" Preventing Nanny Burnout"

Received Tuesday, July 17, 2007-Perspective & Opinion
In one of the earlier discussion threads, the topic turned to nanny hours and nanny burnout. Like many working Moms, I work 8 hours in the office and have a 45 minute commute on each end. That translates to needing childcare for at least 50 hours a week, 10 hours a day. I have 3 children under five. They are great kids, but any nanny job juggling an infant, a toddler and a young child is HARD. I have a housekeeper that helps keep things tidy and does the heavy cleaning around the house, but my nanny still has the kids all the time with no stretch during the day when she can count on sitting down for a break. Realistically, that won't change for the next two years until my middle child is in school full time and my baby starts pre-school. I am about to lose nanny my current nanny. (I believe it is partly due to burnout, but there are circumstances involved. She was going to take the month of August off to address an ongoing health issue, but told us when we began interviewing for a temporary nanny, we should look for a permanent because the job is too hard for her). Is there a way to make the nanny's job easier? I'm considering whether I should bring in a part-time mother's helper to take the pressure off--especially at the end of the day when all three are home at the same time, or maybe two part-time nannies, but I'm hoping for a long term relationship so the part-time would not work in a few years when all of my kids are in school. Any suggestions?


Anonymous said...

A ten hour day with three children is hard. I applaud you though for trying to make the job easier any way you can.
As hard as it is for the nanny, though, it may be harder for the children. Have you considered cutting your hours or finding a job closer to home so that you can spend more time with your family, as I'm sure you would like to?

Anonymous said...


I know the kids are young. And ten hours is long. Can you afford to put them maybe in a daycare maybe 3 hours a day? Or do you have family close by that could come by for a couple hours a day so she can leave or relax for awhile? Where I live theres a daycare that does part-time enrollment, four hours a day, and it can be everyday or three days a week.

Anonymous said...

Can you get the kids to simultaneously nap for a couple of hours each day?

That's what my children do and it's imperative to a happy and healthy home in my opinion. Mom or nanny should rest while the kids rest.

My children nap for the nanny during the week and they do it for me on the weekends.

It takes some orchestration if you're not already a group nap kind of family, but it's more than possible.

The oldest child can simply have quiet time if he's unable to sleep.

We started this when my 2nd was straight out of the womb, and we continue. My oldest is going on 5.


Nanny B said...

Well the question is do you have a live in nanny? Because if you do, then hiring someone to come in and help out would be just that, the full time nanny would not be able to just get away and relax in her room with some quiet and the kids were still there. However, if you have a live out nanny and decide to hire someone else, then yes, that would work because the full time nanny could leave and go home a bit early.

However as a nanny, I think putting the older kids into some sort of preschool program would work best, then you have a bit of a break during that time. I also use nap time as a great away to relax and destress. I spend the first half hour getting things cleaned up from the morning and getting things ready for any afternoon activities. then I spend the rest of the time (hour and a half) taking a nap, doing my personal things, ect. so that by the time my girls get up, I am rested and ready to go again. Also consider giving your nanny more vacation days off, alot more appreciation, and helping her out in any way possible. if that even means having a picnic packed the night before for her so that she can just grab it and go, trust me, we appreciate those things. Point is, yes we can get burnt out, it happens to nannies, parents, ect, so give your nanny the extra tools to avoid that.

Anonymous said...

Maybe have your nanny work 8 hour days and have a different sitter could for the last 2 hours?

Lindsey said...

Group nap is a great idea. I have a 4 1/2 yr old , a 2 yr old, and a 3 month old. They all go down at the same time for a nap. sometimes my oldes insists on staying up, if thats the case I tell him he has to relax in his room for an hour where he can play quietly or watch tv. It works well for us. Maybe have her try that.

But I wanted to say how thoughtful it is that you are thinking of her, most people think of their nanny's as slaves instead of a major part of the family. Good to know their are good people out there still.

~Lindsey, SAHM~

Anonymous said...

My good friend is a Physician and single Mother so she works many many hours. She has two girls that share the 50+ hours a week, and although the hours are split up pretty evenly, she lets the girls decide their schedules. As long as each shift is covered, she doesn't care which one is there. This works out great because the kids have more than one nanny (they like it) and also the two girls never get burnt out.

Anonymous said...

I am a nanny myself and I agree that any nanny is going to get burnt out in that job and then it's not just the nanny that will suffer but the children will too. I think the idea of 2 nannies sharing the job is the ideal situation. I had a job a few years ago where there was a baby and a toddler and the mother had one nanny come in around 7.30am so she could leave for the office, then I myself didn't come go in till midday.The other nanny left around 5pm and I stayed on till around 7.30pm. Between us we shared the child-care and the house-keeping and the mother had cover for her children for a full 12 hours.

Anonymous said...

Yes! I think it would be great to have an overlapping nanny schedule! That way if there are more than 1 or 2 kids they can get more individual attention in the middle of the day and also I'm sure it's great for the nannies because they have something like a partner! Someone to get help from, someone to share ideas with, and most of all a friend who totally understands what your job is like and someone who can be there for you! ~A Nanny

Issa said...

You're fantastic for wanting to help make your nanny's job easier. First, when you're doing interviews, look for the type of nanny who will thrive in your situation. For me personally, I love jobs with a lot going on. One of my favorite jobs was 4 kids, plus house management, for over 50 hours a week. I didn't have any burnout, because that's the kind of situation I love. Second, for me at least, I really appreciate little bits of extra time off. For example, you making an effort to work a half day on Friday now and then, holidays off, another relative coming to care for the kids now and then. I would usually rather have more vacation days and a few hours off now and then than have an overall reduction in hours. And the suggestion for simultaneous naps is great. Everyone can benefit from a period of quiet time during the day, even if they're not actually sleeping. I also try to balance busyness with laziness. It's a great benefit if the nanny can get out of the house regularly - staying cooped up in the house can be what drives her crazy - so allowing her to take the kids swimming, playgroups, etc. But then also allow for a lazy day where everyone just watches movies all day.

Anonymous said...

I think it's wonderful that you are being so thoughtful. Nanny turnover would likely be a lot lower if as many parents were concerned with it.

I agree group nap is a good idea. You may also want to consider putting the older 2 into classes (art, music, etc) for an hour or two a few times a week. The children benefit from it, and your nanny is left with only the baby. They're more work when they walk and talk! So it'd give her a break to relax a bit, and one on one time with the baby, which is good for infants.

The idea of hiring an afternoon helper for 2-3 hours is good, also.

Anonymous said...

As a nanny, I think it is unnecessary to have to hire a nanny for your nanny. I really think it's great of you to think of how she must be feeling, but really, you just need a spectacular nanny.

A way to prevent nanny burnout is to constantly thank and show appreciation to the hard work your nanny does. Even something like having the kids collaborate on a card they make to thank her over the weekend would go worlds in my book of thankyous (which I NEVER get). Make sure you are paying her more than you probably think you "should", and try to make sure her personal life is going well.

The family I work for unfortunately gives me the cold shoulder a LOT of the time, and I don't think it is on purpose. But they are also on the verge of losing their nanny because they take advantage of my position as caregiver. It turned into uncompensated/reimbursed outings for their child, their dishes and laundry, pet walking and sitting, and much more. I do stand up for myself, but with all the guilt trips I get (well, you ARE here all day, and the tot sleeps for an hour and a half...)

Anyways, I think that most of nanny burnout can be avoided by simply communicating effectively and positively, thank yous and small reminders of why you appreciate her, and support as an adult to adult when you are doing the kid exchange. Keep in mind that while you have been in meetings with normal-speaking "big people", she has been speaking baby talk, and it might relax her to leave knowing she at least said more than her alphabet and colors today.

I really think that if this is a nanny you want, you should try the above things I mentioned. Talk to her about it even, tell her your plans and see if she is interested after that. But honestly, if her health means that she can't chase three toddling children at a park for a couple hours a day, and then let the kids have independant play while she watches from a safe distance (like in the living room...) and is able to sit and relax knowing that it's ok with you that she take a few minutes while she is watching the kids to flip through a magazine or enjoy a cup of tea, then she will get the downtime she is missing out on now.

Good luck!!

Anonymous said...

I just want to applaud the OP for even caring about her nanny enough to deal with the issue of nanny exhaustion and burn-out. Many employers seem to have the attitude that nannies somehow (unlike every other human-being on earth) do NOT need regular days off and vacation time. I had an employer once who made me SUFFER for taking a day off for a friend's funeral. It made me feel as if I was less entitled to decent treatment and basic time-off from work than "ordinary people". Needless to say, I soon left that job to work for people who treated me like, well...a PERSON.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand the lack of respect given to someone who is caring for your children. I would not stay with my current employer if I was not given the flexibility to take paid time off to attend to personal matters. (I'm not talking even something as significant as a funeral. I mean things like attending a school event for my children.) Parents need to put themselves in their nannies shoes now and then and think about whether they are treating them as they themselves want to be treated at work. My nanny understands if she wants a day off that means I have to rearrange my work schedule and gives me as much notice as possible. The important thing is she's able to attend to what she needs to for herself and her family-even at the rare times she can't give me a lot of advanced notice-without worrying about losing pay or negative consequences. Things happen in people's lives and it's just how it is in any work environment. There is no point in creating guilt trips. I expect my employer to treat me as a professional and that is how I behave at work. As my nanny's employer I treat her as a professional and that is how she behaves at work. Unfortunately there are plenty of unprofessional nannies and unprofessional employers out there as you can see on the post on this board.

Anonymous said...

At least you are considerate to your nanny's needs. I work for a family with 4 children and a 'stay at home mother' who doesn't do anything with the kids all day. I am here up th 5 days in a row...I don't leave...and I get no breaks.

Anonymous said...

11:33 I feel for you.
I had a similar situation in a nanny job once and it was intolerable after a while.
My employer wouldn't allow her household "help" (and she did call us "the help") to sit down or eat in her presence. There were NO breaks. Even finding time to use the bathroom was tricky.
There are labor laws providing for specified breaks and lunch-hours in most states.
Unfortunately, these laws rarely apply to "domestic" workers.
I think it's time we nannies formed our own unions and CHANGED things drastically. Why oh why should the people who care for the most precious beings on earth (small children) be treated like second-class citizens? Good nannies should be treated like gold.
I say we should ORGANIZE!!!

Anonymous said...

Good luck with that, 3:10.

Anonymous said...

You have to do what is best for your situation.

Communication,respect,and realistic expectations are all going to play a part in preventing nanny burnout. For many nannies,we have to have a full time job to cover our living expenses. Most of the jobs are live out now days. We have households of our own to maintain, car payments,health insurance etc.. just like everyone else. It is good that you do not believe a nanny is a housekeeper,too. A nanny is to focus on the kid(s). We all know how playing with kids can be draining. (yes,a nanny should be picking up after the kids during the day but heavy cleaning is not our job)

If a younger child is taking a nap then maybe an older child can have a rest in their room at the same time. Allowing the nanny to take this time to take a mental break would be good. She could have a late lunch during this time without the kids hanging on her. Maybe, there is a day or two a month where you can come home early and have a one on one with 1 child (parent/child date outing). This would give a break for the nanny too not having all the kids during that time.

There are many ways to work it. I wish you the best of luck.

ble said...

11:33 and 3:10...Please know I am not judging you. But I used to nanny years ago and am just curious if you were not made aware that the job would entail such demand when you agreed to accept the position?

Anonymous said...

This is "3:10" speaking.
In answer to 12:53AM's question: No, I was not made aware that my employer would be a selfish control-freak when I agreed to accept the position.
If, during the interview, she'd said to me: "By the way, I intend to treat you like a SLAVE!" I definitely would not have accepted the job.
Fortunately, it's all in the past. But it's an experience I'll never forget, and if I ever hire a nanny for my own children, I'll be sure to treat her RESPECT.

Anonymous said...

This is "3:10" again.
Just wanted to mention that I was completely serious about the idea of organizing a nanny union.
I work for a labor lawyer now who is sympathetic to the cause and totally enthusiastic about the idea.
She says it's NOT impossible and very necessary.
So you just never know what the future holds for nannies everywhere.

Anonymous said...

2:26 don't you mean "I'll be sure to treat her (with) RESPECT" ??

Anonymous said...

Yes, 2:34AM. That's exactly what I meant.

Anonymous said...


The idea of a union will only work for the legal nannies. Most of the nannies who get the shaft are the illegals. In other words, a union would only benefit a small proportion of the industry and would be limtted to those who probably don't need the back-up.

ch said...

Nanny Union Chic,
You and your "employment lawyer" are aware there is a bizarre bill before congress?


Anonymous said...

i would suggest having a conversation with your outgoing nanny discussing some of the options mentioned here. perhaps an in depth conversation where you open up the floor for a dialogue about your recognition of her difficult job might help you make your decision about what to do. after all, the two of you know your children and what works best for them. Good luck and keep us 'posted'! :)

Anonymous said...

Years a go I worked for a family who had lost 3 nannies in the short space of about 8 months due to burn out. This particular family required a full-time live out nanny to watch 3 children under the age of 4 for 10 hr. days (which made my days more like 11.5 hr. days due to my commute back home.) The two toddlers did NOT nap, and there was never time for breaks. When they hired me, they made the choice to stop having people enter their children's lives only to leave a few short months later right when their children grew attached. They hired me and one other nanny (she had less hours than myself) but basically came in for a few hrs. each day to work with me and/or "relieve me"...we worked together like a well oiled machine, and the children never had to deal with a nanny too exhausted to do activities. I have never seen happier children and we both stayed with the job for years (until the family moved in fact.) I know this mother was nervous at first to hire two nannies, but in the end she told us it was the best decision she had made. Perhaps, this would work for you as well? Most highly demanding jobs require assistants...and it can be extremely hard as a nanny to work 10 hr. days and still have to go home and have any thing left for your own family and friends, cleaning your own house, making dinner etc....having two nannies (even one extremely part-time) not only shows you care about your children getting superior care, but that you also care about your nanny and you are a wonderful employer to think of her needs! Just because someone can do something (i.e work 10 hr. days) doesn't mean they should have to, and most people would eventually get burned out and quit.

Anonymous said...

Why did you ever have children, if you were going to fob them off on a nanny? Of all the nanny stories on this site, I think yours is one of the worst. You pay people to clean your house, and raise your kids. Be a mother.

Anonymous said...

I am a live-in nanny who is "contracted" to work 58 hours a week. I use quotations because no written contract was ever signed, even though I requested one. My hours are supposed to be 7-6:30 Tues.- Fri. and 10-10 on Saturdays. I knew these were the hours going in and took the job thinking I could handle it. Well, its been nearly 10 months and I am as burned out as they come. I have 3 kids to watch. Two are in school full time, so I am responsible for a 1 year old the whole time and the other 2 part of the time. While I don't always work the full 58 (I've averaged 54 hours/week since the beginning of August), it is still hard. Saturdays have basically turned into a 10-6 type deal, so I work 12+ the other days. I rarely ever get done by 6:30. I really don't know what to do anymore. I am so stressed and tired all the time. I am responsible for EVERY aspect of the 1 year olds life. I no longer have a life of my own and it is difficult for me to make plans to do anything after work since I never know when I am going to get done. How can I say something to the family about my burnout when I agreed to these hours when I started? Am I screwed now?

P.S. I work for a SAHM