Monday Problem: I work for a Tiger Mom

Dear Nanny X,

I work for the equivalent of Amy Chua author of “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”. DH is Jewish and an academic, extremely liberal and laid back, Tiger Mom is in finance (7am-5pm full-time on Wall St) but she also : manages to run a successful blog, is on 3 boards (that I know of), maintains a Trust to restore old lighthouses, and micro-manages me and her family 24-7. The couple have two great kids: boys ages 6 and 11, both kids go to a very reputable PS school in the City and take every after-school class imaginable. She hired me because I speak 4 languages, am a college grad and can travel. I’ve been with the family for 2 months.

OK I get that she’s an A personality type and a product of her culture (2nd generation immigrant). I read Chua’s book to get inside Tiger Mom’s head – but honestly …. she’s crazy. When I wake in the morning I have a 3 page email of directives from her that go into minutia detail. She then calls me like 10 times a day to see where I’m at with the list. I get quizzed so much I feel like I’m in some kind of Montauk mind control program. I even dream about her giving me orders. Despite my best efforts I can guarantee that she’ll find something wrong with what I do. 

She does the same with her kids who are really nice boys. We are not allowed to do anything outside of her rigid schedule. I feel really bad for them. Sometimes I want to sneak stuff with them and the temptation to lie to Tiger Mom is now overwhelming. On the other hand I get paid really well and Tiger Mom never screws up my overtime. I feel like I work for a dictator – what should I do?

Simone R

Dear Simone,

this is what you’re up against: someone who is methodical, regimented and probably exceptionally brilliant. It’s really hard for someone like this to work with anyone who is less than  amazing. Let’s be honest you’re probably not an A personality type, you’re more like DH, a nice liberal Jewish girl into the arts, who’s taking a year out from education to … horror of horrors – ‘go with the flow’. 

On paper it computes for Tiger Mom to hire someone like you. She understands that you will act like a ‘Western Culture Pill’ for her over-scheduled nerdy sons. She hopes you will socialize them and make them not seem sooooo weird, and that over time they won’t contemplate running away or jumping off a tall building.

But you also drive her crazy. This is what you look like to her. 

I can visualize her right now feverishly typing out her gigantic lists of commandments at 4am each morning (after a good long work out and a power run … that is). It really bugs her how your hair flops down one side of your head unevenly or how that button is always missing, crap like that will twist her melon for sure and the only way a Tiger Mom can remedy this angst is by completely controlling every aspect of your behavior. I imagine she also dreams about you and thinks about you over the weekends, imagining all kinds of horrors like you buying her sons ice cream or letting them watch the punk kids skate board on the pier. 

So the torture is mutual. If you want to raise your game wear mismatched socks and chew gum. But that’s really all you can do because Tiger Mom is in charge, and this is one boss I would recommend you ‘suck it up with’ because there is no compromising how she wants her children raised. Never ever lie to an employer. It’s immature and disrespectful. This lady works hard and she deserves all the success that comes to her and her family. It sounds like she is fair to you in terms of compensation and hours. The down side is that you like everyone else in the family is subject to her schedule. Personally I think Tiger Moms rock but I wouldn’t want to work for one. 
Nanny X