Cadbury the Butler Q&A

Family Life in Private Service

Dear Cadbury,
Last night I read through most of the messages on the Butlers Guild message board but did not find anything about family life.

Currently I am a house manager of a large house in Japan with 8 fulltime staff members.

Except the nights of larger dinners, I work 9-5 Monday-Friday, have a month vacation per year and a small 2-bedroom house on property. I don’t have to pay for the utilities (is this usual, or does a HM pay for electricity etc…?). Have my own two cars and 3 motorcycles in the garage, and everything else is provided.

The job seems very safe and will probably last until I retire, the pay is not bad, but should I settle at age 37?? Or should I go out and look for a more exciting job? (I feel a `bit bored)

We have two small children (my wife doesn’t work here), and I am wondering if there is anyone who lives with family or are these “for singles only”??
How common is that the HM lives on property with his/her family, how you deal with schools (for your own kids) etc… Do I need to stay here until my kids grown up???

I would appreciate your views, advice on family life.

Dear Subaru,
My comments are general because I am not familiar with Japanese culture. It is natural and healthy to evaluate one’s employment situation from time to time in order to be certain that there might not be another path that brings more satisfaction in life.

Many House Managers in the USA would be quite envious of your employment. You seem to have a stable situation, with good working conditions and appropriate rewards. But you are bit bored. My recommendation is to look for ways to make improvements- perhaps in being more anticipatory and pro-active in the interest of your employer. Maybe there are ways to improve; perhaps you can take additional training in some area that would benefit your employer. Boredom by definition is the state of being bored; tedium. This is self-imposed and can be self improved upon.

Regarding a family growing up on property- I am familiar with this subject. For the children it can have positive effects such as seeing where a parent works in an intimate way and seeing him/her during the day. The negative effects are the loss of privacy for the children and parental tendency to always expect them to be on their best behavior since you are on property. Long term the thing to be concerned about is the children thinking that they are related to the employer in terms of wealth and attitudes.
– Cadbury

Dear Cadbury,
I began a new House Manager position back in the fall and all was well until the employer’s daughter was kicked out of boarding school. Now the child is being home schooled and makes a point of giving me a hard time. Threatening to get me fired and using bad language are part of her daily agenda. Any suggestions?

Dear O.N.,
The bane of many a Butler / House Manager has been the wayward child that the parents often ignore. Your “child” probably seeks attention by getting your goat. One wishes that the parents would seek appropriate professional help for their offspring and recognize that as a professional you should not be subjected to this type of abuse. Has your job morphed into more than the original job description? My guess is that you are now supposed to “relate” to this young person as a pseudo parent.

My advice is to make your concerns a part of the weekly meeting that I hope you are having with the employers. Patiently explain that as a professional you are sensitive to the privacy of the home and “issues”, but that you are not morally and mentally prepared to be treated to a steady diet of foul language and verbal challenge. After a month or two of this topic coming up on a routine basis, you will need to make the decision as to whether things are improving or whether your resume needs polish.
– Cadbury

Dear Cadbury,
I am the Butler in a formal staffed home. Various family relatives come to visit regularly. Many are younger than I am. My employer asks us to call everyone by their surname. Often the guests will say to me, “please call me Suzanne or Peter”. How do I handle this?

Dear LW,
I know the situation well. My solution was to follow my employer’s directive. When our guests repeated their request, I would say, “I understand what you mean Mr. Peter, but Madam prefers that we call you Mr. Jones around the residence. If we meet during my off time in town, we can be on a first name basis”.
– Cadbury