I had few illusions that the very wealthy actually bother to raise their own kids, having known a few who spent more time with their nanny or governess than Mom or Dad, but found this story depressing on a few levels:
Even though the wealthy are cutting back, there are some things they simply can’t live without: like household staff.
- Everett Collection
Yet rather than employing the high-price armies of the boom times-–the chef, maids, chauffeurs, gardeners, security guard. household managers, estate managers–the wealthy are combining the jobs. Jeeves and Mr. Belvedere are out. “Alice,” from the Brady Bunch is in.
“We’re getting a lot of requests from clients saying ‘What we want is someone who can do it all from cooking, cleaning, to paying the bills and watching the kids,” said Steven Laitmon, co-founder of The Calendar Group, a Connecticut staffing and consulting firm for wealthy households. “They want their own ‘Alice.’ ”
This may sound obvious–but who wouldn’t love an Alice in their home?
Such requests mark a big shift from the runaway growth of the past decade, when the wealthy staffed their mansions with all manner of highly trained specialists and then found themselves overwhelmed by the management headaches, huge payrolls and occasionally poor, institution-like service. “People wanted to staff their homes like boutique hotels,” said Nathalie Laitmon, Calendar’s other founder. “That’s very different from a home.”
Today’s wealthy want a much smaller staff–preferably one person–that can make life simpler, not more complicated. Some are making the shift to save money. Others are doing it to project a lower-key image at a time of status-backlash.
The Laitmon’s said a Greenwich, Conn., client recently hired a chef who also could be their cleaning person, so the family wouldn’t been seen by their peers as “the family with a private chef.”
My retail job north of Manhattan, in which I often served many of these people, was sadly instructive. Their entire world is staffed with servants, whether on their payroll or not. Their sense of entitlement knows no bounds.
If you’ve got the talent, and have honed it sufficiently to work as someone’s private chef, why the hell would you want to clean the windows as well?