The Real Nannies of Manhattan

Writer’s Note: After the last post, three subscribers wrote to suggest I not use the names of the nannies in my essays. After some reflection, I agree. Therefore, from this day forth I will use the terms, old nanny and current nanny, ( C.N.) in my writings. JSH

After fifteen plus years of working through enough ad agencies that have rendered AMCs Mad Men unwatchable for me—finding too much fact in their fiction—I was certain I had seen much of the drama there was to see in the world. Then I learned that right in the heart of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, a new Mafia had out a stake in the ground: The Nanny Mafia.

“Well, I was on the playground with Julia,” my current nanny said as she fed my daughter sliced bananas, “and Julia was busy chasing her ball—the one with the lady bugs printed on it—when I looked up and saw three women, coming straight toward me.”

“What happened”?

“ They pointing to Julia and asked me, ““Are you her nanny?”’ “I’m thinking, of course I am who else would I be. But I just said yes. Then they asked me, ‘How’d you get this job…?’”

And with that I about spit out my coffee. My C.N. (current nanny) now had my full attention. I’d heard stories from other moms about the territorial natural of some city nannies.

I’d read And Nanny Makes Three: Mothers and Nannies Tell The Truth About   Work, Love, Money, And Each Other by Jessika Auerbach a full discourse on the nutty stuff that happens between New York City nannies, working moms and stay at home moms, but a playground front off? This was epic.

“I told them, I applied,” C.N. said. “That’s how I got the job.”

“Then she asked me, ‘How much you make?’” “I didn’t tell them my pay. That’s none of their business.”

I didn’t tell my C.N. that I’d other moms had shared that rogue nannies would sometimes watch you with your kid, observe your natures and, if you seem pleasant enough, inquire about the family’s pay scale, offer their services, and if need be under cut the family’s current nanny, if they had one. After all, for nanny’s seeking out a new job could put your current gig in jeopardy. A slight of hand was needed. But I sensed, this was a different game.

“Then, the tall brown skinned one, she looked at Julia and said, “‘They live around here?’”

“ Yeah,” I said, “110th street, to throw them off. I’d never say where you live. Then they asked “‘what her parents do for a living.””

My eyes widened. A blast of heat radiated from my forehead. “And?”

“I told them I didn’t know, something to do with writing. Then they asked “”what the dad did,”’ and I said Julia didn’t have a dad right now. She’s adopted.”

I nodded and slipped my now cold coffee. I wasn’t angry that she had told strangers Julia’s adopted. It’s an open fact. What pissed me off was the level of integration these women were leveling at my C.N.

“Then they went really crazy, ‘She’s a single mom and she lives around here…’” Then the light brown one asked me ‘is her mom white?’”

Now I was official shocked.

“So, told them, ‘no her Mom’s African American.’”

“She’s black!” The shorter one said.

“No, she African American,” C.N. said, her shoulders level and straight. “ She wasn’t using the right term. And she’s suppose to, right?”

A whole lot wasn’t right about this information shake down. But what fell into the positive column: C.N. had held her own. Although she stands at only 5’2”, a tiny woman that even wears an even tinier shoe, size five but she’s feisty with good instincts.

Thank God.

About three weeks after the playground information shake down, last Tuesday, C.N. texted me at work. Nothing-unusual there. Happens a few times a day. But the content of her text? That was off the charts.

The library was fine.

 But we saw Julia’s ex, there, at the reading.

Julia’s Ex? Wait, Julia has an ex? She’s not even out of diapers. Then it came to me. I stopped crafting ad copy and lunged for the phone.“She was there!”

“ Only I knew who she was, because you told me what she looks like. She walked over to us, after the reading was over and just stared at us for a long time then said. ‘Julia you’re getting sooooo big. She looked up from Julia, right at me and said, ‘I use to be her nanny.”’

“What did Julia do.”? I said, then held my breath, silently praying.

“ Julia, she just stared at her.”

“She didn’t… go to her?”

“No, she stayed by me.”

Thank God. Again.

I knew the old nanny’s game. She wanted to shame the current nanny, make her feel she had lost control of her charge.  Her status. That Julia was still connected to her.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“Me, I’m fine. Julia’s Ex doesn’t bother me.”

I blurt out a four-letter word that sounds best in triplets, thanked her and said my good-byes, I slammed down the receiver and stared out of my office window, to the northern sky, thinking about the randomness of life, thinking of my Dad. One of his favorite quotes in life was “ Every good-bye ain’t gone.”

“What’s wrong,” Yvonne, my office mate, said from behind her massive black computer monitor.

“My old nanny confronted the new nanny at the library reading hour. She tried to get Julia to come to her.”

A silence landed in the office, collapsing all the oxygen. “Did she?” Yvonne asked.

“Thank God, no.”

“Man, who knew nannies were so complicated,” Yvonne said over the click of her computer keyboard.”

Who knew indeed?

All I did know was this: when life puts more than two people together, complications can arise. From bad breakups to intimate working relationships that derail to office meltdowns— social schisms were a fact of life. What I hadn’t counted on was the rage I’d feel when it came to Julia, and our C.N., how I needed to know no harm would come to either one of them. I know the world can be a cruel place. What I didn’t know was how deep The Nanny Wars went.

“You kind of scared me on the phone today, I never heard you mad before,” C.N. said as she slid on her jacket, at days end.

“Well, that’s more of my work side. Besides I don’t like bullies.”

After all the show is called Mad Men for a reason.

2 thoughts on “The Real Nannies of Manhattan”

  1. I am a single woman looking to adopt from Ethiopia; however I’ve run into some issues and I’m wondering if you would be willing to chat with me about your experience. If so, please send me an email confirmation. Thank you.

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