The Real Nanny Diaries
By: Pearson Brown
The 2007 Scarlett Johansson movie, The Nanny Diaries, based on the novel of the same name, tells one side of the story — of the life of a nanny and her awful employers. Well I have another side to tell.
We just got a new nanny, and she’s a keeper. She’s a sweet, kind and caring young girl of 23 years from Nebraska, new to LA, and she loves kids. She is our third nanny in two and a half years. We had hoped for consistency in child care for our son’s sake, but unfortunately the others had to go.
The first nanny, we’ll call her “Nada,” came recommended by a friend who had employed her as a housekeeper. She seemed nice enough, very animated, though a bit screechy, and she came recommended by a mom who told me, ”She always helped out without being asked” and ”She not only cleans, she deep cleans.” Wow, she sounded fantastic. I hired her to babysit my son three days a week when my maternity leave was up and I had to return to work when my son was three months old.
She spoke Spanish and broken English, and I spoke some Spanish, but I found that her English failed her — as did her ability to understand my Spanish – when she did not want to understand. For instance, she had agreed to do light housekeeping, such as mop the kitchen floor once a week and wash my son’s clothes, when my son was napping, but these things never got done.
When I came home for lunch or unexpectedly dropped in on her during the day, she would be reading a magazine at my kitchen table while my son napped. When I mentioned that it would be a good time to do the laundry, she would nod and say, “Yes, yes,” but then she would continue to sit and read. In fact, she would give me a dirty look right before she went back to reading her magazine, which by the way, was in English.
Okay, so that’s not so bad, but then I found out the real reason why she always rushed out in the morning to get to the park. I thought she was eager to play with my son on the swing and let him run around with the other kids at the park. After some recon, I discovered that she was dashing out to get her latte at Starbucks and then meeting her friends to chat while parking my son, imprisoned in his stroller, for up to three to four hours each day. Then she would return home when he was sleeping — stashing her empty Starbucks cup in our bushes in the front yard on the way in — to read magazines and have lunch.
When I learned that my son was basically vegetating all day in her care, I said “adios” to her, and I went about finding another nanny.
P.S. I will never know why that first mom gave Nada such a high recommendation.
Due to being laid off at my job, I couldn’t afford to pay a nanny as I had done previously, so I offered a live-in position three days a week in exchange for housing. I found our second nanny, we’ll call her “Tricki,” on craigslist. She told me her career ambition was to one day own a day-care center. She said she loved kids and had been a nanny before, though she could not get a recommendation from her former employer because she was a “stage mom” who had expected too much, and the employment did not end well.
Tricki was 23 and returning to LA to live after being laid off from her entry-level job in Colorado, where she had relocated to be near her boyfriend. When I heard “out-of-state boyfriend,” I should have known better, but I took her into our home and she began babysitting my son while I was freelancing from home.
At first, things seemed fine, except my son’s sleep schedule inexplicably changed coinciding with her babysitting routine. On days that Tricki watched my son, he began taking long morning naps, sometimes for three or more hours. While I worked from my home office I often assumed Tricki had taken my son to the park, because the house was so quiet, but then I learned they were in her room, both of them sound asleep.
When I asked Tricki to shift naptime to the afternoon, she claimed she tried but my son just naturally fell asleep in the morning, though sometimes he had just woken up an hour or so before. Finally, I got to the bottom of the mysterious sleeping schedule.
Seems that Tricki was tired from her night job as a hostess at a popular local restaurant, often followed by late-night carousing with her co-workers and friends, and she needed her rest, so she put my son on her schedule, for her own convenience.
I also noticed that she was calling and texting her boyfriend, a lot, and I was very firm with her that she should wait until my son was napping or when she was off duty to call and text. She agreed, but the calling and texting continued. Constantly.
Once I came outside to see her standing in front of our house with my son in his stroller while she chatted on the phone. I waited a few minutes, unseen, as she continued to chat. I went into the house for about 25 minutes, and came out to astoundingly find her still standing chatting on the phone.
Needless to say, the mopping and laundry never got done, but really, these issues were minor compared to what followed.
When I had already decided it was time for Tricki to go, and I was just deciding how to handle it, she threw a wrench in my plans to get rid of her by wrecking my SUV. I had suspicions she was texting while it happened, but she claimed she simply did not see the parked van that she struck in the parking lot at Chuck E Cheese. She had no funds to pay for the $4,000 in damage, but she agreed to “work it off” by putting in extra babysitting hours.
Then, through no fault of her own, as she pointed out to me, she had an emergency appendectomy, which required her to convalesce at my home for a few weeks. During this time I of course was not able to do any freelance work as I had to take over childcare during the day.
After her recovery, I let her know that I was letting her go, but I explained that the reason was that my parents were coming for an extended visit and I needed her room. When she knew she was on her way out, she showed her true colors.
The week before she was due to leave, she came home at 5:30 am so stumbling drunk she could not figure out how to use the key to get into our house. My partner heard the commotion of her fumbling with her keys, and looked out our front window to find her crouched in the courtyard, urinating. Appalled, my partner left for work and Tricki passed out in her room. At 9:30 am I tried to rouse her. I saw her feet sticking out from the covers and thought she might be dead. I yelled her name and shook her but she was unresponsive. I called 911. Just as the operator was about to send help, Tricki emerged, smelling of alcohol, and apologized that she “must have overslept.”
That was the last straw, but it was not the last of the outrages. Tricki was due to pack up and leave at the end of the week, and her boyfriend had quit his job, sold his car and decided to move to be near Tricki in California and stay with his parents who lived about an hour away from LA. He came to visit Tricki while she was on the job babysitting, and Tricki promised that he would not be a distraction and in fact he was a really great playmate for my son, and it did seem that my son enjoyed his company, and at least Tricki was not sleeping all day and they actually went out and did things during the day.
Each night, after my partner, my son and I were in bed, Tricki’s boyfriend went home to his parents’ house. Each night we heard them leave around 2 am, then Tricki returned home around 4 am. We never wondered how he got home, despite the fact that neither he or Tricki had a car. Then we found out how. Every night, after we went to bed, Tricki took my partner’s spare car key and helped herself to the car. When my partner mentioned to me that she thought the car was not where she parked it, or the seat was moved back, or the gas tank was empty, I thought she was imagining things. Then Tricki accidentally left her coat in the car, and she was busted.
With this bit of solid proof, I confronted her outright. “Have you been taking the car at night?”
She was speechless. Then she managed a few lines that she must have rehearsed when she realized she left her coat in the car and would likely be questioned: “Just a few times when it was late and I went out for ice cream and I didn’t want to walk to the store late at night.”
So Tricki was gone. Good riddance. And don’t even think about getting a reference.
P.S. I think I know now why she wasn’t able to give me a reference.
So now we have Hope. She’s working out great so far. I’ve given up on the laundry and mopping thing. If she does it fine, if not, I’ll just do it myself. The main thing is she is responsible and she takes good care of my son.
Ok, so her first week she wrecked my partner’s car. A lady just unexpectedly stopped in front of her and she couldn’t brake in time. No one was hurt. For some reason the magic figure for body work these days is $4,000, and that is what the latest nanny crash cost us.
Stuff happens, and perhaps this one incident with the car “got the stink off” as an old friend used to say about breaking a spell of bad luck.
We sure hope so.