Saturday, June 6, 2009

Leaving a family after 16 years

My friend Jenn will be leaving her job this week. She has been with her family for 16 years. Her kids are 16, 12 and 8. Since I have been with my family almost the same amount of time she and I have a very close bond.
She has been blogging her last 10 days to help her through the sadness(thanks to Buffi for a wonderful suggestion) and she will be sharing them here starting this week.
I hope that you will all offer her some support and ideas as she goes through this transition.
I will be putting all the postings of support and encouragement into a drawing for a copy of "Like a Second Mother" and the winner will be announced Sunday June 21.

If you have never read this book, here is Joyce Farmers' review of the book that was first published in the National Association of Nannies Newsletter.

"Like A Second Mother" by Barbara Blouin"

Books Fall Open. You Fall In." Do you remember that reading program slogan? I immediately fell deep into this book, and I will tell you why. As I read each story, I put myself in that nanny's place. I experienced each of them as fully as I could, based on the facts given. For some of the narratives, that meant reading between the lines because some stories were told by the nanny's charge.This book was published as a part of the Inheritance Project, an organized effort to explore the emotional and social impact of inherited wealth. It was written as an effort to acknowledge and honor the many caregivers who unstintingly gave their love and support to the children in their care. While written about people of wealth, it nevertheless holds the joys and frustrations of nannies everywhere.Like A Second Mother is a series of interviews of employers, nannies and charges. The beginning stories are of early nanny/housekeepers from the first half of the century. Others are mixed statements from employer, nanny, and charges. The end of the book contains more stories just by nanny. Some are definitely interviews, while others are beautifully descriptive stores by gifted nanny writers.It is hard to read about the earlier nanny/housekeepers because we want our profession to advance beyond the low pay/recognition into a respected and comfortable career choice. Efforts towards this goal made by NAN, agencies and others are discussed in the Introduction.I experienced some vertigo while reading some chapters, because there was so much between the lines. I realized (from my own job experiences) how the events described by employers would appear from the nanny's perspective. One story was written entirely about how nanny fit into the employer's life. A single line about nanny getting married made me realize that nanny had a whole complete life outside of this narrative. Nanny sustained this family, and at the same time (albeit invisibly?) provided for herself emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually.Common threads appear as you read along. It is disturbing to read of alcoholism, dysfunction, and abuse in wealthy families. It is difficult to glean how nanny succeeded in her work (at times, she didn't) while overcoming these obstacles. It is nearly inexplicable to read about how hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent on landscaping, only to read of the low weekly pay of the person whom those children totally depended on for their quality of life. I found myself counting the times in these stories where nanny was required to forgive and forget about class distinctions, cultural differences, and financial comparisons, in order to provide emotionally for these wealthy children.Love is the enduring theme in all these stories. While the parents shrugged off these issues, the charges struggle to reconcile the life they enjoyed "below-stairs" with nanny, versus the social life of wealth and privilege that they were expected to live "above-stairs." Charges often speak of the enjoyable warmth of the kitchen and caregivers, versus the cool reserve of parental social expectations.Nannies have "immense personal strength" but no material security, the apparent opposite of their charges. Our employers pay for our time and effort, but the love--freely given--cannot be purchased. In some of these stories by charges, they have tried to repay these invaluable gifts by honoring and caring for their caregivers during their later years.You have heard the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. In this book, one line can equal a thousand words. It took me a long time to read this book, because I would continually have to stop on one of these lines. My heart would respond with joy or sorrow to these truths about nannies and the way we affect our charges' lives. I will share a few of these here, although most of their power is derived from the story that the statement is taken from.Nanny Ann: "Whatever you put out is what you get back." "You can change the world with being kind to people."Charge, Missy: "It feels real good to talk about her because I don't feel like I can give back enough what she gave to me."Charge, Tracy: "Nellie figured out ways to create a loving circle around her in the kitchen."Nanny Mildred: "I'm like a mother to those kids. I lived every day for them. I love 'em until death.Employer, Diana: "Susannah got a different kid of parenting for a few hours a day--a less analytical, less intellectual and maybe a more basic kind of parenting." "I know that Di loves my children totally and realistically, much in the way that a sister or grandmother would."Charge, Sylvia: "I would like to spare my kid what happens when a nanny leaves--because part of your childhood goes with her."Employer, Lois: "There was a group of kids for Holly to grow up with, and all the other children were being babysat by their babysitters. So Theresa provided Holly with a social life that was absolutely important to her. Holly made friends at the park, and they went to each other's houses all the time."When asked if she thought Holly was more attached to Theresa than to her (the mother), Lois said: "I thought she was attached to Theresa differently than she was attached to me."Nanny Catherine: "I love all three children. I measure my love for them by how much what they do and say can affect me." "The biggest drawback to this job is that nannies are not looked highly upon. With people I know, I speak up about that. But you can't really change people's opinions because they have to highly regard children in the first place in order to highly regard nannies."Nanny Patricia: "It almost saddened me to realize that Andrew would never be able to recall his own innocent moment, and that I would be the only person to tell him how tender and gentle he had been. What truly amazed me that day was a child's capacity to take an ordinary moment and make it something incredibly special."Employer, Kakie: A child's caregiver is part of your intimate life--like it or not. I think it calls for a lot of consciousness on both sides, and when you get a good fit, it can be so enriching. And when you don't get that fit, it can be so destructive."Nanny Maria: "Sometimes it was very intense: they need all your energy, and they can take it all."Employer, Wendy: "I also think it's very possible that Zoe bonded with Maria as well. Children bond to their mother and their father, so why can't they bond to mother and babysitter?"Each story in this book is worthy to be slowly absorbed on its own. The experiences of other nannies and how they handled common situations are a very important part of the networking foundation that is needed to help standardize our industry. There is definitely a need in the world today for books that present the nanny's view of the issues. Telling stories from the family's perspective can help nanny to understand both sides of the issue. This book does an outstanding job of trying to cover both of these perspectives. I would recommend this book for any nanny's library.

Friday, June 5, 2009

A very special birthday message for Harriette

On Harriette's birthday, I had a very special comment on my blog that I didn't want you to miss.
It was from Sylvia, Harriette's first charge.
If you read the book "Like a Second Mother" by Barbara Blouin, you might remember the very poignant chapter in the book called "Closing the Nursery Door" which Sylvia wrote about her beloved nanny that she affectionately called "Rat"
Next week I will be posting my give away for the month of June which is a copy of the book "Like a Second Mother" by Barbara Blouin but right now I hope you enjoy this note from Sylvia.

Happy Birthday to Rat!

You know how people say you never truly appreciate your parents until you have children yourself? The same holds true for your nanny.As I fumble through raising my daughter and son (10 and 8), I sure wish Rat were here to give me advice ... and make me laugh.

I knew the young Harriette, who let my sister pierce her ears with a needle at the kitchen table and loved Elvis. I never got my chance to take her to Graceland.

BTW, I am at the start of a long and slow project to write a biography of Harriette, who moved into our house at age 19 to be my nanny and never dreamed she'd be a labor activist. If you'd like to share a memory or comment about Harriette ... or would be willing to let me interview you about Rat, the nannying profession, or any other tangent, please drop me an e-mail at

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Happy Birthday Harriette!

Today would have been Harriette's 67th Birthday.Maybe you are thinking " So...I didn't know her why are you telling me?........but what Harriette did in her life, impacted all of us.I made a promise to Harriette before she died that I would never let her be forgotten. As time goes by and more and more I realize how much I miss her and how important she was to me, I also realize that I probably would have done that even if she hadn't asked me to.
So for those of you who did not know her, here is her story, and why it matters.
Harriette Grant passed away on June 30, 2002. She had been a nanny for 40 years. You can read her story in the book Like a Second Mother but here is my tribute to her life and her enormous contribution to nannies everywhere.
The following article about Harriette Grant first appeared in the NAN Newsletter in June of 2001. In November of 2001, Harriette was diagnosed with Leukemia and she passed away on June 30, 2002.
A nanny for the ages by Glenda Willm Propst
These are some newspaper headlines from 1961:U.S. Breaks Off Diplomatic Relations With Cuba;John F. Kennedy Inaugurated as President of the U.S. Peace Corps Established by Kennedy;UN General Assembly Condemns Apartheid;‘Freedom Riders’Attacked by White Citizens in Anniston and Birmingham; Bay of Pigs Invasion; Kennedy and Khrushchev Meet in Vienna to Discuss Disarmament; Berlin Wall Constructed; Actor Gary Cooper Dies at Age 60.
These are some popular books from 1961:Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein;Catch-22, by Joseph Heller; andTropic of Cancer, by Henry Miller (the first legal publication in the U.S.).
Some of the popular movies that year were:"West Side Story,""The Hustler," and "Judgment at Nuremberg."And among the most popular songs were:"Love makes the World Go Round,""Moon River,""Where the Boys Are," and "Exodus."How many of you remember any of these events and cultural markers? How many of you were even born in 1961?Well, even if we are among those who were not yet born in 1961, there was an event that in some way affected all our lives that year. This event did not make the headlines, but it changed our lives all the same.
In July, 1961,Harriette Grant began her career as a nanny. At that time there were no newspaper articles about nanny salaries or benefits there were no formal nanny training programs in the United States, there were no nanny support groups, and there were no nanny organizations.Harriette was just 19 when she started taking care of Sylvia Whitman. In the book "Like a Second Mother," Sylvia writes about a very different Harriette from the person we know. Sylvia's "Rat," as she affectionately called her, changed her hair color every week, and their house was the best patrolled in the neighborhood because all the policemen had a crush on Harriette.Harriette was with the Whitman family for nine years, and she maintains a close relationship with Sylvia Whitman, who is now all grown up with a family of her own.In 1970 Harriette moved to Washington, DC, to care for the Brown children, with whom she stayed for 20 years. Even after the children were teenagers, Harriette remained and helped the Browns part time (she took a second part time job with another family in the neighborhood). Harriette was there when one of the Brown children graduated from Princeton University, and when her other "child" graduated from High School. While she was in DC, Harriette began to get serious about solving the problems surrounding the lack of support nannies had.Harriette Grant was one of the founders of the very first nanny support group in the USA. It was called ADCAN - the Association of DC Area Nannies. The group still runs strong today, and prides itself on being the oldest nanny support group in the nation. If you have ever tried to start or run a support group, you will understand what an accomplishment that is.Harriette was also a founding member of International Nanny Association, served on its board of directors, and was the INA's first Nanny of the Year in 1990.She co founded NAN with Glenda Willm Propst and Eva Harkness in 1992.When Harriette moved to New York City in 1999, she became one of the founders of the Professional Nannies of New York.I first met Harriette Grant at the INA conference in Vail, Colorado, in 1988. We were going to be serving on the INA Board together. It did not take long for us to realize that we had the same concerns, the same vision, and the same passion for the nanny profession. After the conference, we burned up the phone lines on a regular basis.We became very good friends, and in 1992, along with Eva Harkness, we founded the National Association of Nannies.
In 1997, when Harriette asked me to run with her for Co-President of NAN, one of my greatest concerns was that it might hurt our friendship. We promised each other not to let that happen. I think we would both admit that at times it was a struggle, but we served as Co-Presidents for four years, and were still on speaking terms. We did not always agree, but we always respected each other and we have always tried to make what was best for NAN our top priority.
NAN benefited from her vision, her professionalism, her steadfastness, her wisdom, and her commitment to the Nanny profession.It's a little overwhelming to think of all the things that have happened in the last 40 years, and of how far the nanny profession has come. I think of all the changes Harriette saw and of all the nannies she encountered on her journey.When I think of Harriette Grant, I think of the quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson:
"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path, and leave a trail."
Harriette led the way where there was no path. She blazed a trail for 40 years, .As her torch is passed, we can all learn a valuable lesson from her life, her example, and her dedication to her career.
It is up to each of us to continue the work that Harriette started. We are pioneers of the nanny profession, and it is our job to continue to blaze the trail.
Harriette, you have been our friend, our leader, and our inspiration. We will never forget you and we will work hard to continue your legacy.You leave us with many wonderful memories but a hole in our heart that only you could fill.
Rest in peace dear friend.I miss you every single day.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

INA Membership Contest Recipient

Over the past two weeks, Alice and myself, have given nannies the opportunity to win an INA membership for the upcoming year. It is valued at $95. We tallied the entries from the 31 nannies who entered and used to draw the number. The winner is:

Number 18

belonging to


from Minnesota!

Congratulations on receiving the INA membership from Creative Nanny, Nanny Adventures, Nanny Transitions & The Financial Nanny.

Thank you everyone who shared with others and entered our contest.

Please consider joining INA.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

The INA Contest

The INA Contest has ended.
The winner of the INA Membership will be announced tomorrow probably in the afternoon because Alice and I both have things going on tomorrow.
Thank you to all who participated.
Please don't hesitate to share your thoughts, ideas and suggestions with me.