In 2000, I made my initial escape from the cultlike mentality of the ministry I worked for, and I say cultlike because five of my superiors told me that if I quit, God would punish me. One specifically told me that I would be running straight into God’s wrath, and after the first two failed temp jobs (one, where the owner of the company threw books at me, and the owner’s son asked me to stay on my knees while I was in the office with him because he liked the view), I was feeling like it had been prophetic. Since I wasn’t doing too well at finding another job in administration, I decided to go back to being a nanny for a while.
I was spoiled as a nanny. I had worked as a live-out (part-time during school year, full-time on breaks) nanny for a wonderful family of 7 for years. I loved them. They loved me. It was mutually respectful and we still send Christmas cards. I loved them. Let me say that again: I loved them. So, when I went to work for a family of 5, I figured the experience would be similar, but easier.
I went from having 5 boys of stairstep ages, to 2 elementary aged boys and an infant girl. I also went from being treated like a person to being treated like a Swiffer. I can sum up the entire 14 day experience with this: One day, as I stood holding the baby, burping her over my shoulder, the mother of the family (who was a C-level executive for a global company) shook her head and said, “I cannot even relate to women who can stand being around children all day long. I have ambitions. I have goals. I have a life.” She said that to me, the woman she was paying to be around her children all day long, as though I were some kind of checker-eating fool for working as a domestic.
I had to argue with the family to get paid, and had to argue with them to be paid in full. I had to argue with them to be allowed to leave at the agreed upon time, and had to argue with them about my unwillingness to allow their ten-year-old son to punch, bite and kick me (“It’s just what he does,” the mother told me when he broke the skin biting me. “You’ll get used to it.”) And even had to argue with them when I told them I quit.
The mother emailed me after I left and asked me what she could have done differently to get me to stay, and I suggested she could have treated me like a professional and a person, and paid me on time. She wrote me back to tell me how incensed she was that someone of my stature (domestic help) would speak to someone of her stature (C Level Executive) that way. After all, she was a successful businesswoman and I was just a nanny. I barely took the high road. I mean barely. I didn’t answer.
I had two other very good interviews for permanent live-in nanny positions, and a good interview at a corporate job, and took the corporate job. I would go back to the ministry for a few months before making my final break, and I would find out that a coworker’s sister had taken one of the nanny jobs I had turned down. I would decide I had made a very, very, very wise decision.
Being a caretaker is a hard job–ask any mother. That’s why the job exists. I had the fortune of working for a family who understood that, and who treated me like a valued employee. I had the misfortune of working for a family who did not, and who treated me like a piece of equipment.
It doesn’t matter what job you do. You deserve respect for working.