When Elena Mincheva arrived in Chicago from Russia, she had a plan to jumpstart her new life: become a live-in babysitter.
In April of 2014, she thought she’d found the perfect position. One of the Windy City’s most affluent families moved her into their six-bedroom downtown home to care for their three children.
It seemed perfect at first. The wealthy couple would pay her $150 cash per day and her room and board would be taken care of. Elena had dreams of starting her own family, and this position would allow her to save money and achieve her goal. In the meantime, she hoped for a long-term arrangement with the family so she could be with the children as they grew up.
Unfortunately, as she quickly found out, it was too good to be true.
On Elena’s first day with the family, she cooked some pasta for the children, aged 8, 7 and 4. She handed them their bowls and told them to eat up.
Several minutes later, the mother walked into the kitchen and began berating Elena for not feeding the children. Elena looked over at the 7-year-old and saw that he had not eaten a bite of his pasta. The mother picked up the spoon and began feeding the boy like a toddler.
Elena was shocked that a normal 7-year-old could not feed himself, and that she would be treated so harshly on her very first day.
The main method of discipline in the household was toys. Every day a new Amazon order would come in, filled with $300 of toys for the kids. They would wait with bated breath for the delivery truck each day. When the children misbehaved or otherwise annoyed the mother – for instance, by calling her while she was on a shopping trip in New York City to talk about their new toys – she would threaten to cancel the deliveries.
Though the children were exhausting, Elena quickly realized that the main problem wasn’t the kids; it was the parents. Constantly busy, they rarely showed their children affection or attention. Those duties were almost solely Elena’s. In between cooking, cleaning, laundry, errands and shopping, she needed to play with the kids and help with their schoolwork – and was often tasked specifically with keeping them away from their parents.
The 4-year-old enjoyed waking up early on weekends and going into his parents’ room for a cuddle. The parents did not want to be woken, so they tasked Elena with blocking the stairs each weekend to prevent him from entering their room. This would often end in tears as the boy sobbed about his parents not wanting to cuddle with him.
Elena was often unwillingly dragged into the couple’s frequent arguments. On one occasion, the 7-year-old latched onto his mother’s legs because he didn’t want her to leave him. She told Elena that if she had any capabilities as a nanny, she would put a stop to this. The father responded by telling his wife that if she was a decent mother, she would take care of the children.
After 10 months in the house, Elena decided she’d had enough. Though she loved the kids and had started out with high hopes, she couldn’t take it anymore. She told the couple she was leaving and they forbade her from telling the children. So she had to simply pack her bags and disappear.
Since then, Elena has continued nannying in Chicago, though not for the ultra-rich. Her clients today are mainly middle- and upper-middle class families who appreciate their children and treat her with respect. She has also begun writing a book, Millionaire Nanny, about her time with the wealthy family and the lessons she learned along the way.