Nanny's Living Arrangement Too Close For Comfort

Received Monday, May 25, 2009
Perspective and Opinion on ISYN Hey Readers, just looking for some opinions.

(BACKGROUND- I am a young, American, college-educated nanny with tons of experience including twin and special needs. I have also worked with celebs in the past. I am considered a high-profile nanny.)

I recently got an extremely well paying job with a lot of perks (travel, good hours, benefits, etc). It is definitely a difficult job but in time will pay off.

This is the thing... I was asked to live in for the week which I didn't want to but agreed knowing there was a "staff floor" ie private bedroom/bathroom, private entrance and staff kitchen and lounge to be shared with other nannies and housekeepers. It has recently come to my attention that I will be staying now on the floor with the 3 children in between their bedrooms. This wouldn't be a total problem but I feel as if because I am the "main" nanny they expect the world of me. They want me on the kids floor because I am there to watch them but is it really that awful of me to be 4 floors downstairs? There is an intercom. I feel like they are just setting me up to take advantage.

We also go to the country house on the weekends and will be moving their all summer. There is a separate house on the property known as the staff cottage. It is a 4 bedroom house with 3 of the rooms currently filled and usually only 1 filled majority of my scheduled time. There is also a third floor with an extra family room/playroom and 3 suites (decks, bathrooms, and sitting rooms). Here in the country I am the only one stuck in the house. I am not even allowed to stay in one of the suites. Instead I am in a room conjoined to the middle child's room and right next to the parents room. I have no furniture except a bed and a side table. I am told this is where I will be spending the summer. Where will I put my stuff? The closet is filled with the kids winter clothes and there are no drawers. I would like to be in the guest house but at the very least upstairs in a suite.

There is no tv, not even a radio in my room. I am more than welcome to watch the television upstairs in the extra family room but I have to creep downstairs in the middle of the night past the parents open bedroom door to get to my room. I feel uncomfortable with them being so close, hearing my calls, knowing when I'm going to bed, hell--hearing me pee! Every morning when I shower I wake up their child because of such close proximity.

I am new (5 weeks) and will be on the books starting in 2 days. My bosses are VERY by the books, typical yacht club-park avenue family and really don't do well with change.

I'm not sure exactly how to bring it up but I am lonely sitting in a room staring at my wall all night when the rest of the staff are cracking beers together watching a movie in their cottage. I am very different than their past nannies whom were in their 60s, didn't speak English and fell asleep on the job. They appreciate how well I work with the kids and how flexible and hard working I am for them but I don't know if asking to be moved is crossing the line. Come summer I would like to go out on my nights off and my days off but I feel like I am doing something wrong. I feel guilty.

I understand they are a family and I would never overdo it and come stumbling in at all hours but I am an adult and if I want to go to a 10 o clock movie with some friends and be back at 1230 I feel like that is my prerogative. I do my job, I do it well and I feel an unbalance. They think that they need to keep me so close because I manage the household but can't they give me the chance to prove I can do that from across the driveway?!

Advice please!

Also, feel free to leave out the "grow some balls and just talk to them" comments. I need some good solid advice or none at all thanks.


nannyontherun said...

Ohhhh sweetpea I feel your situation so much. I'm a live in and in a very similar and unhappy situation. My bosses are very adverse to change as well. If I were you though, I'd think hard about wehther or not it's worth it to lose the job over. I'm not saying that they'll fire you because you ask for a change in your situation, I really don't know these people and have no clue how they'll respond, but it's always a possibility. I will say though that if this is a problem after only 5 weeks, then it will be miserable trying to stick it out for a year or longer. Just make sure you look at it from their end of the spectrum and try to gauge their reactions. That being said, I will tell you what has and hasn't worked for me so far.

I would sit down and talk to your boss(es) and be very honest, but in a kind way. Make sure to mention how much you appreciate what they've provided you with, and how much you enjoy their children. At the same time, though, be firm and let them know that for the past 5 weeks, this hasn't been working. Explain to them that you are an adult and you feel entitled to more privacy and request to be moved to the staffing quarters. Stand your ground in whatever you come to them with.

My bosses have promised change for over 3 months now and nothing, not one single thing, has happened. I hope your situation, and your bosses, are totally different. However, in the event they are not, do not hesitate to turn in your resignation. I've been going on almost a full 2 years in this miserable situation, and it's made me bitter not just towards my employers, but it's beginning to seep into my relationships with my charges, and that's the worst feeling ever.

Best of luck. Let us know what you do, and how the outcome is!

oh well said...

I like what nannyontherun says (I hope things improve for you soon!). There are a number of angles to this.
I would of course start by emphasizing what you like about their family and your job. Then
I would say that in order to do this challenging job well, it is essential that you get real down time, which you won't be able to do in the present circumstances.
Now, it seems like you are supervising other staff?
Do you think this is why your bosses would not let you join them? It seems like you'd rather be mingling with them. You could also make an argument as to it would actually be beneficial to your job to live close to them.
Good luck

MinuteMuggle said...

My advice is: all you can do is ask. So ask them. Sit them down and tell them what you told us. If they are not open to communication and compromise, then perhaps this is not the family for you.

And you were a nanny for celebrities! I am jeal-ous!!!!! Who were you a nanny for? Come on, give us a little hint!!!!

world's best nanny said...

I am the only live out member of my families "staff." I am the only one who is married with a family. I do feel like I miss out on a lot when they are all hanging together.

Talk to them and explain the needs for your privacy, you don't want to feel like you have to tiptoe around. Make sure you sound very appreciative of what they have given you so far.

Momkat said...

I would emphasize that you will be a much better, more attentive nanny if you have, as another poster put it, "real down time." You are an adult and entitled to some time to yourself. I would just be very honest--and explain your point-of-view. I'm sure if this situation doesn't work out that you will be snapped up in no time by a family with a situation that's more to your liking. Please let us know how it works out =)

Mary Poopins said...

While reading your post I was formulating my response...but it has already been said here. So I'll just second it, with a little Rudolf Steiner input:

We are the containers for little ones under 7 years old. By this I mean, they have a hard time (actuallt really don't have the ability) to hold themselves; their emotions and physical energy are all fresh and new and unguided, kind of "wild" within their little bodies. The common term for this is the ability to self direct, which truly isn't intact until around age 7. I'm sure you know that being a nanny with experience. In Waldorf education this is called their "life force". And with their "life force" not yet fully developed, we allow them to use ours...every minute of everyday that we are with them. Nature just does this, it's automatic. It's nothing we consciously do. That is why we are so spent by the end of the day. And this is why you need to really take care of yourself and be sure that you are allowed the time and SPACE to rejuvenate. If not, you will find yourself getting sick often and not being totally present with the children.

I hope this doesn't come across as preaching from the top of a bandwagon. I just know this in my very own bones from holding Waldorf kindergarten classes of 25 children for 18 years! And I want to pass this wisdom onto you, not to share with your employers, but to support your needs for yourself.

Bottom line: take care of yourself. Rest. Eat well. Experience nature as often as you can to replenish. Be with friends when you are off duty. You will be a much better employee for it. Good luck to you! You deserve your private space!

mom said...

I can see both sides of this to some degree.
I wouldn't necessarily quit over sleeping near the kids, but I think it would be very reasonable to ask for your own space...either one of the suites, or a place in the guest use for yourself in your off hours so that you will have a comfortable place to relax when you are not on duty. That seems very reasonable, and they will likely agree. Maybe it just never occurred to them before. Maybe they will let you sleep in there as well, but having an nanny physically near the kids at night may be an important issue to them, so I would be very prepared to compromise on this if you want to keep your job.

Talk to them about these issues in a mature, non complaining, non whiny way. They ought to be willing to listen and work with you to make it work for everybody...especially if, as you say, they are very pleased with your work. If you approach it as a professional negotiation, they will probably respect your professionalism even more. Just say you want to clear up a couple of questions and concerns that have arisen during the trial period before the "on the books" period begins.
As far as going out with your friends in the evenings, I would approach that very casually, as in, "I want to be clear on your position about my gping out in the evenings when I am out. I notice that most of the staff stays in. Is that by choice, or because it is your preferred policy?" Then tell tham that you are fond of socializing with your friends sometimes in the evenings, but that you do not party hard or drink excessively and will not be keeping very late hours.

Good luck. You sound like a good nanny.

Village said...

I could be wrong and probably am, but I think everybody is missing the point, including the nanny.

These entitled parents don't want to have to meet any requirements of their children, or apparently their household. They want the OP or any nanny to take that position in the house. The parents wants someone between them and their children and household responsibilities. The parents want someone in the house 'lording' over the children and house. That's why an older person was such a good fit, running a tight ship and staying away from the help in the cottage. The parents don't want to have to call the nanny if the children want anything. That's the nanny's job, not theirs.

The parents have to have someone in the house, and the OP doesn't want it to be her. This is never going to be a good fit. I'd accept that, and move on.

nannyinmanhattan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carolyn in the City said...

Well, I had the same situation in every nanny job I've ever had. I never expect to have a suite, though I do understand it must be frustrating if you've come from such a lucky position in the past.

What I did with my space was simply buy things to make it comfortable for me. I got drawers from Wal Mart, decorations from thrift stores, and I also have a laptop so I never needed to use the family computer or tv. And since you seem like you get bored easily, I would say a cheap laptop is a good investment so start saving!

I'm really not sure you should bring it up. I don't think many NYC families (I'm assuming NY since you mentioned Park Ave) expect their nannies to complain about sleeping close to the rest of the family, as 90% of NY nannies do. If you really value the job, then make it work without upsetting your relationships.

And if it's just too much for you to bear, maybe make sure before you accept a position next time you ask clearly about the living arrangements. Otherwise, man up! :-)

Kim said...

It can't hurt to ask. What's the worst that happens? They say no. If they fire you over a request, then they really aren't the type of family you would want to work for, are they?

Wicker Park Nanny said...

If they are so "by the books" then they won't fire you over a request. You would have to legally get a warning for something before they can let you go.

I know you said you didn't want the advice of "get some balls and just ask them" but it seems that's all anyone's got for you.

You have to take care of yourself. Staying in your current arrangement is not taking care of yourself. The only way out of your situation is to make the request to your employers, build your case as best you can, and suffer their reactions.

What kind of constructive advice were you looking for?

Why Not Grow a Pair? said...

Would you be able to provide a reason as to why you wouldn't want to just talk to them? If we understood the reason, we might be able to be creative with our responses. Otherwise, it looks like that's all you'll get out of the group. Lots of luck of course.

ctnanny said...

Are you on call 24/7? If so, it kind of makes sense to have you near the children, so you can be there immediately if someone wakes up in the night. I also agree with Village, who says the parents need somebody in the house with them, so they are not alone with all that responsibility. I think it's reasonable to ask for a suite in the summer house, though, since it's only one floor away. Can you frame it in terms of how it will help you AND them (as you mentioned, not waking up the children, or disturbing them in the evening or early morning)? If they see that it works out for the summer, they may be more likely to give you space back at the mothership as well.
Also, these people are obviously very wealthy. Just wondering why they haven't had a "high profile" nanny all along, rather than the non-English speaking fall-asleep-on-the-job variety???

Momkat said...

If the children wake in the middle of the night, do you attend to them or do the parents? Meaning, are they parenting during the night--or do they expect you to handle anything that arises so they can get a sound night's sleep without being disturbed. That would make a huge difference in where they would allow you to sleep.

Responsibility???? said...

"I also agree with Village, who says the parents need somebody in the house with them, so they are not alone with all that responsibility."

That's too funny--that being responsible for your own offspring would be "too much responsibility." Usually that's part of being a mommy or daddy.

the real question said...

Are you working at night--or are you off?

SAHM said...

Did the family promise you a room in the staff quarters, or did you just assume that's where you would be?

I don't think it's unreasonable to want a nanny to stay near the children-as long as you are not on duty 24/7. I can see not caring if the housekeeper or a driver are in the house, but a nanny is there for the children-so you should be close to them.

Just because they have staff quarters, doesn't really mean you are ENTITLED to stay in them. I would assume being a "high profile nanny" you are very well paid, so you should expect a little inconvience to go along with the title/pay.

Tales from the (Nanny)Hood said...

Hi Bosses, I would like to talk to you and clarify some things about my living arrangements."

1) Why do you want me to live with the family instead of with the other staff?

2) If it is important that I stay near the children, may I have your permission to make my living space more homey by doing XYZ?

3)a) I would also like to clarify whether I am on duty 24/7, and that is why you prefer me to be next door to the children's rooms.

3)b) I want to be sure I don't burn out quickly and have to leave this position before I am no longer needed. Therefore, I want to be sure I have sufficient time off. Please clarify my exact schedule for me, so that I know we are on the same page.

OP said...

Hello readers,

thanks for the responses...

Just to clear a few things up...I am not on duty 24/7. I work Mon-Fri from 8-8. Yes I am "estate manager" but they are VERY good parents. The best I have seen in this type of high-profile situation. They genuinely enjoy being around their kids and caring for them which makes it more awkward for me to be close. I am getting in the way of them doing the parenting they want to.

So no, I don't work nights and the kids don't get up at night anyway...they are older. They take the kids from me after dinnerish and bathe and put them to bed themselves.

I was looking for an answer like the one from "tales from the nanny hood".

It is a little difficult to talk to them because they are very hard to please. I am aware that I have to sacrifice making the money that I am but personal space should not be negotiated. They have PLENTY of space. One of the 10 biggest properties in NYC, double wide 10 story townhouse.

Thanks everyone!
Let me know if there is anything else I can clear up!

Lola said...

A double wide ten story town house, hmmm. That's incredible...

Hmmmmm.... said...

Someone should research the ten biggest properties in NYC and see if a double-wide 10 story townhome exists. And if it's one of the ten biggest properties in NYC. Then, let us know.

fox in socks said...

It seems that they didn't state upfront where your sleeping arrangements would be and you didn't ask outright, yes? You assumed it would be in the staff housing, yes? So what's the harm in bringing up the subject?

Could you say to them that you assumed, mistakenly, that your sleeping accommodations would be more separate like the rest of the staff, that you agreed to the job under this assumption even though it was a mistake on your part, and you never would have taken the job knowing, as you now know, what the accommodations really are. So, could they possibly change your accommodations?

Their answer is probably going to be no, and you will probably need to look for another job.

Is it just that you feel shy to ask about changing the sleeping arrangments because you know that they won't agree? I can understand that you feel bad quitting but if you are that unhappy it's better to get it out now rather than waiting. If you wait, it will be that much more disruptive for your life, for the children's lives, and for the parents.

Please let us know what you decide to do. Good luck.

talesfromthe(nanny)hoodlink said...

Click the link for a 10 story townhouse

possiblyuselesslink said...

and another...

I wonder... said...

I wonder if she works for Fred Wilson, the venture capitalist. He has three children, and this nanny says she works for a family with three children.

nyc mom said...

Unless I'm missing something, the first link is a 5 unit 10-story townhouse; the second link is a single wide 7-story townhouse. There are plenty of tall townhouses, but I have never heard of a single-family, double-wide, 10story brownstone in Manhattan. Even the one Madonna bought a couple years ago for $40M was double-wide, 4-story. So OP's family must be practically billionaires!

assumptions said...

You're all assuming she's in nyc.


ChiNanny said...

assumptions -

OP said

"They have PLENTY of space. One of the 10 biggest properties in NYC, double wide 10 story townhouse."

Maybe we shouldn't be so quick to name call.

Lola said...

assumptions, talk about irony!! hahahaha! You certaintly said it.

mom said...

Ah who cares about the exact particulars of the house? If it were me and I was writing here about somebody I was currently working for, and they were high profile enough, there would be a few false facts thrown in to keep it somewhat anonymous in case they stumbled on the site. Hopefully this nanny is smart enough that she did that.
Let's just assume her problem is legit and focus on what she's asking about instead of sleuthing for inconsistencies.

I'm just saying....this is a good question. Interesting. I want to read people's different perspectives on this one. It seems there could be several differing and yet equally good solutions to this situation.

another nanny said...

Wow, so the parents are doing bedtime while you are off duty? That sounds INCREDIBLY awkward for you to be on your own time but right next door to where mom and dad are reading junior his bedtime story! I guess I was assuming you were on duty until they were asleep, which would make it less awkward, although still irritating.
The only way to change it is to ask, though. I would be upfront- that you feel a little awkward in this situation, where they are trying to parent, and you feel like you are in the way. Say that you really want to be helpful to them and meet their expectations. Ask them to clarify the reasons for having you close to the children, so that you can try to meet those expectations but also have a little more privacy. Just make it clear that you want to give them what they want, and you are only wondering if that can be done while you also get what you want.

djembé said...

Sometimes when I read the posts here I wonder why people don't get all the details of their job before agreeing to take the job. Wouldn't that be the easiest way to avoid having to deal with unsatisfactory working conditions in the first place? And if you agree to a particular arrangement and then later they try to change it, it is pretty simple to just say, no, that change is not acceptable to me, I took the job with the understanding that this is the way it would be.

Anonymous said...

Get out now. Seriously.

Nanny of 21 YEARS said...

Sorry but I thought you said you were a NANNY not normal help. Nannies stay with the kids ANYONE with an ounce of brains will know that. Sorry but you suck if you don't want to be with the kids because you're one of the awful nannies we hear on here. Yeah the parents really want to take a nanny on vacation so she can take the vacation instead of DOING HER JOB. Bad parents for not wanting a hungover drunk sorry excuse for a human on vacation. You said the other help drinks and such and they probably know that and want to know you can do your job. Count yourself lucky you even get your own room. Grow the heck up or get out of the job.