Mistakes I understand. It was my babysitter’s insociencance about work and money, two things that as a single mom drive all my thoughts and actions, that when I discovered I’d been overcharged for last week’s work, it stung in a personal way.
The minute I noted the error I fired off a text to Catherine. I assumed there would be a quick refund with a “no problem.” Nothing of the sort. Instead, I was to suck into explaining basic math to a 20-year-old college student.
According to Catherine, if one starts at 3:00 p.m., as she, the hours are counted as 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. Hence, five hours.
Any explanation I offered of it being four, not five, it didn’t resonate. Finally, I broke it down in text:
3:00-4:00 – 1st hour
4:00-5:00 – 2nd hour
5:00-6:00 – 3rd hour
6:00-7:00 – 4th hour
7:00-7:30 – ½ hour
She was adamant her calculation was right, so I pushed for a call.
“Catherine, it’s basic math,” I said, exhausted by the rounds of texts. “Subtract 3 from 7 and what do you get?”
She was quiet. She thought I was the meanie employer trying to rip her off.
A light bulb went off. “Is this your first job?”
Finally, my 10-year-old listening from the couch resolved the issue. “Mom, you owe her for 12 hours!” she shouted. Translated: I overpaid $60.
More than the money, it was the attitude that irked me. Catherine waltzed in the job after her mom, our previous babysitter, got a full-time gig. She had no idea what it was like to scour the help wanted ads, fill out lengthy applications or sit though painful interview questions of “how do you work under pressure?” She thought being paid $15 to shuttle a kid to and from after school activities, allowing ample time for texts and calls to “baby” (i.e. her boyfriend), the norm
I’ve been working since age 14 and by the time I graduated college held an array of back-busting menial jobs, everything from shoveling horse manure to waiting tables. At 24, I came to New York with a $100 in my pocket, no contacts and pounded the pavement for the next 30 years, kicking, clawing my way to my current position. Hence, I wanted my daughter to have a strong work ethic and hastily assumed that Catherine’s parents, Mexican immigrants, were like-minded. But the fancy leather jacket and the ease at which she swooped up the $250 pay off the kitchen counter revealed a pampered girl emotionally younger than her years.
There had been months of missteps – putting dirty dishes on top of clean in the dishwasher, buying a jumbo popcorn at the movies after I specifically said no snacks, losing her cell phone, and the whammy of getting me fined $40 for being a no show at camp – that gnawed at my discontent. Typical, I projected my own fear of job loss on her and couldn’t seem to find the balls to fire her. Still, I ask myself, is really enough that my daughter adored her to tolerate such incompetence?