When we found our apartment in Paris’ 7th arrondissement, I couldn’t believe our luck. On the 6th floor with a killer view of the Dome des Invalides, it has honey-colored parquet, classic marble mantles and balconies offering a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. I still pinch myself every time I walk in.
I didn’t think it could get any better. Then we were told that a “chambre de service,” a small independent room that once housed domestic staff, was available in the building. Did we wish to rent it?
For us a chambre de service meant one thing: The chance to finally hire a part-time nanny to help with our two kids. By offering housing in exchange for babysitting, my husband and I would get our long-desired two nights out per week for half the cost of paying an hourly wage. Chic alors!
Living in the States, a nanny felt like an unattainable luxury. But here in Paris, “nounous” seem almost de rigeur. Most French families I know employ them, either to care for kids while both parents work or to give stay-at-home parents those much-needed hours off.
Unlike in the U.S., there is no guilt about this in Paris. Parents are adults and meant to live adult lives. They love their children, bien sûr, but cannot be expected to entertain them all day long. That’s where a nanny comes in.
Nounous in Paris are often immigrants or students just out of school. I knew our room wouldn’t be right for everyone – it was tiny and lacked a bath or shower – but hey, this is France. She’d manage.
I began my search right away hoping to find une jeune francaise to help our kids learn. Simple enough – or so I thought.
Then we met the young Veronique.
A French student from the coastal town of Deauville, Veronique came highly recommended. My husband was home earlier than usual that day, enabling him to participate in the bizarre ritual of sitter interviewing.
I’m not sure what struck me first about Veronique. Was it her tussled blonde mane, micro-mini, bare legs and high-heeled ankle boots? Or could it have been her ridiculously low cut tank top worn sans bra? Ah, yes. That was it.
And if I hadn’t noticed, you can be absolutely certain who did.
My poor husband. I felt almost sorry for the guy. Not because of the nubile – virtually topless – woman in our living room, but because I was right there to observe how he reacted to it all.
In short, he was a perfect gentleman. After some routine questions about her background and experience, we sneaked off to the kitchen to let Veronique engage with the kids.
He looked at me with a half smile and shook his head. “I don’t think this is right. She seems like a party girl. And besides…where would she shower? Here?”
Hmm. Not the first concern that sprang to my mind, but clearly something he’d been considering.
I agreed that Veronique didn’t feel like a fit for us. I had been told that she was bilingual — she had spent a year in Chicago as an au pair — but it seemed like her English was fairly limited with a particular fondness for the phrase, “It’s cool.”
There was too much giggling and hair tossing; far too little interest in the kids. No sitting on the floor, no asking to see their room, no inquiries about their favorite toys. So we parted amicably with me mumbling something about other interviews and being in touch.
As she sauntered out of our apartment and into the Paris evening, I tried to be level-headed. Was I overreacting because she was young and attractive? Put off by her lack of appropriate undergarments?
Well, maybe. But I still didn’t hire her.
As for our nanny search? Ca continue…
- Win a week long stay in Paris and a host of other French-inspired prizes. HIP Paris founder Erica Berman is running a unique fundraiser to raise money for the food insecure. Find out more and enter to win!
- More tales from an expat mother in Paris.
- Whether you live in Paris or are just visiting, one shop attracts visitors and locals alike: Galeries Lafayette Paris Haussmann.
Written by Paige Bradley Frost. Looking to travel? Check out Plum Guide and our Marketplace for fabulous vacation rentals in Paris, France or Italy. Looking to rent long or short term, or buy in France? Ask us! We can connect you to our trusted providers for amazing service and rates or click here. Looking to bring France home to you or to learn online or in person? Check out our marketplace shop and experiences.