27 November, 2011
The Autobiography of DC Nanny
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
at 8:09 AM