Received Friday, December 26, 2008
I have been a nanny for almost 6 years now. I have had 1 Live-In position and 2 Live-Out positions. All 3 families were wonderful and very appreciative of me. I found the first position, the Live-In, on eNannySource.com. Once the Mom became a SAHM, she introduced me to family #2, and once she became a SAHM, she introduced me to family #3. When family #3 no longer needed a nanny because their child entered Kindergarten, they knew of no one who needed a nanny. So I went back to eNannySource to find my next position, but had no luck. No luck on Sittercity.com either. From there, I wandered onto the Childcare section of Craigslist (cue scary shark-movie music). I started replying to posts left and right. I got an almost immediate response from a family that had 3 children, an 8yr old, 3yr old, and 18mo old. They wanted a Live-In. I preferred Live-Out, because I had an apartment lease, but the position sounded great, so I found someone to take over my lease. At the interview, they seemed very skilled at hiring a nanny. They had an application from 4nannies.com for me to fill out, I had to fill out a form to ensure I was legally able to work in the US, they copied my driver's license, and then signed a contract. The interview lasted 3 hours. I suppose I was just used to interviewing with people I already knew in passing, 3 hours seemed excessive. In hindsight, there are many things that should have been red flags to me.
-The routine-ness of the interview, they had done this many times before.
-The casual mentioning of ill-qualified previous nannies. By my memory of names mentioned, I believe they have had atleast 7 nannies in their short 3 years in the US. They were constantly mentioning little things these nannies had done wrong. Things that seemed very minor in my eyes.
-The printed-up schedule of great detail, and the forms to which I was to fill out each day describing how every second of each child's day was spent.
-The need for me to start immediately, 3 days before Christmas.
-The parents' broken record of pickiness in the way this and that should be done.
-The father's look of disgust when I suggested a rate of $10/hr for a Live-In for 3 children. He actually told me that was absurd! Having not been a Live-In in years, I just assumed things had changed and accepted $8/hr.
Nonetheless, I took the position. The duties were nothing out of the ordinary, I had done all of those things before. What I had not had before, were parents who demanded everything be done in ONE specific way, and not even the tiniest bit different, under no circumstances. I interviewed on a Saturday, and they wanted me to move in right away, even though I would not start working until Monday. So I went home and packed some clothes and essentials to get me through the week. The weekend went fine. I mostly stayed out of the house, making sure to arrive home well before my 10pm curfew. Even though my curfew was 10pm, both evenings I heard from the parents how I should try and be home by the kids' bedtime, 7pm, so they could tell me good night. I brushed the comments off, I was not going to be home by 7pm every night. Then came Monday. I don't think anything could have prepared me for what was going to happen that day. I was not supposed to start work until 8am. I had my alarm set for 7:30am. At 6:40am, all 3 kids come bursting into my room, yelling my name, telling me it was time to get up. Oh, no, I don't think so! I politely asked them to leave my room, telling them they were not allowed to be in there without my permission(per the contract). At 7am, the Mom knocked at my door. I answered, and she asked if I could possibly start my day a little early, she was running late. I reminded her of the contract, but she insisted. I asked if I would be compensated for the extra time, she said we would discuss it later. So I rushed to put some clothes on, and proceeded downstairs to prepare breakfast, which I was not supposed to do, as it was supposed to be done prior to my 8am start. I started cooking turkey sausage and eggs, and cutting up bananas and strawberries. The father comes in and looks disgusted. He takes a box of cereal from the cabinet, sets it down roughly, and says "You should just make this, really.". This is the same man, who 2 days before at the interview, gave me a list of Do's and Don'ts for meals and snacks, and cereal was on the Don't list. I insisted that it was not a problem, I was already almost done. "No, just throw that out, give them this.". Okay, whatever, it's your food being wasted. I serve the cereal in bowls with milk. All of the children are eating it just fine. The father comes in again, with a shocked look on his face. "What is this? Why there is milk in their cereals?"(please note they are french). (Me)"That is how I'm used to serving cereal." (Him)"Our children are NOT to drink milk, never. Only water, only water.". Okaaay...He then proceeds to take their cereal from them and tosses the bowls into the sink, and insists I make new servings without milk.
I'm absolutely flabbergasted at this point, and out of shock I say nothing and do as he says. When the children finish, I clean up the 18mo old and tell them to go play while I clean up. I clean the table, vacuum underneath, and put the dishes in the sink. I return to the children, brush their teeth and dress them for the day.
The schedule has nothing listed for 8am-10am, so I assume it is to be used for play-time. I play games with the children, Fe-Fi-Fo-Fum, Hide and Seek, Duck-Duck Goose. The father yells for me from downstairs. "Are you done playing with the children? I need you to come down". He then proceeds to show me a cheerio that I missed underneath the toddler's booster chair. "This is unnacceptable. Bugs will find this.". I apologised. "Good." he says. Another moment of shock for me. I return upstairs and engage the children in coloring and drawing. I fold computer paper in half and encourage them to make christmas cards for their parents. They turn out great. I set them aside to dry and read books to them. At 10am, the 8 and 3yr olds both say they are hungry.
I take everyone downstairs and cut up an apple for them to share. The father comes in, "What is this? It is 10 o'clock, they should not be eating at this time.". (Me)"They said they were hungry, I thought it would be okay since lunch is 2 hours away.". (Him)"No, they do not have a snack, they will not eat lunch.". He then proceeds to take their apples away, and throws them in the sink. The 18mo and 3yr old start crying, because DUH, they were hungry! The father scolds me "See, this is why they do not have snack!". WHAT? In my mind I'm just thinking about how crazy this dude is, and how I can't wait until his vacation is over so that he won't be around all day. I proceed to take the kids outside with long-sleeve shirts on. We play for about an hour before the father comes outside, red in the face. "What is this? Where are their jackets?". (Me)"It's very warm out, I don't think they need jackets.". (it was 82 degrees!!!) (Him)"No, it is December, they must wear their jackets whenever outside.". Whatever dude, they're your kids, cook'em if you want to. But this is TEXAS! December means nothing as to having to wear jackets. Just because the high 2 days before was 36 degrees, doesn't mean you need jackets today when it's 82! Finally, 12pm rolls around. I bring the kids inside and peal their jackets off of them. I then take cold baby wipes and wipe them down since they're covered in sweat and beat-red. They wash their hands and proceed to play in the adjacent room, 100% visible to me, while I cook lunch. I choose pasta with sauce and chicken from the Do's list. The father comes in and asks why the children are not in the kitchen with me. I explain that I did not think they should be playing in the kitchen while I cook on a hot stove and oven. (Him)"Unacceptable. You never leave them alone.". Yes, Sit, Seargant Sir! Geez! I then spend the next 15 minutes stressing about the 3yr and 18mo old being too close to the stove and oven. I assist the kids in washing their hands and then ask the 3yr and 8yr to take the plates, cups and silverware from the counter and set the table. A perfectly doable task for their ages, and they were very excited to be helping. The father sees this and reprimands me for having the children do my job. Good gosh guy. By this point I am totally fed up with this man! But I keep my mouth shut. I serve lunch and he joins us at the table.
He takes one bite of his pasta and says there is not enough spices. He then takes everyone's plates, dumps it all back into the pot and proceeds to add spices. He then hands me the pot for me to re-serve it. After lunch, I leave the kitchen as-is while I quickly lay the 18mo and 3yr old down for their nap, and get the 8yr old started on some winter-break school work for quiet-time. I come back downstairs to clean up from lunch, and there is the father, with the look of disgust on his face yet again. (Him)"Why have you left the kitchen in this condition?". I explain my reasoning in getting the children in bed and occupied before spending 30 minutes cleaning. (Him)"I disagree. You must not ever leave such a mess.". I proceed to clean up. Once finished, I check on the 8yr old. She is stuck on her math, so I assist her. The father comes up and reprimands me. "You must not help her with her school work, she must do it herself or she will not learn.". Okay, I agree with that to a point. But not when it comes to math. You can't just figure math out on your own. Someone has to teach you how to do it, and that was what I was doing. But whatever.
I then go downstairs and start laundry, then proceed to pick up toys. 3pm rolls around. The father comes in. "You should wake E and G by now, it has been 2 hours.". I wake them up and bring them downstairs. The father says to put their jackets on(ugh!), he is going to take us on a drive to show me where the parks and schools are. I get into the car where the father has already loaded up the children, only to be horrified in the manner they are buckled up. The 8yr old has her seatbelt on, with the shoulder belt behind her back. The 3yr old in a no-back booster, with the shoulder belt behind his back. The 18 month old in a harnessed carseat, only she was not buckled in the harness, the father has wrapped the seatbelt around her and the seat, shoulder belt behind the carseat!!! I express my concern for their safety, explaining that the manner in which the 3yr old and 18mo old are buckled up is ILLEGAL, nevermind completely idiotic! He insists they are fine and refuses to fix any of it. My heart breaks, knowing that if these people were to ever get into an accident, all of the children, mainly the 18mo old, would be seriously hurt. We drive around for an hour and a half. Mind you, I am supposed to be off at 5pm, but have to bathe the children AND cook dinner before I can be off.
It is 4:30pm, and we finally arrive home. I bathe the children and dress them in their night clothes, then proceed to choose pork chops and baked vegetables from the Do's list. I cook with the children underfoot once again. The children eat and I put the leftovers in containers. The kids play while I clean the kitchen. Mom is now home. I whisper to the 8yr old to get the cards they made earlier. She brings them down, gives the 3yr and 18mo old their cards to give, and with HUGE smiles, they give their cards to their parents, only to watch me be scolded for using their precious computer paper. It is now 6pm, one hour past my scheduled off-time. I inform the parents that I am going, they say fine. I leave and have dinner to myself at Denny's. An hour later, I receive a call that I must return immediately. Mom needs help getting the kids to bed. WHAT? I return and help for all of 5 minutes. I question myself as to why she even needed help but brush it off and return to my room.
I decide right then and there that I absolutely cannot continue this position for even one more day. I am in my room in tears thinking of doing this all over again the next day. So I pack my stuff and plan to leave that night. The parents go to bed at 9pm, and I sneak my luggage out to my car, sure to not make any noise. I lock the door behind me and smile as I drive away. 15 minutes later, I am driving down the highway, and a car speeds past me. A minute or 2 later, they slow down in front of me, making me slow down to just 30mph on a highway where all traffic is going 65mph. I notice through the back window that it is the father. He calls my phone and tells me to pull over. I exit and stop in a parking lot. He jumps out of the car and demands I hand over his house key and garage opener. I had not even thought about the fact that I had those items. I give them to him and he gets back in his car and proceeds to stir up dirt and speed away. He did not ask why I was leaving, etc. I admit I should have spoken to the parents and quit properly instead of leaving in the night, but from what I gathered from the way he got the keys back, it was not foreign to him to have a nanny sneak away in the dark.