Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. ‘Freedom’ and the Disintegration of the Family

 

Chatting to my nanny the other day, she mentioned that she had been invited by one of her old employers to the wedding of a child she once took care of.

“That’s wonderful!” I said enthusiastically.

“Time goes by so fast!” she replied “and Cécile tells me she is getting a divorce. So there were two pieces of news in one message.”

“That is too bad,” I respond.

“She is happy about it. She feels free. Maybe it’s a good thing.”

Free? She feels free? I told my nanny I don’t think that kind of “freedom” is very positive, for Cécile, for her children and future grandchildren. Free … to do what exactly?

This particular vision of divorce is a particular bugbear of mine. I was particularly alarmed to see how my nanny had drunk the Kool-aid so easily.

We share her salary with another family, 1800€ after taxes for 4 days/week. She’s legally employed and has five weeks of vacation and medical care, public school for her eight-year-old daughter. I also convinced her to start the French citizenship process so she and her daughter are now French-Senegalese. She lives with the little girl’s father but isn’t married to him and he’s a shadowy figure in that she doesn’t refer much to him. He takes care of the little girl often and works too. They live in a minuscule public housing apartment in a largely white area, which she clings to because she (correctly and poignantly) wants her daughter educated with “white kids” and not in one of Paris’ “diverse” suburbs.

One of the families we shared my nanny with picked up sticks unexpectedly (and rudely, but that’s another story) and moved out to a more “diverse” suburb because they were lefties who wanted “diversity” and the “real world.” My nanny, a Senagalese immigrant whose path to France hasn’t been easy, was horrified and used to call me to complain about the delinquents hanging around the park in their new neighborhood.

If my nanny and her child’s father stay together and she stays away from the poison our culture pumps into people about “freedom”, that little girl has a good chance to be healthily middle class. On her own, my nanny would not be “free”, which means what for a 45-year-old mother of a nine-year-old girl with her salary and responsibilities? Clubbing? Barhopping? Relaxing with a cocktail on a lounge chair on a beach? And to be honest, I don’t see her fantasy of “freedom” as more delusional and absurd than that of the other divorced lawyers and HR managers living in fancy Haussmanian apartments around us. What crazy and exciting things is my nanny’s old employer Cécile going to get up to with her new “freedom?” Besides making Christmas really awkward for the rest of her family and casting a shadow over her son’s wedding?

For example, we now share our nanny with a “famille recomposée” (the politically correct French for “fusion family”) consisting of a lawyer and her son from a previous relationship, her rather taciturn new companion and their new daughter. The son is nine and has a slightly bedraggled, forlorn look and he’s not super well-behaved or well-mannered (I am always a bit wary that he’s going to break something), but I feel sorry for him. His mother is marrying her new boyfriend. She’s very pretty, loves traveling, comes from southern France. She previously employed my nanny for her son, when she was with the young Robert Redford lookalike that is his father, and that’s how we all came together. I don’t think the nanny perceives what I perceive, and I am not wrong.

The cut is never clean. When Robert Redford had to be taken home from the hospital, he had no one else to help him but his ex-companion. She is not “free.” He is not “free.”

My nanny loves the new co-mom in the “garde” and I think she sees her as glamorous. I do not, nor do I think the co-mom sees herself, deep inside, as glamorous, and I think there is unhappiness there, but my nanny doesn’t see it. And of course, in our new age of Self-Realization, we aren’t allowed to say some families are better than others or to suggest that responsibility should take priority over self-realization.

This past winter my nanny confided in me about her own child’s father, complaining about how he’s too tired to go out over the weekend, doesn’t help around the house.

I tried to be appropriate in my responses, but I really tried to make her believe in her relationship and see the value in sustaining it.

I believe in marriage. I don’t think divorce is “freedom.” I think separation is particularly disastrous for people like her, and her daughter, who have a tenuous grasp on the middle class, albeit with a lot of help from the public support. Her daughter is attached to her papa.

My husband and I do family stuff on the weekend and once we were invited to a Saturday night party that was quite an obligation for us. So we very exceptionally asked the nanny to babysit that night and she very exceptionally came, because she was delighted that hubby and I were finally “getting out.” We went to said party and counted the minutes until we could come home again. She was almost disappointed that we were so boring.

An old friend of mine wrote to me a year or two ago to tell me her news after a long pause in our friendship. My news was – drum roll! – I am a right-winger! Hers was: “Daniel and I are divorcing.” We corresponded a bit more. Their three daughters (prepubescent) “had a hard time at first,” but were “being brave” and my friend was planning a vacation without those pesky kids with her new boyfriend, some Romanian dude. I never wrote back, basically ending the friendship, but the selfishness I perceived, the shortsightedness, immaturity, carelessness really appalled me and yes, I judged.

So when my nanny complained about Marianne’s father and talked about this phantom “freedom” that has so bewitched our culture, I told my nanny the most important thing for her daughter is her papa. Not vacations, not ballet lessons, not a big apartment. The papa. That is the key to the little girl doing all the things her mother dreams of for her.

My nanny, on her own, would not be “free.” It would be a catastrophe. Why can’t we say this?

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  1. E. Kent Golding Member

    Great Post.

    • #1
    • June 27, 2020, at 3:24 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  2. EODmom Coolidge

    It has to be said, so tell your nanny. She may tell her friends. But it has to be said without apology and without debate. Papa needs to be the home. And mama and papa need to be married for their children to be healthy. 

    • #2
    • June 27, 2020, at 3:53 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  3. Tocqueville Coolidge
    Tocqueville

    EODmom (View Comment):

    It has to be said, so tell your nanny. She may tell her friends. But it has to be said without apology and without debate. Papa needs to be the home. And mama and papa need to be married for their children to be healthy.

    I did say most of that. This working from home thing post-lockdown has given me ample time to redpill her :) 

    I believe in marriage too, but it’s often considered “superfluous” here. It’s very sad, and as I explained, so destructive for people at the bottom of the ladder. 

    • #3
    • June 27, 2020, at 4:54 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  4. colleenb Member
    colleenb Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Excellent post. I continue to be amazed at all the baby boomers who had to go see psychiatrists for years on end because they didn’t get a pony for their birthday or whatever. However, they can get divorced and the kids will work through it (‘had a hard time at first”) and there will be no damage. When children are born they are born through the love of the parents. So when you tell a child you are no longer in love with each other, don’t they sort of disappear or are ‘unborn’ if you will? All the reassurance that dad and mom still love you can’t do away with that feeling I think. No wonder so many kids think that they are the cause of their parent’s divorce. Without marriage being viewed as a sacrament and acknowledgment of the sacrifices that have to be made for each other and the children, there is little in society to keep people together. Or to have them marry in the first place. Best wishes on helping your nanny. 

    • #4
    • June 27, 2020, at 8:11 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  5. Tocqueville Coolidge
    Tocqueville

    colleenb (View Comment):

    Excellent post. I continue to be amazed at all the baby boomers who had to go see psychiatrists for years on end because they didn’t get a pony for their birthday or whatever. However, they can get divorced and the kids will work through it (‘had a hard time at first”) and there will be no damage. When children are born they are born through the love of the parents. So when you tell a child you are no longer in love with each other, don’t they sort of disappear or are ‘unborn’ if you will? All the reassurance that dad and mom still love you can’t do away with that feeling I think. No wonder so many kids think that they are the cause of their parent’s divorce. Without marriage being viewed as a sacrament and acknowledgment of the sacrifices that have to be made for each other and the children, there is little in society to keep people together. Or to have them marry in the first place. Best wishes on helping your nanny.

    Thank you! I agree so strongly. Divorces break my heart. My most deeply ”reactionary” prejudice is against divorced people. That said I know that not everyone has the same situation. And weirdly the two mothers after mine that I admire most are single mothers. But I suppose the key to my own inconsistency on this is that their mothering was characterized by self-abnegation: no career and no dating in either case, both 100 percent devoted only to the children. One started dating & remarried after her twins graduated from college. The other also has two daughters: one married to a great guy with two sons and the other has a steady relationship and a job.

    • #5
    • June 27, 2020, at 10:21 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  6. Richard Easton Member

    Our former cleaning woman (we moved) had a nice daughter from a previous relationship (they didn’t marry). She then married a bad guy and had a son. Abusive guy favored his kid over her daughter. She’s now divorcing him. Divorce or effective divorce is not good for the kids.

    • #6
    • June 27, 2020, at 2:46 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  7. Old Bathos Moderator

    It is depressing to talk to twenty-somethings and hear them express terror about marriage. Loss of fun, inevitability of betrayal and pain, so instead one should opt for often lengthy yet weirdly-conditioned cohabitation arrangements… People who study such things tell me that Boomer selfishness and high divorce rates traumatized the next generation.

    My wife and I were blessed to have lots of friends who also had lots of kids. Not much brooding about missing out on the dating scene. Lots of support and joy.

    There seems to be an especially concerted effort to encourage women to be selfish as if equality is all about emulating some caricature of the opposite sex, the least honorable, most selfish guys. Autonomy, promiscuity, loneliness within a crowd and no lasting ties seems like a self-evidently poor choice for trying to achieve lasting happiness.

    I guess we forget that giving bad advice to women is the world’s oldest profession, invented by the snake in the Garden of Eden. Never works out well, does it?

     

    • #7
    • June 27, 2020, at 4:31 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  8. kedavis Member

    Old Bathos (View Comment):
    I guess we forget that giving bad advice to women is the world’s oldest profession, invented by the snake in the Garden of Eden. Never works out well, does it?

    Love this. But frankly, any story that starts out with any reference to a nanny, or housekeeper, or whatever, I just can’t relate. I own a 3-bedroom home, free and clear. But 1800€ is more than my monthly income. My middle-to-upper-middle-class parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters… not one of them ever had a nanny, or a housekeeper. Although they could have afforded to.

    • #8
    • June 27, 2020, at 9:01 PM PDT
    • 1 like
    • This comment has been edited.
  9. Tocqueville Coolidge
    Tocqueville

    Richard Easton (View Comment):

    Our former cleaning woman (we moved) had a nice daughter from a previous relationship (they didn’t marry). She then married a bad guy and had a son. Abusive guy favored his kid over her daughter. She’s now divorcing him. Divorce or effective divorce is not good for the kids.

    A colleague and her bf drove me home once. He was more and more late to pick up his kids and was becoming quite tense because there was so much traffic. She clearly couldn’t care less (they weren’t her kids). I thought the whole thing was pathetic.

    The rates of abuse are higher for children not biologically related to the caretakers, but as Jordan Peterson discusses, the child from the previous relationship is really just an obstacle to its parent’s new partner. Imagine what that does psychologically to a child.

    • #9
    • June 28, 2020, at 12:38 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  10. Tocqueville Coolidge
    Tocqueville

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Old Bathos (View Comment):
    I guess we forget that giving bad advice to women is the world’s oldest profession, invented by the snake in the Garden of Eden. Never works out well, does it?

    Love this. But frankly, any story that starts out with any reference to a nanny, or housekeeper, or whatever, I just can’t relate. I own a 3-bedroom home, free and clear. But 1800€ is more than my monthly income. My middle-to-upper-middle-class parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters… not one of them ever had a nanny, or a housekeeper. Although they could have afforded to.

    The 1800 is divided by two families and is a good price compared to American or UK prices for daycare, let alone a nanny who works in your home. I work outside the home, and this, like it or not, is a fact of life in large cities. I mentioned that because while I think she has a decent living wage (based on France’s SMIC, or minimum wage, around 10€/hr) , it’s not enough for living large if she were “free” on her own. That’s why I mentioned the numbers.

    I think the same could be said of someone in your family who decided to divorce. It represents an incredible impoverishment financially, and let’s not get started on the emotional repercussions for everyone involved.

    • #10
    • June 28, 2020, at 2:26 AM PDT
    • 1 like
    • This comment has been edited.
  11. Tocqueville Coolidge
    Tocqueville

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    It is depressing to talk to twenty-somethings and hear them express terror about marriage. Loss of fun, inevitability of betrayal and pain, so instead one should opt for often lengthy yet weirdly-conditioned cohabitation arrangements… People who study such things tell me that Boomer selfishness and high divorce rates traumatized the next generation.

    My wife and I were blessed to have lots of friends who also had lots of kids. Not much brooding about missing out on the dating scene. Lots of support and joy.

    There seems to be an especially concerted effort to encourage women to be selfish as if equality is all about emulating some caricature of the opposite sex, the least honorable, most selfish guys. Autonomy, promiscuity, loneliness within a crowd and no lasting ties seems like a self-evidently poor choice for trying to achieve lasting happiness.

    I guess we forget that giving bad advice to women is the world’s oldest profession, invented by the snake in the Garden of Eden. Never works out well, does it?

     

    My dad once told me that our culture doesn’t celebrate the traits that make a good dad. Actually I think that our culture no longer celebrates motherhood either. I was a lefty when I was pregnant with my first (I say this all the time – apologies all round, folks) and if I had to do it all over I might have stayed home. Not because I think have missed something, because I actually don’t work very intensely, just enough to have colleagues and a little working life, and I feel very confident about my kids (the francophone nanny didn’t teach them English, which they speak fluently so my presence is there), but just to “give the finger” to our mass culture and to be ornery! 

    Meanwhile the message I am giving my daughters is Babies, Families, Husbands. After that find a job/skill/competence that doesn’t infringe on your family. And I am running truly against the grain. But my kids are prepared to live against the grain because every night we have to de-program them about “the destruction of the planet” which they harp about at public school. And we tell them they can’t repeat Mom and Dad’s dinner conversation about Trump otherwise no one will speak to us. So my kids are totally prepared for a Pravda Soviet-style intellectual life.

    • #11
    • June 28, 2020, at 2:38 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  12. Tocqueville Coolidge
    Tocqueville

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    It is depressing to talk to twenty-somethings and hear them express terror about marriage. Loss of fun, inevitability of betrayal and pain, so instead one should opt for often lengthy yet weirdly-conditioned cohabitation arrangements… People who study such things tell me that Boomer selfishness and high divorce rates traumatized the next generation.

    My wife and I were blessed to have lots of friends who also had lots of kids. Not much brooding about missing out on the dating scene. Lots of support and joy.

    There seems to be an especially concerted effort to encourage women to be selfish as if equality is all about emulating some caricature of the opposite sex, the least honorable, most selfish guys. Autonomy, promiscuity, loneliness within a crowd and no lasting ties seems like a self-evidently poor choice for trying to achieve lasting happiness.

    I guess we forget that giving bad advice to women is the world’s oldest profession, invented by the snake in the Garden of Eden. Never works out well, does it?

    Another thing I notice which is lost as religion decreases is humbleness. Why be terrified of marriage? Because you might marry “beneath you” and find your vertiginous upward trajectory as Batwoman/Supermodel/Sheryl Sanburg hampered by some dork? Same goes for men. Everyone is taught nothing is too good for them and they are bound for the stars. When life is really about simple things: your morning routine on a Tuesday in February. Evoking Jordan Peterson: very few people have “Careers”. The vast majority work for money to live doing things that other people don’t want to do. Even if you have A Fulfilling Professional Life, one day you put your stuff in a box and go home and they all forget about you, unless you’re like… the Pope or William Buckley or Mick Jagger or something. People are no longer taught that they will probably be normal and ordinary, if they are lucky.

    • #12
    • June 28, 2020, at 2:45 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  13. Tocqueville Coolidge
    Tocqueville

    kedavis (View Comment):

    Old Bathos (View Comment):
    I guess we forget that giving bad advice to women is the world’s oldest profession, invented by the snake in the Garden of Eden. Never works out well, does it?

    Love this. But frankly, any story that starts out with any reference to a nanny, or housekeeper, or whatever, I just can’t relate. I own a 3-bedroom home, free and clear. But 1800€ is more than my monthly income. My middle-to-upper-middle-class parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters… not one of them ever had a nanny, or a housekeeper. Although they could have afforded to.

    By the way, the post isn’t about the nanny. The Nanny is a proxy for telling larger story. The Relevance of what we have to say is in inverse proportion to the amount of money we have? What is this? The Guardian? Socialist Worker’s Daily? My husband’s dad is a retired plumber and he studied to become an actuary and yes we employ a nanny, with another family (the lawyer mom’s mother is a nurse by the way). And my nanny’s daughter could be a minister in France if her mother plays her cards right, which is the point of my story.

    • #13
    • June 28, 2020, at 3:05 AM PDT
    • 2 likes