(Another) Nanny Stuck in the Middle of a Parent's Divorce

Received Thursday, March 13, 2008-Perspective & Opinion
I'll try to make this as short as possible. I need help on how to quit my current situation and how much notice is required/customary. This situation certainly isn't normal so I'm unsure of how to end it.

I'm a Live-Out Nanny/Household Manager for a family with four school aged children, making roughly between $11-$15 hourly. I've been with the family for almost two and a half years now, but it has become increasingly apparent that this relationship needs to end. You see, when I started the family was your typical nuclear, filthy rich, but surprisingly liberal family. They were desperate for a nanny as their last nanny had quit with no notice (should have been a clue, huh?). I was a college student over five hours from home with only ten dollars in my pocket. So there were no reference, background, resume, or neglect checks. Just a "so you're free after this time, great show up Monday!" No contract, no discussion, just under the table stupidity. Things were good for the first 8 months, kids were rude and revolting a little but nothing more than typical kid stuff. The parents were very respectful of my scheduling needs and monetary compensation was terrific. Then I went on vacation with them, and everything fell apart. Parents were constantly fighting and screaming profanities in front of children. This started the divorce process. It has been an ugly battle for the past year and a half. I've been there for every minute of it. This public divorce has even been written about in the paper, causing humiliation for them and myself (since my name was used).

Since this divorce process started the kids have become absolutely defiant and violent. I have been stabbed, punched, kicked, bit, cussed out, given black eyes, etc. Parents are living in separate houses and I travel between houses with the kids. Parent A has become absolutely awful. Parent A doesn't pay on time, in full, or willingly. Parent A often cancels care at very last minute. My hours have diminished from 35+ a week to 3-5 with this parent who has custody 2/3 of the time. Parent A is constantly threatening termination (upon lawyer's advice), thinks I'm telling secrets to Parent B, sends text messages about everything at all hours, and allows children to behave in increasingly violent ways towards me. Parent A is the main reason I want to quit. Parent B however turned out to be a great person. Parent B pays on time, in full, constantly shows signs of appreciation, and does not allow kids to injure me. Unfortunately, I can't support myself on just Parent B's schedule so I have to quit both parents. I do have a job lined up with an agency, and am taking the necessary steps (including a contract). The kids are really in the middle of this mess, and although they literally beat me black and blue I still care for them. They are great kids when given the chance. I want to still be there for them emotionally, but I can't be there every day anymore. The situation is emotionally, physically, and financially draining. How can I quit without hurting the kids? Also do I have to give notice to Parent B but not Parent A? If so how much notice? Parent B has really stuck out his/her neck for me and I feel awful about quitting and leaving him/her without help. Any advice would be great!

Note: Parent A and Parent B was used because I really don't feel like exposing myself or them to anymore controversy.


Anonymous said...

The children have been abusive to you, resulting in injuries and you don't want to "hurt" them?!? JUST get out and do it fast. Find something new and figure out how to do it without references from this twisted family. Sorry I am not more help, but I do not believe in giving them one more minute of your time.

Anonymous said...

I agree. Why would you stay if the kids are beating you up? They hate you too I am sure. So just leave. Or you may end up dead.

Anonymous said...

And besides, the pay sucks!! $11-15 per hour. Thats nothing for three kids, and also being a housemanager.

emily said...

Wow, 5:57, the OP has some compassion and understanding! She empathizes with these kids and is able to look past their present behavior! Can you believe it? Unheard of!

It's admirable that you've stuck it out this long, OP. I think you've got to follow your heart in this one and try to do what you think if right for the family while you protect yourself. Start to interview ASAP and tell families that you'll have to give 2 weeks notice, then approach Parent B when you've got a new job and cross your fingers that everything goes smoothly.

I wish you luck!

mom said...

Could you talk to parent be openly and share a lot of what you have said here? Maybe he or she will be willing to make up the difference in your salary and have you work only at his or her house and you can quit the other parent. If they are as welathy as you say, and parent b is a compassionate person, he or she may want the continuity of care you provide for the obviously very distraught children and be willing to pay the extra to keep you. If you do this, be sure to address the physical abuse you are suffering, so that

1) Parent B will fully realize what an emotional strain the children are undergoing and perhaps get them some help


2) You can work together on the same page to get the hitting stopped.

Anonymous said...

We just had to let our house manager go because one of our companies is in dire straits. don't believe what you hear, we are in a recession headed straight for a depression.

my housemanager charged $24 per hour, on the books and had none such child related responsibilities.

We offered her two days instead of full time, but she took a job with another family that offered her a weekly salary that quite frankly, blew me away! Maybe I am in the wrong business. But you, darling are getting taken advantage of.

chick said...

I admire your concern and empathy, but I think the only thing to do is give notice as quickly as possible, explain why to parent B, ask him/her for a letter of reccomendation, and start a new job, where you won't be physically abused.

I think you need to talk to parent B and explain that if Parent A fires you when given your notice you will need to start your new job ASAP. If he/she is generally supportive of you, he/she will accept that you have to leave due to finances.

If you can't get a letter of rec, do you have any medical bills/dated pictures that might back up a statement about the physical abuse as your reason for leaving? That might make a diffference to a future potential employer.

Anonymous said...

I think you should give two weeks notice, and get out. Of course this battle between the parents is taking a terrible toll on the children, and you feel compassion for them. Honestly though, I don't think your staying is going to help them. They are school age, and could benefit from counseling. You might suggest this to parent B.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Yeah I think the Op wanted advice related to the post. Not a bunch of economical mumbo jumbo. You're on the wrong blog to tell us we're all economically doomed.

Anonymous said...

what kind of situation were you in before you signed up for this? i can't understand why anyone would subject themselves to abuse, unless it's familiar.

first of all, look for another line of work, no child-care! and seek therapy, you will need it as you want to stay in contact with the family.

stop beating yourself up with guilt about leaving the family, they survived before you got there, they will survive after you leave. get a grip and put yourself together again.

Anonymous said...

Eyeore? Is that you at 8:02?

Elizabeth said...

A club I'm part of has t-shirts that are black and say in big red letters on the front: "DOOM." (It's an inside joke.)

I think maybe we should get one of those shirts sent to 8:02, though, because s/he could wear it in earnest. Eek.

Anonymous said...

I say, talk to parent B and tell them that you need to leave because the amount of hours has decreased and you understand their situation but you just don't think this new situation is for you. Thank her/him for everything and ask for a letter of reference to keep. Good luck!

ChickenLittle said...

The sky is falling! The sky is falling!

Anonymous said...

Did anyone actually read more than 2 sentences of 8:02? Please delete this garbage.

Jane Doe said...

Only I can take up that much space!


Anonymous said...

You can feel all the compassion you want, but that does not mean you have to put yourself in jeopardy and subject yourself to ongoing hostility and abuse.

Feel as sorry as you want for the kids, but take control of your life. There are thousands of kids out there who need you; you just haven't met the ones you'll be nannying next.

Elizabeth said...

I think 10:24 has the right idea-- I admire your compassion, but there is no reason to make life, well, painful! This is an especially nice way to do it, because if you actually WANT to see the kids again (for whatever reason), the option would still be open to you to swing by, visit, or take the kids for ice cream.

Best of luck, I hope it works out well for you, and you end up with a truly wonderful family (that DOESN'T beat you!)

Anonymous said...

I was a nanny for 4 years and I am so sorry this is such a bad situation for you. You need to be honest with the parents and quit that job. Let parent B know before A because they seem to respect you. I think two weeks notice would be doing them a big favor. I know this is hard, but you have to do what is best for you. If you feel bad about the kids, check in with them from time to time. I am now a mother of two and I still keep in contact with the family and kids I was a nanny for. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm Lucy and I own a growing housekeeping/green cleaning service. We pay our housekeepers far more than you are making, and they are not required to babysit. Perhaps you were inexperienced at first and despite the fact that the children are abusive, you claim that you still care for them. Does it not occur to you, sweetie, that you are enabling that very destructive behavior, by staying in the situation?

The only way you can help, is by leaving, hard as it may seem. Your presence allows the continuation of the behavior. Show your love and concern, and your self respect by resigning right now!

Anonymous said...

What is it with this "sweetie" and "darling" condescending tone in 7:30pm and 8:37am? It's pretty standard for housekeepers to make more per hour than a nanny because they work for less hours and are doing hard labor the whole time. HKers usually make less on a weekly basis or if employed as a ft employee.

While I agree $11/hr sounds low. $15/hr sounds fairly standard for a housemanager. She said the 4 kids are school age so presumably there is a fair amount of time with no childcare responsibilities. We also have no idea where OP is to assess the wage scale. It does sound like leaving is obvious (as OP herself states). Her question is how best to do it to make it smooth for the kids; who to notice; and how much notice to give.

Leave with two weeks notice. If kids are old enough (and they seem like they are) directly address with them a plan for your leaving and give them a reason (which does not need to be the obvious one). Tell them your plans for a different job for a variety of personal reasons so they will not feel bad. Notice both parents, giving Parent B the courtesy of first notice.

JulesInCo said...

I would leave parent A with the children and see how long that lasts. Don't sell your self short and allow your self to be treated in such a manner.

We always worry so much about the children, but sometimes I think we worry more about them then their parents.

For a parent to allow their children to behave like this to a care giver is unbelievable, and completely irresponsible.

Good Luck and like I said, GET OUT NOW!

MYSAY said...

If you want to stay in these kids life you may be able to if Parent B sees you as a good role model. Maybe before you leave teach them how to write letters and you can keep up with them on special occasions. But get a P.O. box for things like this. Who knows you may even be a saving grace or a friend they never thought existed. Maybe you could even leep the lines of communication open with Parent B. by periodocally sitting for B. And Parent B might get their act together and the door to a better job could be in the waiting. Good Luck.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunetly life is ever changing, you sound like a good person, you are not a family therapist, at least not yet, so probably you should give them notice and leave because you also have a life. you have to pay bills and you might want a family of your own one day. this is a very complicated situation, you are not equipt to handle the situation. they need professional help.

melanie said...

Many people get divorced, so it stands to reason nannies are going to get caught in the middle. This subject has been raised before here and here. These pale in comparison the story I have of my friend in CA who was caught in a divorce and even arrested (long story) because she tried to help. My advice. Run, don't walk. For the hills.

Anonymous said...

I'm 47. An adult. If I were your mom I would tell you that although this family has been good to you in the past, things are very different now. If one parent thinks you are telling lies and secrets and the kids are or have physically harmed you, you do NOT OWE THIS family anything. If you give either of them two weeks, whats to stop them from slandering you further? You may care for the children, and the children may care for you, and they may be having a difficult time with people who love them leaving, but my sweetest, you are NOT their parent. In all honesty you should sit down with the children, depending on their ages, and tell them honestly that you are leaving, effective immediately. You should then tell Parent A the same thing and Parent B the same thing too, that you will no longer be a nanny for them. The fact of the matter is that YOU have to watch out for YOU, because obviously they are not willing to or wanting to. It's an ugly divorce and though you may like them and you may feel some kinship towards them and that somehow you "owe" them, please know, that you do not owe them. You are an EMPLOYEE.....THEY ARE THE EMPLOYER. An employer can fire an employee at will and conversely an employee can quit at will as well.
You have to take care of you and you have to put yourself above the situation or you will get dragged down into it. It's not your fight, they are not your blood or family. Leaving immediately may be difficult for everyone, but it's like ripping off a bandage, you need to do it quickly and cleanly to avoid lingering and lasting pain.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I went through this same exact situation a few years back! I can't believe someone else is going through it. It's enough to make anyone absolutely terrified of divorce, if they were not already. For some reason, parents sometimes expect the nanny to divorce a spouse, as well. If you're "too nice" to the other spouse you're telling secrets and some parents may allow the children to be rude to you (seeing the children on "their" side). Then comes the free counseling sessions in the wee hours of the night, and soon after comes the pay problems.
I would give Parent A a two weeks notice, but ONLY on the condition that the children are reprimanded for abusing you. Abuse/extension of your hours via text msgs should terminate that agreement. This includes the free counseling. Unfortunately... s/he may try to wriggle out of paying you for the last paycheck. Just a warning.
I would just talk to Parent B and see if something could be worked out to still watch the kids there. If the kids are good with Parent B they should be good with ParentA. They are probably resenting Parent A for reasons they may not even understand. You may have become an extension of their parents in their mind.
I've discovered that divorce makes people crazy. The mother of the family I watched even hit herself multiple times and called the cops of her soon to be husband... in front of me! I soon became a counselor, witness, enemy/friend, and debt collector to her. The kids were never disrespectful to me (except the occasional outbursts of frustration), but might say something smart about their mother to me w/in earshot of the mom. The father was exactly the way he had been prior to the divorce. The kids almost went back to normal. They simply adjusted and... I love them. It's been 5 years since I was their nanny, but I'm still in their lives. The instability surrounding their divorce wouldn't allow me to stop talking to them (even when I moved states away) and the parents are okay with it. If Parent A and Parent B don't get it together, the kids may continue to suffer in many areas. Parent A is obviously having some problems and needs to learn to cope through this stressful ordeal.
Perhaps your family should of taken that vacation w/o the children and with a couples group.

S said...

For any uncomfortable employment situation where you are being harmed and bullied (AND underpaid) I think you should make a fairly quick exit. Will the children be hurt? Maybe. They are being disrespectful to you. How much guilt will they feel later? Maybe none. That is not your burden. They probably feel entitle to be mean because of what they are going through and you've tolerated it from them. If anyone's child's bites me they are getting hit period. And I'd do that knowing I'd get fired. Gladly.

Let Parent A know immediately you are no longer available until you are paid IN FULL. Hope you have records of what you're owed. You do not owe them an explanation. You have no contract with them except for the fact that you have accepted pay. The fact that you have stuck it out all this time is surprising. Parent B may be more understanding but again you can choose to let this parent know or not. And Since you have never been threatened outright you don't what the reaction will be. Giving notice should not be more than 48 hours. Be honest with them. "I am uncomfortable and don't deserve to be hit by your children. I quit."

Good luck in your new gig!!

Anonymous said...

I feel giving two weeks is enough
and move on...these kids are harming you...feel sorry for them... they wont care that your me...I was a housemanager for a family...with 3
spoiled children 2 were decent the
other screamed, threatened me and
tried to get me fired...after he
threatened to kill me and stab my
pet...i soo was outta there..did
i say anything to the parents regarding him and wanting to kill know what
a jerkoff their kid is...and trust
me....there was wayy more that
happened...the parents got me
outta there in about 10 days...
and gave me a reference,a gift
goodbye, lunch goodbye, and
wished me well...they knew
they know they just dont deal with

cali mom said...

I'm jumping ahead again, but you should have been gone from there a year ago. I'd write a letter outlining your reasons, including the physical abuse you've been subjected to from the kids. If they are school age, I think they are old enough to understand and should be made to consider the fact that hurting you repeatedly and casually has had the effect of making you no longer want to be part of their lives. If they were toddlers or preschoolers it would be different but even a kindergartener should be made to understand that if you mistreat someone, they won't want to be your friend anymore. They must be going through hell w/their parents' divorce but not learning this life lesson is doing them no favor. And of course mention about Parent A's behavior.

You were horrifically underpaid to begin with and have been taken advantage of for too long, even though Parent B seems to be a very admirable person compared to Parent A. If their divorce has been made public, I'm guessing they have enough money that they should have paid you market value from the beginning, and I'm glad that you are now older and wiser.

Anonymous said...

First, go to a persoanl injury or labor law attorney. Tell them your situation and ask if they think you need legal protection/representation because there may come a time when one or both parents call you to testify in their divorce case.
Most attorneys will take your case with no need for money up front (some will take it completely pro bono).
Also, you've been assaulted by the kids frequently and with full knowledge of your employers, and this needs to be addressed.
After that, give signed, dated written and verbal notice to both parents that you're leaving. Keep a copy of this letter for yourself and give one to your lawyer.
Give two weeks notice.
But don't be surprised if they freak out and force you to leave immediately and without severance pay. Tell your attorney in detail everything that happened before and after you gave notice.
Good luck with the new job, and always get an employment contract!

Anonymous said...

^^^"personal" not "persoanl"----oops!

Anonymous said...

Giving notice will just make the bad one worse. Sit down with the good one and explain why you have to quit and explain that you have to do it with no notice because of the way the other one treats you. Run. Away. Now!