Nannies typically sign contracts for two years. One nanny equated this to a tour of military duty. "You just sign your life away," she says. Even traveling to tropical locales can be work. "It's like you're on vacation, but you're not. It's like being 10 again because you can't do what you want. You have to really look out at the ocean and say, 'That's so beautiful,' and then I have to do what they want me to do." But she takes it in stride. "I take my job really seriously, and I expect them to pay me accordingly. It's not a pastime."
A 31-year-old-nanny in San Francisco says moms with money tend to be much more involved in their children's lives, but it gets lonely for them being with the kids all the time. This crowd of moneyed hands-on moms want someone they like being around, not just an extra set of hands.
"I get paid what I get paid because I know to fit in. They don't want a nanny robot. I think the little boy I watch loves that I get along with his mom because we have fun," she says. "If you don't respect the person who's with your kids all day, why would you hire them?"
Then there are the social implications of a top-shelf nanny. "You want someone who represents you," says the nanny in the City by the Bay.
Maintaining the delicate balance between mommy, daddy and nanny can be tough. Especially when super nanny is bright and spunky and mom is tired and trying to shed some baby weight. Or if the family just wants some time away from the nanny. "It's something you learn, when to be around and when to disappear," she said.
But Backman insists that it's really about finding the right family to work for. "It's a relationship, not a job. Picking a job just for a high salary is like marrying for money. It's the wrong reason," she said.
Aside from work, Backman likes to tool around Manhattan on her cherry-red Vespa and hang out with friends in her duplex apartment. An avid runner, she's completed six marathons and volunteers with friends at the New York Road Runners Club to raise money for inner-city schools. This weekend, she's whisking her mother away to Bermuda. She says she plans to keep her job indefinitely. "I enjoy myself," she says.
For those who want to move on from nannying to other work, the transition can be tough. Breedlove says that older nannies often try to stick with it through to retirement. "Quite a few of the young ones start their own nanny placement agencies," he says.