Authors: Suzanne Hansen
Copyright © 2003, 2005 by Suzanne Hansen
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Crown Publishers, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
Originally published in different form by Ruby Sky Publishing, Beaverton, OR, in 2003.
Crown is a trademark and the Crown colophon is a registered trademark of Random House, Inc.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
You’ll never nanny in this town again : the true adventures of a Hollywood nanny / Suzanne Hansen.—1st ed.
Originally published: Beaverton, OR: Ruby Sky Pub., c2003.
1. Hansen, Suzanne. 2. Nannies—California—Los Angeles—Biography. 3. Hollywood (Los Angeles, Calif.)—Social life and customs—Anecdotes. I. Title.
To my sisters, Cindy and Traci,
two of the greatest blessings in my life
The decision to write this book, essentially the memoirs of a Hollywood nanny, didn’t come easily. I agonized over whether this was my story to tell, especially since the children I loved and cared for are at the center of it. I began and ended this writing process with the clear intention of not divulging all that I observed. Carefully selecting the experiences was the balance and compromise that felt best in my heart.
Although this story is about my personal experiences, it is far from unique. Nannies don’t have a union, but we do chat. I know that situations similar to the ones I experienced continue to take place in the homes of the wealthy, powerful, and famous all across America.
Often during media interviews, celebrity moms fail to mention—or barely mention—the help they have that makes their glamorous lives possible. I don’t know whether I want to scream, laugh, or cry when they smile graciously, subtly implying that through their own superhuman efforts they are able to pull off an Oscar-winning role and still drive the daily carpool. Are they really talented enough to juggle the high-gloss career, the splendid home, and the busy family all by themselves? How do they have time to work such long hours, undergo a marathon of social obligations, and chair the PTA fund-raiser? Presumably,
through superior multitasking genes! The reality is, when a member of the Hollywood elite explains that “we have a normal life just like everyone else,” there is a little more to the story: they are not doing it all alone. What they do have is one heck of a secret support system.
It is sad that these famous families don’t realize how hurtful it can be for a nanny to have her very existence denied while she labors endlessly to keep their world intact. In sharing my sometimes embarrassing tribulations as a nanny, I hope I provide a glimpse into the lives of the undervalued caregivers who wipe tears and devote their days to the love and comfort of children.
The amateur psychologist in me speculates that the reason Hollywood nannies are kept out of public view has much to do with society’s expectation that a mother “should” be able to do it all. Since my nanny days, I’ve become a mother myself, and I often struggle with the overwhelming responsibility of motherhood. I know that it can be a real morale-destroyer for those of us in the diaper trenches to measure ourselves against the media perception, encouraged by the rich and famous, that having it all is just a matter of better management. If the megastars can manage the onslaught of minutiae in their lives, then what’s keeping the rank-and-file mom from making time to sculpt the great body, pamper the flawless skin, mop the spotless floor, prepare nutritional meals, and bring home a paycheck? Oh, and don’t forget scheduling date night to keep the romance alive!
For myself, there are many days I can barely keep my head above water. A nanny, a cook, a 24-7 housekeeper, a gardener, a car-washer, even a clone of myself—any help would be a godsend. I doubt that I’m alone on those days when pressing errands take precedence over a shower. Out comes the baseball cap on my way to the grocery store to buy last week’s list of stuff, to the craft store for birthday invitations, and then to the bank to—oops, I’m already overdrawn. I can assure you that movie-star moms don’t sacrifice the shower for taking the SUV in for an overdue oil change. Nor do they discover the load of forgotten wet laundry that didn’t get to the dryer and has mildewed in the meantime.
I have shared my personal story in part to celebrate and commend the moms who really do “do it all” or attempt a reasonable facsimile
thereof. If celebrity moms would acknowledge their personal limitations and their gratitude for their nannies’ constancy, it would speak volumes to moms without any support staff.
My two favorite supporters of motherhood are Oprah and Maria Shriver, who both continually encourage moms to be proud of their important work. These two women of influence save many a mom’s sanity by giving unwavering vocal support to the challenging job of motherhood, while continuing to remind us that motherhood is our highest calling.
Finally, I hope my misadventures in nannyhood will provide a little humor for all the mothers out there. After all, if you only have five minutes to sit and read, it’s nice if you can laugh. And just so you know, many of the embarrassing scenarios in which I found myself as a nanny have continued to crop up in my mothering life. But I can only suffer so much embarrassment in one book.
A note about names: For the most part I have tried to use real names, but some of the names have been changed. The following names are pseudonyms: Mandie, Mr. and Mrs. Goldberg, and Sarah. I have changed the names of all children mentioned in the book, as well as many of the minor characters.
If you want your children to turn out well, spend twice as much time with them, and half as much money.
—Abigail Van Buren
When my boss told me that we were all going to Hawaii for Thanksgiving vacation, I tried not to panic. I was nineteen years old, and my vacation experience up to that point pretty much consisted of ten-hour trips in my family’s cramped station wagon to visit my cousins in Canada. You’d think I would have been turning cartwheels down Sunset Boulevard. But as enticing as an all-expenses-paid stay at a posh Hawaiian beachfront resort would sound to most people, I was realistic enough—after almost a year of nannying for one of the most powerful families in Hollywood—to know that I’d be on duty for 192 hours straight. I had counted.
One hundred and ninety-two straight hours of running after three children under the age of seven, of sharing quarters a lot more cramped than the ten-thousand-square-foot home we normally occupied, where the air was already tense. Of no room to escape the kids or their parents for one minute.
This “vacation” sounded worse every time I thought about it. Good thing I didn’t know about the other five kids.
The night after I was informed of our upcoming adventure, I decided to be more positive.
Come on, Suzy! You could never afford to travel to
Hawaii on your own. This is a great opportunity to soak up some paradise
. I tried not to think about our previous “vacations.” Surely this would have a whole different, relaxed, tropical vibe? I called my friend and fellow nanny Mandie to tell her my news. She listened intently while I borrowed scenes from postcards and spun my perfect vision of the eight-day trip.