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Five Ways To Lose Your Live-in

December 26, 1991|AURORA MACKEY

OK, you've finally found that great baby-sitter, nanny, au pair, housekeeper or maid you've been looking for. Now, what things shouldn't you do?

Here are some tried and true methods for sending your domestic help packing:

Find fault with everything the person does

In the best of all worlds, every parent would like to hire Mary Poppins. Unfortunately, she lives with another family in England.

"We do have some parents that are so hard to please that the sitters don't want to go back," said Gay Gomez, co-owner of A-1 Derful Babysitting Agency in Newbury Park. "With one parent, I think I have tried six or seven people and I'm about to give up. . . . My husband told me not to call them paranoid parents, but they are anxious. They read all this stuff in the newspaper about things that happen to children, and it makes them real nervous."

Work the person to the bone

Few things appear to be as upsetting to someone hired to take care of children than to be asked to do massive cleaning jobs as well.

"I've had two ladies leave their jobs in the last year because they were overworked," said Elaine Santor, owner of Santor ABC Services, a domestic agency in Ventura. "They had lists of all kinds of inhumane duties, like doing windows and cleaning out the garage. One was asked to take care of the lawn, and another was asked to service the car. I tell them to quit if these kinds of things come up."

Destroy the person's chances of having a normal social life

Your baby-sitter, nanny or au pair might not know about it, but there is a state law about working more than 12 consecutive hours. After that, a live-in person must be compensated for every hour worked overtime, according to the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement.

Even if the law did not exist, people who have been asked to work unreasonably long hours say it eventually takes its toll. "You feel like a machine," one former baby-sitter said.

Promise the moon and then forget about it

The danger with making a promise that can't--or isn't--kept is that it usually comes back to slap you in the face.

One 20-year-old au pair from England, who recently left the Southern California family she was living with, said she corresponded with the family before she came over. They told her that she would be given a car for her use, a television for her room, new drapes and extra pay for extra hours that she worked.

"I was really isolated because there wasn't good public transportation, and then when they didn't follow through with their other promises, it made me feel like they really didn't care about me," she said. She is now looking for another position.

Starve the person

Sure, there's nothing in the books that says you have to feed your live-in person chateaubriand. But a couple of meals a day would be nice.

"One nanny wasn't allowed to eat. She was hungry all the time," Santor said. "They were vegetarians, health food nuts, and they only had vegetables in the house. They said they didn't want her cooking her food and smelling up the house.

"Room and board was supposed to be provided, but how could she eat?" Santor asked. "She was an older lady. She actually ended up applying for food stamps."

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