It was the summer of 2006. I was cleaning up shit after four-year-olds and listening to over-privileged spouses complain about their marriage and how tough life was. It began on Nannies4hire.com. I was approaching the end of my sophomore year of college and I needed to find a job. I have been a babysitter since I was 12 and had always enjoyed going to the pool getting a tan, reading a great novel during naps, and leaving by 5 p.m. Naturally, this would be my plan until I finished college.
One morning while I was searching for the perfect family on Nannies4hire.com, I came across a photo of a nice looking couple and their two small children. They were standing in front of Cinderella’s castle in Orlando. The girl had on a Cinderella costume. This reminded me of my younger years; I thought I could probably relate to this little munchkin. We could play Barbie, I could do her hair, and we could sit by the pool while her little brother played with trucks. I sent me resume and my cover letter to Mrs. P and her family.
After two days of waiting I heard back from the family. Mrs. P was very eager to speak with me and hear all about my experiences with children. I shared my past and education. She shared what she was looking for. She wanted a nanny that would travel with her and her family twice a month. Everything would be included. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing; it just seemed too good to be true.
Mrs. P and I met after the family returned from their summer home in Florida. When I rang the doorbell Mrs. P grabbed me and hugged me as if I were her own. It took me a moment to digest the situation. After the embrace occurred she escorted me to her living room where her daughter Brittany was. Brittany was sitting on the sofa with her thumb in her mouth and watching Sleeping Beauty.
An elderly woman was in the kitchen with the 2-year-old son named Sam. Mrs. P told her she would be relieved. I was confused by this because the elderly lady was acting as the nanny, which was the position I was hoping to score. Mrs. P did not introduce me to either of her children nor the nanny. We sat down at the table and she asked me a list of questions. After this went on for almost an hour, she stood up and turned off the television and told Brittany that she would be going to the park with me – or rather, “her new friend, Jillian.”
Brittany, the first 4-year-old I had ever pushed in a stroller, was silent the entire way to the park. She then demanded I push her in the swing, go on the slide with her, and participate in any activity she could come up with. After an hour, I decided it was time to head back. When we returned to the home Mrs. P looked shocked that I had returned so soon. It was 88 degrees and I could barely take the heat, let alone small child. Her stern look faded quickly and we decided I would start the very next day. She mentioned how the elderly lady was the morning nanny and I would come in the afternoon. I was puzzled by this, but she handed me a hundred dollar bill with a smile and told me to have a great rest of my day. I sure did!
Three months later, I was on my third trip with the family, New York bound. I had grown to dislike it more and more. When we landed, we were picked up by the car service and dropped off at the Waldorf Astoria. Our first task was to take in nine bags (two containing diapers); mind you, these children were not yet potty trained; however, the elderly nanny, weekend nanny, and I were all in the process of training the children. This made things messy, so to speak. When Brittany did properly “go potty,” she was allowed to go to the toy store and pick out anything she wanted.
Two bell boys and I unload the bags and bring them to our rooms. The father made a remark to me when seeing me struggle with my personal bag and two of the children’s. Mr. P said, “You should have packed lighter.” I ignored this remark and followed the bell boys to our rooms. Mrs. P told me to meet on the 21st floor in five minutes for a wine and cheese tasting. What a perfect place to take two small children, I thought. Of course, it took ten minutes and Mrs. P was not happy about this. She was already on her third cocktail when I arrived.
“The children are bored out of their minds,” she said. “Why would you take their play bags?” One had Brittany’s toys, books, a DVD player, and arts and crafts. Arts and crafts had become the worst game. It always ended in a mess and we ended up having to change and bathe every time we pulled out the paints. Of course, that is what Brittany chose to do in the wine room. After the children had re-painted a beautifully crafted coffee table Mrs. P asked me to take them upstairs to give them a bath, order room service, and put them to bed at 7 pm. She told me I could have to morning off but needed to be back by noon sharp. I was excited – I planned to wander the streets and maybe even get a pedicure.
The next morning I awoke at 7 a.m. and had a fabulous breakfast at a small deli. I had a pedicure appointment at 10:00 am. I had a wonderful time walking around and window shopping, in the meantime. I even happily splurged and bought myself a grey Tory Burch bag for school. After my fantastic purchase, I headed to my pedicure. I was having the most fabulous time. When my blissful treatment was over and it was time to check out, I pulled my wallet out and my phone. I had 16 missed calls. They were all from Mrs. P, but it was only 11:00 am. I wondered what could have happened. I decided just to call because listening to a dozen messages would take longer. She answered on the first ring.
“Where have you been,” she demanded.
“You gave me the morning off and told me I did not have to be back till noon,” I replied.
“Not today, that is for tomorrow. You certainly will not have another moment free. The children are off the wall. You must get here immediately.”
“Okay,” was all I could mutter.
Tears began to stroll down my face. I ran the six blocks in seconds. I almost got hit by a cab. Luckily, I made it back in one piece. When I got on the elevator I took a deep breath and tried to stop crying but that only made it worse. I was now sobbing uncontrollably. When I got to the door I, was still crying. Mrs. P looked at me in disgust.
“I did not even yell at you. Brittany and I will be going to lunch and Mary Poppins,” she said. “You have Sam for the day. Don’t forget no more than thirty minutes for a nap and bring the car seat.”
I ordered room service for Sam and me for lunch. Afterward, I put him down for a nap and let him sleep for an hour. He was two years old and he would make the day much harder on a thirty minute nap. (I learned this very early on.) I then called my parents. My father told me that these people have disrespected me and it was time to leave and return to Chicago. I had a planned “vacation” to Florida for 11 days with the family only three days after we returned.
My dad said, “So what? Life is too short. You’re a great nanny and you will find someone else to work for.”
After I finished my phone call and woke up Sam, we went to the park. When we were there I was very quiet and not active as I usually am. He looked up at me at one point and said, “Jillian, I love you.” I smiled back and said the same thing. Those three little words would make this situation so much harder. I knew Sam and Brittany were great kids. They just had no security and therefore their behavior reflected this.
When we were back at the hotel Brittany and Mrs. P were already there. Mrs. P smiled at both of us. She said she just ordered dinner and had to get ready to go out with Mr. P. She than did something shocking – she grabbed something out of a plastic bag. She held up an extra large Mary Poppins T-shirt. She gave it to me with a giant smile. Maybe she bought this because Mary Poppins was based on a nanny who worked for a rich family and she might have seen similarities.
About ten minutes later dinner had arrived. There were two plates, both children’s meals. Once again, Mrs. P forgot I was a human and that I did not run on batteries. I was absolutely starving. I knew neither child would finish their meals so when Mrs. P left I would just eat what they didn’t want. However, this was not the case. Around 7:00 pm she disposed of their food and put it in the hall. She put a movie on for the children and told me I could put them down in a half hour as if I did not know their bedtime was at 7:30 pm sharp. Mrs. P kissed her children goodbye and told me to have fun. She left. I waited 15 minutes after she was gone to go retrieve the unwanted macaroni and cheese. When I opened the door there was a maid ready to pick up the children’s remains. I looked at her and she smiled.
“What do you want?”
It took me a moment to realize she was asking if she could bring me a meal.
“I can’t order anything on their tab without asking.”
“She shook her head and said, unbelievable.”
After I put the kids down, I closed the door and was ready to order a pizza but heard a knock. I opened the door and there was a tray of food. Even a chocolate desert! Tears filled my eyes.
“On the house,” a note read. I wiped my eyes and sat down and ate the entire meal.
I found a new family two weeks later. The mother was kind. There were no trips or fancy outings involved. I have never heard from Mrs. P except for a check for the Florida trip I did not attend. I still wonder about Brittany and Sam. I hope they are continuing to grow and learn; and I hope that some
nanny out there will be able to guide and love them.
Published on Dec 31, 1969