Sheltering With Your Boss

New York magazine|April 27 - May 10, 2020

Sheltering With Your Boss
Five Nannies Tell All.

“We are like items to them; they can’t go without us.”

I'M A LIVE-IN NANNY FOR AN ultrahigh-net-worth Manhattan family. I have a degree in early childhood education and decades of professional nanny experience. The family I work for is pretty high profile. These people could afford to keep a full staff on furlough for months on end with benefits, but they choose not to. They’ve had people quit on them because of safety reasons. They told them, “Okay. Well, then, you’re not getting a reference. How dare you let us down.” But most of the people who they employ are foreign-born like me and would have a hard time sticking up for themselves.

During the week, I stay with them at their outrageously large Hamptons house, so of course they need an outrageously large staff. There wasn’t really a conversation about moving up to the Hamptons with them; it was basically just “This is how it’s going to be.” For the first time since working there, I had a sort of Are you kidding me? reaction. Normally, I’m a “yes, ma’am” type of person. And that quickly escalated to her screaming that I had better come in or else. But then she was like, “I’ll make it worth your while.” I don’t know if that’s going to come to fruition.

There are so many people coming in and out of the house. There’s a sports coach for the kids, and he goes to other people’s houses and works with their kids, too. And then they have the chef that goes to the grocery store every day. There are people who come in to do hair blow-dries a few days a week, a manicurist, a personal trainer. The other housekeepers and nannies are like, This is really ridiculous. They haven’t asked any of the workers to stop coming in. Why don’t they care? One of my co-workers, she has just been washing the clothes of the kids nonstop every time they come in contact with a new person. And if I’ve ordered anything on Amazon, like school supplies, I quarantine the boxes in the pool house for two days. I get met with a lot of rolled eyes from my employers.

They don’t seem to be worried, even though when I started coming into the Hamptons, I had a cough. The dad seems to be a germophobe. He’s freaking out all the time about my kids washing their hands, but if we’re FaceTiming someone and I’m coughing in the background, he’ll say, “Oh, it’s just the nanny.”

They have been sending me and my co-workers back to Manhattan on weekends in a private car together. But the driver doesn’t work exclusively with them, so there are other people that go in this car at other times. One of my co-workers has a big family, they’re elderly, and also one of my co-workers’ husbands is really sick and is one of the delicate people that should not be exposed at all. Our employers probably don’t even know she has a family. It’s not one of the things they would wonder about.

The dad sits on the couch all day on the phone doing business. But then he has the gall to tell people, “Oh, it’s so hard being with my kids. They’re doing all this homeschooling.” And I’m like, You haven’t done one thing with that! It’s me! They’ve never taken care of their own kids for more than an hour.

One of my colleagues, whenever she is in the city, has to shop around for specialty items for them: things the chef needs that they can’t find in the Hamptons, and obviously they can’t use any old kind of toilet paper; they have to use their nice toilet paper, so she has to go to a few different shops to try and find it. There’s lots of specific items that they have become accustomed to and that they can’t go without. Just like the people. We are like items to them; they can’t go without us.

“A lot of them had to go into work, and that’s one of the reasons why I think so many of them lost their lives.”

I'M FROM ST.VINCENT. I came to this country about 14 years ago. Before the coronavirus, I was taking care of a 5-year-old and a 7-year-old. Then when I went in on a Monday morning, the bosses, who are both lawyers, said they were going to stay home and they would contact me to let me know what’s going on. I took it for granted because a lot of other nannies, their bosses are sending their money to their homes. But then they paid me the first week, and that’s it. I had to file unemployment.

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April 27 - May 10, 2020