May 8, 2007

Wanted: Perfect Yaya

One of the thankless tasks of mommyhood is the search for the perfect nanny. Someone close to perfect, anyway. Someone who:

1. Would fill in the mommy shoes while I’m at work but gladly relinquish the same when I’m home
2. I can leave the routine to (I am hopeless at regular stuff like feeding, clipping nails, giving vitamins)
3. Wouldn’t expose my daughter to “Spaghetti Pababa,” telenovela, Wowowee, TB, infections, cooties
4. Doesn’t have fangs, doesn’t suck blood and doesn’t count Dracula as a cousin
5. Reads, or at least knows how to read
6. Would treat my baby as her own

At first, I was content to do yaya duty. A midwife would come in to give Gianna her bath, a cousin would clip the nails and my trusty phone would prompt me when it was time for vitamins. Because my baby was asleep most of the time, I had enough time for Bo Bice and American Idol, scrapbooking and squeezing in the paper work.

But maternity leaves don’t last forever. With two weeks to go, I began my frantic search. Candidate No. 1 had a lot of demands. Candidate No. 2 was way too bossy for comfort. Candidate No. 3 seemed okay—and with me reluctantly on the way back to the glorified sweatshop—we inked the deal. She had a school-age kid, so it was impossible for her to “stay in.” Which was quite fine, since she promised to report early. She needed cash, so I gave her half her salary in advance. Her college-age daughter needed a summer job, so Ma took her in.

In her 40s and a fashionista at heart, Yaya T practically dolled up my daughter. She introduced her to girly stuff: ribbons, lace, headbands, frills. She read to my daughter, said “milk” and not “dodo,” “drink” and not “mamam” and “eat” and not “papa.”

She introduced me as well to the crazy world of superstition, which I naturally pooh-poohed. According to Yaya T, these are baby dos and don’ts:

1. Never bathe a baby on Tuesdays and Fridays as these are the days when the “unseen” are at their most potent
2. Never kiss a baby when s/he is making poo-poo: the baby would develop “bad breath”
3. Put something red on the baby’s bed to ward off evil spirits
4. Do not allow two babies to kiss: it would take them a long time to learn to talk

I thought Yaya T was quite ideal, never mind the fact that she had this habit of “advancing” her salary. Six months later, however, I realized that I was practically doing most of the yaya duty. Yaya T always had an excuse for not coming to work—menopause, PTA meetings, Sara Lee, fiestas, family emergencies (which, suspiciously always fell on Tuesday mornings). When my daughter turned one, I knew it was time to look for another Yaya.

Enter Yaya J, who was still in her teens and raring to work. I had initial misgivings about entrusting my baby to someone so young but it seems that Gianna did the choosing. Turns out that she wanted not so much a guardian as a playmate—an ate.

For all her shortcomings, Yaya J is okay. Sure, she “texts” a lot. As a result, my daughter’s vocabulary now includes “pasaload,” “low bat,” “charger,” “load please to zeyo nine one seven twenty eleven five six seven”. Sure, I sometimes have to do the picking after. And sure, my daughter knows “Boom Tarat Tarat,” “A Doo Doo Doo” and some other inanities on Wowowee. But Gianna is responding—and she is starting to learn that there is a world outside 7th Road.

I have since learned that in this imperfect world, there is no such thing as the perfect yaya. Not even close.

Come to think of it, I am luckier than Excruciatingly Thin Sister in the Yaya Department. Her daughter is turning two this July and she is already on her eighth yaya…

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