Archive for March, 2010

Toddler go-see

I’m two days late but the sentiment is still strong, so thought of putting it down in ink — had the worst case of the Mondays in a long time!

My agent got in touch with me last Friday about a modeling gig with Wells Fargo and asked if my son and husband were available too. I should have said “no” to the latter two but thought it might just work because Virj and I did a Wells Fargo shoot last year. Soam was just not interested but he had to take us for the go-see on Monday anyway because I usually can’t manage Virj by myself especially when I have to look professional at the same time.

So on Monday morning we managed to get ready on time and headed to the Nancy Hayes casting office in San Francisco. The first hurdle was to find the place. We spent a lot of time wandering around the industrial area in Upper Mission looking for the building and realized that the address provided by my agent was (slightly) wrong — she misspelled the street name, so Google Maps gave us wrong directions. Once at the spot, Soam dropped us off and disappeared for half an hour to look for parking, a scant resource in most of SF but more so here. In the meantime, I tried to get Virj settled in the waiting area. The entrance opened into a small room that had two sign up sheets, one for SAG and union actors, and the second for non-union talent. There was a pile of blank forms/fact sheets the all talents were required to fill up and take with them to the casting. The adjoining door opened into the second waiting area, a loft surrounded by rooms/studios and a flight of stairs leading up to their office. There were 4 or 5 large conference tables with chairs where well-dressed men and women sat reading out of printed sheets, which I realized later were scripts. Apparently, there was a parallel casting going on for Amtrak. So, one of the studios were reserved for that and the other for Wells Fargo. There were computers against one of the walls, where actors were registering with their information.

Virj sat down for all of half a second and then he was off wandering around the place. First he assaulted each table picking up pens and papers, then pulling chairs, shutting off computers, opening doors and walking into the various studios, kitchen, bathroom. Finally he climbed up the stairs to the office. I ran after him but all I did was get into a struggle and screaming war while everybody stared at me. Everyone was very nice and friendly but I felt so out of place and absolutely unprofessional. There I was dressed up to the nines but running up and down in my heels trying to stop my kid from sliding down the stairs. I realized it was a bad decision to bring Virj. I decided to wait for Soam and not go in for the audition when called in. It would be impossible for me to handle Virj by myself. Meanwhile, a Chinese American couple zipped in and out of the audition with a sleeping kid in a stroller. Sigh.

Inside the studio, once again it was impossible to make Virj stand on the “T” and pose for the cameras. We had a couple of pictures taken together and then separately. On the way out, I had to fill our information into the computers while Soam waited in the car with Virj. Besides the usually height, weight and age information, the online form had a three-page section on special skills that included Horse riding, Dancing – Tap, Scuba diving and Dreadlocks. Had no idea that was considered a skill! Unfortunately, my skills were limited to Yoga and Aerobics but I thought of putting in dreadlocks for Virj, though eventually I missed that in a hurry 🙁 There was also a section on languages, which had options like British accent and Irish accent. I did not quite understand the section on Cars — a list of all the makes you owned, I suppose. Since I was in a rush, I left that blank.

It was a very exhausting affair and needless to say, we don’t expect a call back –- who would want to cast a rambunctious kid with a frazzled mom! I swore that I would never take Virj for a go-see again. Virj had modeled in the past and does well in candid shots. In all his previous gigs, he was cast based on his photos and never had to audition for it. The last project he did a month ago was in the outdoors where he got to play in the park for a while and warm up before the shoot. The photographer was also very experienced with kids especially having four boys of her own and she managed to make Virj follow instructions. The second lesson for me was never to work with him in a photo shoot till he grew older and could communicate with me.

To sweeten the memory, I’m including two pictures of Virj from his last photo shoot with Nohi Kids. A proof that he does great when he’s not up to mischief.

Virj modeling for Nohikids-2

Virj Modeling for Nohi Kids

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Virj being playful

25

03 2010

Childcare blues

If you are wondering what kept me away from my blog for so long…here’s the answer….

The saying “It takes a village to raise a child” meant little to us when we thought of having a kid. Our concerns mostly revolved around finding the right school when the time came. I’m sure that will consume our lives in due time especially because we live in an area with some of the most expensive schools or school districts in the country. But for now I’ll only focus on our experiences with childcare and the lack of a “village” to raise our son!

The first time the issue arose, when we started looking for daycares to send him at 5 months, hoping to return to work at the end of my maternity leave. After a lot of research and visits to several daycares, we were able to find one we liked but Virj couldn’t adjust to the change and developed some health issues. Subsequently, I had to quit my job and take care of him full time for the next few months.

Nanny/Babysitter

We started looking for a nanny when Virj was 9 months old as we realized that he needed individualized attention. I went through several referral channels including the Oracle employee newsgroup and our friendly neighborhood priest at the Hindu temple but none of them worked. I placed ads at various places, exchanged emails with potential candidates, interviewed at least a dozen people and made numerous phone calls to check references. We found candidates of all kinds including a lady who started pitching for her home daycare after coming in for an interview as a babysitter and refused to accept our offer on health grounds! We hired a person found through Craigslist who lasted a week.

To cut a long story short, we managed to find a mother’s helper (instead of a nanny) eventually, who worked for a year. Though it was just part-time help, it improved our lives considerably. During this time I went back to work and luckily was able to work from home most of the time. That helped because our helper/babysitter kept changing her schedule constantly. Even this relatively blissful period came to an end quickly when the sitter decided to quit during our long trip to India, in spite of an advance retention bonus.

Daycare

Being utterly fed-up with nanny/babysitters, we started looking into daycares again! Most of the big commercial daycares in our area had long wait lists and so we shopped around for home daycares. I looked up my referrals from a year ago and picked two — one of them got filled even before I could go in for my scheduled appointment and the other owner hiked her prices the moment she heard about us having a babysitter in the past! The later apparently had a sliding scale of prices (that wasn’t published anywhere) and charged her clients according to their perceived “affordability”. Needless to say that the hourly rate she quoted would be the same for a well-qualified nanny in the Bay Area!

So, we had no choice but to fall back on the daycare Virj first went to. So far Virj has been there few times and seems to like it. We are still worried about how he adjusts as he continues to be a very fussy eater. The ideal situation would be to divide up his time between a daycare and a babysitter at home — that way he would be able to socialize with other kids and get the one-n-one attention at home. So we are continuing our search for a part-time helper.

Babysitter

This time I’m focusing exclusively on Craigslist. I placed several ads and received emails mostly from college grads who are clearly interested in the job due to lack of opportunities elsewhere. Even some parents are willing to take advantage of this, like this ad posted by a couple on Craigslist:

Temporary” Babysitting/Nanny Position for Upwardly Mobile Young Professional

My husband and I are looking for an energetic, recent college graduate who is looking for a professional job in the real world but finding the job search challenging due to the economy.

We have a place for you to ride out the economy while earning a paycheck. We would like for you to be our nanny, helping with our two year daughter as well with cooking and light cleaning. We are both well educated professionals and well connected in the San Francisco and Silicon Valley communities. We are more than happy to mentor you with job search and career strategies as well as make introductions to people we think may be able to help. (So far we have placed two babysitters in great jobs.) We are a “fun” family. We love to go sailing on the San Francisco Bay, travel to the Napa Valley and generally enjoy life. Travel is a big part of our life and we would love for you to travel with us. ….

I’ve done several phone interviews and few face-to-face interviews so far. The candidates have ranged from a yoga enthusiast, who “gets a headache from machine noises” to an ex-Singapore Airlines staff/babysitter, who gave me a long lecture about the state of the business during a phone interview. Being desperate, we even tried out a 22-year old sitter with a very flexible schedule. Within the first few hours we realized it was a bad match — she definitely fell in the category of caregivers using this as temporary work alternative.

This clip from ThirtySomething, an 80’s TV show summarizes my babysitter search nicely!


At times, we wish we lived close to our families and could use their help! All the local resources I used haven’t been very useful.

Our experience partly reflects on the current economic condition and the wage differential between certain service sectors. I bet school teachers in the Bay Area get paid far less than full time nannies! Did you know that pilots for major American airlines can earn as little as $17000 per year? See Michael Moore’s new film, Capitalism: A love Story to understand what I mean! I think some of the wages in the childcare industry are not justified especially because there’s no definite standard by which the skills can be judged. Some of the background checks available online are not even accurate. Apparently, not all counties disclose full background information to online agencies. So, we have to cross our fingers and hope it works out with the next babysitter and she ultimately turns out to be trustworthy!

Cross posted on Bloggy Moms.

20

03 2010