Since having hired Sienna, our nanny, our lives have been split into two separate histories. There’s B.S., or Before Sienna, and N.L.U.S., or Never Leave Us, Sienna.
Because we are perfect together. Sienna is just right for our family. There’s the fact that she cooks, the fact of her five languages, the fact that she teaches ballet. I don’t even think the kids know they have a nanny. There’s just me, their dad and their best friend, Sienna.
I’m sure Sienna would agree. She’s very agreeable. She’s a great listener. She French-braids hair with ribbons. Not mine, but still.
Sienna brings her dog, and lets my son walk him. She packs her own lunches, and they look better than our lunches.
Is it uncomfortable, the certainty of her being better than us? It is delicate, letting someone into our private lives. There’s no hiding the stacks of dirty dishes from her, no masking the marker stains on my daughter’s face that were there yesterday.
It only really got to me once, when a swarm of houseflies appeared overnight in our kitchen. They’d never been there before—a likely story, I’m sure, from where Sienna was sitting.
We got the flies—but not before some of them landed on Sienna’s tofu stir-fry. “I grew up on a farm!” she sang out, catching a live fly in her hands and releasing it out the back door. “This doesn’t bother me in the slightest!”
Never leave us, Sienna.
Sienna works for other families besides ours. We met some of them at her birthday party, and they are, annoyingly, very nice families. The other families’ holiday cards were hanging on Sienna’s refrigerator, and it’s been three years since we sent out a holiday card.
But what we have with Sienna is different, and the reason I know it’s different is because I pay her $5 an hour more than her asking rate, for loyalty.
It’s important Sienna remain loyal to us. She’s come to know things about us. My debit card PIN number. Previous mailing addresses. Opinions—all glowing—on my husband’s employer. I don’t ever intend to gossip with Sienna. It’s just that things can slip out at a Peppa Pig tea party before you even know what you’re saying.
Was Sienna fated for us? From the hospital where I delivered my third child, I texted a single friend and, within five minutes, Sienna’s contact information had alit on my phone. Meanwhile, I’ve had friends prearrange childcare three years ahead of time. Amidst angry sloshing, a mother from swim lessons told me her son’s daycare spot opened up when she was still pregnant with him. She turned it down, risking the reshuffle to the end of the line. Now he’s 2, and she wishes she had just started paying tuition for the bump.
I try not to flaunt it. A neighbor’s nanny crashed her car the first week. A friend’s babysitter slipped in remembering her child’s food allergies. The horror stories always seem to outweigh the successes, even if only because their circulation numbers are higher.
If anything could ever come between us and Sienna, it’s her overqualification. It’s someone else’s bigger stack of money. It’s those damn flies coming back, with reinforcements. The truth is, there are so many things it could be, including one small, nagging, inescapable reality: There are days with Sienna when I want my kids back.
Because sometimes she whisks the older two off on adventures, and the three of them don’t come home for hours. This is all prearranged by me, of course, but it doesn’t mean I don’t start to long for them after the first 20 minutes. Sienna texts pictures of my son at the park, rolling around in the sand; of my daughter, flung out like a starfish next to him. She does this really good impression of a starfish, but you kind of have to be there for it.
The real reason I cling so hard to Sienna is because I know one day she will leave us, and that I’ll be the one to ask her to do it. And I can’t think too hard about what that means. The tea parties will go on, but the sandwiches won’t be cut out in the shape of Peppa snouts anymore.
I doubt whether we’ll be invited to the next birthday party. Sienna’s a grown-up, and I don’t expect her to harbor hard feelings. But another family will scoop her right up, and there’s only so much fridge space for holiday cards.
I won’t take it personally. Neither will she. It’s been personal, though. My once-clean house will miss her. So will my starfish. And I don’t mind telling you here, so will I.
Susan Anspach is a product of Northern Virginia’s schools, swim teams and cultural mores. A mother of three, she will take Sienna’s phone number with her to the grave.