When Even Home is Not a Safe Space

I was recently in a situation where I was a Nanny in an abusive home. Of course, I did not realize this right away. What is weird is when I try to google this happening to others, mainly stories about abusive nannies or babysitters come up, but I feel this should be talked about more (even if the names and certain details are kept confidential), because it was a horrifying experience. Of course it is always easier to go back and look in retrospect at what you could have or should have done, and if you have anxiety, that is all you do after being in a situation like this. Even on medication, it is hard for me to let stuff like this go and not forever bother me, but I am trying, and writing this blog is one way I am trying to do that. I even asked my husband, is this my fault, like sometimes you start to feel you put yourself in bad situations and could have prevented them, and in retrospect, there is a little truth to this, but it is also sort of like victim blaming, but you are the victim.

You are still a victim and you still did not deserve this, just like a girl does not deserve to be raped if she wore a certain outfit, or got drunk at a party, or was in a bad part of town, but I also would not blame her for being scared of doing these things after it happened. I used to not understand why some people seemed so guarded and closed off to you. You try to be friends with them and they get weirded out at how immediately nice you are to them. Now, I get it. They probably have experienced what I recently did with this family and with others before this, so many times that they just could not put themselves through it anymore. I will say in 21 years of working I have had mostly great coworkers and bosses, but the ones that were bad, were so bad it affected my mental health, and no job is worth that. My husband says I just give people the benefit of the doubt and want to believe the best in them, and work with them beyond what they might deserve.

With this family, I tried to make personal bonds. I really cared about the children and wanted to have a close relationship with them and the parents, but the parents made it clear pretty quickly that I would never be more than the help and was treated as so. Not that I had never kept children for well off people before, but this time eventually turned into an absolute nightmare. I once babysat for an old boss years ago. She lived in a very nice house and neighborhood, but we were friends and she trusted me so much that I kept her kids often. I once even spent the night at her house while she was in the hospital, picked up her children from preschool and school and dropped them back off. She had two year old twins and a 6 year old. I didn’t even have a child yet at this time and she even paid me well for it. I live in a house just as nice or nicer than the people I recently nannied for, but they lived in an area where prices were so much higher that their home was probably worth 3 or 4 times more.  

These people look like they have the perfect life on Facebook and are probably very respected in the community, but I soon learned their true home life was a nightmare. There were red flags early on. Even the person who referred me to the job did not want to keep the kids anymore because they were difficult, and only did it for a short time because it paid well, but she was a college student and I was a 38 year old mother, I could surely handle this. I love a good challenge and I wanted to help the kids and quickly got attached despite the hard parts. I thought I could make a difference in their lives if even for a short time. We had a lot of fun together at times, but these kids often lied, did not listen, hit each other, hit, kicked and punched me, yelled at me, would hide my phone and purposely steal my stuff and hide it because they thought it was funny. They were older kids, who probably could have even stayed on their own if they had not acted like this, but instead if you did not watch them every second like a toddler or baby, they were into something. 

I believe both of the children had some mental health issues, I was not told this initially but this was often used later as a general explanation or excuse by the parents for any behavior, although I was never given the details of what exactly was wrong so I could be prepared or properly handle it, or even be aware of it at first. The craziest part was one parent was even there working from home in a home office while I was there keeping them. That parent would either fix their own lunch or go out and get it, but I still always handled lunch for the kids. Even if they were acting up with that parent in the room while up for lunch, they would often not even intervene unless I asked them to. I would occasionally have to go get that parent or call the other at work, but of course tried not to interrupt them constantly because if I do, what is the point of me even being here? Yet anytime I discussed concerns about their behavior with the parents, the answer was to come get them or to call them. I was even told to keep electronics from them until they had certain chores, schoolwork etc done but once when I did this, one of them just spent 4 hours looking for where I hid them, and repeatedly harassed me and got nothing done in those 4 hours.

What the kids were allowed to do and eat was pretty strictly scheduled. The kids said things that concerned me at times about possible abuse in the home, Once I had been at this home for two or three months, I am pretty sure I heard one parent throw one of the children into a door while they screamed, “I am sorry” repeatedly, while the other child and I ran upstairs scared with my heart about to beat through my chest. The child eventually came out limping and bleeding. The kids seemed to hint once the other parent found out this happened “again” they would be upset about it. I ended up telling the other parent and leaving the job. I am not sure if I would ever feel comfortable in someone else’s home like that again. I normally keep kids in a preschool controlled environment. The only reason I stayed as long as I did, was that I had formed enough of a bond with the kids that they acted better for me most of the time than they had in the beginning, and of course I now knew where their hitting and rebellion came from. I now blamed the parents, not the kids.

I have never felt so relieved that my home feels so much safer than that one for me and for my child, my spouse and our dogs. One of our dogs gets scared and hides under the bed if we ever even raise our voices because of past abuse she both experienced and witnessed in a former home. It is so sad that so many children do not have a safe space anywhere, not even in their own home. I even feel bad for the parents though because who wants to live in that constant stress, and they probably are just mimicking what they grew up with. I think one of the parents is even a therapist. I know none of us are perfect, sometimes parents yell, sometimes they lose their temper. When I was going through the worst of my postpartum depression, a lot of yelling was going on, and our home was not a safe space for any of us. If yelling and/or hitting is a regular thing in your home, break the generational curse and please get help for the sake of your kids, future generations, yourself, your pets, and even your babysitters.



Bio: Amanda Dodson Gremillion published her first book in 2012. She began revising it in 2019 and republished it as Just Buy Her A Dress and She’ll Be Fine. The story chronicles her experience with severe postpartum OCD, anxiety and depression. Amanda is a graduate of Auburn University, and now lives in Calera, Alabama, with her husband, Jay, their daughter, Aubrie, and their two dogs, Honey Girl and Cooper. She hopes to write more books in the future. Follow Amanda’s journey on Facebook,  or twitter at https://twitter.com/AmandaGremilli2 and order her book here.  Also, follow her on the Mighty here Amanda Dodson Gremillion | The Mighty Contributor

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