interview with a household manager for rich people

I recently talked with a reader who used to work as a household manager for a rich family — a job I have always wanted to hear the logistics of. Here’s our conversation.

How did you end up in this job?

I was working as a nanny, but I was already in a place where I knew I was ready to move forward. I couldn’t really afford the next step. There was a training program for parent coaching I wanted to do, but it was linked to a graduate program at a university and priced accordingly, so seriously far out of my budget without taking on loans and that felt too risky.

The family I was working with wasn’t a great personality match and I was already casually looking for another job. I had a profile up on some nanny search website and a woman reached out and asked if I’d sit down and hear her out about a nanny-adjacent job she thought I’d be a good match for, which turned out to be a household manager job. On paper, the details of the job were great — big pay increase, health insurance, company car, retirement savings. I knew immediately that this person was going to be an absolute nightmare to work for, but I also knew if I could tough it out for a year, I could save up enough to pay for my coaching course outright and I was willing to make that trade.

What did the job entail?

My official title was household manager, but the role was really more of a hybrid house manager (manage staff, inventory, event planning) and personal assistant (personal errands, email inbox management), with lots of personal errands that they didn’t want to ask the housekeepers to do.

I managed a full-time staff of three and part-time staff of between 3-6, depending on the season, across three properties (one main home, one seasonal home where the entire household moved for part of the year, and one vacation home). This included housekeeping, cooking, and child care staff. I was only responsible for interior duties/staff. I had a counterpart who managed the exterior duties/staff (and the pets, hunting gear and the wine collection).

I was a salaried employee with health insurance, 401k match and a “company” car.

My daily duties were a walk-through when I got there in the morning, and before I left, basically making sure the house always looked perfect, like people didn’t live there. I opened and sorted the mail, kept an eye on one boss’s email, and made sure the housekeepers had what they needed to keep the house running. I was in charge of the staff and family credit cards, checking for fraud, I guess? So once a month, sorting through eight people’s worth of receipts, making sure everything lined up. The housekeepers did the grocery shopping, but it was my job to oversee the lists, and I did most of the rest of the household shopping — clothes, gifts, etc. I did all the hiring and scheduling for an ever rotating list of babysitters, lots of travel planning and booking things, and sometimes I would travel with the family so if they needed anything while there, they could delegate. I did pretty regular event planning — holidays, and big dinners with visiting scholars, politicians, etc. They were the kind of uber wealthy where they sat on the boards of several major nonprofits and were pretty heavily involved in the behind-the-scenes stuff that happens in politics at that financial level.

In practice my job was like 90% errands, internet shopping and what I can only describe as ADHD side quests — someone would say, “Oh, I heard this bakery across the state sells the best croissants” so I’d drive four hours to buy some, or “oh, camping sounds fun” so I’d be responsible for finding the best campground in the area, researching and buying all the best gear for X number people for X nights in the current weather, packing it all and leaving a map and their reservations printed out on the seat of their car (my “exterior” counterpart would be concurrently making sure the cars were ready — washing, gassing, loading the cars for me and also pulling wine for the trip), or “we want to try a gluten-free diet now, please replace everything in the pantry with similar gluten-free options by the end of the week.”

The most absurd food request was I had to transport three yogurts to another country. The family was on vacation in a foreign country known for its high-quality dairy products. I got a call from my boss asking me to bring three yogurts from the fridge, and I actually laughed, I thought it was a joke. It was not. I had to figure out how to pack and keep cool individual yogurts over three connecting flights and through customs in two different countries.

How did you transport the yogurts?

Okay, I was actually super proud of this. The yogurts were 4 oz and weren’t going to fit in a quart Ziplock anyway, so I had to keep them cold and un-crushed in my checked bag. The other limiting factor was that I have that kind of vague ethnic look that people tend to project their assumptions/prejudices onto and in an airport that looks like being “randomly” pulled out of line for an extra search, and then finding one of those little love notes from TSA inside my checked bags about how they also “randomly” selected my bags for an extra search. So random! This meant I needed to pack this in a way that wouldn’t get pulled apart and ruined by some overzealous agents. I was afraid an actual cooler would look too weird on an X-ray, so I bought a bunch of soft pearl ice packs, like the kind you use if you hurt yourself, and a big, clear Tupperware container. I put the yogurts in a large Ziplock and sealed it shut with tape, in case the pressure change exploded them. I put that in the Tupperware (to add structure to keep them from smashing) with Ziplocks of ice (so it would mold around the yogurts more completely). My hope was that if the TSA agents could easily open the package and see that it was really just yogurt, they’d leave it alone. I wrapped the Tupperware in a beach towel layered with the pearl ice packs and put it in the center of my suitcase, so that it would be as insulated as possible, both for temperature control and so they wouldn’t get smashed. I hand-wrote a note for TSA explaining that my boss was completely unreasonable and I would likely be fired if I showed up without this yogurt so please don’t throw them away, and please re-wrap them after you’ve decided they are, in fact, yogurt.

TSA did an extremely half assed job re-wrapping them, but it was enough to keep them cool and only partially smooshed (but not broken!). When I triumphantly handed over the yogurts, he was like, “Oh, I forgot I asked you to bring these,” and then didn’t eat them.

That’s amazing. Can you share any other ridiculous/over-the-top things you found yourself doing?

Gosh, so many. I think the yogurt was the most absurd, but the camping, pantry and long-distance bread pickup are all real scenarios. My boss once decided at the last minute she didn’t want to sit on the planning committee for a major fundraising gala, and sent me instead. That one was actually really fun. Lots of weird little stuff, like having a toy thrown on my desk that they picked up on vacation and being instructed to track it down in every color, every permutation it comes in because the kid liked it and now they need ALL OF THEM. Or I’d find a stack of catalogues on my desk and have to leaf through page by page to find all the circled items to order.

What did you like most about it? Dislike most?

In the beginning, the novelty of how chaotic it was made it interesting. I love problem solving and having lots of variety in my day. Turns out I also like hiring and am really good at it for household staffing, after being on the opposite end of it for so long. It’s something I still do for my clients now, helping them hire nannies and housekeepers. I have a good eye for if personalities will mesh well in close quarters, something people do not put enough weight on when hiring inside their house. I really liked most of my staff, I definitely stayed longer than I should have, for them.

The worst part was hands down my bosses. Once you get to the top few percent of income, you likely haven’t heard the word “no” in years and it shows. There’s a level of wealth that I think warps the realities of even once-kind people. It was easily the most erratic, toxic work environment I’ve ever been a part of. You talk all the time about how a toxic enough work environment can really warp your sense of what’s “normal” and seep into your regular life and that’s so true. I think I have a clearer understanding of how people get stuck in abusive relationships now. After a long day of screaming at me, my boss would be like, “Oh, today was rough, get yourself the nicest flowers you can find, on me, tonight” and then have left jewelry on my desk in the morning, but if it took me more than a half hour to send a thank-you email, she was back in my office berating me for being an ingrate.

By the end, it was really starting to affect my health and I realized I was only staying to shield the rest of the staff from the worst of our bosses’ behavior. I knew I needed to get out before things got worse.

What were your hours typically like?

In theory, I worked 9-5 — I was salaried and “some weeks you’ll work 50 hours, some weeks you’ll work 30” lol. In reality, my bosses were boundary tramplers so my actual schedule was all over the place, I never worked only 40 hours. My boss called my work phone and sent texts and emails that they expected responses to at all hours. If I was lucky, I was able to shove a quick snack in my face at my desk, but if the family was home I never got a real lunch break because my boss could not handle seeing anyone sitting down and not looking busy. If a babysitter called in sick, that was now my job to stay through until the parents returned. If there was an event, I was there 12 hours in the days leading up to it and 18 hours the day of. My vacation days were purely theoretical. The housekeepers could take time off, because I could hire a temporary replacement to do extra cleanings while they were gone, but not me. It wasn’t even strongly discouraged, but explicitly “no one else can do your job and you can’t leave her (my boss) unsupported like that.”

What surprised you most about the job?

I don’t think I realized that this was less a structured job and more they were essentially paying me to be on call. I definitely did not have 40+ hours of real work to do, I was just expected to be there in case anyone wanted anything. This was especially true for travel, I’m still shocked someone was willing to fly me all over the world just to guarantee I would drive out and grab their paper every morning on vacation, and be on call to, like, run up to the pharmacy if someone ran out of sunscreen.

I’ve always thought that if I ever became fabulously rich, I wouldn’t want household staff because I value privacy and solitude too much! Can you talk about that a little — how did that work, with people living their private lives alongside paid staff? Did they just give up a certain amount of privacy? Pretend staff weren’t there? Something else? And how did you get comfortable with that on your end?

I’ve spent my entire career inside other people’s homes. I started babysitting when I was 11 and have done work in this realm ever since. It would probably be a really weird transition to this work as an adult, but I’ve been doing it for three-quarters of my life, and I can’t really imagine anything else. It helps that I am also an intensely private person, so the urge to pretend I never saw something to preserve someone else’s privacy is very strong. You know everything about people’s lives — you know what kind of marriage they have, how they treat their children, you know if they’re getting a divorce or having a baby before they tell their friends or family.

How this looks is so, so different just based on the kind of people you’re working for. For this family, there was such a clear delineation — we were staff. They would often pretend we weren’t there, and the expectation was definitely that we would make ourselves as invisible as possible. We were not allowed to call them by their first names, we were only allowed to use the staff bathroom, I was allowed to use the front stairs but the housekeepers were not. It was definitely my least comfortable job.

That being said, if I miraculously become that rich, I would definitely hire someone to help my family. If you’re paying someone a good living wage and treating them with respect, it is such a luxury to have someone around whose job it is to help you. But I had so many other good experiences as a nanny, so that colors my opinion. Two of the girls I used to care for were bridesmaids in my wedding and I’m still in touch with most of the families I worked for.

How long did you stay in that job?

About two years and I was the longest lasting person in that role. I think the previous record was 14 months and I’ve heard no one has lasted even a year since I left. Still unsure if that’s something I should be proud of!

Did you ever do this kind of work for another family afterwards, or was this a one-time thing?

It was a one-time thing. It gave me the funding I needed to do my coaching training and get my business off the ground without working another job to stay afloat. And because of how unpleasant the family was, the work itself was really … hollow. I like doing work that feels like I am helping people, like it matters. There was just no amount of volunteer work I could do on the side that felt like it came close to balancing out the fact that I was just facilitating rich babies behaving badly. I suspect a lot of what was the worst about this job was specific to these particular bosses, but I didn’t want to find out.

Tell us a bit about the work you’re doing now, with this behind you!

I work as a postpartum doula and parent coach now, and I have a really narrow specialty. I only work with disabled/high-risk and otherwise Covid-cautious families. As so much of the world “moves on,” a lot of families are really struggling to find connection and support from someone who will affirm their choices instead of minimizing their concerns. That means I do a lot of virtual work, and have a really comprehensive in-person safety policy requiring masking and testing.

I love my work. I genuinely enjoy supporting families and this work combines all my expertise of years of nannying, coaching, and being a mom and some skills I picked up as a household manager, like hiring. The household manager job helped me get here in a really obvious way, in that it literally paid for my coaching training, but also in a surprising way. While I was working for the family, I was running an errand to the head office of my boss’s company and I ran into an old friend in the lobby. They were someone I’d known since high school and always enjoyed spending time with (we’d actually even lived in a house together with friends in college) but had lost touch over the years. We made plans to get together and catch up. We’re married now and have three kids.

Without that job, I never would have reconnected with my partner and become a mom. I thought after all my years of childcare, having a baby would be easy but my postpartum phase was the most humbling experience of my life. It made me realize I wanted to refocus my work on families who had just had babies, and my amazing, supportive partner was the one who encouraged me to train and certify as a doula and shift my care model (in the middle of a pandemic!) and refocus on families like ours who need care and support from someone who is still serious about avoiding Covid. As awful as the job was, it put me on a path to something (and several someones!) I love very much, so I don’t regret my time there.

{ 434 comments… read them below }

  1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*


    Should I take notes on this before I binge-watch Succession or after?

    1. Snow Globe*

      Ha! When the LW mentioned their employer paying them to travel all over the world to make sure there is sunscreen, I started imagining Tanya from White Lotus.

      1. KendallOurNumber1Boy*

        I was thinking exactly about Jess when reading this! also the bunny nanny.

    2. Moose*

      When I read about the boss looking at the extremely-hard-to-transport yogurts and saying “oh I forgot about these” and never eating them, I immediately pictured Kendall.

    3. VioletEMT*

      Alison, these “interesting job interviews” are hands-down some of my favorite columns that you do. Thanks for another excellent one!

  2. LTR FTW*

    This is amazing, thanks for the interview. I started out being like “wow, I could totally do this job and kick ass at it” and ended up “OMG I could never work for those people ever!!”.

    The yogurt. OMG.

    1. Not a Real Giraffe*

      I laughed out loud at the “Oh I forgot about these” and then never eating them because that is 1000% something my boss at my last job would do after I went well out of my way to fulfill a request that was, at the time, absolutely essential to that man’s happiness.

      1. GammaGirl1908*

        I made the totally disgusted face from that one Viola Davis meme at the yogurt story.

    2. The Prettiest Curse*

      Yeah, when I read about the flying yogurt delivery, I silently gave thanks that my job is relatively normal!

    3. ferrina*

      Describing them as “ADHD side quests” was so spot on! I’m ADHD and I feel like my life is peppered with these kinds of things but because I’m the one feeling the consequences, I’m a little more cognizant of. If I had someone that would do all my silly side quests and I would never have to feel the consequences? Yeah, I’d quickly become corrupted by the power. This would be my One Ring.

      1. Jaydee*

        Same! I Don’t want to have to drive 4 hours to get the best croissants. But if I had an employee whose literal job was do that stuff? I look forward to trying those croissants in ~9 hours!

    4. NoNotNan*

      My friend was a house manager and did many outrageous things but the yogurt is astounding. My friend’s worst stories all revolved around fashion. The boss would see clothes on other people and demand my friend find them new with tags for herself, her husband or her kids. With no reference but her boss’s vague description. She got to know some interesting people in retail and fashion/styling to decipher the vagueness. Then one of the last straws was when the woman had absolute fits that the clothes my friend needed to find weren’t designer. Once the kid’s shirt she insisted be found was from Target and she lost it, the private school mandates a polo shirt color that Burberry doesn’t offer so my friend bought another brand, or when she wanted the entire ensemble from the mannequin in the pro shop only to be disgusted it was Under Armor not Nike. We get it, she’s fancy, but if you like the Under Armor outfit, wear what you like?

    5. pope suburban*

      You’re absolutely right about how this stuff just chews your sanity right to bits. I worked for these people for three years, as part of a luxury specialty construction company, and they are…not okay. They have outsourced every single little thing that you and I do every day- driving, buying food, cooking, cleaning, solving minor problems- and as a consequence simply do not function the way a human being functions. Combine this with constantly being praised for being better than everyone else (Why else do they have all the money?) and getting no resistance to anything they might say/do and you have a recipe for a nightmare. I wasn’t even managing their households, but I still ended up having to do this kind of stuff for them, because why *wouldn’t* you call your construction company and demand that the robot at the desk do some random chore for you?! In this wider context, the conference call I had with a guy who owned an airline and four or five of his business and personal staff, in which I had to explain to him what a Home Depot was (He was not a terrible person and he seemed enchanted by the notion that you can go to places and buy things like portable AC units) is unsurprising and also fairly benign.

      Even being at one remove from that kind of thing was corrosive to my mental health. Spending so much of your time around people who genuinely do not see you as a human being is damaging. In some ways, the people who talked at me exactly like they talk at Siri were worse; at least the abusive ones recognized me as something that could understand and be hurt. Sure, solving the problems was occasionally fun and I am actually proud of my ability to do that kind of thing, but it certainly wasn’t worth the money (I was skipping groceries at this job, among other things) and I would never, EVER want these people to be able to contact me outside of business hours. I’m not sure what kind of money it would take to go back, but I’m sure it’s more than these people would ever pay.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        …”enchanted by the notion that you can go to places and buy things like portable AC units”.. The things we muggles take for granted!

        1. pope suburban*

          I mean…that is exactly how it felt at the time. Insofar as I was capable of liking any of them, I did like that guy. He was deferential to my greater experience and he was not rude to his personal staff or his business employees that I ever observed. But I cannot square myself with a world that allows that guy to exist while so many bright, diligent people struggle and go without and break themselves and simply never get chances to do great things because we persist in this myth of a meritocracy.

        2. Nobby Nobbs*

          That one reminds me of Ouran High School Host Club and the boys’ wonder at things like commoner ramen and instant coffee.

          1. Brin*

            EXACTLY what I thought of when I read that part!

            “So it’s true! Poor people don’t even have enough free time to grind their own coffee!”

        3. time_ebbs*

          “The things we muggles take for granted”

          This basically. I went to a very fancy boarding school for high school because my parents were well off but it was still a bit of financial stretch and I had a lot of friends who fell into that super wealthy category. By the standards of my high school, I was definitely not in the “wealthy” category. It totally distorted my sense of money and I really thought my family was solidly middle class until I was in college and had more contact with other types of people.

          I had the utter joy of taking my best friend to Macy’s for the first time who had never been in a department store outside of occasionally Saks in NYC. Her utter surprise that you could find nice clothes at a much lower price point was amazing. Fortunately, she’s stayed a fairly grounded and aware person so she has way fewer blind spots (or is at least aware of where her blind spots are) than other people we went to school with.

      2. Hijinks*

        he seemed enchanted by the notion that you can go to places and buy things like portable AC units

        This guy, and the gal below who had only been grocery shopping once, they seem so clueless and out of touch, but there are tons of infrastructure things in our society that we don’t think about, which utterly amaze us when we learn about them, and the people who do think about these things and work on those things are equally, “how did you think it feckin’ worked? Didja think a feckin’ fairy brought it?” Asking for 3 yoghurts from their own fridge to be flown across national borders and then forgetting you even asked is pretty bat guano, but not knowing about Home Depot or Whole Foods is, as you say, fairly benign.

        1. MM*

          Right. Tons of people have no clear idea where the food in the store comes from, for example, let alone things like indoor plumbed water, GPS, or electricity.

      3. Lacey*

        That reminds me of my brief stint at a company where the IT guy was treated like the owner’s personal assistant.

        No idea how it got to be that this one man was his go to, but the owner had him at his house making repairs, running his laundry to the dry cleaner.

        And that’s not even a SUPER wealthy person like in the letter or your example. He was very well off for the area and definitely used to getting his own way because of his donations to church/charity, but his wife was certainly still buying their groceries.

      4. Wade*

        >a guy who owned an airline and four or five of his business and personal staff

        A literal slave-driver! Heh!

        1. pope suburban*

          Haha, I realized my lack of punctuation was inadvertently quite bad there! But no, it was just Big Rich Dude and then members of both his professional staff and his home staff. Though frankly, while this guy seemed to be a fairly level-headed person, there were more than a few folks who really, actually did seem to feel that they owned their employees. If I want to really delve into it, I am 100% positive, between this job and the time I spent interning at the DA’s office, there were also people who were coercing and exploiting undocumented staff in situations that could be fairly termed slavery. I don’t want to get too grim, but it’s a problem not just in Hollywood, but anywhere there are people able of pulling that kind of string.

          1. TinySoprano*

            Oof that feeling that they think they own you hits so close to home. In my various travels through catering/hospo and the arts, the number of times I have encountered people like this is so gross. And then they’re so bewildered when you politely decline to work for them again!

            1. pope suburban*

              And more insidious. People think of it as something from the distant past, or only from corrupt and faraway countries, or the kind of thing you’d see in a Bourne film, but it’s not. Often, it’s the promise of a job abroad, then you get there and find out you’re crammed cheek-by-jowl with a dozen other people in an accommodation your employer owns, maybe still having to pay them rent, definitely not making even minimum wage, and either they have your papers or they never arranged the proper ones anyway. Then you end up stuck because maybe you don’t know the language, or you’re worried about what not having the proper papers will mean for you, or you really do need the money and can’t afford a ticket back anyhow. This is a huge problem in the domestic-work industry, as well as construction, and so many people have no idea because it’s very well-hidden and because there’s depressingly little political will to expose and eliminate the practice.

    6. Princess Sparklepony*

      I was reading this and from the start said Nope, I could never do this. I’d end up in the papers for doing something unspeakable to the parents. Although I find it fascinating to read about others experiences. I’d find some way to quit that would get a write up in AAM. Maybe quit by fish but put it in the foyer on a Friday when no one was home that weekend…. Hopefully, I wouldn’t reenact the Papin sisters scenario. Fish would be better.

  3. Hijinks*

    The most absurd food request was I had to transport three yogurts to another country. The family was on vacation in a foreign country known for its high-quality dairy products.

    I feel like there’s a good chance that this was about Iranian yoghurt.

    (internet joke)

      1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        Thanks for this! It sounded really familiar, but I couldn’t remember the details. It was great to be able to refresh my memory without googling. X-D

      2. Princess Sparklepony*

        Thank you. That was a trip. And now I understand it all. “The Iranian yogurt isn’t the issue” and “I’m thinking it was just a ruse to get more yogurt space” are golden! Plus I sadly learned about flat cats and hoarding.

  4. bee*

    I interviewed for a veryyyyyy similar job right out of college (didn’t get it, which in hindsight was the right call) and I have always been SO curious about what it would have been like! Confirms my suspicion that I would have been TERRIBLE at it, and makes me very grateful for my current quiet, boring job.

    (I do actually wonder if the place I interviewed with was the same family, there can’t be That many)

    1. Parenthesis Guy*

      I would disagree that there aren’t that many. There’s about 130 million households in the US. So 1.3 million would be in the top 1% of wealth. Figure that means there’s roughly 650k households in the US rich enough for this and maybe 200k that actually do it.

      1. Spearmint*

        Families that can afford this kind of household manager and staff are the 0.1%, not merely the 1%. Most of the 1% are doctors, lawyers, directors at large companies, very successful small business owners, etc. I’ve known a few people like this. They’re wealthy enough to afford a nanny and yard help once a week and still afford a very nice lifestyle, but I don’t think they could easily afford multiple permanent staff members with benefits. I don’t know any who had personal assistants.

        1. Silver Robin*

          +1 The 1% can have multiple houses, *a* full time or live in nanny/housekeeper, cleaning services that come once a week, regular landscaping services, regular international travel. Some of them might have jobs where “Exec Assistant” blurs with “Personal Assistant”. But they do not have multiple full time staff nor a manager for that staff, especially not someone who they can use to personally escort yogurt to them at a moment’s notice.

          Also, fun (?) fact: lots of 1% folks consider themselves “upper middle class” with the logic that they actually have to keep working to maintain the lifestyle they have whereas they define “wealthy/rich” as not having to work. Meanwhile, the 99% have rolled their eyes so hard they might never recover.

          1. virec*

            That “upper middle class” distinction between labor and capital is pretty real, though. If you’re really rich but it’s entirely because you have a well-paying job, you’re very aware that unless you can convert that to capital, your finances can take a huge nosedive if you lose that job/if you get sick/if your family gets sick.

            Someone who is a millionaire from their job and someone who is a millionaire from capital is really a different thing and a different feeling. Think of it as “I’m struggling so I sold a bunch of stocks” or “I’m not getting paid enough at my job so I sold my third house” kind of reality.

            1. Silver Robin*

              I know it is a real distinction to them. I know there are functional differences. I grew up in that family. Even better, I grew up in an “American Dream” family where the parents were refugees.

              I also know that this kind of distinction is entirely meaningless to the 99% and very understandably so. Because regardless of the fact that my parent had to work in order to afford all the luxuries we got as kids…we got those luxuries. And now, now that the kids are out of the house…now my parents *are* wealthy. By their own definition. Because that pension? Those savings? The access to certain types of wealth management? Means their retirement is golden. They have *more* properties now. They travel even more (COVID allowing). They could, genuinely, do whatever they want. And why could they make that transition? Because capitalism hoards wealth at the top. And that is why the 99% really do not care if my parents saw themselves as “upper middle class” or “wealthy” or whatever. It is all “rich”.

        2. Emmy Noether*

          Agreed. I know people who are comfortably within the 1%. It means a very nice home, a vacation home, a cleaner/housekeeper twice a week (no nanny b/c currently no small children), travel whenever the mood strikes and flights in business class. Also randomly buying things when the fancy strikes, regardless of price.

          Still buy and cook their own food, buy and wash their own clothes, tend their own garden, drive their car themselves, run their own errands, and schedule their own lives.

          I actually think this is the ideal life. Veeeeeeery comfortable, but just enough of life’s annoyances to stay human and appreciate all the good things. I don’t think being so spoilt and disconnected one slowly rots on the inside and has no honest relationships is good for the soul, or really as pleasant as we are led to believe.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            It reminds me of the Simpsons when Homer took a job with Hank Scorpio, and their new house was so advanced there was nothing for Marge to do, so she started drinking a half glass of wine a day.

        3. Happy Pineapple*

          Exactly, this is way beyond the top 1%. In the UK you qualify for that title by earning 200,000 or more annually. In the US it’s closer to $800,000, but even that is no where near being able to afford full-time household staff. You can live VERY comfortably with a vacation home in a less expensive city and private schooling, but not things like chefs and PAs.

      2. Kaiko*

        lol, this would be true if the wealth was evenly distributed. in reality, the top 1% holds more than 30% of American wealth.

        1. Idran*

          no you’ve got that swapped around: that’s the right number of households, but those 1.3 million households hold 30% of American wealth

          “the 1%” means the richest 1% of the population, yeah, but that’s still 1% of the population, so the number of people in the group is 1/100th of the total population

          1. Idran*

            wait no I reread the post you were replying to and I misread it originally; no you’re right

      3. pope suburban*

        I’m inclined to agree. Granted that our service area covered Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Palos Verdes, and all those places, but I met a lot of people who had staff like this when I was in the luxury construction business. I heard all kinds of stories from our field staff too, about having to deal with house managers who didn’t know work was scheduled, or having to argue with butlers who wouldn’t let them in/let them park on the property, or being caught up in arguments between executive assistants and personal assistants. This kind of lifestyle isn’t common, but it’s not as rare as people tend to think either, especially if you’re in the proper zip code.

      4. Former nanny*

        1.3 million is nowhere near enough to hire this type of staff. I’ve been a weekend nanny for several very wealthy families and you need to be around 5 million a year before you begin to contemplate this.

        1. Sandrist*

          They’re not saying 1.3 mil income- they’re saying there are 130 million people, and 1% of that is 1.3 million, so the top-earning/wealth having 1% of people are still around 1.3 million people in the US.

  5. AMH*

    Wow, I love this. It was fascinating, and I loved “There was just no amount of volunteer work I could do on the side that felt like it came close to balancing out the fact that I was just facilitating rich babies behaving badly.” OP (that doesn’t feel like the right designation here, but you know what I mean) has an excellent way of telling a story.

    1. DataGirl*

      I agree, this was a really nice read and particularly uplifting, especially at the end, despite what the OP went through with that family. I needed this after yesterday’s naked man letter.

  6. Boss Scaggs*

    The bosses sound awful to work for, but I have to say a 401K and company car sound very generous for this type of work.

    1. Mid*

      It’s probably the only way they can keep an employee around for longer than a few weeks.

    2. Sloanicota*

      It’s interesting, it sounds like they really just want someone “on call” all the time, and they are paying very generously for the work – yet they can’t keep anyone on staff for more than a year. For this family, it seems like having someone reliable long-term would be far more valuable than constantly rotating staff around minors and all that wealth. The rotating babysitters would drive me nuts also, if I were wealthy enough to have staff. I guess I’m surprised they don’t pay less to have a day person and a night person, or some other scenario that makes it a bit more workable to keep someone in the role, because as rich as they are and as well as they’re paying I doubt they’re getting what they really want.

      1. mlem*

        But then they’d have to care what time of day or night it is and which Martha or Jeeves they should accordingly send their latest petty demand to. Being able to blindly say “hey, you, do the thing” at any moment is probably of greater value to them.

        1. Hannah Lee*

          ^ This right here!

          Plus, with their current system they don’t have to deal with little inconveniences like there house manager having a life of their own. If you pay them well and insist they be on call 24 x 7, it’s all about you, all the time! And then you just get a new one when they leave.

      2. pope suburban*

        That’s the difference between how they process and how you and I process. We think about long-term strategies and we have an understanding of the importance of good relationships with others. We have to plan for the future and we are aware that a great deal depends on our ability to work with others, and the impressions that other have of us/how willing others are to extend themselves on our behalf. These people…do not. They want what they want, when they want it. They are accustomed to receiving this. So long as they continue to receive this, they are not troubled with things like sustainability, continuity, or even fundamentally quality of work (You are absolutely right that well-paid and well-rested workers do better, but that is not in the math for these folks; it is literally “push button, receive treat” for them). This is very bad math, yes, and it flies in the face of every narrative we hear about how someone comes to be so wealthy, but it is also the truth. They don’t care about being efficient or decent, they care about getting what they want- and I can tell you from a front-row seat to the meat grinder that there is no shortage of folks willing to try it because they don’t know better, or because they’re trying to make it, or they simply need the money/housing that badly. You’re right that this could be happening better, in which “better” applies to the employees as well as the family, but the employers simply don’t care. They look at us as widgets and they’ll hot-swap a new one out and keep on trucking.

      3. New Jack Karyn*

        “I doubt they’re getting what they really want.” I think they are, though. Part of what they’re paying for is the ability to treat people badly, to not have to consider the needs and personhood of their employees.

        I have some half-baked thoughts about this set-up, as compared to the British manor house system portrayed in Downton Abbey and Gosford Park. Something about how the internet combined with the rise of the relative cost of labor change have changed the nature of how the wealthy interact with their servants.

        1. MM*

          The shift you’re talking about long predates the internet. It’s industrialization and increased population mobility.

          1. New Jack Karyn*

            I was thinking about how part of the deal with personal servants was that they keep the secrets of the household–like not telling anyone that the 20 year old daughter was not a virgin, or that the patriarch played the ponies badly. Social mores have changed enough that some of these things aren’t really secrets that need to be kept. Other things can be found via internet searches, and don’t require first hand knowledge.

            But as I say, my thoughts on it are as yet half-baked.

    3. EPLawyer*

      The company car is so she can drive 4 hours to get a specific kind of pastry. Also calling it a company car means its a tax write off for the family.

      The 401K is just a nice thing.

      1. Magenta Sky*

        The 401k exists so that the employer can contribute pre-tax dollars to it, too. It’s much, much easier to set up a 401k, the more people you have to participate.

        (Been there, done that. Still have the 401k.)

      2. KR*

        Also – I imagine you can’t have your household manager looking crusty when she’s driving around running errands on your behalf. She has to have a car to match the fanciness of the errands she is running

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          Like in Devil Wears Prada, where Andie has to go to the fashion closet to change whenever she has to run errands and the like.

    4. Delta Delta*

      I mean, if they’re going to send the employee around all over the place, either they have to pay her mileage, which is a pain, or they can furnish a car, which can be a legitimate expense. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        Yeah, I expect that it was the house sedan most of the time. Used for kid-hauling, grocery shopping, general errands by whichever staff, and not assigned to one particular person.

  7. ms*

    “Once you get to the top few percent of income, you likely haven’t heard the word “no” in years and it shows. There’s a level of wealth that I think warps the realities of even once-kind people.”

    As someone that has worked in some high-profile industries around some high-profile people, I cannot stress enough how true this is.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      I once read the observation about Russian tsars that even the ones who started out sane went crazy after about ten years. Absolute power will do that to you. (Side note: how long has Putin been running Russia?)

      1. Phony Genius*

        Answer to side note: Since 2000, with a 4-year interruption from 2008-2012 where he traded jobs with the Prime Minister (but made little difference from a practical standpoint). So that’s more than double the typical sane period.

        1. allathian*

          This affects anyone with unlimited power, the old adage about power corrupting and absolute power corrupting absolutely is so true.

          Exactly the same things could be said of any tyrant in history, including the absolute monarchs in Europe in the past that we perhaps don’t tend to think of as being tyrants, unless they were particularly atrocious even given the standards of their time. We remember Henry VIII because he murdered some of his wives (for failing to give him a son) and Nero of Rome for being even more ruthless than most of his predecessors or successors, but that doesn’t mean that the other rulers under those systems would’ve been much better by our standards.

      2. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

        I’m waiting for him to go full Peter the Terrible and feed his enemies to hungry bears. He should watch “The Great” on Hulu for ideas.

      3. New Jack Karyn*

        I don’t think he started out sane. At least, not when he started ruling Russia; I suppose he might have been ‘sane’ at some point in his life.

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          He had to be at least manageable at some point or he couldn’t have risen through the KGB.

    2. Nina*

      I found out (yesterday) that the CEO of my current company is one of these. I was the unlucky fuck who got to be the first person to say the word ‘impossible’ to him in apparently several years.

    3. smirkette*

      100. And after nearly six years, I will never, ever do it again. The bubble makes so many people cruel and foolish.

    4. DJ Hymnotic*

      I will co-sign this with as many underlines and exclamation points as possible. By far the most emotionally, spiritually, and mentally draining job I’ve ever had entailed interacting mostly with people with close to this level of wealth and certainly this sort of attitude. As a result of being extremely accustomed to having their posteriors kissed and extreme unaccustomed to hearing the word ‘no,’ I think their default approach for anyone not in their family or immediate friend circle is to treat them like hired help. That’s very much how I was treated, and I resigned after just eighteen months. But employees with my skillset and experience don’t come a dime a dozen, and it took them a very long time to find my permanent replacement.

  8. Heidi*

    I wonder if the OP could have bought a bunch of identical yogurts in case some broke, or would the employer have been able to tell if it they weren’t the exact 3 yogurts from their fridge?

    1. Francie Foxglove*

      I knew the punchline would be “Yeah, whatever, don’t need it.” What kills me is that the family was IN Iran, or a Scandinavian country — at any rate, someplace where the dairy products are top-notch. So they wanted their home-country, presumably inferior, yogurts brought to them…for comparison? To assuage homesickness? Reminds me of Entourage, when Vince was filming in Colombia, and someone got busted trying to bring cocaine INTO one of the biggest cocaine-producing countries on earth.

      1. Silver Robin*

        That made me wonder if they wanted the local-to-them version of the Scandinavian/Iranian/wherever cheese. The diaspora versions are sometimes tweaked due to access to ingredients or whatever. I can almost imagine them saying “no, OUR Scandinavian yogurt is better than this…I will have OP fetch it for us!” and then also believing the sourceland versions of those yogurts to be somehow inauthentic because it does not match up with what they are used to.

      2. Kara*

        I read it the other way around; that they wanted some of the ‘good’ stuff brought home.

      3. Irish Teacher*

        Well, “inferior” can be a matter of taste and if they are used to the brands from their own country, they may not enjoy those from another country, even if they are technically “better quality.” I can well-imagine somebody going to a country noted for yogurt and expected to get a better-quality version of what they are used to or a greater variety of flavors and instead realising that actually, the yogurt there tastes completely different to what they are used to and “now I want the yogurt I’m used to.”

  9. Suddenly_Seymour*

    Such a neat experience – definitely sounds like something that keeps you learning and on your toes. Congrats on your growing business, OP!

  10. Juicebox Hero*

    George Takei “Oh, my.” This is fascinating, but as someone who grew up poor and spent too much time in a job where I was treated as less than for doing menial work, I can feel steam billowing out my ears.

    May your former boss’ yogurts always explode in transit, may her campgrounds always be infested with mosquitoes and greenbriars, and may the great bakery across the state be forever out of croissants when she wants them.

    Congratulations on your family and finding a new career that you love, and thank you for taking care of an underserved community.

    1. Emma2*

      Sadly, any of those things are just going to result in backlash against the staff for not transporting the yogurt properly, picking the wrong campsite, or not having the foresight to make sure the bakery produced croissants for the family.

      1. Juicebox Hero*

        Unfortunately, you’re right. It’s a shame that none of the other standard AAM curses will work on them, either. Like, “may her pillow never have a cool side.”

        “Antonia, chill me a pillow. And text Louise to find a self-chilling pillow and have it delivered here by 6 am so Lord Pupkins can take his early morning nap in comfort, poor darling; I don’t care if it is 11:30 pm!”

        1. Catwhisperer*

          How about:

          “May they forget to sell stock before the market crashes.”
          “May their friends prefer someone else’s island.”
          “May their children grow up to be anti-capitalist.”
          “May their pet politicians lose their elections.”
          “May their finances be investigated by the IRS.”

          And finally, one that I think applies to all assholes regardless of income:

          “May they get a paper cut every time they touch paper.”

          1. Grits McGee*

            “May their friends prefer someone else’s island” really paints a picture, doesn’t it?

          2. Irish Teacher*

            “May their children grow up to be anti-capitalist.”
            I love this one.

            Actually, I have relatives who, while not in this category, were very well-off and the type that would turn up at a shop five minutes before closing and insist that the staff should just wait on to serve them. I was cheering mentally when their son was a teen and he started making egalitatian, anti-capitalist comments. I was thinking, “ha. I’ll make a socialist of you yet!”

            1. Alice*

              Ha, my fiancee and I are rather the outliers in her family for this reason. Although they don’t have a household manager, they do employ a cook, and several people to maintain their house, cars, and gardens. Unlike OP’s employers, they treat their employees pleasantly and with respect, everyone gets a weekend at some point during the week and regular time off, etc; and they are, in general, kind people who care about others and don’t like seeing people suffer or struggle. But, they are also deeply enmeshed in an economic system which has worked extremely well for them, and they see absolutely no reason to change it in any significant way. These topics don’t come up often, but when they do…

      2. Peanut Hamper*

        Yeah, given that these directives came from people who would no doubt insist that you sweep the forest and spray for mosquitoes before they go camping and who would see nothing unusual about that.

    2. SpaceySteph*

      The only problem with your above blessing is that some other poor house manager is going to be berated and/or fired for each of these things that are mostly out of their control.

    3. bamcheeks*

      You just KNOW that “make sure you get rid of all the mosquitos!!” is going to be someone’s next side-quest.

  11. CommanderBanana*

    This is fascinating! If I ever became super rich – or even medium rich (which is about as likely as the Pope on a pogo stick) I would absolutely hire a nanny for myself. I have no family and I really just need someone to help run my life.

    1. virago*

      Me too. And I would be abjectly grateful for this person putting my ADHD/spectrum-adjacent life in order.

        1. Peanut Hamper*

          I think I have just found my next career.

          I have ADHD, and sometimes have trouble doing these things myself, but have developed a lot of strategies and workflows that help me get things done. If I could make money coaching other people to help figure these things out and take care of the things they can’t, I would find that pretty fulfilling.

          1. Kara*

            Soooo, if you ever start that business, please send me a business card! I could really use that service!

            1. Fairweather Adventures*

              It’s called executive functioning coaching, and it exists! It’s a large part of what I do, although my focus is specifically on money management (but it’s a holistic approach). Most but not all of my clients have ADHD or some other form of chaos brain.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        It’s not even that I want someone to do this stuff for me, I just need someone to follow me around and make me do stuff and not spend all my free time pill-bugging on the couch because Daily Life is pretty overwhelming for me.

        1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

          MOOD. I don’t need you to do it I just need the very slightest bit of external structure! My kingdom for a paid accountability partner. Unfortunately, my kingdom’s tax base cannot support that service at this time.

          1. BlueSwimmer*

            This is a thing! Not sure of the name but there is an app where you can get a task buddy where you both work on your tasks while facetiming. You don’t talk or anything, just the body-doubling effect can help keep you on task. My sis has used it to help her do the boring paperwork parts of her business that she hates.

            1. Mid*

              FocusMate is the one I use! You get a certain number of sessions free per week/month, or can pay a small amount for more sessions. They’re also good about making sure everyone is safe and behaves.

        2. Hannah Lee*

          Meanwhile, I’d like someone to follow me around and pick up my phone and car keys and whatever other thing I’m going to need in the near future and put them where they belong, or at least in on of the top 3 places I’d look for them. I am forever putting them down while I’m doing 1-3 other things and forget where exactly they are.

          Yesterday, for example, I put my phone down on the top shelf of my closet while I was struggling to take a top off its hanger. Last week, it was the top of the washing machine in the basement.

          My car keys behave as if they come out of a centrifuge, landing in many many random unexpected places. And even when they’re where I’d expect them to be, I look right past them and spend 20 minutes trying to find them. Last week, I was doing one of those searches … finally gave up and just decided to dig out the spare set. Which I also couldn’t find. Spoiler alert … both sets were in my purse.

          1. Obviously anonymous*

            I have Tile trackers on my keys and in my wallet. can also attach to phone. If I can’t find my keys, my phone can make it make noise, a tracker can also make your phone make noise!

            1. FlyingAce*

              I keep using Find My Device on the laptop whenever I misplace my phone. Thankfully, my house is tiny so there is little chance of the laptop itself being misplaced!

          2. Happily Retired*

            Carabiner + key ring + attachment points on purse and backpack –> aaaaaaahhhh. Bliss.

          3. goddessoftransitory*

            Sounds like that old Sylvia cartoon: “Forgot where you set your car keys or that Coke you were drinking before the phone rang? Call Sylvia’s Minders at 1-800-Where the heck did I put it?”

        3. virago*

          My ADHD is accompanied by depression and anxiety that have currently escalated to the stage where I can either work *or* take care of the rest of my life.

          I am working with therapists to address my mental health issues. However, in my ideal life, I would be rich enough to hire someone to make sure my taxes get filed, my laundry gets done, my cat gets his shots, the snow tires are put on the car, etc., etc., etc.

          I would be so grateful to that person. I would never yell at them! They would be doing all the things that are the ninth circle of hell for me.

          1. CommanderBanana*

            There’s a great essay, “I Want a Wife” by Judy Brady, published in 1971 (you can find it just by Googling that).

          2. emmelemm*

            Same. I feel like I can either do my job, or I can run my adult life, but I can’t do both very well.

    2. Rocket Raccoon*

      My husband has ADHD and runs his own business, and we decided to have me be a SAHM precisely because it would also let me be his ADHD-side-quest-organizer.

    3. Kermit's Bookkeepers*

      Absolute same — I’ve worked a few different jobs that boil down to “helping rich people spend their money,” so I’m confident I know how to be the boss in that situation without being a total asshole, and I 100% need the help to make sure the house stays clean, the doctor’s appointments get made, and the fridge stays full.

      Mom. I need a mom.

    4. Mockingbird*

      We lived in Rio when I was a toddler, and the economics of the country and my dad’s job allowed us to have a live in housekeeper during the week. Her daughter was my age and she brought her, so I basically had a sister and extra mom. I can’t remember details about that time, except that I was really happy, and my mom was happier. My mom was a SAHM but hates cooking and cleaning so having someone else do all that alleviated her stress about hating and being bad at her “job.” I’m an only child and my mom had no experience with kids, so our housekeeper politely did things like tell her I was a good kid. If I ever won the lottery or had the money the OP’s employer did, I’d pay so, so much to recreate that time.

    5. Double A*

      You know, when I fantasize about having more help running my life I always fantasize about, basically, communes which shows exactly where I expect my economic possibilities lay (in community with friends! My preference to vast wealth)

      I have cleaners come once a month for 4 hours of cleaning and feel like I’m getting too big for my britches.

    6. babblemouth*

      I think someone to run my finances and figure out my taxes without me having to ever again give them the littlest thought would be my luxury accommodation.

  12. MK*

    I would be very much tempted to include this job in my resume as “butler”. Also, possibly part-time smuggler, since I am fairly certain most countries don’t allow you to import easily perishable foods in such a casual manner.

    1. SpaceySteph*

      Yeah I’m honestly surprised they got the yogurts there. It sounds like an intentionally impossible task. Like the Harry Potter manuscript in Devil Wears Prada.

    2. NotRealAnonForThis*

      Proving what I’m currently reading, my immediate thought was “major-domo”.

    3. FG*

      Butler is a very different, specific thing. There’s some overlap, but they are not the same.

    4. Generic Name*

      Ha. I was reading excerpts to my teenager, and he goes, “….soooo they’re a butler?”

  13. The Somewhat Average Gilly Hopkins*

    All I can think is… the people in this family are the ones pulling the strings of politics and finance in the US (assuming this is an American family). People who think it’s justifiable to waste hundreds of gallons of jet fuel to bring them yogurt from a different country.

    …I feel sick.

    1. The Somewhat Average Gilly Hopkins*

      Also just want to add, OP is awesome. It sounds like they are a really kind person and are doing great work helping people as a doula!

    2. Mid*

      If it makes you feel better, it sounds like it was a commercial flight, so it was going to happen regardless. And frankly, all the private jet flights in the world doesn’t cancel out the fact that the majority of pollution is from manufacturing, along with agriculture and resource collection and processing (mining, fracking, refining oil, etc.)

      It’s still a gross display of entitlement, but the environmental harm is negligible.

      1. Littorally*


        There is at least that. If it was a private jet, they wouldn’t have had all the concerns re: checked luggage and “””random””” searches.

    3. Plane Factchecker*

      I know this isn’t the point, and I agree with your overall take! But since happened to come across some plane fuel data recently for another purpose, I would like to report here that the per-person jet fuel used in the cross-country air travel was in the same ballpark as the amount of auto gas burned for the cross-state bakery roadtrip.

    4. RunShaker*

      My biggest concern was the many non-profit boards and involvement in politics. This family has no understanding of my or any of our lives which is majority of US population. But money is the key. Reading this helped give me more insight as to why I see some of crap with politics, for me.

      1. kiki*

        I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently since moving to DC. A lot of people making decisions with huge impact are not living in the real world like the rest of us. It also trickles down beyond leadership to people staffing these organizations. I thought about this the other day when I overheard two interns on the hill talking in my building’s elevator about how affordable the building is. I am a 30-year-old woman working in tech and the rent in this building is rough on *my budget.* The only way this building seems affordable to two 20-year-old interns is if they have other sources of income (likely family). I bet a lot of other qualified potential interns couldn’t take the job because it doesn’t pay enough to live in DC. So on the hill, I’m guessing there’s a shortage of “ordinary people” who could intervene when policies are proposed that don’t make sense for normal people with normal budgets.

    5. Hills to Die on*

      This is what resonated with me. That these people can be so ‘important’ and so feckless at the same time. If they had donated even just the yogurt transport money to charity, how many lives could they help.
      It’s literally more than anyone should have. I used to live in a wealthy vacation town and worked for an interior design place as an office manager / HR manager / personal assistant. The number of people who flew private jets just to avoid standing in line at the airport, who didn’t bat an eye at buying a $1000 ice bucket, a $300K car that they drove 2 weeks of the year, and had a $10MM vacation home was amazing.
      But don’t you dare take more than 2 minutes for a bathroom break – that is time theft. And you had better handle those apricots like they are newborn babies or I will tell your boss you should be fired.
      I hope they reincarnate as junkyard rats. not sorry.

      1. Hannah Lee*

        “If they had donated even just the yogurt transport money to charity, how many lives could they help.”

        Heck, they could have simply donated *the 3 yogurts* and improved someone’s day.

    6. Tommy Girl*

      Reading this, all I want is to bring the marginal tax rate back to post WW2 levels (aka 90%) and make these duckers no longer this wealthy – what have they done to deserve this? Take the money and fund universal pre-K and high quality healthcare, global warming solutions, homeless solutions, medical research, etc etc etc

      1. Moonstone*

        Absolutely yes to increasing the tax rate!! It’s mind blowing that it was at 90% in the 1950s and was 70% in 1980 until fecking Reagan slashed it to like 28%!

        For anyone interested in reading more about how the 99% have been colossally screwed over since that time, definitely read “How Four Decades of Tax Cuts Fueled Inequality” by The Center for Public Integrity. The article is from November 29, 2022, but I just read it recently and it is absolutely infuriating.

        1. Tommy Girl*

          I will read this, thanks! Income inequality leads to lots of instability, it’s actually in these rich duckers best interest to pay more taxes in the long run . . .

  14. Liz the Snackbrarian*

    To quote the great people of Reddit, this is not about the Iranian yogurt.

  15. Hope*

    This was extraordinary insight into the lives of the very rich. And OP, loved how you used it to fund a more meaningful career path for yourself… and lovely bonus about your old friend-turned-spouse! THank you so much for sharing. Also, excellent, detailed writing!

  16. Richard Hershberger*

    So a “household manager” is the updated and Americanized version of a butler. Reading this, I was imagining what P. G. Wodehouse would do with this material.

    This raises the question, is this modern version better or worse than the old version? It is hard to say. A lot of our impressions of what it was like to be “in service” is from TV shows like Downton Abbey or, for those of us of a certain age, Upstairs, Downstairs. These clearly are to some extent idealized, on top of being fictional. But even with them, resentment sometimes comes through. On the other hand, I suspect that they did have a better grasp of how to make this work. They had established rules, or at least customs, which everyone understood. In the modern American context this is all just very weird, with an improvised feel to it, greatly increasing the potential for things to go badly.

    1. Mid*

      I was thinking about this as well! I honestly think the modern version would be more difficult for many reasons, one of which is the internet. I’m sure discretion is much harder today than it was pre-social media. And there’s more pressure for things to be perfect because everything is documented forever on the internet. But also I guess I can’t imagine the ultra rich using Facebook, so maybe it’s less of an issue than I’m imagining.

    2. CommanderBanana*

      Yes, and there was a time when even families considered middle-class much more commonly had regular live-in or day help, like cooks or maids, and knowing how to manage domestic staff was part of running a household.

      I had a part time job a few years ago and one of my coworkers worked somewhat full-time for a wealthy family (not this level of wealth!) and she was basically their household manager. Most of her time was spent coordinating other staff around the family’s schedule because they split time between two or three locations.

      1. Clisby*

        I’ve read a few books set in Victorian times where the lady of the house’s day starts out by meeting with the cook and going over the day’s menus. And then the food just appears on the table. I could go for that.

        1. Just here for the scripts*

          We have that, but we call it takeout (or making reservations) :)

      2. bamcheeks*

        for a value of “knowing how to manage domestic staff” which did not stop all your domestic staff leaving to become factory workers at the very slightest opportunity. I feel like managing people who have very few alternative options is probably a lot easier than managing people who don’t have to take your nonsense.

      3. Irish Teacher*

        Yes, I read somewhere that de Valera (an Irish taoiseach – prime minister – from the 30s to the 50s) was considered somewhat eccentric for only employing one maid. (OK, that probably wasn’t the only reason he was considered somewhat eccentric, but yeah, in the 1930s, one maid was considered to hardly be a luxury).

        And there’s an Agatha Christie story, “the Clapham Cook” where a lady berates Poirot for being snobby for not being interested in the fact her cook has gone missing (he isn’t being snobby; he just assumes at first that the cook left of her own accord) because she thinks he isn’t interested because she’s just a middle class woman worried about the loss of a domestic and that he’d take notice if she were a rich woman who’d lost a diamond ring or something and that he thinks losing a cook is no big deal because he is used to working for people with large staffs where the loss of one member wouldn’t be such a big deal. It’s weird from a 21st century context to read somebody essentially saying “oh yes, must be nice to be well-off enough not to be able to care when your cook leaves but for some of us, that’s a big deal.”

        I think the established rules may have provided less support in some of those lower middle class families. When you are the only maid to a household on a fairly modest income, you are subject to their whims in a way you might not be in a large household, especially if you are pretty young. Miss Marple has “very young maids” fresh from the local orphanage who she “trains for service.” The fact that she is seen as kind for her treatment of them implies that…a lot of them might not be treated so kindly.

        1. UKDancer*

          I think there was definitely a degree to which staff were abused (I mean there’s a reason why the master of the house having an affair with the governess is a trope and a cliche). The maids were probably not in a strong position to argue if the employer was in any way abusive and were somewhat vulnerable. Miss Marple took them from the orphanage so they probably had even less power than someone with a family behind them.

          In some ways a bigger house was better because the housekeeper / butler etc could protect the more junior staff as they had more power being harder to replace.

          That said my great aunt (who was in service) was pretty clear that during the 1930s and especially post war as other jobs became available to women, so they had more choice, they could be a bit more demanding in terms of pay, rations and treatment.

        2. Emmy Noether*

          I was thinking about Agatha Christie and how one can very clearly follow the societal changes between her earlier and later works (I went on an Agatha Christie binge a while ago, and reading a lot in quick succession made it stand out really starkly).

          In the early stories, everyone either employs staff, multiple, or is staff (interestingly, staff are sometimes victims, but rarely to never the murderer – I got the vague impression Agatha considered that unsporting for a mystery). In the later stories, that has changed – even Miss Marple eventually employs a married woman to come “do” for her during the day only, and no longer a live-in maid or two, and the relationship with her is quite different, on more equal terms.

          1. UKDancer*

            It’s interesting. Obviously the biggest catalyst for change was World War 2. People had other options and were encouraged to take them. The mass mobilisation of women into the land army, Wrens, WAAFs, ATS and factories meant that they moved away from domestic service. After the war they never returned in the same number.

            There was also a growth in technology for domestic service, e.g. washing machines, vacuum cleaners and electric irons so making it easier to clean single handed.

            1. allathian*

              Yes, this.

              I really recommend Secrets of Highclere, a documentary miniseries about the life of George Herbert, the 8th Earl of Carnarvon and his wife Fiona Herbert, the 8th Countess of Carnarvon, who own the estate where Downton Abbey was filmed.

              They basically run the estate with a handful of staff and a number of seasonal workers, rather than the hundreds employed by their ancestors 100 years ago, and they work very hard themselves. The estate costs £10,000 per *day* to run.

              I wonder what the leisured classes of 100 years ago would think of their hardworking descendants, given the contempt for people who had worked hard for their wealth rather than inherited it, and for the “trades” in general, which are so obvious in Agatha Christie’s stories.

        3. goddessoftransitory*

          She was doing them a huge favor in the context of the times to “train them properly,” too. Being a well trained domestic meant memorizing a ton of recipes, formulas and methods for caring for everything in a household, and somebody who knew what they were doing could make a very good living.

    3. Clisby*

      I cannot picture Jeeves being willing to fly to another country with 3 small containers of yogurt. (I also can’t picture Bertie asking him to.) In a Wodehouse novel, OP would have whipped this family into shape with long, pained, critical stares.

      1. Magenta*

        Jeeves was a valet, not a butler, he served Wooster personally, not the household. He was the equivalent of Bates in Downton Abbey, not Mr Carson.

        Also while I’m being pedantic I want to let everyone know that when you are talking about a “Gentleman’s Gentleman” it is pronounced following English (UK) rules so the T at the end of valet is pronounced and hard.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes. I think also Jeeves had quite a bit of power in the relationship with Wooster because he knew his master needed him more than he needed his master. He could get another job fairly easily whereas Wooster would be lost without him.

          There’s quite a strong trend in English fiction of writing about the relationship between upper class men and their valets / batmen whether it’s Jeeves and Wooster, Peter Wimsey and Bunter or in a different setting Frodo and Sam (which is heavily inspired by Tolkein’s own times in the trenches I think). Quite often these relationships can be extremely close.

          1. goddessoftransitory*

            There was no family in England that wouldn’t have snatched up Jeeves in a heartbeat! He stuck around because he cared about Bertie.

            1. Green beans*

              well, unless Bertie made an unforgivable fashion choice. Even Jeeves had his limits.

    4. HannahS*

      From my own reading of excerpts from contemporary accounts (diaries in the Victorian era mostly,) I don’t think it’s true, really, that people in the past had a better grasp of how to make it work. The staff themselves were often younger, less educated, and more abused with less recourse than they would be now in the USA. It’s possible that people in the past didn’t expect or aspire for anyhting different, but there are some really touching paintings and writings of young women who conveyed that their suffering was acute and they wanted a different life.

      It is interesting to know how strictly hierarchical things were. In some great houses, the chiefs of the staff had their own staff–Carson the butler in a house like Downton Abbey could have had his own valet, and could have expected to be served by lower-ranking house staff. He would not have eaten dinner with Daisy the scullery maid; he probably wouldn’t have known her name. I have found it interesting to think about how Julian Fellowes has, well, his perspective on the past, as someone with a peerage.

      1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

        Downton Abbey is notable for having far too few staff, it’s about a tenth of the size of what they ‘should’ have had, but you simply can’t have a cast that big.

      2. Shirley Keeldar*

        Bill Bryson has some fascinating commentary on what he calls “the age of servitude” in Victorian times in his book At Home—including the fact that the Carlyles’ maid used to sit in the kitchen in the evenings. Which is not so bad; at least it was warm. But Thomas Carlyle would come and sit in the kitchen too (because it was warm!), and then the maid would have to be to go sit in the dark, unseated storage room until the master of the house was done contentedly reading by the fire.

        Yeah, I think it was awkward back then too.

    5. UKDancer*

      I think it was certainly more formalised in the 1920s and 1930s what the relationships were (especially within larger houses). It was also a fairly high status job in some ways, e.g. my great aunt who was in service to the family who ran the local steel works considered herself to have a higher status than my grandmother who was a sewing machinist.

      There were limited jobs (especially for working class women) so being in service with a good family was a good job. It wasn’t badly paid and it wasn’t badly regarded because almost everyone above a certain income level had some form of staff because housework was a lot more labour intensive pre-WW2 and before devices like washing machines became mainstream. You didn’t have to be rich and upper class to have a “daily” or a “char” coming in.

      As you say, people did know what the rules were and what different types of domestic service workers did.

      Of course a lot of working class people resented the rich, it’s why most of my working class family members tended to be pretty left wing. My grandfather was a hardcore trade unionist and a socialist and so were most of his brothers. That said they were realistic enough to know that their scope for doing anything about it was limited. That said he was proud as anything when my mother managed to get to university and into a middle class job, so she could do better than he did and have an inside toilet and central heating.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Like in Remains of the Day, when the two main characters are lamenting over a maid they had just gotten really whipped into shape running off with a gardener, and Miss Kenton (the housekeeper) is sincerely upset that the girl threw away such a great, unrepeatable chance to train for a career in service. They definitely did not consider it “just” a job (although since they were top of the ladder it was much easier to think that way.)

        1. Despachito*

          To be just, a job in a rich household like that was probably much better than to work in the fields – much less hard physical work (although a lot by our today’s standards), decent and regular food and clothing, warmth… Not all of these were granted for the people back then, and although you had to serve hand and foot and had very little free time, I think they considered it still a jackpot to get such a job.

          1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

            There’s an English Heritage Youtube video, part of the Mrs Crocombe series, where Mrs Crocombe (cook) and Mrs Warwick (housekeeper) discuss the maids, including one who is leaving to work in a shop, and are very disapproving, because there’s no stability in shops…

    6. goddessoftransitory*

      At least in the Jeeves and Wooster stories, nobody was under any illusions that they could last five minutes without Jeeves, Anatole and the rest of their servants around. Whenever Bertie was invited anywhere it was so Jeeves would come along and solve some problem and everybody flat out said so!

  17. Critical Rolls*

    What an absolute blessing to have you, and how badly it was squandered! Thanks for this, it was fascinating, and you sound like somebody anyone with sense would want in their life!

  18. Lizzo*

    LOL I just watched a documentary last night about how the British royal family gets around, and one of the staff told a story about how once on the royal train, a family member requested yogurt, which they NEVER keep in stock in the royal train kitchen, and so a series of phone calls had to be made ***while the train was en route to its destination*** and the yogurt was subsequently brought to the train station of the next town. I’m imagining a slow-motion handoff through the window.

    No word on whether the yogurt was actually consumed.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      The royals don’t even have to squeeze their own toothpaste onto their toothbrushes. I think this may make them, shall we say, somewhat out of touch with reality.

    2. londonedit*

      When the late Queen was alive the joke was always that she thought the world smelt of fresh paint, because whenever she visited a school/hospital/public building etc the whole place would have been repainted especially for her visit.

      1. BubbleTea*

        The then-Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were perhaps the only people in the world to have only seen Cambridge City centre empty of bicycles (all of which were removed in case they were cunningly disguised pipe bombs).

    3. WantonSeedStitch*

      “And through the open window
      She hands Charlie a yogurt
      As the train comes rumblin’ through.”

          1. Forrest Rhodes*

            No, he never returned, and his fate is still unlearned (poor old Charlie!).
            He may ride forever through the streets of Boston; he’s the man who never returned.

            … aaand thanks, WantonSeedStitch and starsaphire. I know what I’ll be singing for the rest of the day!

      1. Lizzo*

        YES!!!! I was going to go there but I’m never sure how obscure that song is for those who grew up somewhere other than Bahston.

    4. devtoo*

      Hah this reminds me of when my heiress boss asked me if I “had heard of peanut butter” and then wanted to know if I knew where to get it, and could I get her some. I learned from the older staff that she had set foot in a grocery store only once in her life, when a friend took her to Whole Foods as a novelty experience

      1. asterisk*

        There’s someone on TikTok/Instagram Reels (Leah Rudick) that does videos about this (“wealthy woman goes to Kentucky Fried Chicken,” that sort of thing).

      2. JustaTech*

        When my mother went to college (1960’s) she had a classmate who had never washed her own hair. This girl had always had a nanny/maid/hairdresser to do it for her.

        (Can you imagine being that girl’s roommate and having to teach her how to wash her hair?)

        1. The OG Sleepless*

          I had a friend in college who had a hallmate who had never washed her own hair. My friend, who had grown up in a trailer park with a single mom, cheerfully got in the shower with her and taught her to wash her hair.

        2. Tales from the dorms*

          I was an RA in college and had a girl on my hall who had never made a bed before and was asking how to do it.

          I also once overhead one of my residents debating the merits of her family’s different vacation homes. It was something like, “Our mountain house has better ice than our beach house.”

        3. goddessoftransitory*

          Like in The Secret Garden where Mary has never dressed herself in her life because that’s what you have an ayah for.

        4. WantonSeedStitch*

          In grad school just over 20 years ago (ahhh I’m old), I had a roommate who had never done her own laundry, and our other roommate and I had to explain to her about operating the washing machine and dryer, checking washing instructions on clothes labels, and being careful to separate white clothes from dark clothes. She grew up in India, where having domestic help is much more common even among middle-class families, of which hers was one.

      3. Andrew*

        There was a character like this on Los Espookys, who said in the grocery store, “It’s like they took the food from a restaurant, deconstructed it, then put it in pieces on these shelves.”

    5. SpaceySteph*

      I went to a train museum once and saw the setup for mail trains to collect mail as the passed. Basically hang the mail bag on a hook near the track and it gets ensnared by a mechanism on the side of the train as the train goes by at speed (especially in the American west, they didn’t stop at every little podunk town along the way).

      So now I’m imagining some poor royal staffer has to package the yogurt just so (like the OP) and put it in a bag on a hook with enough padding/protection so it doesn’t get squashed when its plucked off the hook.

  19. fine tipped pen aficionado*

    This was a fascinating read and a really excellent interview with the perfect mix of bananapants rich people antics and heartwarming human triumph.

    Thanks for sharing!

  20. nnn*

    What I’m most intrigued by is the fact that OP’s job included buying clothes for the family, because it’s extremely difficult to know in advance which clothes will work on a person’s body.

    Did they tell you which specific pieces they wanted and you just ordered them? Did you buy 100 items and then return 99 of them? Did they point you in the general direction of where they normally buy clothes or were you expected to figure out yourself which sources are most likely to meet their needs?

    1. Kimmy Schmidt*

      I have a feeling clothes shopping for the ultra rich is a totally different world. I’m imagining custom made outfits, tailoring for every piece of clothing, designers that know this family as a client and keep their measurements on file, returns being commonplace, and an insane amount of waste in buying clothes and then never wearing them. I’d like to think some of those clothes got donated but honestly some of them probably ended up in the trash or are still sitting in a drawer somewhere.

    2. Sam Brown*

      I’m going to guess they have a seamstress with everyone’s measurements on call and buy everything a size up and alter them to be perfectly tailored.

    3. Em*

      I’d not be surprised if, for a person this wealthy, “buy clothes” means “buy clothes in roughly this size and have them delivered to our seamstress/tailor who has all our measurements and will make sure they fit perfectly” or similar.

    4. devtoo*

      I had a similar kind of job where I did this. My employer was elderly when I worked for her, and the housekeepers told me that in her heyday, the major luxury department stores would make house calls with a van full of designer clothes they thought she would like and she would try then on and select some of them, then send them to her tailor if they needed major fitting (the housekeepers could do minor alterations).

      But when I worked for her she would either sit next to me at the computer or I would print off pages and pages from brands/stores she liked and she would choose things to order. And yes, it was often an order 100 things, return 99 type of situation. The funniest part for me is that she was usually ordering things like very, very expensive thin cotton tee shirts. I like clothes and I’m also picky, but damn she really took it to the next level

    5. Littorally*

      In my experience of a few years living with the slightly less ultra rich (but still rich enough to have a personal shopper), it’s buy 100 items and return 99 of them. Accuracy is better than that, though, because personal shoppers and ESPECIALLY someone who works directly for the family like that will know the shape, size, comfort, and tastes of the person they’re shopping for. Plus, at that level of wealth, stuff is getting tailored anyway, so you can tweak the fit for exactness.

      1. goddessoftransitory*

        Yeah; what’s that Kristen Stewart movie where’s she the personal shopper/buyer for a celebrity because she’s exactly the same size and measurements? She goes out to hunt down some shirt or shoes and tries it on to make sure it fits, then buys it and leaves it in the woman’s apartment.

    6. Allonge*

      It takes a bit of time but there are absolutely ways to make this work even for the no-so-ultra-rich (I online clothes shop all the time, it’s knowing the brand and/or finding a shop that has more than a single size indicated).

      I also imagine that the uberdesigner clothes come with appropriate customer service! And as other said, tailoring is most likely included or available.

    7. Mutive*

      It wouldn’t surprise me if they either had figure models she paid or, alternately, she was stuck asking some poor random person who looked sort of like them to try it on.

      I still remember, back when I lived in LA, some poor stylist begging me to try on an outfit because I looked like her actress client and she needed to see whether it would work on her.I was tickled so did so.

      But it might have been something like that.

  21. Valancy Stirling*

    This is FASCINATING. Thank you so much for sharing. I do have to wonder if the yogurt was Iranian (IFYKYK!)

  22. Abogado Avocado*

    Wow! What a fascinating interview with a person with a great eye for the telling detail. Thanks, Allison, for presenting this.

  23. Amber T*

    I was perusing Chief of Staff jobs, and a “Chief of Staff/Manager of Household” for an uber rich family came up in my search. The description was… alarming? From the actual job expectations alone it seemed like it would be better suited for 3-4 people, I had no idea how one person would have been able to do it all. (To be fair, the salary was also 3-4x what I make now, and I’d say I’m pretty comfortable off my salary if that’s any indication.) But then the “soft skills” and expectations of the person… “loyalty” was used multiple times, as were a few other similar type words that would make me run for the hills if it were a standard business job.

    This was a fascinating insight and made me especially glad I didn’t apply for that.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      Yup. The high pay is for the absurd hours. If they want to buy loyalty on top of that, add a zero to the end.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        I also wondered if the household manager ever gets a proper day off or if their “vacation” time just consists of having to travel with the family but still be available to do a few minor things each day.

        1. BubbleTea*

          When I briefly worked for a family not as wealthy as this but still in a position to employ half a dozen people, two of whom were full time, three of whom were provided with housing, I was MORE tired when I travelled with them than when we were at home in the regular routine. It wasn’t minor things, it was “make it seem as though I don’t have multiple small children on this holiday”. They weren’t actually bad employers as these things go, but it wasn’t a great experience.

          I 100% concur with LW’s point about how intimate it is to work in people’s homes. I have sat up til 2am on the kitchen floor with a sobbing woman whose husband is an alcoholic. I’ve seen my employers in various states of undress. I’ve had access to financial information. It’s an odd position to be in. These days I am very glad to only be that deeply embedded in my own family.

          1. The Prettiest Curse*

            I think the weird intimacy involved in those jobs would just be too much for me. I can’t do good work unless I care about my work and having to care that much about the state of someone else’s family would probably make me have no work/life boundaries at all. I’m very impressed by people who can do this type of work without getting totally sucked into it.

        2. goddessoftransitory*

          Basically a modern “companion,” like the Second Mrs. de Winter is training to be in Rebecca.

  24. TeenieBopper*

    JFC. I know this is kind of amusing and “oh, look at those silly rich people.” But like, this (the person’s experience, not this article) are why people become radicalized and want to eat the rich.

      1. RecoveringAgent*

        I had a job as a travel agent in a boutique corporate agency that pretty much worked as a travel concierge service for the right clients. I was in the job for 2 years and now only vote NDP.

    1. Pippa K*

      Because of biomagnification of toxins, eating apex predators is unwise. Composting the rich is the way to go.

      1. BubbleTea*

        Out of interest, does this still apply to vegans? I’ve been a lifelong vegetarian; am I more edible than most? (I’m not very rich though.)

        1. goddessoftransitory*

          Remember that Northern Exposure where the characters were all debating who’d be best to eat (they found out somebody’s forbear had had to resort to cannibalism) and they decided Shelly would be it because she was pregnant, eating really well and taking vitamins? She was really flattered that everyone noticed her hard work.

        2. Juicebox Hero*

          Probably. Look at the way people are willing to pay more for grass-fed beef.

    2. Jennifer Strange*

      Agreed. I work in nonprofit fundraising, so I’ve definitely been around the rich (including this level rich, though not many) and while some of them are perfectly pleasant people (at least to me) there are definitely some who fall into this horrible category.

  25. pally*

    Great interview!!
    Thank you!

    My cousin worked as the chef in more than one similar household. He had some wild stories about the excesses he witnessed.

    The least of the excesses:
    One of his highest priories was to make sure the refrigerators located at the left and right sides of the boss’ bed were well-stocked with chocolate (of a specific kind/brand). Yeah, boss was an extreme chocoholic. Both sides of the bed had a refrigerator as he could not be troubled to move to one side of the bed to get his fix.

    And he had to don formal attire every evening to serve the dinner.

    There were rules about washing the vehicles including doing so even if the vehicle hadn’t been moved from the garage since the last wash. This was one of his duties.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      The chef was responsible for washing the cars? They didn’t have a chauffeur for that?

    2. Margaret Cavendish*

      So if one of the bedrooms had multiple fridges, I think it’s fair to assume that most of the bedrooms had at least one fridge. Not to mention the kitchen, which probably had a fridge the size of my actual kitchen.

      This is one of many things I don’t understand about the .001% – the sheer amount of space they take up. Not in an environmental way, although of course that’s part of it, but in literal square footage. This is so much more than they need, and so much more than they could even reasonably use. I guess the thinking is they can afford a house the size of a small town, so they buy that house, and then the house naturally feels empty, so they buy all kinds of stuff to fill it.

      Is that the inevitable outcome of having more money than you could spend in several lifetimes, and no one who ever says no to you? I just honestly can’t get my head around it.

        1. pally*

          I asked my cousin about the houses. Those with like 100+ rooms. What do they use the rooms for? I can see bedrooms, gathering rooms, hobby rooms and rooms for storage, rooms built for certain environmental conditions, but then what?

          He couldn’t even explain. He said it was too mind boggling.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            I think the mistake is to assume that there is a functional explanation for those rooms, when the likely explanation is simply good old-fashioned conspicuous consumption, like lighting a cigar with a hundred dollar bill. Functionality isn’t the point.

            1. Insert Clever Name Here*

              Depending on the age of the house, conspicuous consumption may not be the answer (though it probably is here!). At one time, if you were wealthy you were expected to put up anyone of a similar class traveling through your area of the country.

              1. Hijinks*

                For weeks, no less. Wasn’t there some 19th century drama queen who stayed with Charles Dickens for so long that Dickens was writing “please for the love of god let him leave” in his journal? Or was Dickens the guest who overstayed?

                1. 1LFTW*

                  IIRC, Dickens was the host, and Hans Christian Andersen was the guest. I read somewhere that Andersen’s cringing obsequiousness inspired Dickens when he created Uriah Heep.

              2. goddessoftransitory*

                Having royalty come to stay was a nightmare, as I recall—you had to hire extra help, lay out a gazillion dollars for suitable food and drink, redecorate at least the best bedroom and formal reception parts of the house. And if the king/queen was pleased, they stayed on until you were in danger of going broke!

          2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            I have FOUR bedrooms in my house and when someone asked me just today what were going to do with three of them after we redo the flooring, I felt kind of silly going “one guest room, one exercise and craft room, and one for storage I guess? I’m not sure about the last one.” (When I bought my house it was not just me and my husband, that’s been a recent development.) I don’t even know what one would do with tens of rooms.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        I’ve frequently thought that *empty space* seems to be one of the most luxurious things one can buy (which is even more true in densely populated areas).

        Let me explain: when one has little money, one’s living quarters are often cramped. One has to stand on the bed to open the closet. The fridge is standing in front of the window blocking the light because that was the only space it would fit and one has to squeeze by sideways to get to the sink. There’s a pile of shoes in the hallway that one has to step over. And one keeps things that may come in handy, so stuff accumulates everywhere.

        And then I see luxury ads for, like, sofas or carpets, and the advertised item is huge, but the empty space around it, that makes it look good, is even bigger. Living rooms the size of other people’s apartments. Triple height ceilings. Entire walls of windows looking out on lawns. No clutter anywhere, just open, empty space. *That* is what luxury looks like.

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          Yeah, there’s a certain classism to minimalism. I’m looking around at my living room, which has what seems to me a normal amount of ‘stuff’. A super wealthy house might have a home theater, game room, massage room, home gym, and a study to hold all the things in this room. Each of those rooms could be spacious and ‘minimalist’–within a ginormous mansion.

        2. Csethiro Ceredin*

          The bathrooms always take me aback. I’m living in a condo that feels big to me, but some of the bathroom in magazines are the size of my primary bedroom, which just seems nuts to me.

          1. WantonSeedStitch*

            And the NUMBER of bathrooms! I work in prospect research and often have to check out the real estate owned by potential donors as a step in assessing their wealth. I regularly see houses with six bedrooms and seven or eight bathrooms. I mostly grew up in a house with three bedrooms and one bathroom with just a shower in it, no bathtub. My current house has two bathrooms for three bedrooms.

  26. Wilma Flinstone*

    This is completely tangential, but I’ve had terrific success transporting foodstuffs that need to be kept cold by 1. Freezing them 2. wrapping the frozen thing aluminum foil 3. wrapping several layers of wet newspaper around the foil 4. Freezing the wet newspaper onto the en-foiled food 4 ziplocking the thing. It’s the insulation in the layers!

    I’ve no idea if it would get through checked luggage, but did fine in a carryon.

    1. Chauncy Gardener*

      I bet it would work for camping, but then you’d need to carry out all the layers. Hmmm

  27. devtoo*

    I have had a job like this (though less prestigious–I was a personal assistant doing more of the inbox management/online shopping while the full-time chef did more of the true household management tasks) and I feel like we need a club for folks who have passed through the brain-warping weirdness of proximity to super-wealth. So much of this rings true–the invisibility (which I didn’t hate, tbh), the strange and sometimes hilarious demands, the incredble oddness of the whole world

    1. Elsewise*

      I work in fundraising. I’m on the corporate side now, so less contact with extremely rich people and more working with beleaguered assistants (much more my speed), but when I did donor relations, I had a lot of contact with the uber wealthy. Since I worked for a nonprofit that they supported, I wasn’t invisible, but there was always this element of “look at me! I’m acknowledging you! Yes, I talk to service people. I even know their names!” (The latter attitude was almost always followed by referring to me with the completely wrong name, even if we’d just been introduced.) It was almost charming how proud of themselves some of these people were.


    2. The OG Sleepless*

      I worked as a veterinarian in a neighborhood that ranged from very solid upper-middle-class to obscenely wealthy, and I absolutely had several clients like this. I didn’t much like other aspects of the job and I loathed the clientele.

      I had one couple whom I never met; they had a self described “house boy” (who was about 60) who always brought the dog in. The dog was an ancient little thing who was starting to have accidents in the house. If somebody didn’t take him outside by 6 AM, he would pee/poop in the laundry room where they kept him at night. This was presented to me as a medical problem about every two months. Every time, I would run a couple of basic tests and recommend that someone take him out a little sooner in the morning. The house boy would say he would pass that along, then ask to board the dog for a few days. Any time we asked to speak directly to the owners, he said they weren’t available. I’m pretty sure they were just hoping the dog would just die while it was boarding and they would be rid of it. But nobody ever said so, and the dog kept on existing as one more annoying problem for the domestic staff.

  28. Baska*

    This reminds me so much of The Devil Wears Prada, and all the random requests that Miranda would make of Andy.

  29. WantonSeedStitch*

    This job sounds like my very worst nightmare. I’d be a wreck of anxiety after a single day. OTOH, I was something of a wreck of anxiety after having my son at the height of the pandemic, pre-vaccines, so…OP, thank you for the work you do now!

  30. HugeTractsofLand*

    This was so interesting to read! I’m really happy the interview-ee got what she came for and got out before these people totally warped her. Her current endeavour sounds amazing.

  31. Michelle Smith*

    This is one of the most fascinating posts I’ve ever read on this site. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us!

  32. SnickersKat*

    Shout out to doulas everywhere! You all are awesome and I’m so glad you are out in the world helping soon-to-be and new mamas. I used a doula when my first kiddo was born and she lessened my fear and anxiety so so much. I didn’t have one with my 2nd one and still kind of wish I did.

    1. JustaTech*

      I got a floating doula at the hospital where I gave birth and she was *amazing*. I dithered way too long to get one of my own and we figured that we’d taken all the classes and it would be OK, but she was great to just have in the room bridging the gap between the nurses and my husband on how to help me.

      In retrospect we probably should have gotten a postpartum doula, but my mom was able to step in when we realized we needed a little more help.

    1. Juicebox Hero*

      With their own 1700s sterling silver spoons! Then toss them in the sink without washing them immediately!

  33. Sparkles McFadden*

    I would both love and hate this job. The sheer chaos and unpredictability would appeal to my problem-solving brain, but asking for something insane like international travel in order to deliver three cups of yogurt and following it up with “Oh, I forgot I asked for that” would push me into a Hulk-smash mindset.

    You sound like a great organizer LW. Thanks for sharing!

  34. Lacey*

    When I saw what this was I thought I really wouldn’t be interested, but I needed to kill some time. So glad! It was fascinating and hillarious. Thank you for sharing!

  35. Juicebox Hero*

    My biggest question is, what brand of yogurt did OP have to hustle overseas in such a dang hurry?

    I’m sure there are “prestige” yogurt brands but it amuses me to think the Snobby McSnobbingtons of Snobsbury Estates were in, like, Switzerland, pining for Yoplait or Go-Gurt.

    1. Loredena*

      Same! I absolutely a yogurt snob, yet I can’t think of any that would have me insisting on transport

    2. Felis alwayshungryis*

      I was thinking Iceland with that skyr yoghurt, or indeed Greece. Either way, even the richest would be screwed in New Zealand – our incredibly tight border security rules would have that yoghurt in the bin faster than you could say ‘one million dollars’.

  36. Boof*

    As someone who is probably upper middle class ie constantly wondering about the tradeoff of how much i theoretically make per hr (if i side-hustle) and decision fatigue around caring for 3 kids, what’s for dinner (usually someone else handles it but it’s “my night) 1-2x a week), booking flights and hotels; you sound like a dream. No way i make enough to hire multiple staff (one nanny is a stretch!). Shame the family couldn’t keep some of their manners about them tho. Thank you for writing about it and your current work sounds amazing! Agree having a baby is crazy even if you’re both educated in what to expect, even experienced (3x mom here) and havibg affirmation and support to know when something is really wrong and when it’s just stress/anxiety/hormones/anemia is so helpful.

  37. Csethiro Ceredin*

    I always enjoy these so much and this one was no exception! Fascinating, and I have such respect for this person’s unflappable adaptability (and self-restraint).

  38. Blue*

    Ok, I know this is not the point, but if they were in a place famous for dairy, why did they need you to bring the yogurt from their fridge??

      1. Margaret Cavendish*

        They definitely didn’t need it, or they would not have forgotten about the request! I truly can’t imagine a life where my every passing whim could be satisfied that easily*.

        *Easily for me, although obviously not easily for the people doing the work!

    1. Clara*

      Probably too creamy and they wanted the specific taste of a brand? Artificial v natural flavours? If you can be that specific, there are definitely things to be that specific about.

    2. Persephone Mulberry*

      I’m picturing a conversation with a local where The Boss is like, “okay, but have you ever TRIED Dannon? With the fruit on the bottom? It’s totally different, you have to try it. Here, let me have my Girl fetch some.”

    3. Irish Teacher*

      I’m guessing the local delicacy was more different from what they were used to than they expected. I can easily imagine them thinking they were going to get a better quality version of their local brand or just a greater variety of flavours and realising that it actually tasted very different to what they were used to and they wanted their favourite brand.

  39. AliciaB*

    This reminds me of the book “The Work Wife”. It expands beyond the household staff, but one of the main characters is the house manager and a lot of her tasks sound similar to this (except the yogurt).

    1. MAC*

      Yes! I knew I’d read something like this fairly recently but I could not for the life of me remember what it was called. This reminded me so much of that book.

  40. Jane Bingley*

    This was a fascinating read!

    I work as an executive assistant for a not super-rich boss, but I definitely take on some work that’s officially outside of the job description (booking medical appointments, scheduling oil changes, coordinating family time off). This is partly because he’s just too busy but also because the skills that make him a great leader – visionary mindset, big-picture thinking – also mean he’s pretty terrible at even basic admin stuff.

    I would never leave my job because I like working with him too much, but if he became a billionaire I’d gladly change my role to being his full-time personal assistant (because I know he’s not a jerk.)

  41. HBJ*

    Doesn’t everyone’s bag get searched by TSA nearly every time? I find one of those “love notes” about 90% of the time. And I don’t have (or never thought I did, anyway) a “vague ethnic” look.

    1. Littorally*

      I fly around 4x/year, and I would say I get a TSA love note maybe once every other year or so.

    2. Alexander Graham Yell*

      That might just be you. I haven’t had one of those notes in 10+ years and I travel a looooot and have (in the not-toooo-distant past) had the kind of stamps in my passport that have gotten me stopped for extra questions.

    3. The OG Sleepless*

      The only time it has ever happened to us was when my husband packed a set of tire chains in his bag, and it probably caught someone’s attention because it was exceptionally heavy. It has never happened to me.

    4. ThatGirl*

      They don’t have time to open and search everyone’s bags. I assume they get x-rayed and anything “suspicious” gets looked at more closely.

    5. Moose*

      That’s interesting! I fly maybe half a dozen times a year and I’ve never had that happen.

    6. Mid*

      Nope. I’ve flown a lot, and have never had my bag searched. I’m also not Precheck/Global Entry.

      I do wonder if your name is shared by someone on a no-fly list. Or if you’re just unlucky!

    7. BubbleTea*

      The only time I have been searched was when flying to the US for the summer before my final year at university. They wanted to check my hand luggage because it came up as “unusually dense” on the scanner.

      It was entirely full of textbooks, which I think rather surprised them.

      1. Hijinks*

        I’ve had hand luggage with a bunch of printed material searched, too.

        The only other time I’ve had hand luggage searched was when I was carrying, um, something adult. I actually would love to know what it looked like on the scanner.

        (bc I know I can’t just drop that and not tell people how the luggage search went, I was also carrying a web cam. Since the scanner and the searcher are two different people, I deflected attention to the webcam, which was packed on top and which the searcher carefully unboxed and examined. This was pre-9/11, so easier to deflect.)

      2. Imtheone*

        I used to fly with lots of books, and very often got extra screening. Now, I just have a kindle and a few books, and I rarely get the screening.

        Other tips: umbrella goes in the internal compartment on the lid. Purse with anti theft metallic threads also goes on the lid. If they can eat see what it is in the x-ray, they are less likely to look inside.

        1. Jacqueline*

          In college, I used to fly home with my flute. A packed up flute is basically three metal tubes. It was always in my carry-on, but yeah, that usually got opened, even when I warned the scanner folks.

    8. Polyhymnia O’Keefe*

      The only time it happens to me is when I’m flying as part of a touring performance group and we each check a second bag with sound equipment. Cables, speakers, etc. All in road cases; all designed to be within the size and weight restrictions, but none of which look like a suitcase.

      The long, hard-sided cases for array speakers (that kind of vaguely look like some sort of rifle case, maybe) always get opened.

    9. goddessoftransitory*

      I’ve never gotten a love note; apparently my brand of suspicious is “stand in front of the X ray, then get not-groped by an exhausted employee.”

    10. Nargal*

      Mine does and I’m like you! Mine gets that note almost every time, and I only fly once a year or so. I’ve also been physically searched multiple times even though I think I’m pretty harmless in appearance. I’m one of those people with a friendly face who has strangers tell me their life story in the grocery store.

    11. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

      I think a lot of it depends what you have in your bag. I almost never get one of those notes when I’m flying *to* somewhere, but a lot of the time when I come back, I get one. I’m positive it’s because when I come back, I’m bringing stuff I can’t get back home: certain chocolates, soup(why knorr won’t sell their 9 veggie/pumpkin/summer veggie boxes of soup in the US, I do not understand, it is amazing), wine, and so forth. I figure it shows up on their scanners as suspicious.

  42. beth byrd*

    The people mentioned in this interview recalled an excessively demanding and controlling woman I was an assistant to many years ago. It was a 9-to-5 office situation (not a household situation), but after 6 months I quit. One day she was at a luncheon with important visitors and asked that I bring her some paperwork. After waiting outside the dining room for 20 or so minutes, I was stunned when she walked past me and didn’t even acknowledge that I was there. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to be her household manager.

  43. Good Luck*

    This was so fascinating to read. I could see this being a great job if you had a decent family to work for. Although when you are that rich, I am not quite sure that would exsist.

  44. aebhel*

    I tend to forget that people this rich are actually real and then I read stuff like this in a sort of fascinated horror. What must it be like to live like this?

  45. Dovasary Balitang*

    They […] were pretty heavily involved in the behind-the-scenes stuff that happens in politics at that financial level.

    I want to know more about this; especially if it includes the details imperative to crushing the 1%.

  46. Spicy Tuna*

    Other than sales, this is up there as a nightmare job for me! It is a unique skill set, for sure!

  47. Joielle*

    This is fascinating! We’re certainly not this level of uber-wealthy but I would LOVE to hire someone for a much more limited version of this like 1 day a week. If I could just have someone to deal with my personal schedule (like… dentist appointments, vet appointments, HVAC maintenance, coordinating with the handyperson and cleaning person) and household inventory (mostly meal planning and ordering groceries), that would free up so much mental energy. I am going to look into this.

  48. SBT*

    I once went on a date with a man who was a private pilot for a billionaire in our city. The stories he told me were insane. Some actual quotes/happenings included:
    – “Some days I show up to work thinking we’re flying somewhere like London and my boss will just say, ‘No, we’re going to head to Bora Bora instead. Please change the flight plan.”
    – “Once my boss, the two of us pilots, and a couple other staff were having dinner in France. It was a $17,000 dinner and honestly, we weren’t trying to be extravagant or anything.”
    – Lots of last-minute calls to fly places. The college-aged daughter would get homesick at say 8 p.m. on a Tuesday so he’d fly to pick her up to come home for the night, getting her back to school literally the next day in time for classes.
    – Flying all sorts of famous people who you’d think would have no connection to this particular rich dude.

    The uber wealthy are living totally different lives.

    1. Boof*

      Oooo, and I bet they have the sort of jet that’s more like a living room too! NGL slightly jelly even if it is wanton extravagance

    2. SpaceySteph*

      “Flying all sorts of famous people…”

      Blink twice if it was Clarence Thomas.

    3. Missb*

      Yeah. I actually came to the comments to add something about pilots.

      A family member is a current pilot for a very famous Hollywood person. Super rich, super nice, good sized family.

      Lots of friends tangentially connected to Hollywood and definitely politics. Since the relative is still employed, I avoid details but I’ve often wanted to be along for some of the flights as a crew member. I mean, I’d saw off my left arm for a chance.

      My relative is a pilot of *one* of the planes that the person owns. They have multiple planes so keep multiple flight crews employed. They also have multiple homes. I’ve heard that the planes and the homes have kitchen layouts (more simplified for the planes) that are similar with the same items (like same china, same glasses) so that if the owner or wife wanted to get up and get something, they’d be able to easily find things.

      And yes, their flight plans change frequently. Filing those flight plans and getting clearances to land (and paying the associated fees in those countries at the airports) is a job in itself.

      My relative was able to wrangle signatures for books by one of the couples that were flying along with the owner a few years ago. The couple had both written books recently, and it wasn’t just like he could walk back and ask for their signatures. Because they were former political types, there were specific channels that the request had to go through during the flight. I did however get an awesome birthday present of signed copies addressed to me by two people that I admire deeply.

      And it’s kinda cool to hear the behind the scenes stuff that sometimes goes on. The relative ends up with responsibilities sometimes that don’t include “pilot”. Good future stories!

  49. kay bee*

    This person sounds awesome and I want to say thank you for your niche! Working with disabled parents postpartum and prioritizing COVID safety are things I’d love to see more of in the world.

  50. Moose*

    At the beginning I was going to jokingly ask if you worked for Logan Roy, but after reading the yogurt story I assume it was actually Kendall.

  51. 653-CXK*

    This is a very interesting story. Thumbs up to the OP for sticking to this job for two years and then finding a far more enriching job (a doula) than a being a flunky for a pair of insecure rich people.

    Not all people with wealth act like spoiled brats. However, the underrunning theme when we hear these stories is the misconception that money equals power and influence, and gives sane people the permission to act like jerks. Then, to assuage their guilt over having wealth vs. the person who has to work three jobs to cover basic human needs, they pose and twist themselves into pretzels to look like they care.

  52. FirstTimeCommenting*

    I’m curious, how much did you get paid? And as a corollary question for everyone else, how much money would it take for you to take a job like this? For me, it would be at least 2 million/year (since you’d lose a significant amount to taxes), and I wouldn’t do it for more than 1 or 2 years.

    1. Stormfly*

      It’s an interesting question. It seems like the kind of work that would be really interesting to do for a few months, since you’d get so many great stories from it and and see a side of society you never would otherwise. The problem solving and variety of it would appeal to me, as well as the staff management.
      I think a year would definitely be the max for me, based on my previous experiences with working crazy overtime. I wouldn’t consider it for less than 200K. I’d definitely do it for a year for a million. If I was frugal for the year, I could buy a nice place without a mortgage off the back of it.

    2. Juicebox Hero*

      I wouldn’t and honestly couldn’t do it for any amount of money. I love routine and hate chaos, hiring and managing people would be a nightmare for me, and dealing with the level of entitlement and spoiled-brattishness these people displayed would make me want to smash a Ming vase and spell out “I QUIT” with the shards. Plus being treated as a walking Alexa instead of a human being would nope me right out.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, this! There’s simply no way I could deal with a job like that.

        I also love routine and hate chaos, I have no interest in managing people, and I have pretty strong moral objections to extreme wealth that allows people to completely isolate themselves from what life really is like for the vast majority. It’s one reason why I work for the government/common good rather than in the private sector where my work would help the already rich get even richer.

    3. Trillian Astra*

      I was going to comment this! I’m very interested in the ballpark of the salary for this position, because googling it says a Household Manager salary is 70-90k range. I’m sure for the uber-wealthy, this would at least double – but still. Very curious!

    4. Mid*

      I’m not sure what it would take for me! I’d love a lot of the work in theory (constantly changing, travel, lots of detailed work, event planning) but I also have a very low tolerance for abusive employers.

      So I think it would need to be at least $80k take-home (the exact number would vary on if I was a contractor or employee and the tax situation), plus housing and all other living expenses covered (I’d assume I’d live on-site, but if not I definitely would need rent in the rich people areas covered.) If I could end up saving basically my whole paycheck, I could probably tough it out for a year or two and end up with a comfortable nest egg to travel for a few years after before going back to work, or to be able to take fun jobs for a few years instead of worrying about money. So the money would be life changing for me, and I’ve tolerated some pretty terrible workplaces for minimum wage. I could tolerate some pretty terrible workplaces for down payment-on-a-house money.

    5. Irish Teacher*

      I don’t think I’d do it for any amount of money, at least not if I had any other options. I’d rather earn just enough to have a relatively decent life than get rich doing this. I think the only way I’d do it would be if the alternative were something like homelessness or bankruptcy.

      I have difficulty dealing with unclear orders and stuff anyway, so…no, I would not handle this well. And I don’t like being told what to do in general.

    6. Hannah Lee*

      Really interesting question.

      I think I’d go for “no, not for any amount of money”

      Years ago I might have considered it for a million or something close.
      But then I had a job at a tech company with executive staff all very very wealthy and all mean-spirited awful people. The pay was great, the stock options were nice when I got them and some of the people I worked with were lovely. But the hours were awful, the environment was stressful and the corporate culture was icky.

      At a certain point, it dawned on me that I’ve only got so much time on the planet, and likely just the one life, and that spending any more of it in service of entitled twits who intentionally made other people’s days worse, and whose values were the polar opposite of mine, was a real waste of me and my time and likely not what I was put on the planet to do. So I got out. And I don’t think I’ll ever work for awful people like that again, not for any amount of money.

    7. SpaceySteph*

      I’m not currently in a phase of life where I could do this (multiple young children) but as an unencumbered younger person this honestly would be fascinating for a year. Would have to pay like $400k to make me do it though.

      1. BubbleTea*

        Same. I messed around the edges of this sort of work in my early twenties and ultimately chose a different path that is definitely a better choice but I do still peruse the Help Wanted ads in The Lady now and then, and wonder what if.

    8. UKDancer*

      I would have done it in my 20s for a couple of years when I was younger and had fewer ties and commitments and would have liked a job with free accommodation and would have been willing to save the money for a deposit on a house at the end.

      I wouldn’t do it now because I’m older and more opinionated and less likely to want a job doing what people say.

  53. Not Siri*

    i interviewed for, and was offered, a very similar job in between grad school and my current career job and the vibes were exactly like this. I was broke but didn’t take it, a choice I feel deeply grateful for after reading this description. I’m good at the relevant skills but can’t take terrible people, and the moment I was told I (a white girlfriend) could take the regular elevator but the (black) nanny had to take the staff elevator was truly a deciding factor. I’ve done lots of in-home work before and the dynamics are always bonkers. I’m so glad this person shared their story with us.

  54. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

    I don’t need a doula or child care myself, but want to say thank you for helping people stay safe from covid now that so many others are dismissing the idea.

  55. Risha*

    Wow OP, thanks for that. I’ve always wondered what household managers and employees of super rich people do. I’ve seen ads for these jobs when I was looking for work in my own field. It’s not something I could ever do. I also cannot tolerate bad bosses, no matter what pay/benefits I would get, so I salute you for putting up with it.

    As a side note, imagine being so rich you can afford this type of setup. If I ever get that rich (probably never), I would be a good, fair boss. There’s no reason to treat people poorly if you’re wealthy. Their poo stinks just like mine does so they’re no different than me, they just have more money than me.

  56. zebra*

    An old boss (I worked for his company, not him personally) once forgot a medication while traveling. He had a 2 day stopover in Frankfurt before going on to Addis Ababa. He called me in California and said his son would drop off the pill bottle at the office and I needed to overnight ship it to him in Frankfurt before he left Monday early morning. Except it was already Friday in California and absolutely nobody could guarantee a weekend delivery in Frankfurt.

    It was a totally standard heart medication — I begged him to please just walk into a pharmacy in Frankfurt, I can almost guarantee this is available for you without any hassle, but he refused. Then he had his son drop off a second bottle and insisted that I ship the second one directly to Addis Ababa in case the first one didn’t arrive in Frankfurt. I sent off both pill bottles after begging at all the shipping companies in town and paying them hundreds of dollars, not confident at all that either one would arrive before he came back home. I think the next day on Saturday I even asked my German speaking sister to please call the shipping warehouse in Frankfurt and ask if there was any way to make a delivery happen that day — but of course, no, because it was a weekend in Germany. I again asked him to please just take twenty minutes and go to a damn pharmacy himself and he couldn’t be bothered.

    When my boss got back I asked about it. Neither pill bottle ever reached him, but he did deign to ask his Frankfurt hotel concierge about it, who had a doctor on call show up and give him some pills. So in the end he WAS able to solve it himself with a few minutes effort and my day and a half was totally wasted.

  57. cass*

    Allison’s comment about the invasion of privacy is sooooooooo true. I grew up far from fabulously rich, in fact definitely lower income, but I have two disabled brothers and we got state-funded in home aid for them a certain number of hours a week. It probably didn’t help that when the state is willing to pay $10/hr (eyeroll, that’s stupid low) and you’re not rich enough to supplement that income, you can’t be too picky on personality fit, but even when they were very quietly minding their own business and being nothing but kind and polite, it made me so uncomfortable having strangers in my home all afternoon and evening, I would be nervous to come out of my room. It’s always made me SURE that if I became fabulously 0.001% wealthy some day, I wouldn’t want a nanny or maid or household manager or any of this.

    1. UKDancer*

      I have a cleaner (not fabulously wealthy but able to afford someone once per month to deep clean things). I find the best way to handle it is that I stay in the lounge while she cleans the bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom and hall and then I move to the bedroom while she does the lounge. That way it feels less intrusive. I do feel happier when she goes though because having someone else in the place can be annoying.

      But I like the results so I keep out of her way after I’ve made her a cup of tea and it works fine.

      1. JustaTech*

        Yes, when my cleaners come I always make sure I’m out of their way, because I feel super intrusive (in my own house!).
        A friend was talking up how awesome an au pair is for child care and I was just like “there is no way I could have someone come live in my house, I’m just not used to sharing like that!”

    2. BubbleTea*

      As well as having been on the staff end of this, I’ve been the household member of a person employing staff (similar scenario to yours). It is an odd experience from both angles. I once had someone try to make a bed while I was still in it, for instance.

  58. Donkey Hotey*

    Well… I’m glad that so many people are fascinated by this. For me, I’m not quite to the metaphorical “sharpening the guillotine” stage, but it’s close.

    I suppose I’m jaded because back in the 80s, my mom did this for about nine months for a Woman Who Everyone Here Will Recognize. Only it was billed as an admin assistant… who just happened to pick up pets from the vet, and select costumes for Halloween, and wake up at 3am to take dictation (because it was a reasonable hour where she was). My personal favorite was arranging to have surprise -sized- gifts delivered to every employee at every store in time for Christmas. Because it was a surprise, it was 100% of the clock. (Overtime? LOLNO. It was the 80s.)

  59. Chilipepper Attitude*

    I think we need a part-time nanny or support for my son and his family who have a baby just out of the NICU. Does the OP have suggestions for finding someone like her?

    1. OP*

      Hi! OP here! All my babies were NICU babies and I remember how scary that felt to have an extra vulnerable baby coming home. The last poll I saw was something like 30% of people are still choosing to be cautious, we’re out there! We just need to find each other. Facebook has dozens of regional “still coviding” groups, you may be able to find someone there. If not, my best advice is to be really, really explicit about what kind of precautions you want the nanny to take, at every stage of the process. Spell out what you want in the job ad- masks? name it. Daily or weekly testing? name it. Remind the candidate during the email stage “just want to clarify that covid safety is of utmost importance to the family, did you see in the requirements [name them] in ad?”. Remind them again at the beginning of the interview AND ask them “can you define for me what covid cautious means to you?” the more you get them talking, the more info you’ll get. If something seems off or they say something that makes you uncomfortable, don’t hire them. You’re hiring based on “vibe” just as much as on-paper qualifications. People often want to soft-pedal their needs/requirements, or ignore their instincts about someone in order to be “nice” but when you’re hiring inside your home your priority is to be kind, not nice. Kind here is being very direct, very explicit so no one is confused about expectations. This person is going to come inside your home and care for your most vulnerable, most precious family member, you don’t want any of the expectations to be unclear or implied and you do not want someone who makes you feel even the smallest bit weird or uncomfortable. Hope this helps!

  60. Calamity Janine*

    this is an interview that is truly fascinating, and makes me very much think of the first line of that quintessential Victorian tome, Mrs Beeton’s Guide To Household Management (which i hope i’ve correctly remembered the title of). she immediately likens the head of the house to a position equivalent to a general organizing a war… and she isn’t wrong!

    i would like to say i am of such innately egalitarian spirit that having someone in position of household staff like this didn’t appeal to me whatsoever… but i am physically disabled and riddled with adhd. while i do think i would be less of a brat about it (and eat the damn yogurt gratefully!), folks… i hate to let everyone down by admitting to bourgeoisie aspirations… but good god do i ever see the appeal. i would very much love to have someone competent at this in my orbit. unfortunately i’m far from being super rich, but a gal can dream?

    1. Mid*

      I don’t think it’s inherently bourgeois to want a support person! I think it gets icky when people think of their staff as lesser beings due, but like, I’m a not-very-well-off person who sometimes has to hire a cleaner to help me control the ADHD/depression chaos that my (crappy, cheap) apartment spirals into. I don’t think that makes me a snob for needing help.

      1. UKDancer*

        I have a cleaner because I have less time than I’d like and can afford one and prefer to spend the money on someone else cleaning the bathroom and the kitchen once per month. I agree it’s important to treat your cleaner with respect as you would treat anyone else you’re paying to do something for you and be professional. I think if you want a cleaner or a gardener or other personal assistants and treat them appropriately and pay them suitably then that shouldn’t be a problem.

        1. I have RBF*

          We have a saying at my house: “The workman is worthy of their hire.”

          I have had weekly cleaning people at my house. I am disabled, so I can’t do the deep cleaning, and my roomies don’t/won’t/can’t either. So I sometimes hire it out. Problem is, my roomies end up driving them away!

          I try to a) pay well, b) stay out of their way, and c) make sure that there are good supplies and gloves for them to use. They are literally doing stuff I can’t do at this point, so I appreciate the work involved.

          Whether it’s a cleaner, a gardner or a handyperson, I try to make sure they get paid promptly and are kept hydrated and safe.

      2. Calamity Janine*

        oh, definitely! i was mainly making fun of myself there LOL, because in truth part of me would indeed like to have the full richie rich experience of full house staff that follow me around looking after me.

        i mean if i had the means to politely offload the “remember where i put something” brain work to… it’s not like I’M good at doing that… lol! please, jeeves, tell me where i put the important thing that i said was going to be in an important place but then forgot where exactly that was. i am become bertie wooster, destroyer of worlds

    2. Irish Teacher*

      I don’t think it’s wrong to want to pay people to manage your household. I don’t see that as inherently any less egalitarian than paying somebody to fix your car or to represent you in court or to sell your house. I think it only becomes problematic when you either underpay the people or treat them as lesser than you rather than as professionals you are hiring to do a job.

      1. UKDancer*

        This so much. I view it as no different than paying a hairdresser or a handyman. You’re paying people for a service.

      2. 2e asteroid*

        I think it’s potentially less egalitarian to the extent that it has to be a full time job — because at that point, it’s mathematically not possible for everyone to hire one.

        Restaurants and taxis are more egalitarian than private chefs and chauffeurs; it’s not clear to me what the “restaurant-like” version of a household manager would look like.

        1. Boof*

          I suppose it would be someone who only does it a few hours per week, for multiple people? Or at special times?

          1. desdemona*

            Or (I think someone else said this elsewhere in the thread) having it be a shift-role, where there’s a day-shift and an evening/weekend shift, and nobody overnight.
            That way, each person has 1 full time job, and a predictable schedule?
            (? because I’m not sure this is actually a solution lol)

  61. Aziraphale the Cat*

    I read the Work Wife by Alison B. Hart; it centers around a personal assistant that becomes a family manager and the absolute insane things she had to do/put up with. I thought it was a fun story, but it’s kind of upsetting to learn how close some of it was to real life. :/

  62. yala*

    That. Was. Banockers.

    “When I triumphantly handed over the yogurts, he was like, “Oh, I forgot I asked you to bring these,” and then didn’t eat them.”

    This could be an entire episode of an hour-long sitcom.

    You must be right about the reality warping, because those people clearly live on their own planet. The problem-solving part sounds, fun, but whuf, the rest of it

  63. General Organa*

    Thanks for an incredibly fun interview and for your current work! Alison, feel free to remove if it’s too off-topic and I’ll save for the weekend thread, but given OP’s current line of work I was wondering how people go about finding good doulas.

    1. OP*

      Hi! OP here! I can share what I’d do if I was looking for a doula. There’s lots of different training programs, so looking for one that aligns with your values and seeing if there’s someone local to you who trained with them is a good place to start. I really admire the work they’re doing at Birthing Advocacy Doula Trainings, it’s super comprehensive and the way they are so explicit about their values means more compassionate people self select into the program. If you have a local parent group, you can try asking in there if anyone knows a doula who emphasizes [insert whatever is important to you], there’s also the Doula Match website and “find a doula” facebook group, you’ll get tons of responses if you post there. I have good relationships with my pediatrician and OB, so they refer people to me, yours might know someone who will be a good match. This person is supporting you through such a vulnerable time, so pay close attention to how they make you feel, not just if they have the right resume and say the right things.

  64. DoesItMatter?*

    Kind of surprised this is something anybody cares about. Did not read as I’m sick to death of a culture that celebrates rich people. I would rather do just about anything else than take a job that caters to people who think they are special because they have benefited in a deeply unjust system.

    1. Blackbeard*

      I see your point. However, that was a fascinating read. Not in the sense of “inspiring”, but because it gave an insight in the daily life of the obscenely wealthy (and obscenely spoiled) people.

      Thanks for posting this!

    2. sswj*

      If you’d bothered to read it you’d realize it was NOT a celebration of the ultra rich.

      (wish there was a rolly-eyes emoticon here …_)

    3. Esprit de l'escalier*

      Kind of surprised you have so little curiosity about people’s unusual jobs. If you work for a big-enough company, you too are working for some extremely wealthy people, but your job is probably not this interesting to read about, unless maybe if you’re the big boss’s EA.

      1. DoesItMatter?*

        I work in social services, helping the many people who get shafted by the rich. And again, zero interest reading about rich people, aka entitled, greedy, planet-ruiners.

    4. Irish Teacher*

      I think that’s one of the reasons why people care about this, because it does “lift the lid” to a degree on the extent to which our culture panders to rich people and draws attention to just how much work that requires from people like the OP and how badly they are treated.

      It also shows just how little some rich people deserve to be celebrated.

      1. DoesItMatter?*

        Eh… there’s enough of that in our culture (insights into the rich and famous). It’s time we all stopped caring about it and started focusing our attention on things that matter.

  65. Mztery1*

    For Alison and the OP – I realize you may not know the information or may not want to share, but we are really curious what level of income made this a worthwhile job that you could save so much money to get your dream job? My husband and I have wildly different guesses as to what would make it worthwhile and make it possible for you to save so much money? I realize it probably depends where you were working.

    1. Mid*

      For the saving money part, I’m guessing OP had next to zero personal expenses, because housing and food were likely covered. Add that to having next to zero free time/vacation, and it’s probably fairly easy to save almost all of their pay.

      1. mztery1*

        Understood I’m just curious if it’s more like $80,000 or $200,000 or $50,000. Any of those numbers would say some thing about the family.

        1. Annie B*

          In New York salaries for these jobs easily go into the six figures- my guess is closer to $200,000 than the other guesses.

  66. TMan*

    This person should write a book–or at least a movie treatment. I’d watch this nightmare of a job any time!

  67. MEH Squared*

    This was a fascinating read and peek into the kind of lifestyle most of us will never know/experience. To the interviewee, you sound like you have a great head on your shoulders, and I’m glad you got to fund your training with your income from this job (and reconnected with your old friend now hubby because of it), and thank you for your thoughtful answers.

    Alison, these interviews of people in unique careers are some of my favorite posts your site. Thank you for doing this!

  68. Danielle K.*

    Thank you for what you’re doing now.

    I’m high risk for COVID & have a 2 month old son. We have a 5 year old too.

    Having support is huge, especially one not gaslighting you.

  69. emmelemm*

    I have an acquaintance who was a personal chef for a couple of very, very rich households (names you would *definitely* know) and the one thing I remember her telling us was that the families’ houses definitely had these beautiful show kitchens worthy of Architectural Digest which were never, ever used for anything except possibly photo shoots and that she had to cook in the “back kitchen”, which would be a fairly cramped space pretty much analogous to your very modest home kitchen, with a regular four burner stove, never enough cabinets, etc. etc.

    The world of the very rich is definitely fascinating, that’s for sure.

  70. Kitty*

    I am HERE for the phrase ‘ADHD side quests’.

    Also, tangent, but, I once ended up as one of two without-a-plus-one people at a wedding, and I got talking to the other person — she was a nanny for someone veeeeeeeeeeeery rich & famous. Her job sounded fascinating.

  71. Aphrodite*

    I loved shelter magazines and subscribe to many. My favorite (until it started downhill a couple of years ago) was House Beautiful. In an old issue I still have there was an interview with an interior designer who lived, if I remember correctly, San Rafael, CA, in a smallish home that was well decorated. He had those 1% and 0.1% clients who lived in 50,000-square foot homes. I still remember his answer to a question that said, in a paraphrase, that people in these super-sized homes often spent most or all of their time in just a few rooms. The majority of the rooms went unused by the owners.

    I was so struck by that thought I have never forgotten it. They had to have those oversized homes and have them designer decorated but they remained unused, empty of human occupation. What a waste.

    1. Csethiro Ceredin*

      I guess they’re ok with massive inconvenience if outsourcing it to others. Ugh.

    2. coffee*

      Looking at a lot of those massive homes, I’m struck by how much of the space winds up just being distance you have to walk through to get to where you want to go. Like those massive bedrooms – even if you put a lounge-like space in, you still have a bunch of carpet just empty which you trek through on your way to the bathroom.

      Often the homes look really uncomfortable as spaces.

  72. Forrest Rhodes*

    “When I triumphantly handed over the yogurts, he was like, “Oh, I forgot I asked you to bring these,” and then didn’t eat them.”

    I would’ve had to clench my teeth to stifle the response, “Either you *eat* them, or you *wear* them. Choose one!”

    The interviewee is a much better person than I. And truly, I admire the stamina and strength of character that she showed in dealing with it all.

  73. Lizy*

    Adding “what’s the best way to wrap yogurt for international travel” to my list of staff icebreakers…

  74. Quality Girl*

    As a COVID-cautious parent I am SO happy to hear there are still care partners like you being careful!

  75. Ollie*

    My mother-in-law does this but her employers are a lot nicer. Her car has been in the shop for 3 months and her employer let her drive one of theirs for the entire time. She does do some crazy things though like flying to New York to help one of the sons pack and clean his apartment for moving and she irons their sheets. She gets paid very well. She’s been doing it for 30 years now and is like one of the family.

  76. avvya*

    You’ve probably already left but I was hoping you could settle a debate: do super rich people get their own breakfast out? Like cereal or just grabbing a muffin or something? Or do they have a proper meal prepared for them in the morning?

      1. UKDancer*

        Definitely. I think it depends on the individual and what they want for breakfast. I’d also say that being rich and being extravagant don’t always correlate.

        J Paul Getty (at one point the richest man in the world) was notoriously frugal and had a payphone installed in Sutton Place because he felt visitors made too many phone calls.

    1. Picard*

      The one I know has his breakfast prepared every morning (raisin bran with berries and milk, then english muffin with butter and orange marmalade plus hot tea)

  77. oranges*

    Another fantastic interview.
    I think about this a lot with celebs and reality stars, but once you get super rich/famous, you’re literally never alone. You’re constantly surrounded by people. (And mostly people who work for you at that.) How do you even have a relationship? Or parent?? Such a strange world to live in.

  78. SleepyWolverine*

    Wow. I really wish I hadn’t just read this. Three yogurts got transported internationally because one toxic, entitled narcissist won’t eat a different type of yogurt. As if our society needs any more reasons to rise up and eat the rich.

  79. Swix*

    Thanks for providing services to COVID cautious families. It is hard to watch everyone pretend this is over.

  80. Seeking Second Childhood*

    I now have an idea why/how charity shops sometimes have once-used Columbia parkas and tents and designer shoes, or Italian blazers with heavy silver jewelry in the pocket.

  81. Andi*

    I nannied for uber wealthy people one summer and the most memorable thing about that job was they kept a flock of macaws in their yard. By the pool. Just chilling in the trees, like a half dozen of them. This was in California so warm enough, but not exactly a tropical paradise or anything. I have no idea how they kept them on their property. The birds were bored and loved when I would come out and talk to them or bring them treats.

    This family also had me bathe their young toddler in special water they had brought in for the purpose every time he needed a diaper change. No wipes, only holy water baths. It was something.

  82. Snoozing not schmoozing*

    For a brief time, I did special events at a fairly large regional not-for-profit. I think I encountered LW’s boss. She’s why I decided to get out of that line of work, and also why I’m pretty much a socialist now. I refuse to be screeched at by someone that tacky, just because they have money. I had a distant relative who, coincidentally, worked as their outdoor manager for a while. He had several real horror stories about the demands on him and his staff, and some of them involved hilarious solutions on his part.

  83. Riina*

    “As so much of the world “moves on,” a lot of families are really struggling to find connection and support from someone who will affirm their choices instead of minimizing their concerns.”

    As someone who is high risk and disabled, THANK YOU. Thank you for recognizing that covid is still a concern, thank you for centering people who the rest of the world seems more than happy to forget about. It means a lot to know that there are other people out there who are even thinking about people like me, as I sit here in a country where it’s been literally months since I saw even a single other person still wearing a mask. Seriously, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.

  84. Sophie Boudreau*

    This is such a deeply fascinating interview, and as a fellow doula and person focused on building a postpartum support company, I’m so happy that you’ve found this meaningful work to refocus on. LW, if you ever want to discuss postpartum services, I’d love to connect!

  85. Elizabeth West*

    I would also hire someone if I became wealthy; schedules get packed and it would be nice to have someone to keep on top of things. The OP sounds like the exact kind of super organized and conscientious person I would love to hire. I’ve often wished I could hire a housekeeper to do deep cleans when I’m deep in a writing project. Having a yard guy rocked bc I had trouble mowing due to shoulder problems. He did a better job in twenty minutes than I could do in a whole hour.

    But you will never see me living in a house that looks like no one lives there, or has 31 bathrooms, or making people do unreasonable things like transport yogurt I’m not even gonna eat. You will never ever see me acting like any staff are invisible or not even human.

    Climate-killing, non-taxpaying, selfish dillholes. >:(

  86. KDO*

    Oh boy. My best friend’s mom was the personal assistant to an extremely wealthy woman, and my best friend and I would work as full time gardeners for her in the summer. (Along with a personal shopper and many housekeepers.)

    This lady was so, so strange. She had extremely specific tastes and would scream at you if you got something wrong. She also would compliment you on the strangest thinks, like the tank tops I wore that I’d gotten at Old Navy, a 3 for $10 kind of thing. And her insistence on food freshness was so intense that I got a lot of free food out of it because it was “too old” for her to eat (i.e. a box of berries where a single berry was mushy, fish that had been in the fridge overnight, etc). I remember seeing some Tres Semme in her pantry and thinking that maybe we used the same hair products, only to find out she had her maid put it in her toilets because she liked the smell.

    The worst was when my friend’s mom got her a beautiful flower for the garden (garden design was part of her job), a pale pink tree peony, and the woman left her a voicemail saying that it was the ugliest thing she’d ever seen, it looked like we’d gotten it from K-Mart, she wanted to stamp it into the ground, etc. My friend’s mom ended up giving it to my mom and it was easily the flower my mom got the most compliments on.

  87. delaware*

    Wow, thank you to OP for doing this! Such a fascinating read– I’m always interested in the behind the scenes work supporting America’s most insanely moneyed idiots.

    It’s so unique to A) get this experience in that world, B) maintain at least a semi-clear vision about what’s happening around you, and C) go on to articulate the weirdness and tell the stories as well as OP does.

  88. Luanne Platter*

    If I had *money* I would def have a handyman/groundskeeper and a cook. This work fascinates me. Thanks for this!

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