Mediating in marital disagreements, having objects lobbed at them while driving — it’s all in a day’s work for nannies of New York’s upper crust
Are the stories of New York nannies to the rich true? Do they really stand in for parents at exclusive private school bake sales while bringing home six figures? And what about the darker side you often hear about, where nannies are overworked and borderline abused by their charges? We anonymously interviewed several nannies who have worked for a handful of well-to-do New York families to get the scoop on what it’s really like to work in households with access to private jets and personal assistants. You won’t believe what we found out …
… the non-nanny related work nannies of the rich are often asked to complete.
You’d think that being a nanny would mean caring for and watching after the children, but that turns out to be only a small component of the job when you’re working for people who are used to having employees do everything for them. One nanny says she had to pack up her employer’s house before a move, while another was tasked with mediating between the wife and husband when marital disagreements arose. “The wife would talk to me about her husband in front of him and ask me questions” about his behavior, the nanny of an Upper West Side family reports.
“There were just no boundaries. There was a dog walker, but then the dog walker — if the son was sick — would have to clean up the throw-up of the son.” In houses with multiple domestic help, it can get downright confusing. “The nanny could be cleaning up dog pee or doing the dishes or vacuuming” while the pet sitter or maid was off on another errand, she says.
“Full-time nannies, nurses to stay overnight, dog walkers — these are for stay-at-home moms” explains a nanny who has had access to several high-income households. One mom even kept someone on staff to teach her how to use the newest Apple products.
In perhaps one of the most absurd exercises, one nanny says she spent 10 hours one day sorting through complicated Lego kits and “crossing off all the pieces that they had and then finding the ones they didn’t have.” If that sounds like a ridiculous waste of time, consider that the children had long ago abandoned Legos. The “mom just wanted to make sure they were all in the boxes,” she says.
… the physical danger they can face.
If your idea of a normal day at work is getting heavy objects lobbed at you while you drive a car or having to physically restrain a child so he won’t attack his mom, then you might want to nanny for the rich. In one such incident, the child’s punishment was being able to watch TV so the child could “calm down.” Even when being “struck in the face” by her charge, the parents instituted no punishment, according to a fed-up nanny.
… that they have to hire their own substitute nannies just to get a day off.
“Sometimes it can be difficult to find someone,” reports one nanny who is tasked with securing her own replacement whenever she needs a day off. That might be because she often works punishing 14-plus hour days, an inevitable situation since the parents only spend about 20 minutes of their day to attend to their children, she says.
… how they travel.
If you have a private jet, you might as well use it, even if you’re just heading to a neighboring state. So reports one nanny who says one family she worked for would “go an hour away and they’d take the private jet there.” It’s also de rigueur for nannies to drive their employer’s expensive vehicles; one says she routinely tooled the kids around in the parents’ Porsche SUV.
… how smart the kids are.
While some (especially young children) exhibit behavior problems from lack of parental attention, once the children start filtering through the private school system, they soak up information like a sponge, according to our sources. “The kids I watched were some of the brightest, most intelligent kids,” says a nanny who was floored by their knowledge. “The conversations I had — it was like I was talking to someone who was 30 … it’s kind of this odd balance because I’m talking to children, but they’re as smart and intuitive as adults. So that’s unique about New York — they treat you as their equal and also as their help. It was really wonderful. You could have really neat conversations that you couldn’t necessarily have if you were talking to a suburban kid who was 11 years old.”