Thursday

Why I'm Proud to Not be "One of the Family"

Received Thursday, May 29, 2008 - Perspective & Opinion
I've been a nanny in New York City for six years. I'm worked as a live-in nanny for Family A for two years, a live-out nanny for Family B for three years, and now I'm happily working as a live-in nanny for an UES family with two children (Family C).

I was 19 when I began with Family A and I could not have asked for a better family to live with and work for. We quickly became very close and to this day I spend a great deal of time with both the parents and the kids. At that time in my life I still needed the structure of a family around me, I needed someone taking an interest in where I was going on the weekends, who I was with, who I was dating, etc. My parents loved that they could count on Family A to know where I was on a given evening and that they had genuine concern for me as a member of their family. I still spend a great deal of time with Family A, we travel together and now that the kids are older I play this strange sister/daughter/aunt role in their family. Sometimes I'll visit and just spend hours talking with the mom over coffee.

I was 25 when I started to work for Family B. Just as with Family A, they talked a great deal about me being "one of the family" and in many ways they lived up to that ideal, but something was always a bit off. The parents bitterly fought in front of me and confided in me details about their marriage and sex life that I never, ever wanted to know. They never respected my set hours and excused it by saying that it was so nice to have me as part of the family or part of the team because I was so flexible. It blew their mind that I wanted to be compensated for Saturday & Sunday (days I was not paid to work) while I went on vacation with them. I was constantly put in awkward positions because of the terrible relationships either parent had with their in-laws, for example, being left to prepare, serve, take part in and then clean up from a dinner party while the mom hid in her bedroom, upset from something her MIL had said (and my contract pointedly stipulated that I would never be asked to cook for adults). The father, especially, was constantly jealous of my relationship with his kids, he saw me frequently as a rival for their affection.

It's strange to look back at my years with Family B because while they were happening it didn't occur much to me how they took advantage of me. I was still operating under the assumption that a nanny should be "one of the family", and frankly, they fed my ego because they were such a very needy family.

I left Family B to work for Family C almost a year ago. It was a tough transition because, although I was very upfront about looking for a new job and gave the family more than 6 months notice, they were angry with me for leaving them. The parents made their emotions very clear and that it made it very hard for me to communicate to the children that my moving on was not a personal attack on them. The father asked me about each interview I had, in front of the kids, asking about salary and hours, which I felt was very inappropriate. The mother pulled out every passive aggressive trick up her sleeve to trip me up in my final weeks in her home, including making me think she had given one of my prospective employers a bad reference.

Now that I've worked for Family C for almost a year I can say unequivocally that I am happy to not be one of the family, but rather a very highly regarded professional. My hours are respected, and Family C never has me running non-childcare related errands (even though, because I appreciate the great job I have, I would happily run them). The parents keep the problems that are not related to their children to themselves and although they take an interest in my life, they do so as one adult to another. They've never given me unsolicited personal advice (and I've never solicited any). They give me time off when we're traveling instead of assuming that it's a pleasure to spend 24/7 with them and their kids. Also when we're traveling, especially in Europe where everything is so much more expensive, they give me a daily personal allowance because they understand that I'm not there as a sightseeing family member, but rather it's a business trip for me and they don't think I should be responsible for the cost of things, even in my free time.

All the expectations are spelled out clearly with Family C. I'm not thought of as a mind reader about things like what friends they want the kids to play with or what food they want them to eat. If there's something they feel I should know about the kids, they tell me. They love that the kids and I have bonded because they know that it's important that we have a good relationship. They love that I can provide a window into what's going on in the kids' lives because I'm there during the day, they aren't threatened when I reveal some bit of news or insight.

I understand that each family I've worked for is unique and that Family B would have been a challenge whether I kept myself separate and didn't fall for the seduction of being "one of the family". I wouldn't trade my experience as part of Family A for the world, it was part of my maturing and acquiring the professionalism I now can offer a family--but for the future, I'd much rather be a trusted professional rather than "one of the family". It seems trusted professionals get paid much more, anyway ;-)

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

OP, this was well written and a pleasure to read. Kudos!

Anonymous said...

amen sister.

Anonymous said...

Yes Thank you for sharing!!

Anonymous said...

Your numbers don't add up. You have been in NY for 6 years and have been with family B for 3 years.You started at 19 that would make you 25 now yet you say you started with family B 3 years ago when you were 25? HUH? Three years of your life are missing.

The OP said...

They aren't missing, silly, but I didn't work as a nanny during them.

There's no law saying that once one begins being a nanny, one must stay that way.

The OP said...

Oh, and I don't know where you got the idea that I've been in NY for 6 years. I've been here for 15.

Sarah said...

She meant nannying, not being in the city.

Anonymous said...

Oh. Better writing skills would have made that clear.

Anonymous said...

I think the point you make about being at different stages in life in the two jobs (families A & C) is a very inportant one.
Thanks for an interesting post.

Anonymous said...

10:38
Why so nasty? (I'm not the OP)

Anonymous said...

well there always has to be a very nasty mommy online every night or this would not be i saw your mommy, i mean nanny

Anonymous said...

Great post and very interesting. Families A and C sound like happy, well-adjusted families that have their act together. Family B on the other hand sounds like the family in the book "The Nanny Diaries." Totally disfunctional and emotionally unstable. I don't know if it's the part of the family thing, or not--but rather how stable the people you work for are. It sounds like in your present job with family C that the family is healthy, they respect you, and it's a great situation overall. ENJOY IT!!!!!!

The OP said...

It's totally true that the character of each family had/has a great deal to do with my working experiences with each. My point in this post was about how I let Family B get away with a whole lot of crap because I fell for the seduction of the whole "one of the family" thing.

Yes, Family B would have been a challenge to work for even if I had been very firm about my personal boundries, but I would have had a lot fewer headaches during those years, I think.

Anonymous said...

Family B's "one of the family" thing wasn't sincere like family A's was. They used that as a way to con you into doing more than your job description. But seriously, did you read "The Nanny Diaries"? In situations like that, it's nearly impossible to set boundaries and have them respected. You were dealing with very disfunctional people.

Anonymous said...

Boundary setting has to happen in any job. In one of my very first jobs, my boss sincerely looked me in the eye when I said I had too much on my plate and said "there are 24 hours in a day." I was thinking, there are buddy--but at what you're paying me, you're not getting them!

Anonymous said...

I truly enjoyed reading this...
i feel sometimes taken advantage
of....and now can tell when it
is and when its not...

Anonymous said...

No, 10:38, better reading comprehension would have made that clear.

proud to be an "employee" said...

OP: You're reading my mind!

Most of the families I've worked for eventually called me "part of the family"...until

1. I mentioned a pay increase
2. I asked for a day off to attend a funeral, they gave me grief and guilt about taking the time off and I later found out they called the cemetary to confirm that there really was a funeral there that day ("family", huh?)
3. I became very ill with the flu and they gave me guilt and grief for taking two days off to recover
OR
4. Their children grew to love me so much they sometimes preferred my company to their parents'
...then, I'm suddenly an "employee" again.

I prefer just being an "employee" now.
Respected, well-paid and with employers who realize I have a life outside work.

Anonymous said...

OP,

What a great post! It couldn't apply more to my current situation.

I am now with family "B" and looking to find family "C". What resources did you use to find such a good situation? How did you go about interviewing with them, (Did you ask for nanny references?). What observations did you make during the interview process?

Thanks!

atl nanny said...

Great post! My experience is similar to yours. I'm with a "Family C" type family now and I'm loving it. We are very friendly, but we are not friends and we are certainly not family. I take excellent care of their child and they treat me with respect. Everyone is happy. My time here is coming to a natural end in the next few months and I'm sad to leave but excited about beginning a new position. As I search for a new position, I'm definitely keeping in mind the "family member" vs "respected professional" dynamic.

Anonymous said...

Oh. Better writing skills would have made that clear.



Well you are the only one that didn't comprehend it .

mimi said...

I have had all three families as well in the past...same type family for A..we still talk in fact I saw them last weekend.

My "B" family was a riot. They had 5 dogs, 5 Cats, a bird and a grown nephew living in that house. They always showered...I mean absolutly showered me with things to keep me there. The house was a disaster with aging animals puking, pooping everywhere, not to mention a grown nephew who would crash in the toddlers bed where she napped (but wouldn't sleep the night) and he stunk to the high heavens. We had two full time house keepers and it never was clean although they tried like hell. But if we went to Nordstrom with mom you better believe we hit the shoe department and she would tell the employees, please bring out those coach shoes, that via spiga shoe for her (meaning me) I left with more than her. When traveling to Maine we stopped at LL Bean I think I got one of everything..literally and a pair of ice skates! They did so because it was HELL working for them and in my young age, all those "things" bought my time. I was screamed at daily...I mean who knew you fold mens boxers in threes?? Or who knew egg omlettes Must and I mean must be served in a perfect circle flipped in half. Mom was a loon and she kept me because she bought my time.

After my last family where I too was treated as a professional did I realize that, that's exactly the right relationship.

Anonymous said...

This post is so interesting to me as a nanny! You are right, it is so hard to acheive the right balance between being a personal and being professional. This job calls for quite the balancing act.

I think the reason Family C worked out for you more than anything was because you were upfront and knew what you wanted and didn't want from the beginning.

I would add that having a contract that spells everything out in the beginning is VITAL, including duties and pay. This is true whether you want to be part of the family or more removed.

jennifer lecarlo said...

I appreciate you post nanny, but you come off as very cold and distant. You wouldn't be the sort of nanny I would hire, but it sounds like you have found a place where you are happy.