Florence Ann Romano is a former nanny and the author of Nanny and Me. She shared her heartbreaking story exclusively with FirstforWomen.com. This is part 1.
I began nannying for family friends when I was 12 years old. They had a son and a daughter, a few years younger than me. Their home in the Chicago suburbs was charming--white with black shutters, a wood floor that creaked in places, and children's bedrooms decorated to fit their personalities. The boy's room denoted a love for sports; the girl's room was pastel, and filled with stuffed animals even once she entered her pre-teen years.
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The parents were loving and perfectly mannered, and education was important to them. They both would talk through their children's homework with me, and tell me how much time to devote to their schooling. They were candid about their kids' grades and weaknesses. This wasn't a red flag for me then, but I now see it was the foundation for what transpired. There were major expectations on the children because they lived in a community that was competitive--over their children's grades, their salaries, and their homes. But the kids put high expectations on themselves, too, because of the people they were and wanted to be.
When I was 17, I was downstairs in the family's kitchen doing dishes, and keeping an eye on the boy. Then, I noticed that the girl had been gone for too long.
I went upstairs, listened at the door, and heard her throwing up. I knocked as I entered, my heart beating so fast because I had a gut instinct that this was not caused by an illness.
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I saw her curled over the toilet, tears staining her pink cheeks. Her skin was so fair that I didn't think it was possible for her to look any paler, but she was white as a ghost.
I immediately kneeled next to her and held back her hair. I said, "Sweetheart, what is it? What's wrong?"
She pulled back from the toilet, and with a shaky voice she looked at me and said, "I can't do it."