Dear Prudence

Help! Our Nanny Had an Affair With My Husband. I Want to Make Sure She Never Does This Again.

I’m not sure how to address this without going down a seriously psychotic path.

A woman points angrily at the illustrated silhouette of a couple.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by vladmarko/Getty Images Plus and Inside Creative House/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Our advice columnists have heard it all over the years. Each Sunday, we dive into the Dear Prudie archives and share a selection of classic letters with our readers. Join Slate Plus for even more advice columns.

Dear Prudence,

My children attended a wonderful preschool until they turned 5. When our youngest child left the preschool my husband and I hired their favorite caretaker, twentysomething Kate, to be their part-time nanny. Over the past three years, Kate has practically become part of our family. Last year, I wrote her a recommendation that helped her gain entry into a prestigious special-education college program. Last week, I found out Kate and my husband have been carrying on an affair for two years. I don’t know yet if my marriage will be salvageable, but Kate is no longer working for us. I know Kate wants to continue to work as a child care provider. I think that if most moms and facilities knew about her past, they wouldn’t give her the time of day. I’m also worried she’ll betray other families the way she betrayed mine. I’m not sure how to make sure she doesn’t work in a child care setting without going down a seriously psychotic path, like mass-emailing every day care in our city. Should I do my best to forget about Kate? Or is there a sane and justified way I can keep her from hurting other families?

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How horrible to find you’ve brought such a viper into your home. The pain of this infidelity is magnified by the intimacy Kate has been granted to your family, and by finding out you are living the most tawdry of domestic clichés. You have a lot facing you. You must deal with this betrayal, decide the future of your marriage, and look out for your children’s emotional well-being. That means there’s no room in your life for Kate. (Remember the real miscreant here is your husband. He either initiated the affair or came hither in response to her come-hither glances.) Of course you’d like to have a disclaimer follow Kate for life: “Hire her and she’ll screw your husband.” You’d probably like to see it posted on the entrance gates to her college. But you need to focus on what you can control, not how to exact revenge against the babysitter. However, if she works her way through college by working for other families, and one happens to call you for a reference, you can succinctly explain the reason you had to let Kate go. —Emily Yoffe

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From: “Help! The Nanny Slept With My Husband. Can I Keep Her From Getting Another Job?” (May 29, 2012)

Dear Prudence,

I’m a liberal, late-30s feminist and small business owner. In my industry, most or all of my employees are women. I know I’m supposed to be supporting women in the workplace and the have-it-all thing, but an employee wants to bring her newborn to work. She claims that it’s “an easy, mellow baby.” This is bullshit, right? I choose not to have children for a reason and I have absolutely no interest in being around them all day long. My business partner (also a woman) thinks it would be fine. How do I put my foot down without seeming like an asshole?

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I think it’s worth doing a little research and seeing what other workplaces have instituted similar policies (here’s a few offhand) before dismissing the idea completely. That doesn’t mean you have to institute a no-rules, all-babies-all-the-time policy, but it might be a good idea to figure out something you and your business partner can agree on that can apply to all employees. Ideally, child care wouldn’t be so exorbitantly expensive that it puts working parents, especially working mothers, in such a bind when it comes to figuring out how to get to work every day (and I don’t think “Don’t have children, then” is a particularly useful response).

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All that said, you are of course within your rights to decide, with your partner, that your small office can’t accommodate children. If it’s small and open-plan, it might be difficult for other employees to take calls or concentrate. Plus, the building is likely not baby-proofed and your insurance might not cover an accident that involved a baby on the premises. So you have plenty of legitimate concerns that aren’t just “I don’t like your baby.” —Danny M. Lavery

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From: “Help! Is It Wrong That I Don’t Want My Employees Bringing Babies to Work?” (March 18, 2019)

Dear Prudence,

I’m 25 years old and I’ve never driven a vehicle. When I was 16 all my parents could talk about was how they looked forward to me being able to drive my much younger siblings (ages 4 and 6 then) around to day care and karate. The idea of being responsible for such precious cargo freaked me out and caused a lot of anxiety so I would never take the permit test. They made a small fuss about it then but then just dropped the subject. Fast forward to today and my road anxiety is much, much worse. Luckily I’m a homebody and I work within a five minute walk from my fiancé’s (who is amazingly understanding) office. However, lately I’ve been getting a lot of pressure to suck it up and learn to drive from everyone. I feel like I would be a huge safety risk to people on the road and could potentially kill someone by overreacting to any number of things that could happen driving. When I say this my parents/friends tell me I’m being ridiculous and don’t know how I can function without a license. For the record, we don’t live in a big city with easy access to public transportation, but this doesn’t cause me any discomfort in my life so I don’t see what the big deal is. What can I tell people to get them off my case?

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I’m afraid I’m going to join the crowd that’s on your case. I didn’t get my license until I was 19 years old because the terrifying movies in driver’s ed of what can happen to young people behind the wheel worked so well that I was traumatized to the point that I never wanted to get behind the wheel. Eventually having to be driven everywhere and realizing how circumscribed my life would be if I didn’t learn forced me to try again. Yes, it was scary, but being older and realizing how much I was causing my fears helped. There are people with medical conditions who cannot drive and have full and adventuresome lives. But if you are lucky enough to have the capacity, you shouldn’t let a long-ago worry keep you in your little circuit. You say that you’re lucky to be a homebody. But you may just be rationalizing the fact that you’ve let your worries keep you at home. After all, those kids you were supposed to take to karate will soon be getting their own licenses. Pick up the book Learning To Drive by Katha Pollitt, and read her wonderful essay on becoming a new driver in middle age. You need to call some local driver’s ed companies, explain your predicament, and say you want the kindest, most patient instructor. Once you get the hang of it, you won’t believe how long you let your fears rule you. I still don’t like to drive, but am grateful I finally forced myself. —E.Y.

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From: “Help! I’m Too Scared of Driving To Get My License. Do I Have To?” (Jan. 14, 2013)

Dear Prudence,

My childhood was very rough, and I spent it bouncing through foster care and various relatives. My parents were horrible. I was abandoned in a parking lot as a child, and my parents interfered with the one nice set of foster parents who wanted to adopt me because they were Jewish. I cut ties with them when I was 19 and have not spoken to any of my blood relatives for a decade. I am doing well—got an education, own my own car, and work as a bakery manager. My problem is that for years I have told people that my parents are dead, including people who have become close friends. It was easier and quicker than dragging out my past and enduring repeated conversations about forgiveness and filial duty. Now “Matt” and I are dating after knowing each other for a few years. He thinks my parents are dead—but they actually live in Florida. He knows I had a rough childhood but not how bad it was. I know I need to tell him, but I am afraid it might change how he sees me. Matt is close with his family. How do I do this the right way?

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This is a pretty big revelation, and no matter how you break it to Matt, he may be shocked at first. But if he’s known you for years, I think the odds are good that he’ll give you the benefit of the doubt as he listens and that he’ll come to understand why you’ve made the choice you have—both in terms of not speaking to your family and in how you choose to disclose that information to other people. It may help to open with why you haven’t been able to discuss this with many people: “It was an incredibly painful and difficult decision, and hearing from people who had no idea how much I’d been through that I owed my parents another chance got to be more than I could bear. I know that you’re close with your own family, and it might be hard to imagine a version of the world where you are happier, healthier, and safer without being in touch with them. But I’ve only been able to build a decent life for myself completely apart from my biological relatives, and I hope you can try to understand why I’ve had to make difficult choices to get here.” Matt may have questions and need some time to adjust, and that’s fine. As long as he’s willing to slow down and listen without making snap judgments, I think you’ll end up being ultimately closer for it. —D.L.

From: “Help! I Told My Boyfriend That My Parents Are Dead. They’re Not–They’re Just Horrible.” (Nov. 1, 2018)

More Advice From Dear Prudence

My wife and I have been together since high school, 17 years ago, and married for nine years. We are each other’s only sexual partner. We both went through our own “seven-year itch,” but nothing came of it, we were never unfaithful, and we stayed committed to each other. Now I find myself often wondering what it’s like to be with another woman.

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