Here in Peru they play fast and loose with traffic rules, protest marches are only ever a tear-gas cannister away from becoming riots and there’s always a horde on hand to clearfell Amazonian rainforest to dig for gold or build a new shanty town on the desert coast.
It can be downright depressing.
But when it comes to being a mother, this is the place to be. In Latin America, people are nice to mothers. They let them take the fast lane at the bank, in the airport and many shops. They won’t actively try to run you over – at least if you have your child with you in plain sight. Waiters are happy to see you. Fellow diners and airline passengers don’t do the whole exaggerated eye-roll when they spot you with cherub in tow. Even the slouchy long-haired marijuana-toking teens hiding down by the clifftops dissolve into “oohs” and “aahs” at the sight of a baby, “How many months?” “Ooo look at her chubby legs!”
On days when I hate Peru, amid my ranting (no one EVER gives way for you on the footpath, it’s like a goddam game of chicken! Etc) I feel a certain amount of guilt that my whinges are first-world whinges. I grew up in one of the world’s most politically stable and equitable societies, where people are on the whole friendly, they observe road rules because there’s a policeman behind every bush, and there’s a strong sense of communal good because most people aren’t engaged in a rat-race to survive.
I almost certainly would not have the option of a nanny at home; it is a great luxury in the “first world”. But here, in a country where about a third of people still live in poverty, it is an option.
So my current quandary feels a lot like a first-world whinge, even though it isn’t.
I’m trying to decide on a nanny for Lola when I go back to work in February. I don’t want to go back to work at all, but staying at home is not an option. Back home this would mean childcare, and here it means a nanny.
A very nice lady has been helping in the house since Lola was born and she would clearly like to be here nanny. But I quiver at the thought. I don’t want to hand her over to ANYONE. I’m already jealous if this lady dives in to try and pry her away from me every now and then, and she’s just trying to help. And just know I found her feeding a grape to Lola! Lola was sucking away with great gusto, and all I could think was – “I wanted to give her her first taste of grape! Who told you you could give my child grape?”
I told her she should never ever give anything to the baby to eat or drink without asking me first. I wasn’t obviously angry. But inside I’m all whipped up.
She obviously loves Lola, and she’s a good person, very honest and straightforward, with initiative. And she’s a mother of two – but then she’s told me about all kinds of problems she had with her own children because she didn’t really know what she was doing at the time. And not just small stuff – her daughter was so sick she went to hospital. This is not uncommon in Peru – many children in poorer rural communities have malnutrition because their parents just don’t know what to feed them.
The other option is to trial some nannies that have been recommended by friends of friends. Ideally I want someone with LOTS of baby experience, and maybe even a nursing background. I think, post-grape, I’ll arrange for a few trials in the new year, and see what I think then.
Before Lola arrived, I thought having a nanny would be a great idea for balancing work and life. I could go back to work and Lola would have lots of one-on-one attention. Now I’m having a panic attack/fit of jealousy at the thought of her spending her days with some other woman. And even if this woman is highly qualified, will she be as patient as me? Will she be as thrilled as me by the small steps? Will she be as inventive with play? Will she be able to react to an emergency sensibly? Can I trust her to walk across a road with Lola (seriously, crossing a road can be a hazardous affair here).
I’m sure none of this will inspire much sympathy from fellow new mums or mums-to-be because many of you will be struggling with the same kinds of thoughts about childcare. And childcare means your child is sharing the attentions of a caregiver other than yourself, so even scarier!
There’s no pithy way to wrap this up… except to say I have been wondering how I possibly could stay at home. Would I be throwing my career (and our financial security) out the window if I worked from home or went part-time for a few years? Not that these are even options yet.