The job posting for a “household manager/cook/nanny” in Silicon Valley that went viral this week is more than 1,000 words long. But that number does not begin to capture the specificity of the ad’s requirements. The ad, posted by a CEO and mother of 10-year-old twins in Menlo Park, California, seeks an ideal candidate who can “conduct research into domestic and global vacation options,” and is a “great, consistent” cook who can “correctly quantify how much fish to purchase for five people” and accommodate the family’s complex food allergies (chicken eggs are out—duck eggs are OK). The right candidate can swim in the ocean, bodysurf, and “likes river swimming.” The preferred schedule is Sunday through Thursday, because “Mom is a CEO and needs to relax on weekends.”
When screenshots of the ad hit Twitter on Thursday, it became an immediate sensation. The posting felt like a peek into the lives of the 1 percent, to be sure: the job is to run the household “with the assistance” of a housekeeper, an au pair, a property manager, and a “gardener/handyman.” But it seems to have struck a deeper chord than mere voyeurism. “I challenge you to find ANYTHING more bananas bat shit than THIS,” tweeted one writer, sharing screenshots of the ad in a post that was retweeted more than 3,000 times. The Daily Mail sneered at the ad for a “VERY overqualified nanny” who “must work weekends so the busy CEO can relax.” The Guardian asked whether it was “the most demanding ad for a nanny ever.”
The mother who posted the ad doesn’t see it that way. Slate tracked her down yesterday with a little investigative Googling, and she agreed to talk as long as she could remain anonymous. She said she had not intended for the detailed version of the ad to circulate so widely. She’d been working with a search firm specializing in nanny placements, but the firm was sending candidates with the wrong set of expertise—caregivers specializing in babies, for example. To help the agency screen candidates and craft interview questions, she wrote a much more detailed listing. That job description was initially intended for internal use, she said, although she said she did post it on one “confidential” job board. From there, it took on a life of its own.
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Ruth Graham: How did you set about writing this ad?
I had a great nanny for five and a half years with our family. When the kids started school I placed her with a Google family that had baby boy twins. She’s now been with them for five-and-a-half years, and they love her deeply. This is important because I’m one of the most loving, kind people around, and I build wonderful, long-term relationships.
Then I had an au pair. Then at a certain point when the kids started getting into sports activities that were the exact same time but in different locations, I realized that what I really needed was one-and-a-half au pairs. Because you can have one kid who’s got soccer at 3:30 and then another kid whose got soccer at 3:30, and it’s 20 miles apart. And I didn’t want my au pair to get burned out. So I decided to have two au pairs. For the last two years, I’ve had two wonderful au pairs, and they’re like family members.
I love my children and I think about them 24 hours a day. What I realize now is that, like a lot of working executives and working moms, I’m spending a significant amount of my time doing research and organizing. If you just think about all the time it takes to book summer camps and spring camp and after-school activities and it’s time to sign up for flag football and it’s time to sign up for volleyball, there’s a lot of executive functioning program management that you can outsource. The reason why I want to outsource it is because for me, all I really want to do is run my business well and be the best mom ever.
Why do you think the ad went viral?
I’m sure you’ve read the I Need A Wife article that was in Ms. Magazine in 1971. It’s 39 years later, and as a working woman, I need a wife. Our society is broken. Here it is January, and I’m having to spend hours of my time, like late at night, trying to figure out summer camp and get them signed up for sports and all that. [I’m a single parent,] but if I had a two-parent household, I would assume that the other parent would at least be doing some of that, one would hope. Although, again, most women tell me that they have to do it all. So I think that people related to the post because it’s absolutely true. If you’re a working woman, you need a wife.
Also I think a lot of people read the post, and women attack women. We live in a sexist society. And so, of course, women are sexist because they live in a sexist society. If I were Scott McNealy, former CEO of Sun Microsystems, and I’d done this ad, nobody would think twice.
How much does this job pay?
It’s $35 to $40 an hour. Then there’d be time and a half for any overtime. And if the person wanted, they could live in our pool cottage, and the rental value for that is about $3,000 a month. They’d get a car that they could use exclusively for themselves; that’s valued at about $800 a month. There’d be paid days off, paid holidays, vacation pay, health benefits and the person would get to travel with us. We do some pretty cool vacations. We go to Europe a lot. We always stay in really nice places and have a lot of fun. And we travel to Hawaii, Central America. And when that person would be traveling, that person would only be working eight to nine hours a day.
You specifically mention “river swimming” in the ad. Is that a priority?
I need somebody who is physically active. My kids and I love to swim in rivers. We’re really into river swimming. We’re into going to rivers and swimming through caves in rocks and also climbing rocks and diving off the rocks. I was trying to give some examples of what I meant by “strong and physically fit,” because I had problems before when I’ve recruited au pairs where I’ve said “must be physically fit,” et cetera, and even when I’ve said “must be able to run a mile,” the person shows up and there’s no way they could run even an eighth of a mile. I wanted to make sure that the agency would be able to screen like: Can you swim in a river? Can you swim against a current? Can you swim in the ocean? Can you body surf?
You also have a line in there that the person should have “room in their hearts to love the kids and the mom.” What is the thinking behind that requirement?
I’m a loving person. I love the people I work with in my business. I love the people I work with in my home. My housekeeper, who’s the cousin of my former nanny, we love each other like sisters. I think that’s an under-utilized word and an under-utilized idea: love and respect and patience and tolerance. Those things are important to me. I don’t want somebody who’s just going to show up and do their job. I want somebody who over time I can develop a close, warm relationship with. I would say most people around here have that with their nanny.
We’re not talking working at Oracle, or at Salesforce. We’re talking working in my home, in my family. I always include our nanny or our au pair in the family portrait.
What do you say to the people who think your expectations are too high, or that this is a job description for an imaginary person or a superwoman?
I don’t think it’s a superwoman. There are a lot of women who are good at sports, right? Then you’re looking at somebody who will have a few hours of uninterrupted time to do projects, planning, shopping, and stuff like that, and then they’ll spend a few hours cooking and a few hours with the kids.
If you find a good candidate who can’t meet every single one of these criteria, are there certain things that would be real deal-breakers?
I put in the list what’s preferred and what’s necessary. I would love it if the person were a strong skier and could arrange ski vacations. Most families go on ski vacations with the husband and the wife, right? Usually one of the parents is the stronger skier or they’ll tag team taking the kids out. But for me, if I take them skiing alone, I mean, that’s exhausting, right? Having somebody who’s great at skiing, who likes skiing, is really good.
But the important [qualifications] are what differentiates the nice, grandmotherly baby nanny from this wife type is the executive functioning: the ability to plan, to do research, to make good decisions about “this is the right flag football team versus that one and this is why.” It’s intelligence, education, analytical skills, thoughtfulness. That’s not like a superwoman or super nanny. Most of the moms you know probably have all of that.