Walk through a supermarket checkout aisle and you’ll see headlines blaming the nanny for many a broken celebrity marriage. While such claims are just fodder for the rumor mill, the real world of nannying can sometimes be filled with scandal. TODAY Parents talked with a nanny with five years’ experience who told us what it’s really like, from true stories of lecherous dads to bounced checks to Facebook stalking. Now a mom with a child of her own, this nanny, who remains anonymous to protect the privacy of the families she once worked for, told her story to TODAY.com’s Terri Peters.
I took my first nanny position when I was still in college, watching two children during the day while their mom and dad worked.
I spent a lot of time with these children – their mother worked long hours to support their family, and their father moved from job to job. There was a strain in their relationship that would later be a factor in their divorce. The children sensed a disconnect between their parents and clung to me – putting me in a position that was, at times, uncomfortable.
Some days, their mother would come from work and they would literally hang onto me and cry. Not knowing how to handle it, I’d say quick goodbyes and rush out the door.
I think she resented me, but I know she loved me, too. After all, she had to work, which meant she had to have me there.
When the dad was between jobs, he’d be there in the house, sleeping off last night’s hangover while I was watching his kids. He’d text me things like, “Don’t send them upstairs, I’m smoking a cigarette,” or on other days, “Your ass is so hot.”
I’d get drunken texts from him when he was out at bars – texts with pretty scandalous content about what he’d like to do to me. Then, at work the next day, he’d apologize and ask if everything between us was OK. He was my boss, so I always told him things were fine – there’s no human resources department for nannies.
Paychecks often got interesting with this family. Many times, the dad would write me a check and it would bounce. Inevitably, he’d have an excuse – “there’s a problem with my bank” or “maybe I wrote it from the wrong account” – but part of my job was to get their mail, and I saw the foreclosure notices from the bank coming in. I knew things weren’t good.
And that’s the thing with being a nanny – you’re a part of a family, but you’re not really a part of their family. Still, as you’re seeing everything that’s going on behind their closed doors, you’re doing your job – watching their kids, being an employee, and going home to your own life every night.
Once you work for one family, all of their friends start calling on you for babysitting. Before I knew it, I was swimming in a shallow pool of neighbors, friends and acquaintances, all connected in some way or another.
Each family I worked for had their own set of eccentricities that made every job different.
One family insisted that I read their 1-year-old novels at bedtime. Before they let me babysit for them, they made me come to their house one night and shadow them as they moved through their son’s routine. They had a silly song that they made up for him to sing at bedtime, and they made me learn it – it was one of the most awkward experiences of my life.
Another mom would calculate the amount she owed me down to the last cent – she would break out a calculator and write me a check for $43.27 instead of just rounding it up. This same mom owned a small business, and would give me a gift certificate to her business on holidays – I remember wishing for a cash bonus, or even some wine.
As time passed, some of the parents I worked for started seeing me as less of a babysitter, and more of a friend. This was fine most of the time, but occasionally the lines got blurry.
I had a mom come home with skinned knees after drinking too much and falling in the street. I had parents ask if I’d stay and have a few drinks with them once they arrived back home. When I’d say no, they’d say, “Oh, don’t you drink?” And I’d be thinking, “Yes, I drink. Just not with you.”
One dad I babysat for sent me a friend request on Facebook, something I thought nothing about at the time. Soon after, I posted something about wishing I could go on a cruise, and he sent me a private message saying, “I’d love to take you on a cruise.” I thought, “Oh, he wants me to watch his kids on a cruise? I’d do that.” But when his advances gradually got more direct, I realized he was thinking more about a romantic getaway for two and less about taking a childcare provider on a family vacation.
Things with this dad escalated quickly – he began sending me suggestive texts. One said, “I wish you were a shin…so I could bang you on the coffee table.” Soon after, he started coincidentally showing up at bars I was at with my friends – something I can only assume was made possible by the trail of Facebook posts I’d leave behind on a Friday night out.
You try to cling to some level of normalcy with dads like this. I never wanted to be out of a job, so I tried to laugh off their advances. I never wanted to ruin their marriage, and I certainly wasn’t interested in having a relationship with them, so I tried to let their suggestive behavior roll off my back.
Looking back, I never said “yes” to them, but I guess I never said, “no,” either. They were attractive, I was young, and, on some level, it was flattering – so I let it happen.
Eventually, the Facebook dad’s wife caught him, and I was promptly taken off their list of babysitters. The couple I worked for full time had other issues, and eventually divorced.
Years later, I’m out of the nannying scene and have a child of my own. When I hear about these celebrity nanny scandals, I just think that people always want what they don’t have. Parenting is stressful, and people have different ways of reacting to stress. I’ve heard the saying, “people are going to do what they’re going to do,” and I think that’s very true of cheating, with the nanny or with anyone.
But I do know this – in spite of the drama, the bounced checks, and the overly flirtatious dads – I loved my time as a nanny. I loved the kids I watched – they were my first practice at how to be a mom. They will always be a part of my life – and I will always carry the happy memories of the times I spent with them in my heart.