Tales from an Upper East Side Nanny: My Top 5 Worst Experiences
My freshman year of college I diddled around Manhattan getting to know the landscape and the natives. My college (if you can even call it that) was located on The Upper East Side—the land of Citarella and Lululemon. After a few months into my collegiate experience, I began to notice a rather interesting trend. I would see hundreds of babies being pushed around in overpriced carriages by women who were quite obviously not their mothers.
Having grown up in the suburbs, the concept of a nanny was foreign to me. My mother and all the mothers around me were seemingly capable of cooking, cleaning, working, and taking care of their children with no assistance whatsoever.
Upper East Side mothers are a different breed. Having a nanny for these women isn’t a luxury, it’s an outright accessory, and very few were caught without one in the light of the day.
By the end of my freshman year, I decided it was time to get a job. I figured, “I’m good with kids—how hard could it be?”
I was too naïve to understand that “kids” in the conventional sense of the word did not encompass the type of children I would begin to look after for the next 4-years.
Before I delve into my 5 worst experiences I want to set the scene:
I worked for two Upper East Side families. I was a regular, after-school-late night-type of nanny for a set of twins (boy/girl). I took care of them from the time they were 8-years-old to the time they were nearly 12-years-old.
The other family I worked for was my summer gig. I was a live-in nanny in The Hamptons for two boys ages 5 and 7. I did this for 2 summer’s in a row and somehow, I live to tell the tale.
As a disclaimer-I’m not heartless. I love all four of these children. Despite their moments of insanity, disrespect, and outright satanic behavior they will forever have a special place in my heart and beyond that they taught me everything about the true responsibility of having children.
1. “Demi Lovato Ruined My Day”
Let me be clear about my views on children and television. So long as they have finished their homework, I completely advocate the belief that television is a good way to relax. I don’t think that it will rot their brain or corrupt their youth. However, if their homework isn’t finished, there’s no negotiation—school comes before pleasure.
Well, try telling that to an 11-year-old girl who desperately wants to watch Demi Lovato and Joe Jonas dazzle the screen during Disney Channel’s “Camp Rock.”
My first attempt in getting her to turn the television off was by asking nicely—I even went so far as to say “you can wait for the next commercial.” Rule number one: you don’t negotiate with terrorists.
She refused to stop watching. After 15 minutes, my next approach was to turn the television off. She turned it back on. Finally, after another 25 minutes of battling, I turned the television off, grabbed the remote, and stood in front of the power button. Thus the verbal and physical assault began.
She found my purse, hurled it across the room, attempted to smack me in the face (which I somehow deflected with my spidey-senses) and proceeded to call me an idiot 100 times while simultaneously assuring me that I will be fired.
I maintained composure, kept my blood pressure at bay, and somehow distracted myself from crying—rule number two: never show fear.
Eventually the dust settled, and she made me an apology card. I don’t believe she was ever grounded for her behavior, I was never fired, and she was able to finish watching “Camp Rock.”
2. “Getting Political”
Being a regular nanny is truly a walk-in-the-park in comparison to being a live-in. While my hours were technically 8:00 AM-7: 30 PM, that was never how things worked out. The boys would wake me up anywhere between 5:30-6:30 AM by beating on my door.
One morning, both the mother and father were enjoying their Sunday morning tennis lesson, leaving me to handle the children.
The problem was the tennis lesson started before my hours began, so the boys were instructed kindly to “leave Melissa alone until she comes out of her room.”
These children didn’t listen. Point blank—they were anarchists. Cut to 5 minutes after the parents leave the house, both boys proceed to beat on my door with such vigor that I thought the door might break.
Of course, I roll out of bed cursing to myself about how much I hate my life reminding myself that I need the money. I open the door whereupon they both begin laughing at my acne cream covered face and rumpled mop of bed head. Boy number 1 starts calling me “fat butt” while the other begins to pinch me.
I don’t know why I was so bothered that particular morning but I had reached my limit. I kindly asked that they go play quietly while I put myself together. This particular mom didn’t believe in electronics as a mean of distraction—good thinkin’ lady.
The boys refused to listen, of course. They kept walking in my room as I tried to change and wash up. I didn’t really feel like exposing my chest and or other lady parts to children that day so finally I shouted, “get out or you can’t have dessert for the rest of the week”
Well, this set the oldest one OFF (he was moody to say the least). He proceeded to slam doors, scream at the top of his lungs, and proclaim his sheer hatred for me.
Finally I said “Okay, if you hate me so much, I’m going to start packing—I won’t be your nanny anymore.”
Well, he acted tough and told me that he didn’t care. He even said he was going to call Obama so that I’d never get hired anywhere, ever again.
I thought it was over after he calmed down but I found out a few days later that he told his mom what happened because he was so upset. As I was driving her to one of her many social events she asked that I don’t threaten the boys with my departure anymore. I wanted to say “well then perhaps they shouldn’t harass me before I’ve even had the chance to brush my teeth” but I wasn’t paid to defend myself—I was paid to do what I was told.
3. “Golden Shower”
I speak to children like I speak to my friends. I don’t use profane or crude language, but I think baby talk is ridiculous. If you want a kid to take you seriously you have to get on their level. There needs to be mutual respect and understanding.
With that being said, I can be very sarcastic and as a rule, children don’t understand sarcasm.
One day, I had the youngest boy on my lap. We were playing this game where I’d pretend like I’m going to let him hit the floor but I scoop him up last minute in a big bear hug. It was his favorite thing—ever. He would laugh one of those guttural belly laughs that make you remember why children can be so great.
One day he was laughing so hard, that he told me he was going to pee. Instead of saying “don’t do that.” I decided to be sarcastic and say, “Great, that would be real funny.”
He peed on me—all over my shirt, to be exact. I used to have the picture saved on my phone as a reminder that I’m a survivor.
4. “Pointing Fingers”
I’m a smoker—not casually or socially but a genuine has-a-pack-in-her-purse-smoker. The thing is, is that children and cigarettes usually aren’t a good pair. For this reason, I never disclosed myself as a smoker to any of my employers.
I never smoked in front of the kids—ever. I didn’t want the responsibility of being a bad influence (that’s what their parents and the media is for).
I usually hid my cigarettes in the depths of my purse or didn’t bring them with me at all. Little kids are sneaky though—especially, little girls.
One day, I ran downstairs to the lobby of their building and left my purse upstairs. I came back and found that my purse had very obviously been tampered with.
When I confronted the child about touching my purse, she simply said, “what are you going to do about it?” Right then and there, I knew she had seen my cigarettes and was using her newly formed knowledge as leverage.
She was blackmailing me. She was 10-years-old.
For the rest of the day she looked at me like she could break me at any minute. I didn’t know if she was going to call her mother and say “Melissa left her cigarettes out for me to find and I smoked one” or “Melissa said cigarettes are cool and that I should smoke them when I’m older.” Honestly this kid was outright diabolical–I had no idea what she was capable of (see definition for Sociopath).
A child, half my age, was plotting to get me fired and ruin my financial stability. I was working for a lawyer and a doctor, not a couple of rock band musicians—I didn’t think they’d appreciate me exposing their child to tobacco.
Finally, she said to me “I’m going to tell my mom what I found—those are disgusting.” I had a choice, I could beg her not to say anything in fear that her mother may look at me differently, or I could grow a pair and outsmart the child.
“Those aren’t mine, I’m holding them for a friend who is trying to quit. If they were mine, I would have a lighter—you can’t smoke cigarettes without lighting them.”
Thank god I forgot my lighter that day.
5. “Do you want fries with that?”
I don’t have kids of my own. I don’t know what it means to truly be a mother in the biological sense. I have however, cleaned up vomit, sheets covered in pee, tended to bee-sting wounds, read bedtime stories, cooked dinner, cleaned the house, and ran around like a fucking maniac just to make sure every sporting event and chess lesson was attended on time. I know how to be a mother—regardless of never having pushed a child out of my nether-regions and sometimes, moms need to relax.
I was on the beach watching 4 children, while their parents were eating brunch at a restaurant across the street. I was only the nanny of 2 of the children, but I suppose it was a 2 for 2 special that day.
Up to that point, I had dug several holes in the sand, built at least 15 sand castles and swam in the ocean to the point that I was uncertain if my skin would ever un-wrinkle. I was exhausted. I sat down under the umbrella to catch my breath and check my phone when 2 of the parents walked over.
Mind you, the children were no longer in the water and they were safely building more castles next to the umbrella.
Later that evening, after tending to my sunburn and removing sand from every orifice of my body the mother pulled me aside to discuss my “actions at the beach earlier.” To my memory this is my favorite line of the entire conversation: “If you were working at McDonald’s making minimum wage, you wouldn’t be allowed to stop and check your phone, so I expect the same when you’re with my kids.”
It was in that moment I realized that some children are a pain in the ass because that’s simply what kids do. They don’t know any better. They don’t comprehend manners or social grace—they just float by being obnoxious little terrors until it’s time to face the music and be a real human
Some kids however, are a pain in the ass because their parents are assholes. There’s really no way to sugarcoat it.
Melissa Copelton | News Cult