Jobs Warped by the Media

The Nanny Diaries created A skewed view of nannies as a profession. One would think, given the hoopla this received, that young women who were nannies only worked in tony neighborhoods, pulling down fat salaries and not working very hard.

This morning’s USA Today reminded me about this with their Money cover story about Nannies for CEOs. There are now going to be teens across the country who read about free cars and salaries nearing $100,000 and presume all nanny jobs are like that.

Not true at all.

Since Katie was six months old until she was about 13, we employed nannies. For the most part, we used agencies that represented girls from America, switching in the final years to the Au Pair program, which imported girls from Europe.

We did our best to interview them by phone, check references, and be as diligent as possible. Such efforts probably meant the difference between the horror stories that make the headlines now and then and our experiences. Given the length of time, we probably went through more nannies than the average family.

We went through nannies at a good clip at one point, more through circumstances than anything else. There was the nanny who quit on her first day because she couldn’t live in a house that condoned Playboy, and the one who arrived only to tell us she needed back surgery and barely lasted three weeks. We had one quit because she felt the mother shouldn’t be working and expected us to be rich (because she believed the press, not the agency).

We had one hired away from us by a rich family in Greenwich only to hear later that not only did she watch the kids but was made to clean the mansion and wasn’t happy about it.

In exchange for a weekly salary far closer to the minimum wage than an executive’s, plus room and board, they came to experience a different part of the country and help us care for the kids. The kids were the priority but we expected help with dinner prep and paid extra for nighttime or evening baby-sitting.

Still, we got wide-eyed girls who found the Northeast exciting or overwhelming. Some couldn’t get up in the morning, some needed constant lists, but none were out and out terrors.

As the kids got older we switched from full-time live in help to summer live-=in help to merely after school help, weaning the family of the need for a fifth person.

Shows like Super Nanny and movies like Nanny McPhee also skew the view that nannies are a godsend, arriving to wrangle children, substituting parenting for daycare. We had kind, loving nannies who worked wonders with the kids, and some who handled one better than the other.

The reality, as usual, is much different from the way the profession is depicted in mass media. People pursing the profession need to read beyond the headlines and know exactly what type of situation they’re entering into.

2 comments