Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Nanny Cam

Ain't no party up in this bitch!

Looking at my Nanny Guide you would think that all the nanny experiences I've had have been fluffy and fun and full of joy, but nah. The truth is, my experiences babysitting for the city's elite have been less than stellar. In fact, I think I can count on one finger the family who was actually decent all around – and even they were a little cold and penny-pinching by regular standards [the "jackpot" family].

Here I will unveil the sad and ugly truth [as well as how inexperienced I was when I first began]. You think wiping up shit and soothing screaming toddlers is a pain in the ass? Well, dealing with the delicate dynamics inside another family's home is harder than that, and working for entitled and passive-aggressive bitches is the absolute hardest.

My very first nanny job was a 50 hour live in with a ladder-climbing wife and mostly absent and terribly homely father. Their son was 3, and cute and shy, and was a super easy kid to take care of. The wife bought no real food to eat [although it was supposed to be provided for me], paid me terribly [$6 an hour] and ironically, the same day another nanny clued me in to how abused I was being, my boss decided it wasn't working out and let me go. They also kept kosher, which is a huge pain in the ass for anyone who doesn't – or for anyone who doesn't care how or why the fuck their food mixes on a plate. Jesus Christ, I just cannot deal with people's OCD eating habits and religious peculiarities. [As if "God" gives a fuck!] Pluses: She introduced me to Devachan haircare and paid me $50 more weekly than a competing employer in order to effectively poach me. Another plus, her Chelsea loft [and accessible rooftop!] were super dope. Minuses: She didn't hold up her end of the deal and was paying me less than minimum wage [and no overtime]. Overall rating: C-.

By the end of that week I had gotten two new nanny jobs, with two fairly nice women who hired me on the spot [I love when this happens]. The first was a French stay-at-home Mom with two boys and a personal driver who lived in Chelsea. The French lady was super accommodating, paid me super well, but never really let me do anything. She was always around and was always taking over the tasks she'd assigned me to do, including school pick-up and drop-off of her eldest son [an easy $25 trip]. Her 5 year old son never warmed up to me though, and her younger son was far too coy and attached to his mother to really interact with me. I always sensed the childrens' discomfort and that along with the Mom's unwillingness to let go made me slowly back out of that arrangement until I was no longer showing up [yeah, I had no sense of courtesy back then – but it was more ignorance than rudeness]. Overall rating for the French Mom? B-.

The second part time job was with a Playmate lookalike in SoHo who had an adorable and sassy 3 year old daughter [she wasn't really a playboy playmate, she was just a MILF who looked like one]. I worked with the Mom in SoHo for months; throughout her separation, her late nights slaving at a 2nd job, her brother moving in and her new life dating. Depression hit me hard about 8 months into the job, and after one particularly difficult morning I told her I couldn't make it. I think she even tried to give me a second chance, but I was so embarrassed I decided to let the job go completely. To this day I feel a tinge of regret over that, as she really didn't deserve to be stood up in such a callous way. She paid me fairly, she was so so good to me, and there was one cute night where she told me that she and her daughter loved and cared about me very much. I sent her daughter a birthday/thank you/I'm sorry card later that summer to make amends, but needless to say, the bridge had been irreparably burned. SoHo Mom easily got an A.

Monday, February 20, 2012

The Real NYC Nanny Guide

Surprise surprise y'all. I've worked as a nanny on and off for the past six years. I've been in and out of homes all over New York City, and needless to say, I know a lot about this delicate little world! Here is my personal NYC Nanny Guide geared towards helping new nannies and first time/curious parents seeking childcare. I answer lots of questions and discuss many topics, but if you have any further inquiries, feel free to email me.

What should I pay my nanny? 

The current going rate in New York City is anywhere from $10-$25/hr. Most legal, educated nannies will not work for less than $12/hr, and average nannies generally won't ask for more than $20/hr [anything more than $20/hr should require special expertise or responsibility].

You should pay according to:
  • The expected duties and responsibilities [the more duties, the more per hour]
  • The required hours [the less hours, the more you pay per hour- as a convenience]
  • The nanny's experience and education level [more years of experience and more education merits more money].
  • The amount of children [whatever rate you start at, add $2/hr per head]
Whether you choose to pay on the books or not is up to you and your nanny [I know it's the law, but it's hard to regulate anyways], but be sure to pay her time and a half for any hours over 40, and always pay her on time.

Once you figure out your rate of pay, overtime pay, regular payday, required hours and weekly responsibilities create a written contract stating such and have you and your nanny both sign and keep a copy. It would also be wise to include policies regarding: sick leave, vacation, personal leave and holidays.

What are some things I can do to make my nanny happy?
  • Offer your nanny breakfast/lunch/dinner if the nanny is working in your home during these times. If not, at least make sure there is something in your fridge for her to snack on.
  • If your nanny is schlepping your kids around the city all afternoon, provide her with a monthly metrocard to make her life easier.
  • Be reasonable in your expectations. Your nanny is not a superhero and cannot complete X amount of tasks a day while managing to be a present and active caretaker of your child. The more reasonable you are, the more likely your nanny will be flexible in working with you.
  • Give your nanny a raise after a year [usually $20 extra/wk], a bonus at the end of the year [1-2 weeks salary is appropriate] and severance pay [but only if she is let go without cause]. Also bump up her pay if you have another child [usually an extra $2/hr] or need to increase the workload. If you do not do these things, she will resent you and will eventually seek other employment.
  • Keep clear and open communication lines. Be mature. Do not be passive aggressive. This is a recipe for disaster. Your nanny will sense your attitude, and it may create irreparable discord within your arrangement.
  • Trust her and treat her with respect. Do not micromanage, do not ask her to keep a log of minute details, do not check in non-stop, do not speak down to her or treat her like a slave. This is someone intelligent and responsible that you hired to work in your home and with your children, so be sure to treat her as such.
What are some things I can do to make my employer happy?
  • No matter how you arrange your responsibilities throughout the day, make sure that by the time your employer walks through the door, all your duties are completed and the house is clean and organized.
  • Follow your employer's desires and do not impose your own belief system onto the family – unless you feel the child may be in danger, or you feel you have a more qualified solution.
  • You should never finish anything in your employer's fridge, unless you have explicit permission to do so. Also be aware that whatever you finish, you should courteously replace.
  • Do not get lazy. When the kids are up and about, keep the TV off, keep your cellphone on silent, and stay off the computer. And don't nap either, unless your employer gives you explicit permission to do so. You are on the clock, so please act like it.
  • Be on time and be flexible, but if you aren't available at all on a certain day or time, make your employer aware. They should do their best to respect your time off.
  • Do not ask for loans. This is completely inappropriate and your employer is not a bank.
What all nannies and employers should know: 

*Don't even bother with nanny agencies. For parents: They often pluck their nannies off of sites like Craigslist and Care.com, something that you could do yourself. They usually don't do background checks or reference checks and will toss any old nanny your way so that they can paid. For nannies: Agencies don't have your best interests at heart, they will often honor the family's preferences over yours. You will often go on interviews with families that are a poor match for you, if you go on any interviews at all. Better to avoid the middleman entirely.
*Fit is extremely important. If you are a creative and spontaneous family, you would want a nanny that fits well with that type. The same for a studious and laid-back family. Choose a nanny that fits best with your lifestyle. Nannies should also be aware of this! If you have multiple offers, go with the family who's parenting style you most respect. Follow your gut and don't be swayed by money or pushy people.
*Employers: Avoid specifying race/ethnicity in your job postings. It's tacky, prejudiced, and completely illegal.
*Speak up! Nannies: If you feel you deserve a raise, a bonus, severance pay or time off; mention it to your employers in a dignified and calm manner. Employers, if you cannot afford a raise or bonus, be sure to let your nanny know and try to compensate her in other ways.
*Remember each others birthdays! It's a nice treat to have someone you work with so closely remember the day that you came into the world.
*Be laid back and keep perspective. You are working together to raise a lovely little adult. Take it day by day and take breaks, if needed.
*Nannies and families should both understand that needs change as life changes: A nanny's hours may decrease or vanish completely as a child matures, and a family may have to say goodbye to a nanny who is now pursuing other opportunities. Be open to change, and prepare well for it.

*Know your rights! On top of mandatory overtime, domestic workers in NYC are entitled to:
  • A 14 day termination notice or severance pay.
  • A day of rest every 7 days [or paid overtime on that 7th day].
  • Six paid holidays off.
  • Seven paid sick days off.
  • Five paid vacation days off.
  • Three paid days of rest after 1 year of work.
  • 30 minutes break per 6 hours worked.
Have fun! If you find the right family, babysitting can be enriching and very well compensated. I have fond memories of some great kids and lovely sets of parents, many of whom gave me jobs when there were few other viable options for me. Even after I've chosen to move on, I'll forever be grateful for the opportunities I had to work with some of New York's warmest families.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Black & White TV

One of the few movies I've seen with a Black & Hispanic lead

There's been a lot of chit chatter about The Help. Now I haven't seen it yet [but I will] and my upcoming rant has little to do with the actual movie, but more so with the common portrayal of Blacks/Hispanics* as miscreants, idiots, blue collar workers, servants, slaves, gangsters, drug dealers/addicts, charity cases, fuck-ups, single mothers, uneducated, hood dwellers, violent... Not that some of us do not fit these types in real life, but I believe that the majority of us do not. And I'm sick and tired of Hollywood and the media painting us with one broad brush, consistently viewing and portraying us in a monolithic way with no room for realism or growth.

How many times do people of color need to be shown in this light before the formula is exhausted? I wish I could say different, but the truth is, these portrayals affect people's subconscious, feeding the notion that Blacks/Hispanics are lesser than whites and that they need all the help they can get. That "whites have it right" while people of color are severely simple-minded and forever struggling.

Now you know I don't believe that for a second! Sheeeit. But when I walk down Madison ave in the mornings, I see the belief of being "lesser than" in the eyes and demeanor of many different people. I see young Hispanic men, looking sloppy and rugged, apologetically dodging out of the way when a white person crosses their path. I see black delivery men averting their eyes, often looking at the floor instead of up and around this beautiful city. I've seen a subway car full of immigrants freeze when a white man sternly asked an innocent question. I've seen various whites with their noses in the air, with an entitlement so strong they rarely say excuse me when needing to move past you. [Caucasians know they are guilty of this! I've seen too many who prefer to quietly brush past or just stand there passive aggressively until the person in their way gets the hint and moves. They are also quite selfish on the subway.]

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Life is short

This post is by Danielle LaPorte, and the content is so exquisitely attuned to what I've always believed, all the more so lately. "Life is hard, but live it softly, throw pain free." Enjoy.

In honour of the fact that life is short:

wear your white shirts. get them pressed.
use your good dishes — everyday.
shave on weekends.
do not wait for special occasions.
do not tuck your best away in the drawers, in the back of the closet, in your heart.
don’t wait for holidays or invitations.
declare that your today is the special occasion.
call instead of emailing. (it feels so good to connect.)
go for coffee.
renounce your glory days. you’ve told all of those stories more than twice.
focus forward.
wear perfume for yourself.
toss your only-wear-around-the-house clothes and let your good clothes graduate to around-the-house status.
intend to feel good all of the time.
write your book.
make great sex a priority. (this alone will make you more creative and free. on your death bed, you will think about all the great sex you had this lifetime.)
burn your to-do list.
write poetry. One a day.
make a point to be as encouraging as possible, as much as possible, to everyone possible.
don’t look back.
if you feel like you’re always failing, consider that this is part of being an artist. let it be a divine inclination. keep going.
eat real food.
often refuse to be in the presence of people who make you feel repressed, anxious, or pull your frequency down.
do not entertain haters.
send light to the haters.
give it away. you probably don’t need it and someone else does.
turn off the tv.
let it be easy.
burn candles. during the day.
fall in love. with yourself. with the person you’re with. with the persons in your orbit.
because no one is perfect, but you can let the love be perfect for the both of you.
because everyone — everyone — is a doorway to God.
because you can get there from here.
because life is short.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

How to feel better

You ever wake up one morning and just feel down in the dumps? Do you feel lost and lonely? Are you having trouble sleeping? Do you feel unfulfilled and morose as of late? I've been there too, and I'm here to help! Here is my personal guide on How to feel better... hope it helps! [Note: This is not intended as a guide for those who suffer from severe depression and/or mental illness.]
  • Stand up for yourself in a healthy way. Speak the truth, don't attack, don't name call, and don't bully. Aim to enlighten the offender in the clearest way while unburdening your justified emotion. Never take any action that would reflect poorly on you. For example: I stick to the facts, and state my case firmly and calmly. If people get rowdy or refuse to hear me out, I don't waste my time and cease interaction. I've never had to resort to something as lowly as spitting, stealing, hitting, cheating, or degrading anyone. Them realizing their mistake and what they've lost was punishment enough. I've walked away from every confrontation I've ever had feeling victorious, because I made it my aim to always be fair and ladylike.
  • Make an effort to give. When you are giving and sharing, the focus is off yourself and is doled out to others instead. For example: When I first moved to the city, I did a huge clean out and had a ton of extra stuff. I ended up giving a huge bag of clothes and accessories to a down-and-out young mother who I found on Craigslist, and to this day I still wonder about her.
  • Keep perspective. There are millions of people who are hungry, homeless, dying, fighting, addicted, lonely, empty, angry right now. Remember not to blow things out of proportion and take a moment to think about the positive in your life.
  • Keep your mind, body and life as balanced as possible. Never take more than you need, never take more than you'd give in return, and never deplete your body's mental, emotional and physical resources. You need your mind and body to be at their best, they're the only ones you've got!
      'Overflow' by Pecche

    • Know that it's okay to be sad or angry. Let yourself feel negative emotions all the way through, allowing yourself to process them all the way. And then, once it's mostly out, cease to dwell on it. Try your very best to let all negativity go or else it will rot you from the inside out. How do you do that? Acknowledge it, recognize its presence, then abolish it. If you can't do that, then change how you view it. For example: When I begin to feel some kind of way, I deal with the emotion then and there [or at least, as soon as possible]. Carrying a negative emotion from now into next summer isn't effective and makes little sense to me. So I cry if I feel like crying, I let myself feel anger if I'm pissed and I let myself feel pain if I've been hurt. I also try to do whatever I can to constructively cope. Within a day or two [or sometimes even a few hours] I notice that the feeling has largely faded. It has slipped right out of my system, and out of my life.

      • Curb all jealousy. Hating another won't make you any smarter/richer/more attractive/more in shape. For example: When I see a fly ass woman [whether it's sick style or a cool-as-shit attitude], I think to myself “She better work!!!” I love love love seeing confident women out and about, I feel a camaraderie with them, almost like they're my spirit sisters.
        • Free up your muscles, and let those limbs loose. Move. Exercise. Stretch. Dance. Roller-skate. Box. Play ball. Do yoga. Do 50 pushups. Touch your toes. Do 100 jumping jacks. Take a walk. Breathe. Go for a run. Do the hustle. I promise you'll feel better. 
          • Stop eating garbage. All those fake foods and sugary concoctions that are being sold at every fast food joint and supermarket are just that... fake concoctions. When your palate gets used to what's natural again, all that artificial stuff won't taste as yummy anymore. Plus you'll stop feeling so lethargic, and your number two's will be easier to push out and more regular [yes, I went there].
          • Communicate. Talk it out. Think. Confront the bastard. Write. Talk until it makes sense. Tell someone how you feel. Vent. Call a friend. Find a therapist. Call a 1-800 hotline. Dial your mom. Let those feelings out, and with that will come clarity.
          • Listen to your gut. It is our built-in human compass, an inherent tool that is keen and adept at figuring out how trustworthy we should be of what's in front of us.
          • Check out this cartoon. It's so genius, and although I've felt it before, I couldn't pinpoint the exact moment of liberation the way this artist did.
          • Listen to music. When does this ever not work?
          • Get deep into your hobbies: Write, draw, dance, paint, play an instrument, play a game, sing.
          • Volunteer: Work with children, mentor a troubled teenager, check in on your family, help a friend move. If you don't get a warm feeling after being the recipient of sincere gratitude, then you're dead inside. 
          • Remember that we all feel this way every now and then and rest assured that none of us know why.