Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Brazilian Nannies Realize Their Power

Nannies are a fact of life in Brazil and they are starting to realize the power in that. That's why it didn't surprise me too much to see an article about it in the New York Times.

While the article was based in São Paulo, I'll tell you that nanny prices are going up here in Rio de Janeiro. Things have changed quite a bit in the 4.5 yrs it's been since I had my oldest. I have seen friends fire their nannies (who were actually more my friends than the Mothers seeing that they were the ones who I met up with at the park) over money and time off.

Every once in a while you'll see the Mothers stomping into the playground with a new baba (nanny) in tow. You can just see the joy written all over their face.

One woman openly complained about her recently fired nanny's request for a R$400 a month raise and weekends off. The nerve of her! Seriously, she actually said that, the nerve of her. Let's look at the facts for a minute:

1. The daughter was 2 at that point and the nanny had raised her from birth. She stayed in the hospital with the Mother post delivery!
2. For 2 years the nanny stayed at the home 24hrs a day except for Sundays. She was allowed to leave at 10am on Sunday morning and had to be back Monday at 8am, and they were not pleased about giving her that.
3. She was making R$800 a month for all this.

Personally, I was rooting for the nanny and I told this friend that. At that moment the going rate had gone up to R$1200 for nannies and full time maids up to R$800. It's not cheap to have full time help and it shouldn't be.  Maids and nannies are taking care of your home. Hell, nannies are raising your children! I do believe this goes under one of the things you don't skimp on in life.

If it pisses you off that much, maybe you should raise your own children. Working parents can put them into school full time and be there in the evening to pick them up. Be the one to give them their dinner, bath, and put them to bed. And no, you won't be able to go out and see that movie because you don't have a live-in babysitter. Suck it up! It's called being a parent.

By the way, the nanny I mentioned found a new job right away with the pay and time off she deserved. The Mother put her daughter into full time school and expected the maid to do the rest.

On a side note, you should read the article. It's hilarious to read about women complaining that middle class families can not afford nannies. One woman even referred to the nannies as mafia, as she picked her child up from a private school. I'm amazed by the feeling of entitlement people have here when it comes to cheap labor. Do they really not realize that they are attempting to hold another person down?


  1. I am still in culture shock from even learning that so many people in Brazil HAVE maids and nannies. I mean it! When I found out that this was a normal thing I was blown away. And still am.

    In all of my 37 years I have never had anyone clean my house or watch my children aside from my mother in law. I could even count on one hand the number of times my own mother has babysat her own grandchildren but that's another story. I'm pretty much with my children 24/7 365 and they are 10 and 12.Some parents at this age, are already leaving them home alone. If I'm not with them then they are with my mother in law which I'm very thankful for this.

    I would hate to know how much I would owe her if she would accept payment for all of the care she has given.

    I think these people who complain about any of this should move their butts to the U.S. where they have to be freaking SUPERMOMS and be expected to work full time, do all the cooking and cleaning, run the kids everywhere AND be a wonderful wife all at the same time. I'd LOVE to hear what they would say about their maids and nannies then!

  2. If you have a maid or God forbid a nanny here, you are thought to be rich, spoiled and a neglectful or bad parent.

    There are a few people I know that might have someone clean their house once a month but nothing like in Brazil.

  3. Frankly most people in Brazil are paid pitiful wages. And rich people can't even probably budget their out to eat expenses on the money I make teaching. But people who clean our homes, take care of our children and teach our children should be paid fair wages (me included dammit!!!). Or I think you can expect only problems and bad workers, because really that's what you deserve in your house.

    Now, I have someone who helps me once a week in my house or twice a week depending on my work load. BUT I pay her really really well so that I don't worry about stealing, lying, bad work and I actually can talk with her without being ashamed about myself. Hell, I could be saving some more money and we all know how expensive Brazil is, but face it we're lucky!!! Half the world can't even think about Nannies or house cleaners. They are just worried about food and housing. I would rather sleep well at this point guilt free than save a couple hundreds heais.

  4. Rachel,

    I read this same article and thought it funny that the middle class mother's were bringing in nannies from the interior because they are more "humble". Of course, those of us in Brazil know that "humble" is code for "more easily exploitable"!

  5. Rio is a lot cheaper than S.P. if those prices are correct ( R$1200 for nannies and maids R$800).
    My friend from SP pays R$3000 for 2 helpers at home.

  6. Rachel,

    "Entitlement" is the key word in this discussion.
    This people carry a mentality inherited from the time of slavery in Brazil.
    Remember, Brazil never had a several war to "end" slavery the way the US did, so it kind of faded away slowly as an instituion, but the sense of "entitlement" persists.
    Good for these young "babas" and "maids" conquering a better position in society for themselves. It's only gonna get worse for the middle class folks who want to hire help.
    Cost of living in Brazil is insane, no wonder these people are demanding higher salaries.
    Most people I know in Sao Paulo have given up the monthly maids and can only afford a couple of days a week and in many cases just once a week maid.


  7. Its funny, I am reading the book "The Help" which I encourage you to read if you havent.. and I can't help but compare a lot of this nanny stuff here with the 1960's in the South. I hear stories in SP of the way nannies and help are treated (this is not a generalization) and the expectations are pretty awful! Even the children treat them bad and they have to learn to accept it, the class differences here sometimes sound like modern day slavery. I think Ray put it best, entitlement is the key word! Its disgusting. People I know are now going up to northern Brazil to find people and fly them down so they can get them at cheaper wages... and not have to put up with things like "vacation," "breaks," and oh my gosh better wages! Can you imagine? Having to raise your own kids AND clean the house! Its archaic!

  8. I prefer to call them "Indentured Slaves".

    Just kidding

  9. I certainly noticed that Brazilians like to keep the poor, poor. It's an attitude you will see everywhere. Go to any salon and watch the upper class get nails painted, waxed, and massaged by the same service person, then hand them a 2R on the way out ($1)- disgusted me every time.

  10. Anonymous,

    It's not a matter of "liking" it, nobody enjoys keeping anyone poor. It's actually much worse. They just think this is the way things are supposed to be. If you are born "white", "middle class", you have a maid, a nanny. If you are a little better off, you might even have a cook, a driver and it goes on and on.
    It is a class thing and an sentiment of entitlement. It's like you are white, you have "blue" blood, you deserve to be served on by "the others", the less fortunate.
    My mother's best friend lived in Salvador in the early 70's and she told us they used to be able to hire maids for a plate of food. People were so poor that you could find people willing to clean your house in exchange for a plate of food. She actually got in trouble with her neighbors because she couldn't stand the abusive relationship, so she paid her maid what she used to pay her maids in Sao Paulo.
    Needless to say, all the maids in the building started asking for salaries and her neighbors were very upset.
    I don't think you could get a maid anywhere in Brazil today in exchange for a hot meal.
    It's about time these maids and nannies demand for more, I guarantee it, there will be others who can afford their services. Many middle class folks will have to grab the bucket with bleach and start scrubbing. :)


  11. I think they should get a better salary but NOT R$4000 IF THEY HAVE NO EDUCATION. Someo of them didn't even finish middle or high school.
    They should get a better schedule and receive more for sure although they should earn less than one who studied 10 years more than them.

  12. i'm with you! having lived in the US for most of my life where my mother is a "cleaning lady" and having some family members work as nannies or "the help", in general and able to make a decent living there - seeing the same thing happening in Brazil makes me happy that we're finally realizing how important these professions are to us.

    as for nannies in brazil, or anyhere really, you said it all when you said - they take care of your CHILDREN! if you can pay R$3.000/month for schooling, why not pay your nanny that?

    the rich in brazil need to get off their high horses and realize that just because they have a college education, or don't have a management position, it doesn't make their job more important than someone else's!

  13. i'm the first anonymous poster- i meant to say no one keeps the poor, poor "like" the brazilians. which again, is my opinion, broad or not.

    and i actually disagree with the second anonymous person as the education system in Brazil is soooooo unlike North America. in North America, everyone is given a chance at good free education, and if you can't make something out of that, in most cases, it's your own fault. in other parts of the world (such as brazil), this is not the reality for many people. brazilians employ hard working people who are trying their best to raise their own families too- how many hours you studied doesn't mean much to me....except that you are lucky.

  14. Anonymous,

    The Brazilian nannies and maids will get R$4,000.00 a month if there are people willing to pay them this amount, and there is nothing anyone can do about it. Regardless of their school level, if there is people willing to pay for it, they will get the money.
    Brazilian cars are awful, and still are the most expensive in the world, because there are enough idiots who pay an arm and a leg for these crappy little cars. If Brazilians stopped buying cars for a couple of months, you would watch prices plunge really fast.
    The same thing with maids and nannies, if they start demanding more money, and there is enough wealthy people to pay them R$4,000.00 a month, they will get those salaries and work for the rich and the middle class will have to learn how to clean their own toilets and change diapers.


  15. I had an interesting conversation today with my Portuguese teacher (born and bred Carioca). She asked me if I was going to have a second child (that would be born in Brasil), and I replied that I was not planning to.

    Her immediate reply was, "Why not? Just get a baba (nanny), it's so easy to have kids in Brasil. The nanny does everything."

    And she said it so quickly, naturally, and comfortably, like it was second nature. I know for a fact that her 3 children were raised by nannies (per her report), so this exchange just confirmed to me how very deeply natural and ingrained it is in Brasil to have nannies.


  16. It's supply and demand. Some nannies are also learning English to get into the expat circle. That is where the money is really at! And expats have a tendency of treating them better because the maid thing isn't part of our culture.

    I will say, many of the nannies do not get a chance to get the education they deserve. Just because they are not formally educated doesn't mean they deserve slave wages. This idea that the poor don't deserve to make a decent living is basically the continuation of slave like treatment. People are keeping them down.

    For not only their sake but the sake of the country as a whole, it's better for them to make a decent wage and be able to take care of their family. Their children will have more opportunities because of that and thus continue the upward movement. That is the goal of a country, to bring everyone up. People really need to stop focusing just on themselves and what they want in life

  17. disagree with anon who thinks nannies should make little because of education-- no one really goes to "nanny school" no one even goes to parent school--taking care of children isnt really a teachable thing. in my opinion (and i dont have kids) taking care of children all day everyday is HARDER than any damn job anyone could get after having gone to "college" much less a brazilian college which is not accessible to most. Nannies should be paid not only fair, but high wages. Oh wait-but then how can a middle class afford a nanny if they make the same wage? Oh they cant! nannies are not for average people, they are a luxury and should be viewed in the same way that we pay for other luxuries-such as spa visits or vacation packages to disney world. ie pricy. people fork out a ton for that so they should expect to do the same for nannies. good for rio and sp nannies for pushing Brazil toward the modern in this!

  18. I think its 100% fair they receive more money to work as a nanny in brazil. They should get a decent schedule and payment. But I still believe education means something....all over the world a masters/phd graduate will receive more than a nanny and it should be no different in Brazil. Most of the nannies receive usd 400-450 a week in the US and get about 7000-1500 Euros a month in Europe. (average) and I dont know anyone with a Masters or PHD who gets paid that.

    I am sorry Ray but its not the same as buying cars in brazil! the price of the cars are exorbitant mostly because of high taxes. Nannies are widely available all over Brazil and 99% of them work for 1 or 2 salarios minimos outside SP and RIO.

  19. If a nanny wants $4,000.00 a month then she better have something else to offer than just baby sitting. Otherwise I would rather try and send my baby to a private school. That is why I do think you should have an education if you want big money. That is the way it is all over the world the more your have to offer on your resume education/experience wise the more money you get paid. Same as in a regular job that I could try too apply for anywhere. Why are they going to offer me a salary that someone with a degree and experience is gonna get? They don't pay applicants with a limited education and language skills top dollar they pay the ones with the education the big money. You have to have something "extra" something "more" to get paid big bucks. I think that makes complete sense.

  20. This is a very interesting topic, and I am flooded with thoughts from a variety of angles. One, my sister-in-law works for salario as a maid/babysitter/housecleaner in MG. She's always changing jobs, and currently is caring for a disabled adult. She has no desire to change her life and seems quite happy to live with her mom and say things like "I only buy perfume that costs $R100 or more. I think having 2 brothers in the USA, sending help every now and then, contributed to her bad attitude. She finished HS and could certainly go on to college, but has decided to party and vacation, quitting a job whenever she wants time off.

    I was a nanny in the USA for 10 years. I was paid poorly and I was paid well. My last job of 6 years paid for the final 2 years of university for me. This was a very generous family whom I now consider friends. They really taught me what it meant to love your fellow citizen.

    At times I've had a housecleaner 2x a month in the USA- and that was wonderful. At the same time, I don't really like other people poking around in my house. I'm not sure when we'll have the $$$ for a maid, but I do like the occasional help.

    Here in the rural Rondonia area, there isn't a huge poor population, so not as many people have maids. The richest family in our town (probably nets R$20,000/month) does not have any domestic help.

    Women can't wait for society to change, they have to get education (more than men) and pursue THEIR dreams.

    And good for the nannies asking for more. That's how I got tuition paid- I know the family seriously relied on me, and if they wanted me they would give more.

  21. Higher salary, lesser people willing to pay, less job opening and more competition. Maids in Brazil will be just like in 1st world country, for the really really rich.
    Middle class will just have to deal with their own shit.
    I can clean a house and take care of kids, this is not rocket science. The help is great but not a necessity, like say, making a car. Now THAT I can't make on my own.