The Best Nanny Money Can Buy
It took Zenaide Muneton 20 seconds to convince me that she was the perfect nanny. Short and dark-haired, she has a goofy, beaming smile and knows how to make everything fun for a little kid. Time to brush your teeth? She shakes her hands and does a pantomimed teeth-brushing dance. Bath time? She pumps her arms up and down in a going-to-the-tub march. After I told her I’d love to hire her, she smiled and thanked me.
Then we both laughed, because there is no way I could possibly afford her. As one of New York City’s elite nannies, Muneton commanded around $180,000 a year — plus a Christmas bonus and a $3,000-a-month apartment on Central Park West. I should be her nanny.
I began researching this bizarre microeconomy shortly after my wife and I started looking for someone to watch our son for a few hours a week. We met with several candidates, all of whom had good references and seemed fine with him. Still, we weren’t sure how to judge them. Should we hire the one who seemed to be the most fun? The most experienced? A native English speaker or someone who could speak a foreign language to him? Someone with a college degree? A master’s?
We had no idea. But I began to wonder if price conveyed any important information about the nanny market. All the candidates we spoke with charged about $15 to $18 per hour, which, though standard in our Brooklyn neighborhood, seemed like a bargain when I learned that some nannies charge considerably more than double that rate. Would my son suffer with a midmarket nanny?
This fear led me to the Pavillion Agency, which specializes in finding domestic workers for New York City’s wealthy. Pavillion introduced me to Muneton, 49, who grew up in “a very poor family” in São Paulo. In 1990, she befriended a young American woman who had relocated to Brazil. When Muneton invited her to her family’s home, the woman saw her natural ease with children and suggested that she move to America and become a nanny. Within a few months, Muneton was caring for the children of a rich family in South Carolina for only $100 a week.
When Muneton started working through Pavillion in 2002, however, she increased her salary to $85,000 a year. As she gathered sterling recommendations, she began increasing her pay. Eventually she worked for some of the country’s wealthiest people, whom she accompanied on private jets to many of the world’s most exclusive resorts. Today, she says, “there are no more poor people in my family.” Muneton bought a nice house for her mother, a condo for her sister and a taxi cab each for two of her brothers. She also owns a beach house in Brazil, a penthouse in Miami and two properties (a six-unit building and a duplex) in Los Angeles.