My Year as a Nanny: Tending Mary Jane

“Looks like they had a good time last night,” I thought to myself, pushing the pipe, bag of buds, and lighter behind a lamp in an effort to conceal them from the children’s view.

The last thing I needed in my job as a nanny was the task of explaining to my charges, “When Mommy has a PhD, and Daddy is an executive in a big building downtown, life can get very stressful. Sometimes, at the end of a long day, they just need to tuck you guys in and then kick back with some reefer. Repeat after me: reeeeee-ferrrrr.”

As much as I didn’t care one way or another how the adults who wrote me a cheque for $200 each week–$155 after taxes (Incidentally, that came to $5 large American dollars for each hour of watching their two children–the going rate in 1989 to have a private liberal arts college graduate wipe magna cum laude from one’s children’s behinds)–spent their evenings, I also didn’t feel comfortable picking up their paraphernalia and stuffing it more completely out of sight. If I did that, then I’d have to explain, in code, at the end of the day, “Hi, welcome home from work. Kevin took a short afternoon nap, so he’ll probably go down early, and Lila sang out loud during her entire hour of quiet time; it was adorable. She made up some hilarious lyrics to ‘I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.’ Oh, and by the way: I ook-tay our-yay ipe-pay and aggie-bay of ot-pay and put it in the ashing-way achine-may.”

So I merely tucked the items out of view and then fired up the television so the kids and I could enjoy our allowed half-hour of screen time that day in the form of our favorite pre-8 a.m. program: Maya the Bee.

(A stunned-looking Maya wonders where her pot went. Best guesses have it that her pal Willy the Bee had himself a big smoke in the hive.)

A half hour later, we turned off the tv and headed upstairs to blow bubbles, make towers of blocks, play an interminable game of Chutes & Ladders, read four books, and walk up and down the block.

That got us to 8:11 a.m.

Truly, hours with small kids can move at a glacial pace, making the brain space out and drift aimlessly. The highlight of the whole thing is snack time.

Pretty much, taking care of young ‘uns is like being stoned without having to inhale, really.

At the end of that day, ten hours after I shoved the weed behind the lamp in the basement, I headed home, eager to make some Ramen and collapse in front of the television with my roommates, rule-free, for however long we chose. In contrast to the daytime, those evening hours flew by.


The next morning, when I let myself into the house where I nannied, the mother caught me for a quick minute in the kitchen. Sheepishly, she alternately rushed and stuttered,

“So…yesterday…we…left…some…thingsyoufound…in…thebasementwhichwasawhoopsie…and…well…ifthat’saproblemjustsayso…we…don’t…want…any…issues…so, um, sorry about that. Are we okay?”

My answer came easily, “We’re totally okay. As far as I’m concerned, your kids are well loved, your lives are awesome, you guys are great, so nothing beyond that is my business. No problem.”

Relief spread across her face, but she remained silent for a beat. And then:

“Oh, good. I’m so glad. Uh, actually, as long as we’re on the subject, uh, we’ve been having trouble lately finding a supply. Our former source dried up.”

Taking a deep breath, the PhD-mother-of-two who wrote me a cheque for $200 every week braved the true question:

“So, I don’t suppose you know anyone who would be able to help us out with that? We were thinking at your age that you might know someone who could keep us supplied?”

In response, I murmured something about asking around and seeing if anyone knew anyone. Then I watched her drive off to her job as a psychologist, and my hands went to work warming up Eggo waffles for the kids, but

my brain spent the next hour marveling that

the person who cares for the kids makes less than

the person who peddles the pot.









12 responses to “My Year as a Nanny: Tending Mary Jane”

  1. Joanne Avatar

    I’ll tell you about the bong under the steps if you tell us about the ham.

    1. Jocelyn Avatar

      Hell, but that comment was worth waiting for, Joanne. You made me snort.

      Yea, one time I was supposed to put a ham in the oven for their dinner, but–like a stoned person–I totally spaced it out…until I was driving home at the end of the day. So I called and apologized, and they told me they were ordering pizzas (like stoned people), and it was all a bunch of nothing that I still remember 25 years later.


  2. christopher Avatar

    And in Colorado the two choices seem like a no-brainer now.

  3. julie sucha anderson Avatar

    Great story. And – my Pig Latin – too long since I’ve tried to use it. Maybe if I were stoned, it would come back. Maybe.

  4. A Cuban In London Avatar

    So, from babysitter to middle-person! 🙂 All in the space of a cough… or a puff. Some people, huh!

    Greetings from London.

  5. Secret Agent Woman Avatar

    There’s something about the idea of asking your child’s sitter to hook you up with a new dealer that raises the hair on the back of my neck.

  6. chlost Avatar

    Never did much babysitting-yes, even nannies are really babysitting. But when I did, it was about 50 cents to $1 an hour. Maybe when you pay a nanny, you pay more. Maybe when you pay a nanny who can hook you up with some drugs, it is worth even more. Yeah, this whole thing is really very, very strange the way we say we value our children.

    1. Jocelyn Avatar

      When I was a teenager and babysitting, the going rate was $1/hour. But since this was a full-time job of 40 hrs/week and occasionally more, they had to pay me enough to pay rent. With enough left over for Ramen!

  7. Friko Avatar

    I wonder if smoking pot is still as bad as it gets or if you’d find needles, spoons, lighters and silver paper now? I have no idea what goes on in the real world since I’ve left behind the days of the friendly confessional.

    I never did any babysitting at all, I did some real menial work instead. I never had the patience to look after small children, my own being hard enough to cope with.

  8. Jess Avatar

    I was a nanny for over a decade and the closest experience I ever had to this was the time the creepy husband came home staggering drunk from dinner at the neighbors and wouldn’t let me leave. He was leaning way too close and swaying slightly while he told me about how I was smart because I read books. His wife was as mortified as I was and she kept yelling at him to let me go home because I didn’t want to listen to his ramblings. Awkward.

  9. Bone Avatar

    This story was sort of like a road I’d never been on. I had no idea where it was going. But I loved the ending.

  10. Robin Avatar

    Well done. I feel like I know this situation and can imagine it completely, even though I never experienced anything like this myself, though there were those few times in high school when the dad of one family I babysat for would drive me home even though he was obviously intoxicated. Wish I’d had more courage at the time to do or say something. Instead, I just buckled my seatbelt and held onto the door handle.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *