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A Perfect Fit
March 29th, 2012

IEP at Nanny's wedding rehearsal last weekend.

She knew the sign for “cereal.”  That was the thing that first stuck out in my mind about our nanny when we interviewed her more than three years ago.  Amidst versions of the same conversation about tummy time, play-based teaching, redirecting, and emergency scenario planning that we had with all of the other candidates, I remember our nanny wiggling her index finger under her chin and making the sign for cereal.  I don’t know why I keyed in on it so much, but I did.

That was when IEP was 11 weeks old.  Now he is nearly three and a half and Nanny has spent nearly every weekday with him since then.  And I’ve never questioned our hiring decision.  We went with our gut, and it was the right call.

However, the nannying industry isn’t the juggernaut here in the Midwest that it is in many larger cities – specifically New York.  Hiring a nanny in this neck of the woods was overwhelming enough to us as rookies three years ago, but nothing like it would have been in Manhattan.  I think I could have told you that based on instinct a long time ago.  But I can tell you that for a fact after having read this article about the “bizarre microeconomy”  of super high end nannies in New York.

You should read the article yourself, because I’m confident you will walk away reeling at the amount of money a very few people are willing to pay for their childcare.

Author Adam Davidson describes a $180,000 a year nanny and her cadre of skills when it comes to getting young children to brush their teeth and take their baths.  Now I’m all for a smooth bedtime routine, but $180,000?  Really?

I think anyone paying $180,000 for a nanny is getting snookered.  Either 1) they have far more money than brains, in which case I feel sorry for them because they’re in for a lifetime of snookering; or 2) they are paying through the nose for their nanny just so they can say they have a six-figure nanny, in which case they’ve made their bed; or 3) they were too lazy to interview candidates in any substantive manner and just assumed that the most expensive was the best, in which case they’re getting just what was coming to them.  But any way you slice it, they’ve been taken to the cleaners.  This isn’t to say that excellent childcare isn’t exceedingly valuable.  It is just to say that common sense ought to factor into the calculus somewhere.

Raising children is hard work.  Getting kids to eat their vegetables, brush their teeth, pick up their rooms, stop fighting over toys, and remember to say please and thank you is tiring for everyone involved.  And anyone who can make these affairs run smoothly on a daily basis is worth her weight in gold.  (Figuratively speaking, of course.  If we were talking literally the $180,000 salary would buy you a 6.75 pound nanny for a year at today’s gold prices.)  But with a little creativity and clear definition of exactly who is in charge a whole range of people can do it.  There are so many ways to skin this cat.

Getting a household with kids to run like a well-oiled machine is difficult, but not impossible.  It doesn’t require acts of God or magic.  It requires a lot of patience, a lot of persistence, a lot of creativity, and a willingness to discipline.  And there are a lot of people who are able to do it effectively.

You can show me an amazing Alexander McQueen dress in a size six and I may love it.  But I won’t buy it because I don’t wear a size six.  Just because it is exquisite and expertly crafted doesn’t mean that it fits me.  And if it doesn’t fit me I would be a fool to pay $8,000 for it.  The tricky thing about a nanny is that you don’t really know until you’ve hired her whether she’s good at her job and a good fit for your family.  The high dollar candidate may be a perfect fit for someone, but that doesn’t mean she’ll be a perfect fit for you.

4 Responses to “A Perfect Fit”

  1. Anna Says:

    Your post here makes me think about the novel, “The Nanny Diaries”. I realize it was loosely based on real experiences, but what I thought then, and was reminded about with your post, is that you’d have to pay me an awful lot to be that available and subject to some of the situations with which I’m sure these high-end nannies have to deal. Yuck.
    As a side note, I laughed out loud at your calculation of a nanny’s weight in gold. Too funny.

  2. Cathy Says:

    I live in a pricey area and people pay a lot (albeit not $180k/year) for their childcare helpers. It makes it even more difficult to find good help for someone like me who cannot afford to pay those higher wages. I think part of the reason people pay so much is because they feel that if they do, the nanny won’t be tempted to look elsewhere for the larger paying gig. I wonder if these rich people install nanny video cameras or hire PIs to see if the nanny really is that good. Every time I’ve been to a part, the nanny is always sitting talking to another nanny while the kids play- pay grade is irrelevant. Do you detect a note of bitterness? Likely so because even being diligent with interviewing, etc… they always seem to flake at some point.

  3. Amy W Says:

    $180K is insane but I can understand the price insensitivity to a degree. After our 2nd nanny in six months quit via text msg. with no notice we are looking at TLC (a more expensive option than sittercity). We figure we are hiring someone to take care of our babies and what is more important than that?

  4. Gale Says:

    Amy W – Number 2 quit too?? Yikes. I’m sorry. We used a referral service (since purchased by TLC) and had a great experience. Yes, it is the more expensive route, but worth it in order to get a qualified candidate. As for the salary issue, my point is that of course your children are worth the world, but you can get excellent childcare for far less than $180,000 per year.