(Previously published in The New Yorker’s Shouts and Murmurs column. Author’s note: I’ve worked for some incredible families and this story is purely comedic fiction and exaggerated based on some less than ideal families I have worked with. To the great families I worked for, this is not about you.)

Welcome! We’ve interviewed so many babysitters who didn’t really have what we were looking for, but then we realized that if we didn’t lower our standards we wouldn’t have anyone—and here you are! Anyway, let me give you a little tour before I introduce you to Brick.

I hope our house wasn’t too hard to find. I know you’re poorer than we are, so you probably aren’t in this neighborhood that often. We moved here years ago, when we still made way more money than you do, but the point is to keep reminding you that we’re not that rich. We’re not. We’re really not. Did you park outside? Oh, it’s a bike! But that’s nice. You’re having fun. God, I miss being young and poor.

You can put your quirky tote bag on top of our quirky tote bags that cost significantly more than yours. You’ll probably never see it again, but I doubt you’ll miss your two dollars and that MetroCard that doesn’t swipe.

So this is the living room we never spend any time in, but, gosh, doesn’t it give the impression that nothing bad ever happens here? And it didn’t, until 2013, so that’s good.

This is the kitchen where my borderline-eating-disorder-masked-as-health-consciousness is laid bare as new-fallen snow. Oh, that shelf that’s just vitamins? Those aren’t for Brick. They’re to supplement my daily diet of a thimble of avocado spread on a rice cake. Rice cakes are in the cupboard, by the way. Feel free to eat anything you want because the more you eat, the less food there is in the house when my stomach turns into a fist that punches me awake in the night and I go to scarf down a whole can of pumpkin puree.

And if you ever want some water or juice, it’s in the fridge, but please consume only one glass of it while you’re here. I’ll never tell you why, but if you take any more than that I’ll keep you for two hours after work to complain about how I think my husband is having an affair as I chain-smoke the cigarettes I keep in the freezer.

There he is! This is Brick. Brick is the sweetest, most entitled yet also neglected child you’d ever want to meet. He’s incredibly loving, but be warned: He hates hugs, which is why I don’t give him any. Or I never hug him, so he hates hugs? I’m not sure, but either way . . . Hold on, I just got a text.

Sorry, that was my husband. He once dreamed of being an artist, but now he’s a lawyer and blames me for crushing his spirit. But as I tell him, “Look, the money for Brick’s aerial dance classes has to come from somewhere, and it certainly isn’t going to be from your oil paintings of the Friends coffee shop.”

I’ll let you and Brick have some playtime while I go take the towels out of the dryer and bury my face in one and scream into it. He loves Legos!

In terms of the schedule, I’ll typically need you five times a week between 3:00 and 4:15 p.m., and then again from 4:45 to 6:49. What happens between 4:15 and 4:45 is none of your concern, and I will not be paying you for that half hour. During that time, you’re more than welcome to stare at our wall of family photos that were all taken the year Brick was born. They will probably make you wonder how such a seemingly loving family could go from weekends at the lake to setting up online dating profiles just to see what’s out there. At 4:45, it’ll be time for Brick’s snack.

I can’t think of anything else you need to know right now, but really, most of this you’ll pick up just by spending time with our son, who will lean on you for the emotional support that no one else in this family seems capable of providing. I’m personally excited that I’ll have someone to treat both like a close friend and a housekeeper while paying you as little as possible, and I’m sure my husband will be very excited that you’re young enough for him to “jokingly” hit on in a way that will make you feel uncomfortable. But more than anything, Brick is so excited you’re here that he’s already stolen the contents of your tote while we’ve been sitting here talking. He truly is a genius, though you will never see any evidence of that and will spend most of your time wondering how young is too young to be considered a sociopath.

Brick previously had a wonderful nanny named Imogen who unfortunately left us to go pursue her dream of not being a babysitter. We all miss her, but, honestly, if I could run away from this family, I would too.


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