Sunday

A Letter to Employers

Sunday, March 18, 2007
Perspective & Opinion
In my time as a nanny, I have noticed some interesting ideas on the part of families on what a nanny is supposed to be and what she is supposed to do. These expectations often end up being out of sync with the tasks that were agreed upon when the job began. Both nannies and au pairs have similar experiences.

A nanny or an au pair is supposed to care for your children and tasks relating directly to your children. These tasks can vary from the typical day-to-day playdates, cleaning up after the children and personal care to responsibilities like doctor's appointments and special trips taken with your children. Most (good) nannies and au pairs don't mind doing these things. However, I've noticed a trend of gradually increasing responsibilities without additional compensation and expecting these child caregivers to take care of activities that are decidely not related to children. These reasons are often cited as why a nanny left a former position.

Your nanny is not your personal assistant or your housekeeper. Unless you agreed upon special tasks not relating to your children when you hired her, it is not reasonable to expect her to pack your family for a move across town, weed the garden or do a variety of household chores because your maid service is not coming on a given week. It is equally unreasonable to invite other children over for an entire day without having mentioned this to the nanny beforehand so that she can prepare. Your nanny is not a free neighborhood babysitter. Please do not invite several other children over under the guise of a playdate when you fully intend on leaving your home for hours unbeknowst to the parent's of the other children. There is very little more awkward than explaining to Timmy's mom that Mrs X went to get her hair done around noon and you haven't seen her since. It is not fair to leave your nanny with the additional work of several extra children at a moment's notice and not to compensate her for that additional work. On a similar note, if your nanny is supposed to be done at a certain time, do not wait until 5 minutes before she's set to leave to ask her to do something time consuming for your children. Her job may seem simple or even trivial to you, but she's a person with a life of her own and her time is just as valuable as yours. It's not okay expect her to bend to your every whim.

If you'd like to add a specific duty to your nanny's day, discuss it with her face to face. There is very little more disconcerting than discovering a list of tasks that are to be completed by the end of the day, especially if these tasks had not previously been agreed upon as part of the job. It traps the nanny and creates a great deal of awkwardness, especially for a girl who lives in and might be afraid of being fired/homeless if she does not comply. If you want *your* bedroom closet organized, do not assume your child's caregiver won't mind being asked to do it. Every half hour your nanny spends doing a task you've assigned is a half hour she's not spending with your children. If your children are gone for a portion of the day, discuss with your nanny how you'd like her to spend her time and come to an agreement. Do not assume.

It is reasonable for your nanny to sit down and eat lunch. She is not being lazy. All people need to eat, drink, use the bathroom, etc. If you come home during the day and your nanny is eating, please don't look at her like she's guilty of a capital crime. Additionally, demanding she get up and do whatever task you've just thought of is not reasonable either. Nannies cannot leave work to go get lunch the way you do. Whether the food comes from your fridge or she brings her own lunch, she has a right to eat lunch in a reasonable amount of time. Finally, if you would like your nanny to do something differently, tell her. Nannies, communicate with your family. Getting written agreements about job description, additional responsibilities and compensation that comes with those responsibilities can help keep everyone on the same page. If you do communicate well with your child's caregiver, you may find you have difficulty keeping one employed.

-"NannyNinja"

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

zzzzzzzzzzz
I couldn't stand to do more than skim it. Sorry, nanny.

Kate said...

Well, I say AMEN! You are right on, and have stated all the common complaints of nannies in a very professional manner. I wish I had the guts to print this off and send it to my former employers...

Anonymous said...

good points.

Anonymous said...

8:29,
you are probably the type of employer that when your nanny tries to address these issues with you, you zone out into lala land! these are real concerns of many nannies out here! we are often taken for granted and are assumed to be mary poppins and the cleaning lady all in one! please employers, try to remember that the main reason you hired us is to care for your children. anything besides that is a bonus for you! be good to your nannies, they know all the good dirt on you and take care of the most important thing in your life!

a nanny

Anonymous said...

As an employer, I generally agree with your points. However, as an employer who had a bad nanny experience, some nannies take too narrow a definition of child care. As the OP says, communication is key. My advice to nannies is listen carefully to what is said on an interview and ask your potential employer to describe a typcial day in detail, including all the tasks involved before you take a job and then decide it is what you want. For example, my definition of lite housework includes emptying diaper pails and any other trash recepticles where you may have tossed a dirty diaper during the day. Although I don't expect my nanny to leave my baby on the changing table to wash out his soiled clothes, I do not want to come home to poop covered clothes in the bathroom sink. (BTW I could have resigned myself to living with these things if she did a good job with my child, but she couldn't even bother to bathe the baby to clean the poop off him).

Anonymous said...

As an employer, I generally agree with your points. However, as an employer who had a bad nanny experience, some nannies take too narrow a definition of child care. As the OP says, communication is key. My advice to nannies is listen carefully to what is said on an interview and ask your potential employer to describe a typcial day in detail, including all the tasks involved before you take a job and then decide it is what you want. For example, my definition of lite housework includes emptying diaper pails and any other trash recepticles where you may have tossed a dirty diaper during the day. Although I don't expect my nanny to leave my baby on the changing table to wash out his soiled clothes, I do not want to come home to poop covered clothes in the bathroom sink. (BTW I could have resigned myself to living with these things if she did a good job with my child, but she couldn't even bother to bathe the baby to clean the poop off him).

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:48

Seems to me you need better diapers or you need to change your childs diet if you have pooped filled clothing daily. This can't be healthy.

Taking out diapers is not the problem. I've never stuck a poop filled diaper in a pail, have always taken it straight to the garbage. You can also buy individual bags to put the diaper inside of before putting it in the pail if you must.

Anonymous said...

As an employer, I make it very clear I expect my nanny to do more than just babysit my kids, but some of the examples here are ridiculous. My nanny makes sure the house is in order and things are laid out for the next morning when I get home every night from work so I can focus on reviewing the kids homework and playing with them for the few hours I have with them in the evening before they need to go to bed. This may include mopping a mess, always includes sweeping and includes taking out the trash from the day. My weekly housekeeper deals with any heavy cleaning, but a nanny position is not a no housework position. I believe that is one of the distinction between a babysitter and a nanny--a babysitter just stays with your kids until you get home and leaves the house in whatever state it is in. A nanny is like a third parent, setting good examples for the kids on how to keep a home clean and teaching them to take responsibility for their messes by having them help keep the house tidy. Employers who don't allow their nannies lunch (and provide lunch) don't deserve them, but there is nothing wrong with expecting more than mere babysitting from a nanny.

Anonymous said...

weed her garden? clean? thankfully my employer has a landscaper and 2 maids. sometimes,rarely, i do pick up drycleaning for her, sometimes,also quite rarely, i go to the grocery store for her...but she is always very appreciative of what i do to help her out. I love my employer and the whole family and its a returned feeling. Its so nice to be told that you are part of the family. ( but kinda odd to be told that you are like a " second mom"..that was weird and i really didn't know what to say)

Anonymous said...

I agree with 100% the OP, and I am a mom, not a nanny.

I also agree with 10:48, and that is why my nanny contract defines "childcare."

I refuse to pay someone to act as a warm body to sit with my kids. I love my children and hire only women who contribute to my children's emotional and physical developement.

Anonymous said...

1:06,
no wonder you have to do homework with your kids when you get home. your "nanny" is too stupid to do it before you get home. of course she is also probably busy scrubbing the rim of your toilets!

NannyNinjaLover said...

Whoo Hoo! I love you NannyNinja! I couldn't have said it better myself!!!!!!!! Good job!

ark said...

i think you forgot to cover what happens when the nanny and employer go their seperate ways. I know of three cases where the nanny was with the family (all for over 3 years) and the employer either out of anger for the nanny leaving or mental imbalance made it her mission in life to ruin the individual's reputation. Taking a nanny job must be a scary thing for some of these women. Especially when they hope to have careers working with children beyond their jobs.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, NannyNinja. I couldn't have said it better myself.

Signed: A thoroughly burned out nanny

Anonymous said...

1:06 is right in a sense.

While I *NEVER* require or expect my nanny to do housecleaning, I do expect her to leave the house the way she found it when I left in the morning. That's just common courtesy.

Anonymous said...

a yawnathon. that is what this was. a bonefide snoozefest.

Anonymous said...

There is a lot of confusion about the job definitions for au pairs, babysitters, nannies, and housekeepers.
Au pair: literally an equal. A student who is to be treated as a member of the family. This can mean doing anything a college age daughter might do in addition to childcare, such as help get dinner on, do dishes, run errands, walk the dog.
Babysitter: keeps the children safe, and hopefully happy while parents are out.
Nanny: responsible for all aspects of childcare including intellectual, social, and emotional development. The nanny may arrange classes, play dates and Dr. appointments, and supervise homework and music practice. Housekeeping duties limited to child related tasks, such as cleaning up after meals and art projects, putting toys away, rinsing out soiled clothes, and in some cases children's laundry.
Nanny/housekeeper: combines both jobs.

It is important for employers to be clear about their families needs, and give prospective hires a detailed and accurate job description. If you need a housekeeper/nanny, make that clear from the beginning.

Anonymous said...

153, I think you need to reread the post at 106. She stated that she "reviews" her childrens homework with them, not help them do their homework. Big difference. And what is wrong with a mom wanting to make sure their child knows what they are doing with their studies? Also, her nanny probably does not do toilets, as she has a maid come in. There is nothing wrong for a full time nanny to help with housework that is directly related to her job. Spilled milk? Wipe it up. Dirty dishes from lunch? Put them in the dishwasher. It's a great way for her to teach the children how to tidy up throughout the day.

My nanny does not do any housework. But she only works about 8 hours a week, and almost always takes my children out. But the few times they have stayed in and had lunch or a snack here, she has always cleaned up the dishes with the help of my children.

It is never ok to make your nanny be the maid. She is paid to watch and teach the children. AND NEVER make the nanny watch other children. I dumped a friend who did this all the time. How lazy and rude of her other friends who took advantage. The nanny quit, and now works part time for me and two other familes. She is now VERY happy. I've heard my old friend has gone thru several nannies since...go figure!!

Anonymous said...

I know your old friend and having the nanny watch other people's kids is one of about 78 reasons she can't keep a nanny.

B the wiser.

Anonymous said...

9:14
I think you are incorrect for the most part. A nanny can be many different things. The definition of all those terms you listed can be very broad. As far as a au pair being an "equal", well that just sounds messed up: a sitter, an au pair or a housekeeper should, in this day and age, be seen as an equal. Slavery is dead in this country: these people provide a service. To say one is an equal over another suggests that families who employ nannies don't see them as equals, which is not the case. I see my nanny as an equal: she has a life, a family, and is in every sense my equal: she just has a different profession than I.

jmt said...

The literal translation of au pair is "on par", with the family, treated as family, not an employee. I don't think anyone meant to say that employees are not equal to others, it's just the french term describing a position.
Someone wrote a really good article here on au pairs with a description of their duties and pay. I learned a lot from it. Check the previous post months for it.

Anonymous said...

7:27 "A nanny can be many different things." It is this attitude that causes many of the problems between nannies and employers, and results in many wonderful nannies leaving the profession.
You can hire someone to do whatever you need done, but if you need a personal assistant, cleaning woman, dog walking babysitter, don't list the job as nanny!
Calling someone a nanny doesn't make her one. As many of the posts on this site illustrate, some parents leave their children in the care of women who are not real nannies. Clarifying job descriptions can only result in improving the quality of care for our children.

Anonymous said...

you go nanny ninja!
I treat my employers as if they were a guest in my home, and I expected to be treated as such when I'm at employers'. I clean up my own mess, but I don't need to empty your trashcan with your trash in it...or sweep your floors if I didn't make a mess -
nor would I ever expect you to sweep mine.

Then again, I'm from the midwest, where people are usually more cordial than a percentage of the mommies I have met in larger cities, which is why all the good nannies get burnt out.

bottom line is, if you care too much about nitpicky things, you'll never find someone who wants to stick around, which ultimately will end up reflecting badly on no one but your children.

Anonymous said...

I have recently interviewed with a family and they want me to make their bed! I just feel the parents room is off limits am I wrong?

Anonymous said...

That is beyond the shadow of disgusting. Anyone who asks you that is obviously a lazy witch that has the opinion of you that is low@! If it is so important to her, she would make the bed!

If you do agree to this disgusting and menial task, I would insist on disposable rubber gloves. For all the bodily fluids you will be touching.

GROSS!

Anonymous said...

To all my fellow-nannies out there I send greetings. Those of you who take your jobs seriously, adore your little charges and put your heart and soul into what you do deserve to be treated with the utmost respect by both your charges and their parents. Every nanny deserves adequate pay, benefits, paid vacation & a lunch HOUR (not a "lunch 5 minutes"). To all you employers who value and honor your nannies--THANK YOU. To those employers who make unreasonable requests, disrespect your nannies according to your mood, and don't realize how LUCKY you are to have quality childcare...hang your heads in shame. You know who you are. Do the right thing.

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