The Autobiography of DC Nanny

a day in the life 2012
I’m not retiring or anything, but I thought it might be fun to tell my stories. I hope you all agree! If you’re an avid reader of this blog you might recognize my past questions. In the past, I have asked at least one question about each of my positions.

I started nannying during college. It just sort of fell in my lap. I had been babysitting for a family with 4 little girls pretty regularly during the school year. At the time they were 6, 4, 2, and 9 months. I was looking for a summer job, and they were looking for a summer nanny, so it worked out perfectly. I didn’t really have any idea what to expect in this job, and they had never hired a nanny before, so they didn’t either. I moved into their basement bedroom suite and basically became a live-in, full-time nanny. Oddly enough, I didn’t even really have hours that summer. I was sort of on all the time, but I was allowed to go off and do other things if I wanted to. The mom was a SAHM so she was usually there unless she was off getting her nails done or something like that.

Since I was on site and I didn’t have hours, there weren’t really any rules set for when the kids could come get me. There were mornings that the dad sent 3 year old L down to tell me she was hungry at 5 am. Not to be outdone, I sent her right back up to him. This family only paid me $250 a week. Considering I was on almost all of the time this was a pretty low salary, which on some level I knew, but it was a job and I loved the kids. I was pretty much considered family. The mom took me shopping with her and her friends, and my friends were welcome over at the house anytime. I actually had other people sleep over at their house while I was in charge of the kids. I was always a pretty responsible person, so nobody minded, least of all my charges, who LOVED my friends and couldn’t wait for them to come over to play. I went on vacation with them to Florida, and spent weekends with them on their houseboat. The parents actually found a different sitter for the night of the father’s 35th birthday party so that I could attend. When my car was totaled I was given use of one of theirs, and in order for me to still be able to go on a camping trip I had planned, the MB's brother let me drive his truck several states away. On the other hand, the kids were sent to my room at all hours and I was paid under my value. I felt taken advantage of when friends would come over and pile their children on me as well, not paying me anything extra. The line between family and employee was very blurry. It sort of worked for me at the time, but I learned a valuable lesson about keeping a professional relationship that I won’t soon forget. In this family discipline was a problem, and as you can imagine with 4 little girls, it became a BIG problem. While I was living there I had more control and influence over them than their own parents. When I had all 4 of them for several days at a time, I would take them on all sorts of outings. The mother was completely flabbergasted that I was able to manage that; she considered it too taxing to even take them all to the grocery store with her. This position lasted about a year. I moved back home, which was 5 states away, for a year, so they found someone else. The parents had built an apartment over the garage to house me- I lived in it for a year (paying rent), and a friend of mine lived in it for two years after that. I still love the kids and keep in contact with the parents over Facebook, but for the good of our relationship, I don’t babysit them anymore. During the time I was gone they evolved from difficult, to holy terrors, and after trying to deal with them for a weekend, I had to tell their mother that I would not be able to do so again. So I love them from a distance and in small doses, and that is working out just fine.

My next full time job came years later. I was tired of working at summer camp and wanted to find another summer nanny job. When I was called by a friend of mine who had given my name to a guy who was inquiring, I thought it was fate. In case anyone remembers, this was the question about the sole-caretaker for the summer. Yup, that was me. For those of you who don’t remember, I was hired by a single father to watch his 8 year old son while he was away for 3 months on business. That translates out to a 24/7 job. I made some major mistakes going into this job as well. I accepted a rate that I, and everyone else, knew was much too small for the hours worked. I ended up being paid $500 a week. In his defense, I know that it was all he could afford. The family was not well-off and simply hired a nanny out of necessity, not luxury. I really should have wondered more why the child wasn’t just taken care of by his relatives. I learned quickly that it was because none of them would do it anymore. He had basically been passed back and forth between relatives his entire life, and when his father finally reappeared back on the scene, he hired a nanny to take care of him. Needless to say, this child had some major issues. I was told on a regular basis that I was a horrible nanny, that he hated me, and I did everything wrong. Absolutely everything turned into a battle- I couldn’t even walk into a room without him saying something nasty to me. I tried very hard to make a connection with him. I signed him up for summer camps, took him and his friend to the pool at my subdivision, and spent time doing all of his favorite things. To work out some of his discipline problems I tried to improve his diet, set up a consequence/reward system, and made new rules for television (turn it off at 11 instead of watching it all night long). Perhaps I made too many changes. His father was on board with them and his teachers were thrilled, but maybe I alienated him by being too “different”. Whatever the case, it was an awful job. If it weren’t for my dog (who was allowed to live with me) and meeting another girl in the same apartment complex who became a close friend, I would never have lasted the 3 months. When my time was up I dropped the child off at his aunt’s house like I had been asked to do. I left a very straightforward note when I moved out, letting the father know that his child had told me he hated me so many times that I was sure he was telling the truth. The father called me twice later that school year to ask me to come back and work part-time, but I declined. I still shudder when I think about it.

My next job was a part-time position where I was in charge of one 2-month-old girl. This job was all in all pretty good. I had asked for, and received, a fair wage, and I really liked the parents. My past experiences had helped me to come up with a good working agreement, so I didn’t feel as though I was being taken advantage of. The major issue in this job was typically something I hadn’t experienced much of: travel. I asked a question about this as well, so you may remember reading it. I was asked to travel with the family to Las Vegas, where they would be working at a conference. They paid very fairly, but my accommodations were less than stellar. I ended up sleeping on a cot in the “living room” of the suite, which was just the area right by the door where the TV was. I had no set hours. I wasn’t sure when I would be given free time, and even though I was, it was scattered and I felt like I couldn’t relax since I never knew when it would end. After this experience I have a new mentality about travel. If a family can afford to take a nanny on vacation,they can afford to pay for her own room.

The following job I took is my current one. I did a working interview with this family at their vacation home over the summer, and started at the beginning of September. I had asked a question on this blog about working with another nanny. That part of the job has worked out wonderfully. The other nanny and I are extremely close and really help support each other. Actually, we just recently got another nanny! Three may seem excessive, but there’s still plenty for each of us to do! This family is like something out of a movie. Seven full-time staff, a private jet, vacation homes, and more money than they know what to do with. My role has shifted from simple nanny, to more of an assistant to the kids. I do all of the scheduling while the kids are in school, and then am the one mainly in charge of C, who is 5years old and the love of my life. My employers have actually allowed me to bring my dog to live in their house, which has been lifesaving. Honestly, I don’t think I could live here without her. It’s an extremely stressful position (I have cried on many occasions) but having her with me makes it easier. They know that, and have called her a welcome addition to the house. I could really write a whole book just about this family. It’s surreal. Here’s just one story as an example:

Last month they scheduled a trip to New York. I was on to go with them. The other nanny and I packed the kids bags and got all ready. Two days before we were supposed to leave, the trip was cancelled, so we unpacked those same bags, and I cancelled my dog’s reservation at the doggie-daycare. That Saturday, as I was playing with C, MB casually walked in and informed me that I had 45 minutes to get the kids and myself packed, because we were in fact, going, and we had to be in the car in 45 minutes. After my near heart attack, I ran around frantically packing as quickly as I could, and the housekeeper agreed to take my dog for the 2 days that we would be gone. I did manage to get it all packed and in the car, because I had to. When we arrived at the train station, just in time to make it to the train at a run, MB found out that I had neglected to pack a deck of cards. (In actuality, I had packed the cards in the oldest child’s carry-on. He’s 13. He forgot to bring his carry-on. This became my fault.) I was then told to find cards. In the train station. With two rolling suitcases and a shoulder bag, and literally no time to do so. Of course, I did, because I had to. I could go on, but I won't. This job is insane, and let’s just leave it at that.
The pros do outweigh the cons though. I work with amazing people who I can talk to and vent with. I get paid well ($900 per week as a live-in), I’m allowed to bring my dog, I love the kids, and I have a positive working relationship with the parents. It’s definitely completely different than any other job I’ve had, but I think that’s a good thing. I could never have survived a week in this job, never mind the negotiation it took to get here, without all of the experiences in my past. So good or bad, I don’t regret any of them. (Except maybe the sole caretaker job. I could have done without that haha) -DC nanny


Homebody nanny said...

Very entertaining, maybe you could write once a month about your new position, it's lame not having any guest nanny columns on here. I have serious traveling anxiety, but if you enjoy traveling it must keep things interesting. Seems very exciting, for those of us who sit at the same park, clean the same messes, and do the same consistent (boring) schedule day after day. The only thing about working for really wealthy people who pay well is they expect you to be on board with every request they make. That means saying yes, sure, and no problem when it has become (finally in my 30's) easy for me to say no if it something I don't want to do. It's amazing how different each nanny position can be, and how many lessons we learn long the way. Happy travels!

MissMannah said...

I'm with homebody, I'd love to read a column by you! This family sounds really interesting, in a rich-people voyeuristic kind of way.

You sound like such a strong person, I don't know if I could have survived any of the positions that you did. I know I couldn't ever do the sole caretaker one! I remember when you wrote about it originally and then when you did the update, I just thought you were out of your mind for accepting the job!

To everyone else: keep the bios coming, I love these!

Phoenix said...

the only thing that bothers me about live-in status is... where's your life? Are you accustomed to living like nuns? I am not trying to be mean. I am trying to understand how a live in with a full schedule is able to go out and have fun. Maybe you do and you just don't say that.

Me too said...

Phoenix, I also have the same question. From what I understand, the key to being a live-in AND having a life is making sure you have set hours so that you do not end up working 24/7. Being a live-out nanny is difficult enough, from my experience, because I always would get sucked into staying late. I don't think I could handle being a live-in.

DC nanny said...

OP here- I don't really have a life :)
I work about 55 hours per week and I have the weekends off most of the time, so I do have time to do stuff if I was really motivated. However, I'm not a super social person anyway, so I don't, and it doesn't really bother me.
I enjoy horseback riding, so I've arranged my schedule in order to fit that into my life. I also really like the other staff, so hanging out with them in my working hours keeps me from getting lonely.
The fact that my dog lives with me also really keeps me sane.

I went into this job knowing that it wouldn't be super long-term, because a person (even me) can only handle not having a life for so long.

I'm just at a place in my life where I don't have any commitments. No boyfriend, no family, no real obligations. So I'm using this time to save up some money and get a good job on my resume. So far it's been working out for me, and I guess I'll stay here as long as that remains the case.
(Or until I screw up and she fires me haha)

DC nanny said...

Also, I'm living in a state where I don't know anyone. My home is really several states away, so it's not like I can get upset because my friends are going out at night and I'm stuck working. That would definitely be more difficult. Since I don't have any friends here, I don't really miss out on anything.

another nanny said...

"Of course, I did, because I had to."
Ha, making the impossible possible. that's my favorite kind of job.

You've definitely had some interesting nanny experiences. I, too, would be interested in hearing more, if you have time to write any columns.

Phoenix said...

That's good that you enjoy horses. I love riding. I was a hunter/jumper back in the day. I owned a Thoroughbred named Tye. His show name was 'In the Dark' He was 16.2 hands, and he was a very dark bay with no markings. i loved him so much. I ended up selling him when I started high school because I went to a college prep and had no time anymore. it was really sad. I had to train him to do most of the rigorous show tricks that the horses have to do in English. I think we bought him for $10K and after I trained him we were able to resell him for around $34K. I loved riding. I want to start doing that again one day...

What kind of riding do you do? English or western?

DC nanny said...

Well your horse sounds like I would have loved to buy him! Haha but I don't have that much saved yet. That's what I'm really saving for in this job.

I ride english. I do 3 Day Eventing. I don't know how much you know about it, but it's basically 3 days of competition- cross country, dressage, and stadium jumping. It's pretty awesome, if I do say so myself :)

Right now I just take lessons a few times a week, but hopefully soon I'll be able to afford my own horse, and then I'll have to make time to ride everyday. Can't wait for that!

MB used to ride hunter/jumpers when she was a kid, and she really wants C to get into it, so they love the fact that I'm involved in it too. I can't wait to help pick out her first pony. It's pretty crazy to get to do the whole horse thing without a budget, since I'm so used to having to scrape every penny.

Scared to Uproot said...

OP, I was considering moving to a different part of my state for my former nanny job. I took the job even though it had a long commute and I planned on moving to that area. Once I started the job, I realized that I was scared to death to move alone!! I was afraid that I would be alone all the time and would get depressed and sad. Also, I had high hopes of making friends in the area but was nervous I wouldn't have time since I'd be working a lot to pay my rent. In the end, it just wasn't worth all the stress and I decided I wasn't ready for it. Although I am not the most social person either, socializing with your peers is so important! Also, I was afraid I would miss my family too much, even though it would only be about an hour drive to get to them. I could just think of a thousand reasons not to move by myself; what if my car broke down and needed a ride? Would I eat dinner alone every night? Who would I go to the movies with? What if I got sick? Where would I find a new local doctor/dentist/etc? It just all seemed too stressful.

I give you credit for doing it and I wonder if I'm just a baby LOL. I went out of state for college and absolutely loved it but that is a whole different thing. I started to feel bitter about the job because I had it in my mind that this family was causing me to uproot and change my whole life. I know that it was my choice to take the job and it wasn't going to be forever but I just couldn't get that out of my mind. I ended up quitting the job because the commute was too much and I just didn't want to move.

Anyway, my question to you is if you have/had any of those bitter feelings? Or do you generally have positive thoughts about the job/family for giving you a job, first and foremost, and new experiences? Were you as worried as I was about changing so many things in your life?

Phoenix said...

Oh yes the eventing. How high are you jumping now? I started off leasing a large pony when I was a kid. I can actually still ride a large pony because I didn't get very big. I liked the large ponies over the smaller ones because they were good for when the kid grew into when they really needed a larger horse. That way they wouldn't keep outgrowing ponies.

If you are picking out a pony for your charge try to tell the mom to shy away from the mares. I know every little girl likes to have a little girl pony but they are absolutely terrible for kids. I actually just hate mares in general. And of course you know when a kid is starting they should try to aim for a pony that is already 10 years old. That way they have most of the green out of them.

I miss talking about horses. :)

DC nanny said...

Scared to Uproot-
I was a little bit nervous when I started the job. I had actually registered with an agency in Boston, which is the closest major city to me. I was hoping to get a semi-local job so I could commute home on weekends and stuff. I knew I would never be able to find a good job near my hometown since it's so rural, so wherever I was going, I was expecting to have to live away from home. However, I hadn't really expected to be SO far away.

When I interviewed, I did two working interviews right in a row. One was in Pennsylvania, and the other was in Nantucket because that's where the family I work for now summers.

The vibe I got in Pennsylvania was COMPLETELY different than the one in Nantucket. I knew right off the bat that I would be super lonely there. They were very nice people, but I felt lonely in just the few days it took to interview.

In Nantucket, I was so busy that I almost didn't have time to be lonely. Having 7 full-time staff, the house is always full and noisy and fun. We are always laughing and socializing while we work. Not to mention that the other nanny who was hired at the same time as me is the same age as me, and we spoke on the phone and got pretty close before we even started the job. I was still nervous about picking up and moving all alone. It's always a nerve wracking thing. But them allowing me to bring my dog sealed the deal. I knew I wouldn't be able to find many live-in positions that would allow a dog, and I had better snatch this one up.

I went into the job with this mindset- I really hope this job works out, and I'm going to do everything I can to make it work. I plan to stay for at least a year, maybe more if it's great. However, if it's terrible, I will quit. I won't worry too much about how it will be, because if it's bad and I can't handle it, I did not sign my life away. I can leave.

I usually eat dinner in the kitchen with the chef, or in the office with the housekeeper. If my car breaks down, I know that one of the other staff will pick me up, or I can call a taxi. I haven't bothered to try to find a doctor or dentist yet, though I'm sure I'll have to eventually. I call my parents pretty much every night, and I Skype with my friends to keep in touch. I drive home sometimes when I can take a long weekend, and other friends have promised to come here to visit.

I really think every person, and every position is different. I'm not social, so that helps. I also have great people to work with, and my boss, though crazy sometimes, is warm and welcoming and nice. I haven't regretted it yet. I'm just finding the good in this place, since this is where I am. I know the job will end sometime, and then I'll move on to whatever feels right for right then. I don't plan too much ahead, I just do what feels right. And right now, this does :)

MissMannah said...

Scared to Uproot,

It is my advice to anyone that they need to experience life away from their childhood home at least once in their young adulthood. I was born and raised in OK. When I was 23 I moved to the DC area and it was very difficult. I chose there because I had a friend close by going to grad school and she loved the area. Unfortunately I didn't get to see her very often because she was very busy with school. So I was very lonely at first, of course. Before I moved, I found myself a daycare job and the ladies who worked there were awesome. I got involved in a local church with an active young adults program. And I started dating a guy I met through one of the girls from work, we eventually moved in together. (He ended up being crazy and because of him, I'm back living in OK...but that is entirely beside the point!)

My point is, don't let worries scare you off from doing anything! There's always going to be something to worry about, no matter what you're doing in life. The two years I lived in DC were unforgettable for me and I'm so glad I had the experience because it taught me a lot about myself. I hope you do decide to do something like that.

DC nanny said...

I jump about 3'6 or 3'9, but not courses that height. I grew up doing mostly dressage, so now I'm really getting into the jumping part of eventing. It's my weakness, but also my favorite part!

I already picked out an adorable 11 year old welsh pony gelding for her, but I know it's too soon... I just can't help but look :)

Scared to Uproot said...

Thank you OP and MissMannah, for your advice. Fortunately/unfortunately I am no longer a nanny but I found a job that I love. It is right in and around my hometown, which is comforting but I know that eventually I will want to go somewhere and try something new and exciting! I originally thought that the nanny job would be great to force me out of my comfort zone but I just don't think I was ready for it. Like I said, I went to college out of state, not knowing a soul at my huge school and that was the scariest, but best decision I have ever made... so I know what you mean about big changes being good for you. I really appreciate your advice because it can be applied to far away nanny positions but also to so many situations in life!

OP I think you are very lucky to have found a job that offers you friendships with other staff, especially when you are far away from home. I can't even imagine a household with so many people running it, I'm sure it is like something out of a movie. PS, funny you said you are from the Boston area... I am from Mass too and the job I was speaking of was in the metrowest area. Small world :)

MissMannah said...

You're right when you said you weren't ready for it. You can't rely on a job to "force" you to do something and I'm sure if you had taken the job you would have been miserable and eventually come to really regret it. I didn't say it in my previous post, but while I encourage everyone to stray from her comfort zone, I think you have to do it on your own timetable and when you're ready.