June 20, 2018
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Hubby slept with the nanny. He’s gone. Can I keep the nanny?

Emily Yoffe
By Emily Yoffe, Slate

Dear Prudence,

My husband and I have 7-year-old twins. For the first few years I was a stay-at-home mom, but I rejoined the workforce about two years ago. My husband and I decided to hire a nanny instead of sending our kids to daycare. After a diligent interview process, we chose “Gretchen.” She was an outstanding candidate with great experience and references. My children adored her and I did, too.

Unfortunately, about five months ago I discovered that Gretchen and my husband were having a sexual affair. In my shock and anger, I fired Gretchen and kicked my husband out of the house. He begged me to reconcile, but I have decided to divorce him. As the months have passed, though, I realize that I regret firing Gretchen.

My friends and family think I am nuts, but I want to rehire her! She is no longer in a relationship with my husband, and no one I have interviewed comes close to her references, education, or flexible schedule.

My kids are now stuck in a day care they hate. Am I crazy for wanting to take back my nanny and not my husband?

—Needs a Nanny

Dear Nanny,

In an episode of HBO’s Girls, sexy Jessa gets a surprise visit from the woman she’d been working for as a nanny. That job ended because Jessa and the father were seriously sniffing around each other, although they never ended up in bed. The mother tells Jessa that she’s had a dream in which she kills, eats, and defecates Jessa, then she asks Jessa to come back to work for her. I found the scene unbelievable, but you’ve proved me wrong. Sure, good help is hard to find, but I’ll join your friends and family in being baffled by how the affair between your husband and the nanny is a marriage-destroyer but not an employment-ender.

It may be that the violation of the sanctity of your home and the image of Gretchen and your husband locked in an embrace has made it impossible for you to continue your marriage. But if that’s the case, I do not understand how you can contemplate looking at her every day in the flesh. This is also going to be profoundly confusing for your children. They’ve just gone through the trauma of their family coming apart.

Surely even at their tender ages they’ve picked up that something was amiss with Daddy and Gretchen. You can’t then expect them to make sense of Daddy being gone and Gretchen coming back. Try to imagine explaining this in years to come when they explore the reason for the divorce: “Your father and Gretchen had an affair. Someone had to leave, and I decided it should be Daddy.”

Since you’ve shown yourself to be the pragmatic type, instead of putting your efforts into re-engaging Gretchen, I hope you will consider giving your marriage another try. Your husband and Gretchen aren’t lounging by the pool at their new love pad; they’ve realized the mess they’ve made and broken it off. (And it’s fair if right now your most fervent wish about your husband is to break his off.) Ending your marriage will have far more significant and long-lasting effects on your entire family than having to find a new babysitter.

Your husband has begged you to reconcile, so before you take further legal steps, agree to a limited number of counseling sessions. At the least you will have the satisfaction of a forum to make him hear how it feels to find yourself living the most humiliating domestic cliché.


Dear Prudence,

My wife is the manager at an outdoor public swimming pool. She oversees 25 lifeguards who are between 18 and 22 years old. As you can imagine, these kids are very physically fit and wear bathing suits all day.

Recently there has been a male patron at the pool who the female lifeguards believe is taking pictures of them, especially when they are climbing up or down from the lifeguard chair ladders. My wife is angry and wants to confront the man, make him show her his camera and kick him out of the pool depending on what she finds on it.

We’ve both seen legal opinions stating there is no expectation of privacy when you’re in public, but this seems like harassment of people trying to do their job. What should my wife do?

— Snapped

Dear Snapped,

I spoke to attorney Carolyn E. Wright, who specializes in photography law, and she agreed that this patron sounds like a creep, but the issue is not his camera but his demeanor. She says that in general it is not a crime to photograph people in public, even if the photographer finds the pictures arousing.

There are certain exceptions: The federal Video Voyeurism Prevention Act makes it illegal to record people’s private parts without their permission in situations where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy, even while in public — thus outlawing “upskirt and downblouse” photography. But if someone’s work outfit is a bikini, then she has to accept she might be photographed in it.

What’s wrong here is not that this patron has a photography hobby, but that he’s harassing females at the pool. This would be the case even if he had no camera (or if someone threw it in the drink) and instead simply planted himself by the lifeguard chair, leering at the view. Surely there must be something in the pool rules (“No splashing. No running. No staring at the crotches of the lifeguards.”) that your wife could use to get him tossed out.

She does not have to confiscate his camera. She should simply watch this guy, and the next time he snaps she should pull him aside for a talk. She can explain his behavior is all wet, and if he doesn’t stop, his pool privileges will be revoked.

— Prudie

Dear Prudence,

Several years ago, I was diagnosed with cancer. It was caught early and I only required one relatively minor surgical procedure and a course of radiation. I am a private person, and if I did not have to change my schedule for several weeks to accommodate the radiation, I don’t think I would have told anyone at work.

Since then, I have been added to a “survivor’s list.” My organization holds several events each year to raise funds and awareness for cancer issues, and I am always invited to these. They want me to wear a special shirt, stand in a special place and be recognized as a survivor. I am appreciative of the group’s efforts and do make financial contributions, but I do not want to participate in any ceremonies, so I usually say I’m not available.

But the pressure is increasing. I heard from a friend who is active in the group that the coordinator of the events says I hurt the cause by not being there. I don’t want a confrontation, but what should I do?

— Healed

Dear Healed,

Some people turn their experience of illness into a cause and dedicate much of their lives to better treatment and a cure. Other people emerge from illness grateful that they can resume their previous lives and eager to shed the identity of patient.

No one has to justify their response to facing a serious illness. It is obnoxious and unacceptable that your workplace, in the name of altruism no less, is intruding into your most private experiences. You shouldn’t have to do anything more than respectfully decline to attend the events.

But if you feel this is affecting your work life, then you should first address this with the coordinator. How lovely that this person feels raising money for cancer allows him or her to hound those who’ve survived it!

Say that you appreciate the efforts, but you are a private person and don’t wish to discuss your illness, especially in a public setting. If that doesn’t stop the pressure, explain the situation to your boss or human resources. Say that life is too short to have to deal with such unpleasantness.

— Prudie

Please send your questions for publication to prudence@slate.com. Questions may be edited.

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