Help! I Nanny 4-Year-Old Twins. Their Mother Is 65.

Advice on manners and morals.
Dec. 6 2012 6:15 AM

Medicare Mommy

I nanny 4-year-old twins. Their mother is 65. What’s going to happen to them?

Emily Yoffe.
Emily Yoffe

Photograph by Teresa Castracane.

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Dear Prudie,
I am a nursing student who has worked as a part-time nanny for the past two years for adorable twin 4-year-olds. Their mother is 65 years old. She had them with the help of a fertility clinic. I've stayed with her this long solely for the sake of the children. She is single and is majorly in over her head. She has been in three car accidents with the twins in the last 18 months. She wasn't even able to take them for an outing by herself until they were 3 years old because she said she couldn't handle it. Her neighbors and parents of the twins’ classmates have enquired about the situation because they just can’t believe their eyes. She has nannies six days a week, often working 12-hour shifts. She doesn't eat dinner with the children and rarely puts them to bed. What kind of doctor would allow this to happen? She will be nearly 80 years old when they are graduating high school! There are no other family members involved and I can't imagine what’s ahead. The twins need me but I'm reaching the end of my rope and don’t know how long I can stay involved.

—When To Say “When”

Dear When,
Let’s encourage people to buy red sports cars or run off with the pool boy as the preferred ways to deal with a midlife (or even later) crisis. Ordering up a pair of designer babies you have no interest in raising as a way to prove your youth hasn’t fled is monstrous. What a bizarre, heartbreaking situation this is. So now two little children are being raised by revolving nannies while their vain, aging, out-of-it mother has nothing to do with them. Whatever the reason for the series of car accidents, she sounds impaired in some way, and is endangering her children’s lives when she gets behind the wheel. That has to be addressed immediately. You could call Child Protective Services, but they may not see a need to intervene in a case in which a rich lady farms out the child-rearing to professionals. Since you’re so intimately involved in the children’s lives, I think you should start by asking for a meeting with their pediatrician, who is a mandated reporter. The doctor needs to be told exactly what is going on in the house, and that given the mother’s driving record, you are worried she is going to seriously harm the children. (You should also report the mother directly to the motor vehicle bureau.) The doctor knows the children, but needs a fuller picture of their situation in order to decide on a course of action. I’m also wondering if you could draw out the mother about her family. She may appear to have none, but everyone has relatives somewhere. It could be she’s cut off relations, but they would be appalled to know there are children being raised in such circumstances. I hope that you feel able to stay some amount of time after you talk to the doctor, just to reassure yourself that action is being taken. But obviously you will finish school and have to get on with your own career. Maybe with the help of a case manager, the mother can get a better understanding of the obligations of motherhood, and realize she needs a plan for when she is forced to acknowledge the power of Father Time.

—Prudie

Dear Prudence: Mother and Daughter Hitting the Bottle

Dear Prudence,
I'm a 21-year-old female who is becoming increasingly fearful of aging. Since I was 18, I've tended to date men who were in their mid-20s to 30s which I figured that was about my attraction to the intelligence and maturity that comes with age. But I'm starting to realize that a large factor in my choice of mates is that I enjoy being cherished for my youth. I'm terrified of losing what I see as my most desirable trait. I am surrounded by beautiful women who are decades older than I am. But in my mind, youth precedes even physical attractiveness when it comes to sexual desirability. This sentiment has been echoed by the men I've dated. I've started exercising and using anti-aging skin products, but is there anything I can do to ease my apprehension?

—Not So Forever Young

Dear Young,
See the letter above for how weird things can get when people can’t accept the reality of aging. However, science has recently shown that it is possible to age in reverse. The only problem is that you have to be a jellyfish called Turritopsis dohrnii to do it. If at 21 you’re worried about losing your youthful allure, you have, as you recognize, way overinvested in an asset that is guaranteed to be a depleting one. Part of the problem is the men you are choosing. You think men value youth above all. But it turns out your sample is biased toward guys who only seek out partners not able to legally order a drink. So give up these lizards, and start dating some nice young men who aren’t hung up on your age. Beyond that, focus on your education, job, or volunteering. If you are actually making something of yourself, you’ll realize there’s a lot more to cherish about you than your date of birth, which is only going to get further in the past.

—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
I work at an office of four people. My boss is in his early 30s and the rest of us are in are in our early 20s. Since getting his now 9-month-old English bulldog, my boss has been bringing the dog to work every day and has the rest of us care for the puppy. We are assigned times to walk and feed the dog and we get reprimanded if we don't take the dog out at the exact time or treat him the “right way,” However, the dog misbehaves, and recently bit one of the employees, drawing blood. My boss saw that incident and laughed it off. The other employees and I think that the boss is taking advantage of us and if he wants to bring his dog to work, he should be the one to take care of him. When I asked my parents about this they said we were being petty and ungrateful and if the boss asks us to take care of the dog, we have to take care of the dog. Do we, and if not, what should we do?

—Young and Already Dog-Tired

Dear Young,
I understand your boss’s dilemma. As the owner of a dog with dependent personality disorder, I am forced to work at home in order to attend to her needs. But your boss’s solution is not doing anyone any favors. He is requiring all of you to neglect work duty to attend to dog doody. The dog is not getting proper and consistent training and is becoming a menace. I checked in with Massachusetts employment attorney Philip J. Gordon to find out what you can do. It turns out there’s a reason it’s fun to be the boss. Unless he’s engaging in illegal behavior such as sexual harassment, discrimination, or violating labor standards, if your place of employment is his shop, Gordon says the boss can pretty much define people’s job description. So while I disagree with your parents calling you petty and ungrateful for resenting having to perform such personal tasks, they are right that the boss can make the care and feeding of Fido your obligation. However, if you are a satellite office for a larger corporation, or have an owner who’s elsewhere, it could be that management would be disturbed to find out they are paying people to do doggie day care. In that case, a letter (yes, it can be anonymous) laying out the problem might result in the boss having to find private care for his pooch.

There is another way all of you might be able to stop the boss from yanking everyone’s chain. His dog has bitten someone, and Gordon points out that the victim—or all of you—can put some teeth into your dissatisfaction by taking this to an attorney. (There are dog-bite specialists.) It could be the boss owes damages to the victim. It could be you all could get the dog banned because his presence creates an unsafe work environment. Sure, if you make such a complaint, the boss might want to fire everyone, but that could be construed as retaliation. And if you young people decide the best thing to do would be to find work elsewhere, don’t apply to any kennels.

—Prudie

Dear Prudence,
I live across the country from my divorced parents and six adult siblings. My husband, young daughter, and I make a trip to my hometown at least once a year to visit. The trip is costly but it’s important to me to see my family. My mom and siblings visit us individually as their budgets and schedules allow, at least every other year or so. My father and his wife never visit us. My dad owns a small business which is barely scraping by and he works six days a week. But I just found out that he and his wife have taken a cruise each January for the last three years and have another one coming up! I understand they want to take a vacation together, especially given their financial and time constraints. But I’m hurt that they'd rather take a cruise than spend quality time with their grandchild. Maybe I’ll skip our visit next summer and go on a family vacation ourselves! Is it selfish of me to want my dad to give up his trip to spend time with us?

—Hurt Feelings

Dear Hurt,
Your father is probably wondering if it will all end with his dropping dead at work some day since retirement seems out of the question. So for a few days in January he and his wife get waited on and luxuriate in each other’s company and having nothing to do. With five grown children nearby, he must see a lot of the grandkids. Of course he’s thrilled when all of you visit. But flying across the country to hang out with a beloved daughter and grandchild is not the break he needs. Please just drop this. And if next year you want your threesome to take a vacation of your own, do it for pleasure, not spite.

—Prudie

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