Some of you have heard my several stories and personal accounts of my time as a NYC nanny, others have not. But I’ve always wanted to write something about it, so here it is. From September of 2018 to roughly June of 2019 I worked heavily part-time for a millionaire family in the Upper East Side of NYC. Truly an unforgettable experience.
Growing up in a small town in Upstate N.Y the wealthiest people I knew usually made a low 6-figure-type income. They have a nice big 2-story house, probably even a second smaller house or camp somewhere in the Adirondack’s or down south. The type of money this family has, blows this idea of whatever I thought ‘wealthy’ was right out of the water. Their NYC apartment was 3 times the size of my ranch styled home that I grew up in. The one child’s room was practically the size of my living room. They also have a summer home Maine, a weekend home Upstate, and a vacation home in Bermuda (I think they owned more property, but that’s all I knew about). If their NYC apartment was that large, you can just imagine the size of the others. As you would expect, expensive artwork and furniture filled every room.
They were a family of 5. Mom: Technically stay at home mom because she didn’t have a job, but not really? She ran the whole show. Organized the family’s entire lives and what they did day to day. Which is definitely a job. She’s on the boards of multiple theater and art type organizations. Has an MBA from Harvard. Dad: Partner at Goldman Sachs. Worked from morning to night 5 days a week. Would travel for business a lot. If not traveling, had weekends off. Has an MBA and JD from Harvard. Three kids: Oldest boy (12 years old), Middle boy (10 years old), Youngest girl (6 years old). I’m not going to dive into each of their personalities because most of this is not centered around the kids.
This particular millionaire family were the kind that liked to broadcast that they were liberal. We’re one of the good top 5%er’s! Their library had all the Clinton’s and Obama’s books promptly on display to showcase this identity they were trying to sell. Don’t get me wrong, they could be generous with their money. They put on fundraisers all the time and gave the other nannies and I generous holiday bonuses. But they certainly weren’t fighting against any status quo with 3 white nannies, several owned vacant properties, and children attending the best private schools’ money could buy. They were fine living the lives of establishment democrats.
I’m not sure why it was so important for the mom to make sure I knew they were ‘liberal’. I remember during the Brett Kavanaugh trial she kept wanting to have long conversations with me about how “absolutely horrible” the whole thing was. Which I obviously agree with, but her tone was never coming from a genuine I feel for Christine Blasey Ford way, but rather a I need you to know that this family is against that way. Maybe she acted that way because the father’s parents were extremely conservative, so she wanted to counteract on that.
*Quick sidetrack!* Boy those grandparents were something else. Think of the most stereotypical North Carolina yeehaw accent from the 1920s and multiply that by ten. They would visit NYC often, so I got to spend a lot of time with them, mostly the grandmother. A very sweet woman, but comments she made would have me believe that she would not have been so sweet had I not been a white woman. I remember one time I was speaking to both grandparents in the kitchen and the grandfather just kept repeating, “we need to get you and more young people to respect Trump” as the grandmother showed me pictures of her and Barbara Bush together on her phone. *End of sidetrack!*
These kids’ lives were calculated down to the minute. I was linked to their family’s apple calendar so each day I would know where the kids had to be, what they had to do, and when they needed to do it. Weekdays consisted of school, homework, sports practices, tutors, piano lessons, etc. Weekends usually consisted of traveling to the weekend house upstate, arts & crafts, bowling, playdates, birthday parties, sports, etc. Any semi-rare down time the kids had consisted of them begging to watch tv or play video games. Which the mother was never a fan of; in fact she would constantly reiterate how much she didn’t want them doing those things. But if there was down time, I knew the mother wouldn’t be home for a while, and I couldn’t convince them to do another sort of activity, I would let them.
It was so easy for her to tell the oldest boy, “No Fortnite!” and then immediately depart, only to leave me with the extreme tantrum from him that would surely ensue. The other two kids were easier to entertain. The middle boy was a little book worm, and I could do an arts & crafts or play a game with the youngest girl. Unfortunately, in order to keep the peace in the house, the oldest boy and I developed an unspoken agreement that if he just keeps it to himself, he can do whatever he wants in his room (that usually being Fortnite) while I entertain his siblings. I don’t want it to be misconstrued that I didn’t try to engage with him, because I did. I tried damn hard, constantly. But he needed far more help than I could provide him.
I think by far my most favorite and insane anecdote from nannying, was when I was asked to physically brush that very same 12-year-old boys’ teeth. I’m going to attach the email that was sent to the other three nannies, the husband, and I to better explain the situation. To this day, it’s probably the most insane thing I’ve ever read.
I would like to reiterate that this boy is not disabled in any sort of way, just extremely lazy and stubborn. Getting him to do anything that didn’t involve playing Fortnite was a constant battle. So basically, his teeth were disgusting, and it was now the nanny’s jobs to make sure they weren’t (in addition to dealing with the other two kids). I’ll tell you right now, I never brushed his teeth. I had to draw the line somewhere, right? I would go into the bathroom with him and monitor this 12-year old poorly brush his teeth, and say, “Okay, great” and be done with it.
People ask me all the time why I ended up quitting. At first, I had told them and myself, “The oldest boy is just so difficult to deal with, I’m not a behavioral specialist and he needs one round the clock.” Which he did (a behavioral specialist came to the house for a couple hours once a week, but it wasn’t enough for his needs). He threw full blown tantrums anytime something didn’t go his way, he’d make himself throw up to get out of doing things, he’d injure his siblings, etc. But that was just a small part of why I left. I love working with kids, I’ve been doing it for years and I genuinely have some very good memories with all three of those kids. But I’ve now started to realize a big reason I left was because of the parents.
This one time the mom was preparing for a fundraiser-type party that was going to be hosted in their house. I hated nannying when they hosted parties. There was so much chaos going on around the house from decorators setting up, to caterers taking all the kitchen space as I tried to feed the kids, and the mom being stressed out of her mind. On top of it all I had to wrangle the children into bed while a literal party happens outside their doors, and all they want to be involved in it. I will say the one big plus though was that I got to eat fancy left over catering scraps like the little peasant I am.
*Quick sidetrack!* One time at a another separate fundraiser-type party, I was walking through the party to try and get the youngest girl to go to bed, and one of the dad’s friends noticed my Columbia sweatshirt and decided to engage in conversation with me. With a big smile on his face he said, “Oh you go to Columbia! That’s great what are you going for? Law? Medicine?” “Social work!” I replied. If you ever want to see a millionaire’s face go from excitement to disappointment in mere seconds, that’s a good way to do it! FYI, I’m very proud of my career, I don’t need the approval of some douchey rich white dude, I just always find that story amusing. You’d be surprised (maybe not) how many non-rich people I’ve had that same conversation/reaction with anyways. *End of sidetrack!*
That evening I was helping the youngest daughter get ready for bed while the other nanny was doing something else with the boys. Then very startled she said, “Wait I can’t go to bed yet, I have homework!” She was very good at stalling and also in 1st grade so I thought surely this isn’t true. But then she clarified they just started getting homework. I went and checked her school folder from her backpack, and she was right. Nervously, I said, “okay let’s do it quick.” It was right then the mother had come to the daughters’ room to see why she wasn’t going to bed yet. I explained the situation and she lost it. Saying something along the lines of, “You know you’re supposed to check her folder everyday after school… there’s 3 adults in this house (referring to herself, the other nanny dealing with the boys, and myself) this should not be an issue.” Then she stormed off to deal with party stuff.
In reality, the daughter’s homework took maybe 5–8 minutes to complete (it was some reading and vocab stuff). Later that evening I heard her yelling at the other nanny for something else that was also probably out of her control. Obviously she was taking her stress out on us, so I tried not to let it get to me. I never got yelled at much. This mother loved being passive aggressive more than anything. Arguably, I thought that was even worse.
This constant passive aggressiveness while I was working made me super uncomfortable and gave me immense anxiety. For another example, I would try to make the kids a dinner that they would actually eat. They were, to this day, the fussiest eaters I had ever witnessed; they would rather not eat anything at all than eat a vegetable. Their diets consisted mainly of pizza, pasta, chicken nuggets, Shake Shack, and some fruits. I’m not even trying to exaggerate; there’s maybe a couple of other exceptions, besides junk food obviously. So anytime the mother would come home, and she would see her kids eating these foods because they wouldn’t eat anything else, she would say something like, “This is unacceptable, they can’t just eat this crap all the time. We need them to eat a balanced diet.” This is not her problem obviously; this is a problem that the other nannies and I need to figure out. So we would make other meals for the kids, try to get them to eat it, they wouldn’t, mom would say, “well they can’t not eat anything” (the middle child is already underweight for his age), so then we’d make them the stuff they would eat, mom would say, “this is unacceptable they can’t just eat this crap all the time”, and the cycle would continue on that loop. I was truly anxious anytime she approached the kitchen during a meal.
The mom wasn’t the only passive aggressive parent though. Although I didn’t see the dad as much due to his job, there were certainly passive aggressive moments with him as well. One time I was essentially blamed because me and one of the kids and their friend were stuck in traffic on our way back from bowling. The kid’s friend’s mom was waiting to pick him up at their apartment. The dad texted me a couple long paragraphs that essentially amounted to, “You should have accounted for Saturday traffic and planned better.” The funny part was I actually did, and we had left bowling early, the traffic was just worse than usual because of all the re-routing that had to be done because of a parade. Thanks, NYC.
I’m not trying to say these people are monsters, because they’re not. They love their kids and just want the best for them like any other parents. But are these wealthy elitist families more entitled and uncompromising? From my experience, I would certainly say so. I guess I just wasn’t prepared for the class & culture shift that came from going from babysitter to nanny.
*Quick sidetrack!* There’s this weird but beautiful unspoken connection that nannies and doormen have with one another. Obviously once you begin working for a family and you’re over at the apartment all the time, you begin to know each other and even form bonds with them as you come in and out of the building all day or wait for cars to pick you and kids up. I lived for those working-class solidarity moments when something crazy would happen, like an excessive child tantrum or an insensitive millionaire adult complaining about the way something was being handled. You’d shoot each other a particular glance that would read something like, ‘woo boy, surely we don’t get paid enough for this!’ *End of sidetrack!*
The family I used to babysit for during undergrad, to this day, is still like a second family to me. The entire family and I would often sit down and eat meals together, and I was able to form an amazing relationship with the mother. I guess as a nanny I just felt more like an employee than a family member. Which works great for a lot of people; I think I had just grown used to the latter.
When I initially quit, I had actually felt kind of guilty because I had grown close with the youngest girl. She’s actually probably a reason why I stuck around for as long as I did. I don’t think the other nannies would physically play or act as silly with her as I was willing to. And for that, I think that’s why I earned the title of, ‘her favorite.’ I’m not just making that up to boost my ego either, although it certainly did. She would tell me that all the time, and how much she loved me. Anytime there were two nannies in the house, and she had to go somewhere, she would beg and plead that I be the one who take her. Now of course she wasn’t perfect, she could be like any other super bratty spoiled 6-year-old at times, but we did have a really good relationship. I genuinely hope all three kids are doing well, and that they manage to become ‘good’ people, despite what that lifestyle can turn you into.
It’s been roughly 8 months since I quit, and I’ve had so many thoughts and feelings about my short (but somehow also incredibly long) experience as a NYC Upper East Side nanny. This is just a very small portion of them. Truly could write a novel if I had the time. I’m really glad I had this experience, because I learned a lot. Mostly that I was right and all wealthy people are insane haha jk but not really… But if you asked me if I would rather make less than half of what I was getting paid as a nanny, to babysit for the family I used to work for I would take that job back in a heartbeat. (Sadly, my living in NYC now prevents this from being a reality).
I have no ill will towards this family. I am grateful that they provided me with an income for almost an entire year. I’m just sharing my complex feelings about the whole experience. I know I was just one nanny out of the dozens they’ve gone through over the years. But I hope I had a positive impact on the kids, because even through all the crazy shit, they definitely had a positive impact on me.