Nanny needs advice about Alcoholic Father

Received Sunday, July 27, 2008. - Perspective & Opinion
I need some advice. I am a Nanny for 2 children, one 4 y.o. and one 6 y.o. and I have been with this Family for about 2 years. Both Parents are nice but the Dad works like 70 hrs. a week, in a very high-stress job. He has come home on several occasions from "business dinners" drinking. I can see that this behavior has the kids upset. I don't think the 4 y.o. understands what is going on, but I know the 6 y.o. does. He wants to know why Daddy "acts so weird". And I just don't know what to say. The Mom doesn't condone the drinking either, but I'm not so sure she even knows what to do.
He's a nice guy, hard-working, and spends all of his free time with the kids. I would guess he is what they call a "functioning alcoholic".
My question is, what do I say to the kids, if anything, when they ask me these questions? And what can I say to the Mom? She hasn't confided in me how she feels, but when he comes home on these nights, I get that "look" from her - like "here we go again". I feel bad for her and the kids, and don't know what to do. Please help.


DowntoEarth said...

I wouldbe careful on labeling someone an alcoholic. It really is up to the mother to talk to the kids about this and not you. If he is being absuive then I may say something to the Mom but other wise I would be quiet about it no matter what looks she gives you when he comes home drinking.
When the kids ask you about it I would suggest they talk to their Mom or their Dad and ask why he is acting funny. Just because he has been drinking as of late does not mean he is an alcoholic. It really is their business and Mom needs to handle this.

Marissa M. said...

This is a hard one. This is for the wife to deal with. I don't think it's your place. Even though it's nice that you care enough to be concerned. Maybe there is a reason she has the "not again " expression on her face. She might not be able to get through to him either. Which means you most likely wont be able to either. I don't think you should get involved in this one.

UmassSlytherin said...

You are an employee, not part of the family. As much as you may love these kids, it is not your business. The only time I would step in is if the father wanted to drive the children somewhere: then that is negligence as well as illegal and dangerous. But for now, it really isn't any of your business. I don't think you should say anything to the children. If this becomes so much of an issue for you, it may be time to look for other employment.

FormrNannyNowAMom said...

how often is he coming home drunk? what is his behavior like? is he violent at all? verbally or physically? how late is he coming home? is he having much interaction with the kids when hes drunk? how is his interaction with you on these occasions? I think we just need some more information to give some good advice. For now, I'd say that when the kids ask, direct them to Mom for the answers. Its up to her how to handle it.

Sunshine said...

Well your question is more about how to answer the kids question. I'm sure many will disagree with me but I would just say sometimes when adults are having fun they have special drinks that make them act silly. But I wouldn't say that without getting the parents permission ahead of time. Talk to them some morning when everyone is straight and just say "look the kids ask me why daddy acts funny" on the nights he comes home from drinking. This is what I plan on telling them. Is it ok with you?

Let Them Work it Out said...

i wouldn't really want to talk to the kids or mom. personally, i wouldn't feel comfortable talking about it or explaining it. but, since you said the mom is giving you a look about it, if you feel comfortable, i would let her talk to you about it. just be there for her to talk to and mostly listen. other than that, it's between the members of the family.

UmassSlytherin said...

I don't think that is the best way of explaining it. I would be sort of pissed if my nanny ever gave that disneychannelish, (albeit hilarious) description of alcohol consumption. As you said, you wouldn't say that without the parent's permission, so why not just refer them to the parents as others have suggested?

lol special drinks. indeed. lmao

wouldn't do it! said...

As much as you love those kids, it's not your place to discuss this with your employer. It could ruin your business relationship with them and could make things very awkward. As long as he is not abusing the children or his wife in any way, shape, form, or fashion I would definitely advise against talking to the mom.

chick said...

First, in order to accept your "functioning alcoholic" label, I think we would all need more details.

The only time you must intervene is if he decides to take your charges out with him while he is impaired. At that point, you ask him to leave the kids with you, and if he refuses, you call 911 to report child endangerment due to drinking and driving, or whatever the case is.

Go to the mom, and let her know that your charges have been asking questions. TELL her that you will be referring all questions back to her and her husband, and that you will be saying, "That is a question your mommy and daddy can answer for you. You can ask them your question when you see them after work."

Do NOT get involved beyond that. This is not your family, and it is not your job to explain dad's drinking habits. Do NOT agree to explain things to them "for" their parents.

If you can't stay uninvolved here, you may need to find other employment. I know very well the temptation to "fix" things for your charges, but there are some family dynamics that cannot be fixed by anyone other than family members.

OP said...

O.k., to answer some questions.
He isn't abusive, but he can be very insensitive and thoughtless when he comes home these particular evenings. On more than one occasion, he's come home after the kids have been put to bed, but he's so loud he wakes them up. It very disruptive to the entire house. Then we have sleepy, cranky kids the next day.

He used to go out once in a blue moon, but for about a month now, it's almost every other night. I heard him say it's all about business, but I think to myself, "why do you have to drink, though"? I'm wondering if there isn't something more to this because it kind of came on suddenly. He always talk about how stressed he always is.
The Mom really doesn't say much to him, kind of stays out of his way.
I really love these kids, and don't want to leave. I want it to go back to the way it was. I'm starting to get stressed myself!

cfg said...

That's got to be hard, having him come in like that and waking the kids up, and you're left to care for them the next day when they're all tired.
The only person who should really be stepping in is the mom.
All you can do is comfort those kids.
I know what it's like. I grew up with an alcoholic father.
It sucks.

Yaya said...

This is a tough one. My advice was going to be to put the kids to bed earlier, but if he just wakes them up, then that's no help.
Maybe offer to the mom that if she needs you to take the kids for a night so that they can 'talk about things' you'd be happy to do so?

stage an intervention and run said...

A child raised in, around or by alcoholics will invariably be damaged. Surely codependant, with food, stability and attachment issues and a one in 4 chance of being a raving alcoholic, too.

I appreciate that you care for these children and this woman, but she is likely codependant. It is a sick relationship. Be very aware. She may need him to drink for her balance. The children should be your top priority.

Children should never be left in an alcoholic's care. I would additionally be concerned that an alcoholic parent, prone to being drunk around the children would engage in inappropriate sexual behavior and or abuse. Male of female. It happens more than you would know.

You can't pretend it didn't happen. You can't rewrite the past.

I know some alcoholic parents that will surely burn in hell for the raunchy things they have done in, around and too their own children.

As the daughter (could you guess?) of an alcoholic mother and codependant father (a classic dishrag dad), I urge you to put as much distance between the alcoholic and yourself as possible.

FormrNannyNowAMom said...

I think you need to play the waiting game, for now. From what you said, it has only been a few weeks of this behavior. Drinking is, like it or not, part of the schmoozing aspect of business. It is possible that he may be having a crazy month at work that is requiring this a lot more....but stay tuned. If it continues, gets worse, becomes an unsafe or highly uncomfortable situation you'll have to get out.
For now, Id say just direct questions to Mom.

snarkymama said...

Stay out of it like others have said. It is a family issue and you are not family. It does not matter why he has to drink during these business meetings, that is his business. Waking kids up by being loud is not abusive, just annoying. Eventually if it really is a long term family problem someone in a position to talk to the parents will notice. A teacher or pediatrician or clergy. If mom needs to find support she will, not in an employee but in a professional with experience in this area of family therapy. Sounds like she is well aware of the issue and you never know what goes on when you are not in the room. Maybe they talk about it, maybe she already has asked a professional for help.

I certainly would not talk to the kids on your own. If they ask just tell them mom would like to answer all of their questions about dad. She can tell them whatever she wants and you must tow the party line.

I agree from your description that dad may have a problem with drinking but he may very well not be an alcholic. It has not been going on for a long enough time by your own accounts. And he is not drinking in front of the family just coming home after having too much to drink. Let Fate take it's course and continue to do your job with the kids or find a new job if it makes you uncomfortable or the situation changes for the worse.

kathleencares said...

In my opinion, it is probably best to stay out of this one. I wouldn't bring it up to the Mom if she hasn't said anything to you - she will confide in you if/when she wants to. In regards to the kids, there really isn't anything you can say. I would just say ‘I don't know’ if the kids ask you why dad is acting weird. It is nice that you are concerned, but for now, I would stay out of it.

aliana a nanny from california said...

it is a bad situation, if i was you i would be very carefull, i dont think i would want to work in that kind of environment, please review your options and maybe try to get another job.

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