Terrible Tuesday – Nanny Daze
So I decided to start a Terrible Tuesday post. Sam goes back to work, things are a mess here, I have a ton of laundry, so to lighten it up I thought I would share some of my many, many stories about my life as a nanny in Southern California. And believe me, I have some really funny and crazy ones.
I was a nanny for 3 years when we lived in San Diego. I worked long term for 2 of the most wonderful families you could imagine. Seriously. Looking back, it’s hard to believe I found them in the midst of the semi-psychoness that is SoCal. So these posts won’t be about them, because I love them and I would like to keep in touch still. 😛 I might mention them once in a while but only in the best of lights.
These are about the people I interviewed with or worked briefly for. I won’t be using names or identifying info because some of them were high profile. And that’s just bad taste. So guess away, because you’ll probably never figure it out.
I’ll start with one that I will never forget. I was between jobs and interviewing for a full time position. Full time in nanny land usually means 50-60 hours a week. Some weekends. Some holidays. Some travel. Sometimes they just want you to adopt their children. I was looking for a live-out position since I was married. I did my own search and went through agencies there, and one of the agencies contacted me about a position with a high profile, local family with 7 kids. 7. I felt like Maria on the Sound of Music just hearing that. The mom home schooled all of them with the help of 2 private teachers. I would be caring for the younger ones during that time and then all of them after school hours. The agencies couldn’t tell me their name but said they were interested in my profile she’d given them.
I was contacted later that day by a man who was the household manager for this family. Oh, I’m sorry, ONE of their household managers. The SoCal one. The others (seriously, they had 3) lived across the country in their other homes. So of course at this introduction, I was sufficiently in awe and a nervous mess. He wanted to do a phone interview with me. So he asked me the general questions – what was I looking for? Experience? Hours? Pay? Could I travel? Willingness to go overseas? Could I fill in as a teacher if needed? What religion was I? Did I plan on having kids soon? (You may freak someone asked me this, but as a nanny it happened in almost every interview. I just got used to it.)
I answered all of these the best I could and he said he would pass the information on to the family and let me know if I was going any further in the process with them. A few days later I was back on the phone for round two. Only this time, I was told their last name and to “Google them for more information.” Which I promptly did. No need to ask me twice. I googled everyone before meeting them to make sure I wasn’t interviewing with a mass murderer. He set up a face to face interview time where I would meet them.
The day of the interview I drove (in my Mercedes because that’s how nannies rolled in Cali) up to their home. The closer I got, the more terrified I became. I passed a winery, a golf course, a country club, further up in the foothills the homes got bigger and bigger… and then I turned into their gated driveway. And died.
Their house looked like the White House. It was SO big that it didn’t even fit into the screen of my camera (oh yes folks, I’m so country I took a picture because I knew no one would ever believe me). It was 10,000 sq. ft (thank you Google) not including a guest home and 5 car garage. The lawn was perfect, the cars were perfect, they had giant white columns that ran along the entire front of the house and they had 4 huge chimneys.
So I pulled up to the box on the gate and … well, I didn’t know what to do. I remember so well the feeling of sitting in my car, praying the box didn’t have a video camera where people were laughing at me inside as I sat there in confusion and stared at it. You can’t blame me, it had 0-9 and an enter button. I pressed enter and nothing happened. I read the directions I had hoping for a clue. Nope. I was now looking at almost being late – something I figured would not be tolerated. Hysterical, I tried to find the phone number the house manager had called me on. No luck. I started pressing buttons, desperately wishing one of the workers on the lawn would come over. Only I knew no Spanish so it wouldn’t have helped much.
By this time I was near tears, until I heard a voice from the box say, “Can I help you?” O.M.G. – they had a camera. I smiled bravely and said with full confidence, “Yes, I’m here to see the – family. I’m interviewing for a nanny position.” The gate buzzed and I went in. I still have no idea how on earth anyone could get in there.
Once inside, the house manager greeted me and walked me through their GINORMOUS hallway with ceilings 20 ft high. I was warmly greeted by the mom – dad was away speaking across the country (I rarely met dads in my interviews) and the kids were in school. She explained a little about the position and the kids, their travel schedule and needs, and then asked me to give my “personal testimony of how I gave my life to the Lord Jesus.”
I just sat there dumbfounded. I’m a Christian and would have loved to work for a family that was as well so we were all on the same page – but I wasn’t ready for that. I felt like a 5th grader at a camp talking to a counselor about my life. Only I was 22 and interviewing for a job. I stuttered my way through my life and how in 2nd grade I accepted Jesus into my heart, but I really had been thrown for a loop.
After that she took me to meet the kids. We went into a room that had one door and no kids. So she moved the bookshelf and behind it was – not joking – a secret set of stairs with stone walls that led into the kids playroom/school/game area.
The kids were beyond sweet and nice, and I felt that maybe I had been a little stupid to feel weird about the testimony thing. Obviously they were a wonderful family with great values and wanted the same for their kids. I was asked to do a second interview where I watched the kids for part of the day to see if we all got along. I agreed. I showed up a few days later, and the mom left. Gone. She waved goodbye as I entered the house and I was staring at 7 children who I didn’t know and had no idea when she would be back. The kids sweetly offered to play in the pool for a while, until lunch. It was 10am. So they did, and they were very well behaved. Their cook – yep, I know – made lunch for them. For them only. I sat at the table and tried not to drool as I wondered if the cook perhaps hated nannies? Until the oldest kid said, “How come you didn’t bring a lunch? Our teachers and nannies always do.” Because I didn’t know. That’s why.
By 2pm I was dying. The cook was gone and I was tempted to sneak in there and grab something out of the fridge only:
1. The fridge doors were the same color as the wood walls so I couldn’t find it.
2. I was fairly sure they had security cameras. Not the best way to start a job.
Finally the mom came home, and thanked me and took the kids downstairs. I had thought about being paid, but I guess she figured this one was on me. How nice. I enjoy watching children, especially 7 of them, for free on my days off with no food.
I left seething. I no longer wanted to work for them, but wasn’t sure how to get out of it. The next day I was woken up at 6am by my phone with a strange number. I answered to this: “Hi, Diana? This is ‘C’, I’m one of the teachers for the – family. I was given your number so I could invite you to our Bible study this morning at 8. Would you like to come? All of us who work for the – family go to it.” I was SO mad by this point that it was all I could do to politely decline. The mom had given out my number to her staff, and told them to invite me to a Bible study. At 6am. And no one seemed to feel there was something wrong with that. I felt that perhaps my inclination that something was a little off was right.
I had already told the house manager what I wanted to make in terms of a yearly salary. They low balled me when I was offered the job a few days later, along with saying I would get a half hour, unpaid lunch break each day. They lived in the hills. I couldn’t have made it out of the neighborhood in a half hour. Which meant I would have to eat lunch with the kids everyday and not be paid. But still be on duty – that’s how it works. So I counter offered, figuring perhaps I could tolerate them for the right price. That never works, btw. He called back and said they had “rescinded the offer and felt I wasn’t the best candidate.”
I felt this huge sense of relief. It was over. I didn’t have to deal with them anymore. My agency was really pissed they had led me on, and used me for free babysitting, but I didn’t care.
About two years later I was reading online on the huge fire that had happened in SoCal, and stumbled across their name in a story. I clicked on it and learned that their home had burned to the ground while they were traveling. The picture showed the 4 chimneys standing in a giant heap of ashes. 10,000 sq ft of ashes to be exact. Not including the guest home and garage. No one was hurt.
I figured if nothing else, they would have a really exciting bit to tell in their personal testimonies from now on.