Nanny Diaries – Pass the Chocolates

March 16, 2010

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There was a time as a nanny I wanted to take a part time day job. I worked for a single dad who had school age kids, so during the day I was pretty bored. He paid me to be on call, but those kids must have been immune to germs, because I can’t remember one sick day with them. So he agreed to let me look for another job during those hours, with the understanding that his family came first.
I didn’t have any problem finding a family that was willing to do that. I interviewed with a great SAH mom and working dad, who had a 3 year old son and 3 month old twins. They were looking for a nanny about 4-5 hours a day, and were flexible on time. It seemed like a great match, so I accepted the position and off we went.
During the interview, the mom told me she had a housekeeper that came once a week, so only picking up after her son would be needed. I was willing to prep dinner for her; things like par vegetables, get water boiling, etc. I agreed to do the kids laundry and help her on outings – just be a set of second hands. She needed it with twins.
The first few weeks were wonderful, they were down to earth people who were into organic, vegetarian food and natural toys, clothing, etc. I have to admit, I learned a lot from them. She was a great mom who took her kids on daily walks around their neighborhood, made time for her son, went to the park, and made weekly trips to the library. I found both of them charming.
But after a while, I began to feel weird about being called their “helper” all the time. I had been a nanny for several years, I was used to being fully in charge of children and entire households.
I:
left notes for the housekeepers,
told the plumber what to fix,
set appointments for gardening,
went to parent teacher conferences,
volunteered in the kids classrooms,
hosted play dates,
lived at their home for 2-3 days when the parents were out of town,
did the grocery shopping,
signed them up for sports and cheered them on at games,
helped with homework,
planned their birthday parties,
took them to and from school,
sent letters to their teachers about questions on their work,
packed their lunches,
planned weekly menus,
did overnights,
bought them new clothes,
organized their home,
volunteered to take them on weekends,
and took them to the doctor and dentist.
I loved it. I also loved that my employers trusted me with all of that. So to suddenly be introduced to this couples’ friends as a helper didn’t set well with me. I wasn’t 12 and riding my hot pink bike with sparkly tassels over to babysit during the afternoon. It was like they were almost embarrassed to have a nanny. Which was very unusual in Southern California.
One day the mom had some of her girlfriends over, several of which had flown in for one reason or another, and I came in to find them all sitting around talking. I was introduced as the helper, and I bit my lip, smiled, and sat down with them to hold a baby. One of the friends brought out a box of chocolates, and said, “Everyone have one, you’ll just die at how good they are.” I was all set to rave over one, when the mom took the box and passed it over my head to her friend. And that was that. No one even looked at me. I remember sitting there feeling very much invisible and pretty much like crap.
A few days later, I was on the couch holding one of her babies. Her son was having a really hard time getting used to them, and was very physical in expressing his emotions. Our outings consisted of him screaming, crying and throwing tantrums while his mom begged and pleaded for him to behave, and eventually gave him what he wanted. So as I sat there, he came up and asked me to read to him. I started to, and then the baby began to cry. I told him I was really sorry, I’d calm her down and finish in just a sec, and stood up to rock her. He screamed, “NO, now, now, now!” and as I turned to him, he kicked me as hard as he could in the stomach, hitting the baby. I backed up, and said sternly, “You can go sit in the corner for that one mister.” He let out the most blood curdling shriek I have ever heard, and his mom appeared at the top of the stairs looking at us.
“What happened?” she asked. I explained, and told her I sent him to timeout – which was what she had asked me to do in situations like that. And what they did. She nodded, came downstairs, took one look at her son beating the wall in the corner and told him soothingly, “It’s alright, we know you didn’t mean to. You can go play.” He turned around, stuck out his tongue at me, and ran off. I was so mad I couldn’t even see straight. She had just shown her kid he never, ever had to listen to anything I said.
The last straw came one day when I was running late because of a wreck on the freeway. I called her to let her know I was about 10 minutes behind, and no one answered. So I called her cell. Nothing. After leaving messages at both, I figured I’d just tell them once I got there that I had tried to call. I arrived at their house and knocked – no answer. It was my day and time to be there, so I wasn’t sure what was going on. I called her cell again, nothing. For a few minutes I sat on their doorstep wondering if they were ok, if one of the kids had gotten sick? 15 minutes later I got a call from her. “Oh, hey, so one of my friends dropped by and we ended up taking all the kids to the beach for the day. There’s a key under the rock, let yourself in. I left you a note with things I’d like done; laundry, the rooms cleaned up, dinner started, the guest room bed sheets washed and put back on, and you can sanitize all the toys. I’ll check back later to see how things went. One of the kids is screaming…” She hung up.
Floored, I let myself in and surveyed the damage. There were 4 huge baskets of laundry – theirs and the kids, waiting to be folded. There were toys everywhere. The guest room was a mess, and dinner seemed to be some foreign 5 course meal I was expected to know how to make.
So I did what any mature person would do. I left them a note on their door saying I was a nanny, not a maid, and I quit. I got in my car, turned off my phone, and drove off.
A few weeks later, I mailed them a certified letter stating the hours I had worked but hadn’t yet been paid for. Apparently they thought quitting meant I had worked for free. She sent me a check, and in the memo wrote, “Cuckoo.”
It’s cool. I bought myself a sweet pair of boots with the money. 🙂 And remembered how incredible my current nanny family was.

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