Why I Love My Deadbeat Nanny

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Back when we began sending our daughter to daycare, we would occasionally notice – though barely register – a quiet part-timer squatting on the carpet playing trucks or puzzles with the incoming children. We never thought much of it, or her, until she’d lost the job.

“She really lacked any sort of motivation,” said the head of the crèche, “so we thought we’d give her the opportunity to go back to school and finish her degree.” A few weeks later, she’d dropped out of college.

“Score!” I thought after word had made its way around the mommy circuit and back to me.

At the time we had another baby on the way and I was looking for someone young, flexible and uncomplicated to help with the children when I couldn’t manage on my own. This one was as uncomplicated as they come. I put her on payroll.

While other parents diligently check credentials, interview references and smell for cigarette odor, I appreciate in our nanny the things that make her unemployable in the real world. She has little ambition and no real understanding of the world outside the four blocks separating our house from hers, where she lives with (read: off) her parents. She’s had a string of boyfriends I’ve never met because they probably don’t care enough to come visit her on the job, poor thing. She plays no team sports, dislikes travel, doesn’t drive and her social life starts after most mothers have long since rejected their husbands’ advances and rolled over for the night.

All that says Nanny of the Year in our household. She has always been available when we’ve called, even at the last minute – so she’s not all deadbeat. She accepted our first wage offer without negotiation and hasn’t asked us to raise it since. Those nights she has plans she comes to babysit anyway until we roll home exhausted at 11 p.m., at which time she emerges from the bathroom fully made up and smelling of hairspray, ready to catch up with her friends.

Have I mentioned she’s a whiz with fish sticks and canned corn, watches cartoons like they’re sustenance and relishes children’s games (and my children themselves) as if they’re the friends she never had? Which is why the girls love her like a (slightly wayward) sister.

Some mothers rely on their nannies to keep them tethered to the adult world when loneliness of mothering threatens to drag their minds into the abyss. I used to think I needed that, too. Until I realized I was really just looking for a friendly face and an IQ of 100 or so – high enough to keep the children off the streets and out of the oven but not so high as to appreciate that we’re probably not the best gig in town.

I like to think we’re in this together, at challenging stages in our lives when we’ve just got to cling to something. One day soon I’ll be less desperate and she’ll be more employable. But until that day comes I’ll say this: ignorance is bliss.

(Photo: Jupiterimages)


  1. Sue

    July 27, 2011 at 10:44 am

    Wow, is this a joke?

    Because if not, how very gracious of you to take this unemployable loser with no ambition under your wing.

    Even better is that she may have low self-esteem and doesn’t know how to assert herself. That saves you the trouble of giving her a raise because people who are reliable and available whenever you like don’t deserve it unless they ask for it. How truly thoughtful of you!

    • Lily

      July 27, 2011 at 1:21 pm

      I agree. It sounds like the nanny has some self-esteem and depression linked to the loss of her job and quitting school. Sounds like a bully has capitalized on exploiting her as both a nanny and fodder for a parenting article.

  2. Tanya

    July 27, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    Wow, I hope she doesn’t read this. How arrogant and mean-spirited.

  3. Dawn

    July 27, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    I’m with Sue on this one! What an awful article, you’re basically saying “Thank goodness I’ve found some dumbass who is happy watching cartoons, dropping her plans whenever and is even SO stupid that she doesn’t challenge the crappy wage we give her”.

    The worst of it is, you have written this with such confidence that I honestly don’t think you realise how snobbish you sound.

    I hope your “deadbeat” nanny wises up soon and realises she is being taken for a ride by a couple of snobs too far up their own asses to even see her as a human being.

  4. Eileen

    July 27, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    Chiming in with the rest – either you’re exaggerating the situation or you’re treating this young woman very badly.

    And in defense of the non “deadbeat” nanny, have you ever considered the benefits of hiring a young woman who balances an active social life with pursuing a degree and still finds time to have interests and hobbies? That was me in college, and even though I couldn’t always watch the kids at the drop of a hat, I loved them like crazy and think I set a pretty good example for them of the kind of person they’d like to be in their early twenties.

  5. JJ

    July 27, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    This…sounds a lot like me at that age. I was sitting for a couple with two young children who went to my church. I started when there was just one child and continued after the second was born, so it continued over a couple years. When I started, I was the girl described above. By the end of my time with this family, I was in college, the father of the family had given me a job at his company. My self-esteem had blossomed; I was no longer awkward. I owe a LOT to that family!

    Now I’m a mom of two, and looking for a high school-age girl who is looking for…something. I guess I’m looking for someone like myself at that age. Someone looking to hang out with my girls, to play games, watch tv, put them to bed, and be reliable!

  6. Brooke

    July 27, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    This is a really weird article. I get the core of what the writer is saying: I want someone at my beckon call who doesn’t ask a lot of questions.

    But I don’t get why anyone would seek out a person who was fired for being a lackluster child care provider.

    I would encourage the writer to revise her argument and pump up the logic as to why this made sense: Maybe she was looking for someone young, fun, I don’t know…something other than that this woman is around and her boyfriends won’t call her.

    I just don’t buy it.

    I’m about to write a similar story on my blog that talks about how I’m tired of the motherly and extra loving “nanny” type and want to hire a bubble college grad that wants to engage my son more. I don’t think I could ever celebrate that I hired a lazy child care worker who was canned for sucking at her job.

    Sorry guys!

  7. Teri

    July 27, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    I thought the article was kind of awesome…..

    • Shawna Cohen

      July 27, 2011 at 5:05 pm

      So did I! It literally made me laugh out loud. Made me realize that neurotic types like myself should stop obsessing (so long as kids are happy and, most of all, safe).

  8. xobolaji

    July 27, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    what a hoot! no really…

    a slacker nanny would be the perfect antidote to “over-achieving mommy syndrome” –whatever *that* is.

  9. Digusted.

    July 28, 2011 at 9:22 am

    You sound like an evil dutchess. How horrible to treat a young person so badly who may be struggling to find her place in the world. You ought to be ashamed. I hope her IQ of 100 enables her to find this article and a new job.

  10. Makenna

    July 28, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    I TOTALLY understand where this mom is coming from. This girl is responsible enough to keep the kids safe, yet at such a level with the kids that they enjoy spending time with her. The kids probably listen to the nanny, but see her as a friend, and not a challenge.

    To those who say she’s being a bitch to this girl: Uhm, no? The girl didn’t try to argue wages, hasn’t asked for a raise, and is probably fine with what she’s getting, or she would have turned down the job. I’ve worked like this, and while I didn’t mind only getting $50 a week for working nearly 60 hours (I loved the kids, it was a summer job, I was 13) the only thing I hated was that I almost never got my money ON TIME (hope this isn’t an issue).
    One last point. THE NANNY CAN SAY NO TO OVERTIME. She can. I promise. And if she doesn’t, she has her priorities on her job and the kids, which is where her priorities *should* lie. Aren’t those where yours are?

    • Eileen

      July 28, 2011 at 3:21 pm

      You were okay with it, but does that make it okay? If my boss offers me $2 an hour to make coffee, and I need SOME kind of money, then we’re “okay” with it, but it’s still, like, 70% less than the going rate, which is exploitation.

      I think what most people object to is the fact that this girl sounds like she’s in a bad emotional place, where she might have a hard time saying no or asking for more money. Granted, this is a skill that everyone has to learn, but it’s still kind of bitchy to take advantage of the fact that this girl hasn’t learned it yet.

  11. Kaitlyn

    July 28, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    Wow. If I found a blog post like this that my boss had written about me I would be devastated. I hope she finds work somewhere she is truly appreciated.

  12. AB

    July 28, 2011 at 10:51 pm

    Oh god, these self-righteous comments. This is why being a mom in the US sucks ass. I was born and raised there, but got the fuck out before GWB was elected, and had my family outside the US. We returned for a couple years and could not wait to get out, partly because of the self-validating, pick-everyone-else-apart-so-you-don’t-have-to-ever-examine-your-own-choices, are-you-sure-youre-a-good-parent-because-you-arent-freaking-out-about-your-kids-enough bullshit. But mostly because of the crap lifestyle and healthcare which btw is already rationed but its by Private Enterprise and not the gubmint so thats ok. Far out.

    • Daphne

      August 2, 2011 at 12:30 am

      I hear where you are coming from.

  13. Jessie

    July 28, 2011 at 11:50 pm

    I wonder if the people criticizing this mother for supposedly preying on a girl who “may have self esteem and depression issues” are even thinking about the possibility that maybe this girl is HAPPY to have a job like this? Somewhere where her employers don’t ask terribly much of her, where she is still able to have an active social life because it takes place after her work hours, whereas most people in college and in corporate jobs are not able to maintain this sort of lifestyle (I know I certainly can’t, I work graveyard shift and as a result my social life is almost nonexistent).

    It’s been my experience that most people who drop out of school do so because the workload and expectations are too much for them to handle at the time, if at all. Maybe she’s HAPPY to be somewhere were it’s okay to not do so much and still get rewarded for it for now.
    And on that note, I’m seeing a lot about the pay issue and would like to say, how dare they speculate/judge? We don’t know how much these people are paying her or how often. Maybe they pay very well and that’s why she’s never asked for them to raise her rate, or they pay often so she’s never in a bind for money, or maybe they pay both well AND often. Either way, if the girl had that much of an issue with her income she’d find a better job, even the most inexperienced 16 year old is smart enough to know that if you want better money, you get a better job.
    As for the overtime and coming in even when she has plans, SHE CHOOSES TO DO SO. It’s not as if the mother is forcing her to or she will be fired. If she had a problem with it, then she obviously wouldn’t choose to come into work those nights, would she?

    I find it apalling how harshly these people are judging this mother, and they don’t even know the full story or details of the situation. This is when I’m glad I’m neither a mother or work around people and just deal with animals all night. People are so quick to judge without knowing.

  14. Diana

    July 29, 2011 at 2:26 am

    … Wow. So a person who was college age (go BACK to college to finish the degree, which means she was 19 or older, likely early twenties) when you were looking for a baby minder for when #2 popped out. Then within a short amount of time, she dropped out of college (it is hard to get back into writing reports, I know of several people who went back and had a horrible time the first little bit and without support they would have quit too) and you thought “amazing, she can play with my kids” … The fact that she took the first wage offered probably points to the desperate for money because college is expensive and if you try and quit too late in the year, you still have to pay for the whole year.

    Here’s the thing that irks me the most though. The fact that your kids look up to her as an older sister would imply that it’s been years since you first took her on. Not offering to raise the wage (even if she didn’t ask) after more than a year of work is despicable.

    Continuing to pay the initial wage for several years without giving a bonus or wage increase? Likely she’s getting paid under the counter and the longer she works for you, the harder it is for her to explain why she was out of work to new employers if you decide that you don’t want to provide her with a reference. Which given the fact that you are enjoying that she’s not leaving anytime soon would seem to imply that you would pull a dick move like that on her.

  15. Daphne

    August 2, 2011 at 12:31 am

    love the balls out article. I knew you would get sh-t for it, but think it’s pretty real.

  16. Mary

    August 3, 2011 at 8:54 am

    What keeps this post from being truly funny is how sad it is that people like this really exist, and that they are allowed to have babies.

    Horrible, horrible role model for kids: the attitude OP spews makes me really feel for her kids. For they, too, will be jerks upon reaching adulthood, or more likely by 3rd grade.

    One wonders if this OP does not have the sophistication to express her feelings regarding employee longevity and reliability, or whether she is just a real jerk. Just a sort of jerk who is not a nice person.

  17. Pingback: Mommyish Editor-In-Chief Shawna Cohen Discusses ‘Deadbeat Nanny’ On Her Say | Mommyish

  18. Whitney f.

    August 5, 2011 at 10:32 am

    If everyone is happy and these kids are thriving I say congrats. It’s hard to find good help at a decent rate. I know peope who shell out thousands of dollars every year to agencies only to be stuck with nannies who they can’t trust with their childrens’ safety, but can’t get a new one for a year. They’ll come with degrees and certificates and still suck. So don’t knock the under achievers. They can be great assets.

  19. Brytni S

    August 7, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    I’m so glad that you all have time to sit here and criticize a mom that had the balls to admit she isn’t up for mom of the year award, get over yourselves please

    • K.

      April 30, 2014 at 3:26 pm

      it’s employer of the year she’s really out of the running for.

    • K.

      April 30, 2014 at 3:26 pm

      it’s employer of the year she’s really out of the running for.

  20. jd

    August 30, 2011 at 11:54 am

    you sound like a ceo from wal mart.(and all big companies in america besides the very few with people who still have morals run) youll hire all your employees to barely be able to afford to buy food so whenever you need them to work they will gladly do it cuz they are starving. if you really cared for this person who is raising your kids for you, you would buy her a car and help her get her degree and yes pay her more then what she is worth instead of taking advantage of you perfect situation.also if you cant afford to stay home and raise your own kids move out of you house you cant afford and get in touch with your family or else your kids wont respect you and move out of you overpriced house as soon as they can.

  21. WhatAbouttheKids

    August 5, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    The horror of this article lies not in the effects on either the mother or the nanny, but on the kids. Question: do you want to have deadbeat kids? Kids are like sponges – present to them what you want them to absorb. A semi-sentient person may not be ideal for developing minds.

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