure… except, Wednesday came and went, no Laura. I called, texted, emailed; no response. She had said that she had some health issues, and an unpleasant incident with an ex-boyfriend, so my first instinct was to worry about her. I waited a couple of days, then called one of her roommates. “Oh, no,” the roommate reassured me. “She’s absolutely fine.” While I couldn’t hear Laura in the background, I did get a distinct vibe that the roommate was being encouraged to hang up the phone, and she seemed less than impressed with my request (aww, look, I rhyme) to assure Laura that we were not angry with her, just confused and hoping that she would be returning to work with us soon.
After another week went by with no contact, I had slid into full-on bafflement, with just enough hurt feelings – both my own and the kids’ – to keep things interesting. We hadn’t had the slightest altercation, and as far as I knew things had been going just as well for her as they were for us. It’s rare for me to be taken totally by surprise by someone’s actions; usually I’m a reasonably good judge of personality, and if someone does something I wasn’t expecting, I’m at least able to think it through and say, “Well, yeah, OK, I guess I could have seen that coming.” But in this case, nope. The only indication that, in retrospect, might have raised the tiniest bit of red flag was that she had no prior work experience and so she listed a roommate and a former social worker as references. She said she had spent some time in the foster care system as a child, but I didn’t ask for much information about her past and after a week or two of working with her, I was pleased enough with how it was all going that I never bothered contacting either reference. Everybody needs some job to be their first, and my presence in the house meant that I was OK hiring someone without a lot of prior experience. I did plan to eventually suggest to her to, when seeking future jobs, perhaps not immediately sharing one’s history as a foster child, but… anyway. You get the picture.
So, just one more bit of drama to mix into an already abundantly dramatic life. We never did hear from Laura again, to the point that I had to get the police involved in order to retrieve our house keys, after she ignored repeated requests to drop them off or mail them back. I started the process of finding a new mother’s helper all over again – contacting the high school, posting on craigslist.com – but I think I might have considered rehiring Laura even up to today, if she had gotten in touch and said, “I’m so sorry, things just got crazy for me…” But when I went to the police station to get the keys – somehow it was just too much for her to even slip them into my mailbox, even though I live in between her dorm and the main campus – and saw that it was just the keys, no note, that nailed that particular coffin shut. It’s one thing to have a bad experience with someone, and it’s something else entirely to have started off so well, to build happy expectations, and then to be completely let down.
I’m still riding on the Disappointed and Confused Train, never got angry with her, though I edge a little closer every time I think about the fact that my kids’ feelings have been hurt by her refusal to even say good-bye. I’m struggling with a very intense urge to post her full name here, especially because it’s an unusual last name and so if any potential employers were to Google her, down the road, they would certainly come across this post on the first page of results. So far I’m trying, unsatisfactorily but grown-up-ily, to take the high road.
Ah, well. Here’s to attempt #2… we interviewed two more college students over the weekend, and have asked one of them to start working today. Her name is also Laura, so that has the potential to make things simpler, or more confusing… we’ll see. I’m definitely following up on references this time, and have kept several other names on-hand in case this one doesn’t work out.
Wish me luck…