Nanny’s First Job, a Cautionary Tale of Woe

nanny horror story Once upon a time, many many MANY moons ago, a young woman we’ll call, um…Deb, was going to school part time, baby sitting part time, and working at a major retailer part time. One day, she paused to take a breath, looked around, and said to herself, “Self, I think I am ready for a change. What can I do to make money and avoid going to school for a while?” After looking in the newspaper want ads, (I did say this happened a long time ago, right?), Deb wiped the ink from her hands and said, “I’ll be a nanny! That sounds like fun, and I like kids, so it’ll be great!”

After answering several ads, and interviewing with a few families, Deb decided that she wanted to work for a Doctor (D) and an Executive (E), caring for their 18-month-old little boy (T). She was sure the $275 per week salary would be plenty, especially since she would only be working 50 or so hours a week, caring for a little boy who was, according to his parents, easy to amuse. Deb reported to her first day of work full of sunshine and happiness, ready to adore her “charge” and learn all about her new employers from the nanny she was replacing, a sweet Chinese lady. Boy, did Deb learn a lot that first week! She learned that since T was “underweight” he always had to be entertained by a floor show when he was being fed. Singing, dancing, puppet wielding, full on floor show 3 meals a day and 2 snacks as well. She also learned that T got a bottle full of kiddie Ensure mixed with a cup of Hagen Daz vanilla ice cream when he refused to eat anything, which happened, oh, 5 times a day. And Deb learned that E. was pregnant and actually lived in another city, working for a semi-shady fellow who wanted to open a casino. And Deb learned that D not only prescribed antibiotics for his own kid at the drop of a hat, but that he also worked 12 – 24 hour shifts 5 days a week. No matter how Deb tried, she couldn’t make the math work out to her actually working 50 hours when D was at work 70 – 80 hours and E was in a different city.

However, T was cute, and he didn’t seem to actually need that mealtime show to eat once Deb stopped stuffing him with ice cream and Ensure. The fact that they couldn’t leave the property of the condo where Deb worked except to walk on a sidewalk-free road to a duck pond ½ mile away wasn’t so bad. Really, it wasn’t. At all.

Then, pregnant E came home about 6 weeks after Deb started, and cried sad tears about how she missed her baby, and Deb agreed to go and live with E and T in a “suite at a grand hotel” owned by (semi-shady) boss of E. Any guesses as to how grand that “suite” was? Here’s a hint. It was 3 connected rooms in a “hotel” on the level of a low-end Hyatt. So, after getting lectured for ordering room service on her first night in the “suite” after traveling all day with disengaged E and T to get to the completely new, and ever so slightly dangerous, city where Deb knew only her employer, Deb figured out how to find a grocery store, wrested occasional control of the rental car from E after promising she would deliver E to work at 7 am each morning that E didn’t need the car, and Deb set out to find fun things to do with T other than hang out at the low-end Hyatt all day.

Sadly, many playgrounds in the main area of town were “not for our kind of people”, and the days began to drag. Toddler was bored, so E put him in school. T and Deb went with E to see E’s offices, and Deb realized that E was trying (rather hilariously) to hide her very obvious pregnancy from her boss. And then Deb realized, after opening the door to the “living room” one weekend day, that E was a pig-like slob. Which meant that food left where it was dumped tended to bring ants into the “suite”. Deb also realized that if she was around at all on weekends, she would be told to work in the hellish pit of slop created by E because E was “tired and needed a break”. Luckily, there was a mall and a movie theater within walking distance of the low-end Hyatt, and the drivers who took tourists into the city proper always asked Deb Friday and Saturday nights if she was escaping the next day.

Eventually, D came into town so he and E could go house hunting. Of course, it was essential that Deb and T come house hunting too, because that was a terrific day long activity for a 20-month-old on a weekend. Then, it was decided that D, P, and T would go home for a long holiday weekend, and that Deb would be thrilled to NOT go home. After some soul searching, and some discussions with her parents, Deb decided she needed to find out when there would be a house to live in, whether D and E had actually been paying taxes, and, generally, how much longer her 50 hour work weeks would actually be 75 hour work weeks. When Deb asked E those questions, she was told that no house was going to be bought, because it “made more sense” to stay in the low-end Hyatt with a 22-month-old and a newborn, that of course no taxes were being paid, and that Deb should have known that her hours would get longer when baby arrived. So Deb gathered her courage around her like a cloak, and said the magic words, “I am going to give notice as of now, since this situation is not going to get any better.” In exchange for that statement, Deb got to work 2 weeks with E doing her best imitation of an icicle, a ticket home on a 5:30 am flight, and much huffing and puffing about “ungrateful people”.

Deb made her escape after 4 months of 70+ hour weeks, happy to have survived, and sure that she would go back to work in retail. Deb also got scary papers from the IRS a month later, and got to explain that D and E were a bit confused, since Deb was not the employer at all, and Deb was sad that D and E hadn’t been paying the taxes they had to pay. That was pretty fun, actually. Then, Deb discovered that there were actual Nanny Agencies, and that the Nanny Agencies placed nannies with families who understood the concept of a 50 hour work week, and paying taxes, and all sorts of stuff that made it much more fun to be a Nanny. And Deb found a job through a Nanny Agency, and stayed there for 4 years. And then she found another job, through another Nanny Agency, and stayed there 7 years. And so on, and so on…

Deb realized that life as a nanny was pretty terrific when one knew a little about how the nanny world worked, and she also realized that almost every nanny she met had a scary story about her First Nanny Job. And Deb lived (mainly, overall) happily ever after.
Nanny Deb, aka Tales From the (Nanny)Hood
Professional Nanny and Postpartum Doula
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unicornsparkleprincess said...

am i the only one who was really confused by this?

Tales from the (Nanny)Hood said...

Yes, so far you seem to be the only confused person. Perhaps I can clarify things for you?

Tales from the (Nanny)Hood said...

Sorry, that was was less snarky in my head. I am the OP. What can I clarify for you unicornsparkleprincess?

NJNanny said...

I get it, but I can totally understand getting all confuggled by the T and D and E stuff OMG too much too much!

Good Story, and glad that it was your first, and not your current =)

nycmom said...

Very funny story, though sad to think so many nannies get taken advantage of like that. AND that there are so many shady employers finding these new nannies to exploit. I know I made mistakes as a new nanny employer, but they were more along the lines of not making a contract, not knowing when/how much raise to give, not insisting she take vacation, not being assertive enough, etc.

Wow said...

Well written and entertaining, though sad. And it was a bit scary thinking of you in a strange city, living in a not so nice part of town with people you barely knew who obviously had issues. (That's the mom in me.)Thank God for living and learning!

Concerning nanny agencies, I am not a fan. In dealing with them in NYC, especially, and in NJ my perspective is that they are not interested in the nanny's needs at all. I've had agencies call me about jobs and not follow up. I've had them ignore what I tell them I'm looking for and get annoyed when I tell them I'm not interested in a job they call me about that's the opposite of what I'm looking for. And NYC loves to offer 24 hr. a day/5 or 6 days a week jobs with extensive travel, and not a mere mention of overtime pay.

Agencies are supposed to help MATCH nannies and families, and it seems like it would be in everyone's best interest for them to listen to what nannies say we want.

The overall impression I get from people (not just parents, either), is that we as nannies are SUPPOSED to WANT to make all kinds of sacrifices for families. They don't see us as deserving of the benefits and compensation that any other workers get. And I think it is a spillover of what our society thinks of mothers and the role they play.

It's sad. However, I LOVE what I do and I just try to educate people along the way when the conversation comes up. My hope is that one day early childcare workers will get the respect we deserve, but that will only happen if nannies hold up a standard and stop allowing ourselves to be taken advantage of. That's why I like ISYN so much. We can encourage and inform one another.

Wow said...

Nanny Deb, I see that you're a Postpartum Doula. I'm currently working on getting my Postpartum Doula certification from DONA. How much PPD work have you done?

SmarterNow said...

NycMom, I agree with you that there is a learning curve to being a good Momboss. Unfortunately, it is the exception where I live here in West LA to have a nanny on the books, pay good bonuses and provide benefits like a car, health care, sick and vacation leave. We do it because we have found that it is worth spending money to retain a great nanny and keep the kids happy and safe.

Tales from the (Nanny)Hood said...

NJNanny, I would probably use generic names if I were re-writing. The initials are a bit much, on a (6th!) read through. Sorry if it makes people's head's hurt!

Truth Seeker said...

This was kinda confusing...I stopped in the middle, tried to read it again..then lost track of who was who, who was where, etc.

I ended up not being able to read this in its entirety but I do sympathize with the writer. We all have experienced the nanny job from hell and it's nice to know us nannies are in good company.

RBTC said...

very good story,wry wit! Was not confusing to me ;0)

oh dear said...

This story sounds like a horrible situation but the tax thing sounds made up for drama. I think it does nannies a disservice the way it is written. How did the IRS know you worked for these people if they weren't paying the taxes that they withheld from your pay? Did this happen when you filed your tax return? Did they not give you a W2 after you were done working for them? As an employee, it is just as illegal to accept a job under the table as it is to employ someone under the table. From my experience with a business that possibly didn't turn in the money to the IRS that was withheld from my pay, I stood to just get double screwed when I looked into this - because the IRS it turns out just comes after you, the employee, for you to pay taxes on the 'net' pay that you did receive. Then you have to sue the employer on your own for the money they kept from you. The whole "rat out your employer for not paying taxes" goes both ways and gets both the employee and the employer in a situation where they BOTH owe the IRS $$$$. I'm not trying to start and "on-the-books vs off-the-books" debate but I'm tired of the "nanny paid off the books is a victim" camp. If you are qualified to care for children, you can't be so ignorant as to not know that it's illegal to work off the books.

Brianna said...

Oh dear: I think the reason many people work under the table is that back in the "olden days," people used to babysit for other families and get paid in dollars and cents. As a teen-ager in high school, I would baby-sit for families during the summer and I never even thought to report it. At 15 & 16, I would work full-time during the summer months, watching Elementary School kids. I would just accept my cash payment and I never knew I was supposed to report it. Honest to God.

oh well said...

Tales from the Nanny Hood, I am glad that things turned out OK for you. I really enjoyed your writing. I am looking forward to reading more of your stories.

Tales from the (Nanny)Hood said...

oh dear, if I told the whole story of the 3 year long debacle of the taxes, you still wouldn't believe it, so I'll just answer your questions

How did the IRS know you worked for these people if they weren't paying the taxes that they withheld from your pay?

****They knew because MARY (formerly known as E) and TOM (formerly known as D) filed papers using my social that claimed I was the EMPLOYER. I wound up with an EIN, and made lots of calls to the IRS, during which I mentioned often and loudly that MARY and TOM had been the ones needing an EIN.

Did this happen when you filed your tax return?

****No, it happened when I got my EIN from the IRS that was assigned due to MARY and TOM's rank idiocy and/or meanness.

Did they not give you a W2 after you were done working for them?

****No. They did not. Because, I assume, they thought they had finished with the tax issue when they filed for an EIN in my name.

As an employee, it is just as illegal to accept a job under the table as it is to employ someone under the table.

****I accepted the job based on their promise to handle the taxes. I quit the job partly because they reneged on that promise. And I'll just point out, in case you missed it, that this happened a long, long, long time ago. More than 18 years ago, to be exact, and that I knew NADA about how parent employers should manage taxes, or how I, as a nanny, should operate. Luckily, I've learned a bit since then.

I'm tired of the "nanny paid off the books is a victim" camp. If you are qualified to care for children, you can't be so ignorant as to not know that it's illegal to work off the books.

****Are you saying that I claimed to be a victim? Because no, I did not. And the ignorance question is answered above. Show me a nanny who worked 18+ years ago that was fully versed in nanny employment and tax law, and I'll be glad to claim ignorant status, OK?

Tales from the (Nanny)Hood said...

Wow, unfortunately I haven't done too much official PPD work, although as a nanny I have worked with PP moms. My ares of the country is catching on late to the PPD concept. I did get to work as a PPD for a mom of twins and loved it though!

How do you like DONA? Do you feel they give you support and help when needed? Where are you in your certification process?

Tales from the (Nanny)Hood said...

**Wow, if you want to read my "Nannyfesto" about nanny agencies, it's at my blog. It stemmed from a discussion on linkedIN, and it addresses a lot of what you mention WRT agencies.

**oh well, thanks for the compliment! Any suggestions about topics you'd like to read about?

Wow said...


I love your blog. I will read what you say about nanny agencies. I appreciate your experience and willingness to share.

I used to live in your neck of the woods, in Marietta, GA. That's where I learned about doulas about 17 yrs. ago, though I'm just now getting certified. I also work as a baby nurse at times, as well as a nanny to multiples and preemies.

I do like DONA. They are supportive. And there's a "crunchy" movement right in PA, where there would more PPD opportunities. The trainer of my workshop is front and center in that movement and she's a wealth of information and resources. After certification has been completed and approved, DONA adds doula's name to their online list. I still have to write summaries for my 3 families, write my mission paper, read one more book, and compile my resource list. How did you like training with CAPPA?

I've introduced knowledge of postpartum doulas to some who were unaware here in NJ by choosing to volunteer my field work obligations. They were very grateful and I was able to fulfill my obligations. They also pass my name along to their pregnant friends.

Tales from the (Nanny)Hood said...

wow, you can email me through my blog if you want - I'd love to hear more about your time in GA!

I enjoyed the CAPPA training immensely, but I feel their post-training support for PPD's is a bit lacking. Out of my training class of 12, I think only one woman is now certified, and she had other support systems in place to help her find families.

I think CAPPA is very focused on the labor doula and lactation education aspects of their program. I also have found many of their LD's kind of "tack on" PPD support to their services, which I think does limit the opportunities for pure PPD's to find families to support.

I loved reading all the materials, and am happy I am a PPD, but ultimately I am a "steady income" type of person, and can't envision working short-term jobs. Unless I win the lottery, lol!

Wow said...


I agree about the steady income. Although I am going to get my certification, I only see doing PPD work in between, or in addition to, nanny jobs because I need the steady income.

I will email you through your blog.