Part Dream, Part Nightmare: Babysitting in the City

From paying for taxis to keeping mommy’s dark secrets, students share their bizarre babysitting experiences.

An accompanied child walks through the streets of New York (Photo by Echo Chen).

“It literally turned into chaos, with me having to babysit these two blackout adults,” CAS junior Laila Petra said.

When babysitting the 4-year-old son of an Australian actress and filmmaker, Petra vividly remembers the parents stumbling home drunk from their cocktail party — soon, she was no longer just looking after their son.

Many working New Yorkers seek a sitter for their kids. Making easy money while hanging around in luxurious penthouse apartments at flexible hours entices many students to try and be the Rich-Kid Babysitter. However, those that have earned the label suggest that it’s not as easy as it looks.         

NYU babysitters often learn the insides of the Upper East Side lifestyle in exchange for their help. Getting a behind-the-scenes look often ends in a mix of amusement and disappointment for those not used to the lavish lifestyle. Steinhardt sophomore Amira Janadi learned the weekly routine of the mother of the child she was looking after, which involved her friends guzzling copious amounts of wine, cheese and fruit while watching their children do gymnastics. Even when the children put on a show, the mothers’ boozy behavior and negligence made for better entertainment for Janadi.    

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“That was something I’ve never seen before and didn’t think happened in real life, [but] apparently it does for rich, white moms,” Janadi said.

Babysitting sometimes requires a borderline unethical obligation to keep secrets, but maybe that’s just the price to pay to learn the realities of the rich. The mother who hired Petra drunkenly confessed that she was smoking joints at the cocktail party and made Petra promise not to tell her husband.

“The cherry on top was her forcing me into making a pact with her to never ever give up being ‘young and wild,’” Petra said.

“Young and wild” characterizes the children of many of these affluent adults. While students who babysit are aware of having to possibly put up with bratty behavior, some are surprised at just how much the wealth gets to their heads. GLS sophomore Brooke Gardner babysits the 8-year-old daughter of a prominent film director and writer. She finds that working in a huge, nicely decorated apartment overlooking all of Manhattan comes with the consequence of disrespectful behavior. After feeling belittled by the girl, Gardner says she often pays for a taxi since the daughter refuses to walk three blocks to Hebrew school.

“The kids are so used to having workers around them, they never say thank you anymore,” Gardner said.

However, GLS first-year Jazmine Nogueira, realizing her positive impact on the children’s lives, finds solace in her hard work.

“I know I impact the children’s lives so much since we talk about literally everything,” Nogueira said. “It’s more of being a friend rather than their sitter.”  

Whether they feel rewarded or frustrated, most babysitters agree that their experiences have brought amazement.        

The apartment where Gardner babysits is in an old building that still has an elevator conductor, something she thought only existed in the movies. Tisch senior Rachel Keteyian also relates to feeling like she’s living in a dream. When Keteyian picks up her 10-year-old girl from her private school directly across from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the experience is surreal yet uncomfortable.  

“I felt like I was peeking into a world that I did not belong in,” Keteyian said. “Thankfully that wasn’t actually my life — I was just an inside observer.”

Email Amina Frassl at [email protected]

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