Adventures in Baby-Sitting: Employees Expected to Watch Boss's Kids

Filed under: In The News, Baby-sitting

In "The Devil Wears Prada," Anne Hathaway had to deal with Meryl Streep's coat. In real life, she'd have to babysit, too. Credit: Ashriber, 20th Century Fox

"Take Your Kid to Work Day" is bad enough when your boss brings in her whiny offspring and you get stuck in the boardroom coloring Excel sheets. But what if watching your manager's children was an unspoken-yet-expected part of your job description?

Seems the separation of cubicle and cradle is narrowing as a growing number of entry-level Manhattan women are finding that in order to get ahead in their careers (and to supplement ridiculously low wages), they better "volunteer" to babysit their boss' kids, according to the New York Post.

Take case in point: On one Friday afternoon at about 5:30 p.m., Maria, a 25-year-old marketing associate for a major fashion label, tells the Post that the vice president of marketing stopped her saying she needed a baby-sitter in less than one hour.

"She was screaming that she had tickets to the opera, but her baby-sitter just canceled," the reluctant nanny finder who prefers to be anonymous and keep her job tells the Post.

"The vice president opened the door and said, 'I can't believe I have to ask you this, but what are you doing tonight?' " Maria tells the Post.

Though Maria does babysit a couple other families for extra cash, she had plans that evening. But she was wary of leaving the head of her division stranded. Maria went into panic mode -- contacting friends, cousins and cousins of friends, desperately hunting down a replacement for a baby-sitting job that was technically not even hers to start with.

"Finally, my childhood friend who was sick said she'd do it and just hide her cough," Maria tells the newspaper.

This growing "baby-sit my kid or your fired," push is especially prevalent in New York City where every year young women fresh out of college vie for competitive positions in public relations, fashion and magazine publishing, the Post reports. Desperate to get ahead in their careers, they don't dare say no to their bosses. And most who are "asking" them to babysit are female bosses, the newspaper reports.

"I think when you're in publishing, you accept it as part of the reality," Dara Pettinelli, 29, tells the Post about women who baby-sit for their bosses. Pettinelli, who currently works as an associate editor at Babble.com, baby-sat twice a month for a senior coworker at More magazine while working there as an editorial assistant and then assistant editor from 2005 to 2008.

"I think anyone who is in that assistant role in publishing knows the drill. And the ones who don't, don't last long," she tells the Post.

Pleasing the boss aside, these gigs also bring in cash -- $15 to $25 an hour, which helps supplement entry-level jobs that pay about $25,000 annually and barely cover the rent in a walk-up studio, the newspaper says.

"It's an arrangement that's becoming more common, because finding a baby-sitter in the city is extremely difficult," says Leslie Venokur, 35, a mother of a 2-year-old girl, Sami tells the Post. Until this past spring, Venokur ran a Manhattan boutique where she often asked employees to baby-sit for her.

For some, the appropriateness of the arrangement depends on who initiates it. "I think that it's really inappropriate for the boss to ask," says Susan Heathfield, 61, a management consultant who writes the human resources section at About.com tells the Post.

"The problem is, no matter how the boss asks, there is always added pressure there because it is the boss," she tells the Post.

And, there's always the downside of a babysitting adventure gone bad, like what if the kids don't like you? Pettinelli tells the Post.

And as Venokur points out in the newspaper, "Your co-workers could view you as a teacher's pet."

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.