Nanny Knows Best

By Yolanda Taylor | Boston Magazine |

A toddler just fell down the stairs. The sink is overflowing. Toys are everywhere. But when a Weston mother arrives home to this mess, her nanny simply hands over an applesauce-covered baby and goes home—even though she still has two hours on the clock, for which she’ll be paid. "I’m deferential to her," sighs the mom, who asked for anonymity in case her nanny sees this story. "She’s the link between the house and keeping my job."

Nannying was once a thankless task: all the chores of motherhood, none of the rewards. But recently its practitioners have become more demanding; many in Boston’s toniest enclaves are now as coddled as the children they care for.

One Beacon Hill nanny says she gets $93,600 a year, a membership at the Sports Club/LA, and in-home massages, and she never cooks or cleans. "Oh my gosh," she gushes, "they are so, so good to me."

Insiders say the shift began in 2003, when about 10 Boston-area nanny agencies started organizing national conferences here. That collaboration led to an informal local support network, which now helps hundreds of nannies polish résumés, find clients, and share tips. Industry vets say it’s the strongest such group in the country, continuing Massachusetts’ tradition of powerful organized labor (although nannies aren’t actually unionized). According to Michelle LaRowe, who was a nanny in Boston for 13 years, the network empowers nannies to ask for more money, confident that if the family balks, they can find the salary and perks they desire elsewhere.

The result: unnerved parents, who fear a nanny’s departure will screw up schedules—not to mention the development of their precious kids. More than two dozen moms interviewed by City Journal say they’ve lightened their nanny’s workload, hoping she’ll never want to leave.

Parents can bend only so far, though. Two months ago, the Weston mother worked up the courage to demand more of her helper—only to have the nanny preemptively announce plans to quit. Mom begged her to stay. It worked. Compared to the alternative, an applesauce-covered baby no longer seemed so bad.

  • Lance Hauschild

    I work part-time, and have a complicated childcare set up, so I always like to read about how other people do the work/family balance.But, I’m curious about why the author felt the need (like so many others do) to poke at people who don’t have these options. Phrases like “park my kid in daycare” and “I didn’t sign up for easy” are inflammatory and insulting to people who either because of choice or necessity have childcare for their children.Personally, I would hate to have my kids with me at work. Part of what I like about working is the chance to actually focus on my work and not need to schedule potty breaks or juice clean ups!There are pluses and minuses to all work situations (including not working). Why can’t writers explore these issues without insulting those who have chosen differently.