Tessa Reed wakes up before sunrise on weekdays, long before most people hit the snooze button for the first time. She leaves the one-bedroom apartment she shares with her boyfriend and their cat, and drives about two miles from Midtown Kansas City, Mo. to a five-bedroom house in the more affluent neighborhood of South Plaza. Forget a 9 to 5, she arrives at her job before 6:00
The house is, for all intents and purposes, his second home. It’s also his office. Reed, 27, is a house manager, although she half-jokingly refers to herself as estate manager, due to the scope of her responsibilities. She, along with a small support staff, cooks, cleans, makes appointments, does home repairs and manages the lives of a family of four that includes two young children and their parents, both doctors with very busy schedules.
Before anyone in the house got up, Reed came in, packed lunches, tried to put everything in order, and double-checked the day’s schedules. Then it’s time to wake up the five and seven year olds for school before they start their routine to make sure everyone’s day goes like clockwork. Well, as long as it’s under her control – and she’s in control of a lot of it.
“I’m a paid extra family member,” says Reed. She considers herself a third parent, collaborating with her bosses on almost everything related to their home and family, so they can focus on their careers.
There’s an age-old question: is it possible to have it all? And what are you willing to sacrifice? Is it possible for anyone to reconcile family life and a high-level career? It’s no secret that it’s often not a problem for men in positions of power, whereas women too often are. forced to choose between the two. But those who make it to the top know the truth: no one can have it all without lots of paid help. This is where Reed comes in.
Reed worked as a house manager, if not fully titular, for eight years. She started out as a nanny for children in a family friend’s foster home. After a while, she realized that the kids were on their schedules and didn’t really need her full attention, so she got into other aspects of housekeeping. home.
“I had to learn on the job what it takes to run a household and how to anticipate a family’s needs, how to cook, shop and budget, schedule and keep up with multitasking,” says Reed.
Find the perfect family
After three years of learning what it takes to be a full-time housekeeper, she was ready for a change. Reed’s sister, a doctor in Kansas City, dropped her information in a local Facebook group for doctors and medical professionals. Demand was high.
She interviewed six families by telephone. The process required it to be deliberate.
“It’s such a personal job. It probably took me about a month, a month and a half, to figure out which family I wanted to go with,” Reed says. She spoke with the families about parenting styles, schedules, religious backgrounds and their expectations for the role.
It was important for Reed to understand the delineation of duties – what responsibilities she had and where she could collaborate with the parents. She wanted to be on the same page but avoid micromanaging. She was looking for trust.
“I was mostly trying to find a family whose parents weren’t nervous,” Reed says. “Parents who were able to entrust me with tasks and trust me. It also comes with time. It took a while for my boss to completely trust me as much as he does now.
The family she works with now is the only family she decided to meet in person during her job search.
A paid family member
Her two bosses work long hours, sometimes 24 hours a day. The mother once worked 14 consecutive night shifts at the hospital. Reed is there for the children in the mornings and often in the evenings. She takes care of them, as if they were her own, she says. She has been with them almost all their lives.
“I love these children as if they were my own,” Reed said. “I am another trusted adult in their life. I think they are very lucky to have a good team of people around them who love them.
Once the kids are in school, Reed’s day turns into a mundane one filled with errands and chores that most people would consider a burden. Every day is a little different as she sketches out time at the grocery store, takes cars for maintenance, answers teachers’ emails and takes care of home repairs. There is always more to learn, she says. Most of the household stuff she had on Google at one time or another. The house has been flooded three times and she swears the garage door is still broken.
“I kind of feel like a garage door mechanic now. I can tinker and fix a lot of things,” she says. “But the 24/7 repairmen saved the day too many times to count.”
When she started, Reed supported the mother and her two children, while the father was completely a camaraderie over 11 hours away. They were in a two-bedroom apartment in the Union Hill neighborhood of Kansas City. It was during this time that Reed established a close relationship with the family, living with them at least once a month as the mother juggled a hectic work schedule.
As his bosses’ careers took off and the kids grew up, Reed took on more responsibility.
Reed earns around $45,000 a year as the manager of the family home. His bosses also provide him with a car – a necessity for driving the children to school, speech therapy, doctor’s appointments, piano lessons and karate – car insurance, private health insurance and, in bonus, says Reed since she cooks the meal and does the shopping, she also often eats for free.
Her employers gave her a credit card that she mainly uses for groceries or to pay for classes and extracurricular activities.
“I love decorating the house for the holidays and helping to throw parties,” she says. “I’m really involved in enrichment for the family. I’m passionate about it.
She sets her own schedule for the most part, as long as she’s back to pick up the kids from school, transport them to their extracurricular activities, and be there to cook dinner and do evening routines. As much as his bosses work and the nature of their job requires him to be flexible and available if there is a sick child, a day off or any number of contingencies.
For the first three years with the family, Reed did everything herself: cooking, cleaning, laundry, childcare, chores, everything.
“It was very difficult when the pandemic arrived, and the children were doing school online at home. I was there all day and just didn’t have enough time to do anything,” she says. “I definitely had to ask for more help. I was drowning in too many things to do.'”
Since then, the couple have hired additional housekeepers who come in once a week, and Reed also has a partner who comes in a few times a week to help with things like laundry and keeping the house tidy. The family also has a resident au pair from France who also helps with childcare.
“It’s great to have a team to collaborate with, or just to be able to take a sick day without the whole family structure falling apart,” Reed says.
The family plans to move into a new house soon. It’s bigger and has some of the features they wanted in their current home. There are even three working garage doors. The top floor has several bedrooms, bathrooms and an additional kitchen which will serve as an apartment for the au pairs.
It’s a bigger field, Reed says, and it will be “a whole new ballgame.” She will need to add “hire and manage a landscaper” to her to-do list.
Moves like this, and changes to Reed’s scope of responsibilities are recorded and evaluated annually. She and her bosses audit the operations of the house and what it takes to keep the family and the house running. They look at what’s working, what’s not working, what needs to change, and she makes sure to always ask for a cost of living increase.
There’s no tension in those conversations, Reed says, she’s become an integral part of their lives. She considers them friends.
“We love spending time together,” she says. “Does that mean I’m going to their house on weekends?” No. But am I going to invite them to a Halloween party? Yeah.”
The relationship goes far beyond the limits of the kind of friendship it has become. In each other, they found not only valuable collaboration and trust, but also a sense of family. She also recognizes the value she brings to their lives.
“It’s very difficult for people to find consistent child care, let alone home care, that meets high standards with a lot of transparency,” she continues. “It’s a big responsibility to have someone working in your home and working with your children… I really imagine myself living my life and being involved with their family for a long time, whether it’s with them or not. They don’t have family in town, so that is our family. They feel like my second family.