Stray-at-home mums and dads cause devastation

Rita de Brún looks at the devastation caused by the stray-at-home mums and dads who fall for the hired help.
Stray-at-home mums and dads cause devastation

Nanny-romping seems to have become a national pastime. Angelina Jolie reportedly sacked hers because she felt uneasy about the way the young woman behaved when her hubby was around.

This was a few months before she split from Brad Pitt, when their marriage was doubtless in trouble and tensions high.

At the time, nanny suspicion among the jet-set had been fuelled by allegations that Ben Affleck had got close to his and Jennifer Garner’s nanny, Christine Ouzounian.

As for Jen and Ben, they’ve hired another nanny and their choice indicates that while there was a lesson to be learned about the perils of hiring good-looking house staff, Jen clearly didn’t learn it.

What’s ridiculous about this is that Jen is being tut-tutted about — Jen, and not Ben or even the former nanny; just Jen and how — given her experience — she was foolish enough to have hired a nanny who doesn’t look awful.

Most nannies wouldn’t look twice at the father of the kids they mind, let alone take him to bed.

Even so, there seems to be a widespread jaded acceptance that wherever there’s a hired skirt in the house and a pretty one at that, there’s a fair chance that, like a cat after a mouse, hot pursuit by the alpha male will likely follow.

Where this all-pervasive suspicion comes from, nobody knows. But the admission in 2002 by Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall’s nanny that she and the musician had sex in the kitchen of the celeb couple’s family home within two days of meeting, did nothing to assuage the widespread disquiet that exists about the nanny/kids’ dad relationship.

Of course, nannies aren’t the only hired help that pose challenges to couples. Bodyguards have a certain appeal — just ask Heidi Klum, Roseanne Barr and Princess Stéphanie of Monaco.

The late Diana, Princess of Wales, was another royal whose love life spilled over onto home territory. Her affair with James Hewitt, who was employed as her riding instructor, was well documented. Their affair lasted five years.

Dancers too have proved irresistible to their bosses. Maybe it’s something about the way they move. J-Lo wasn’t averse to romancing them. She married her bodyguard and trainer, then later married dancer Cris Judd.

Dance was the medium through which Natalie Portman found her love. The actress married Benjamin Millepied, the man who choreographed her on the Black Swan movie.

There’s a danger in making a habit of having illicit dalliances. David Letterman learned that the hard way when a CBS employee tried to blackmail him for $2m in return for keeping mum about his track record of bedding subordinates.

The extortion plan backfired when Letterman chose to come out about his promiscuous ways rather than pay up.

It’s easy to be judgemental of those who get involved with the hired help. However inappropriate or inconvenient, it must sometimes happen that the hirer and the hired are destined to be together. If that’s the case, who’s to say they should ignore their feelings and look the other way?

Fr Michael Cleary comes to mind. For sure he breached his celibacy vows when at 26 he began a sexual relationship with his 17-year-old housekeeper. But the the pair seemed to share love and affection for several years. She was the hired help but theirs was a family just like everyone else’s.

Sadly, marital infidelity is a yawningly common phenomenon these days, so much so that when Jeremy Clarkson allegedly had an affair with a Top Gear colleague, the world was largely uninterested.

As for the psychology behind the trend for bedding the help, some say there’s a sense of “I’m paying this person so I can take what I want”, a sense of ownership of sorts. But that would be to assume that the boss is always the seducer, and that the hired help is always the seduced and we know that this isn’t the case.

In her autobiography, former White House intern Mimi Alford wrote that JFK “took her virginity”. She wrote that he pulled her into “Mrs Kennedy’s room” and seduced her on his wife’s bed.

She always called him “Mr President”, even when they were between the sheets. This went on for 18 months, so for all the tales of “taking” and “pulling” it’s probably fair to assume that she became a willing partner at some stage in the affair.

University of Washington sociologist Prof Pepper Schwartz has written numerous books and dozens of academic articles on relationships.

She’s also an expert on the reality TV show, Married at First Sight. Her take on the lure of the hired help is: “The fact is that most celebrities and wealthy people spend more time with their hired help — whether it is a personal secretary, bodyguard or nanny — than anyone else in their life.

"They need, or want, to delegate so much of their lives, that those are the people they see the most. In the case of a nanny, the job requires a lot of interaction over children, people that are near and dear to the celebrity’s heart.

"The parent finds solace in this person’s expertise, and let’s face it, submission to their agenda, and so it often turns into lust or love or some compelling mixture of the two.”

While there’s no research as to why it is that men so often have extramarital affairs with women whose livelihoods they control, there’s a long tradition of it. The historic practice of slave owners using slaves for sex tells one story.

The upstairs-downstairs dynamic in which the man of the house bedded scullery maids, as if by right, tells another. Today, we’ve all heard stories of landlords sexually abusing tenants, particularly those who’ve fallen behind with the rent.

There’s a certain comfort in telling ourselves that we need to beware of the hired help. It distracts us from the vulnerability of relationships and how commonplace cheating is.

As for whether the help are helping themselves to your hubby or vice versa or both, is not the issue. It’s the betrayal that hurts, not who caused it or why.

Don’t want your hubby to bed the nanny? 10 (tongue-in-cheek) tips

  • Don’t hire a nanny. Do all the work yourself, or use a creche.
  • Ensure your man and your nanny are never alone together.
  • Impose a house dress code for the nanny, ideally one that doesn’t involve a black dress and white apron.
  • Install nanny cams with the knowledge of the pair you distrust.
  • Reference-check before you hire. Make sure the nanny doesn’t have a history of bedding the dads of the kids she minds.
  • Hire someone who is the opposite of good looking.
  • Hiring a male au pair might do the trick, but only if your hubby is strictly straight.
  • Don’t marry a man with a wandering eye.
  • Don’t marry a man with a track record of cheating.
  • Don’t have kids and don’t marry a man who has kids. That way you won’t need a nanny at all.

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