Why Do Nannies Quit?

Families often wonder, “What can we do to get more stability in our childcare situation?” Why do some families seem to have one nanny after another, and another family might have the same nanny for five or more years? HomeWork Solutions’ Kathleen Webb recently spent time with a nationwide group of professional nannies and they worked up a David Letterman-style list – the top 10 reasons nannies quit.

10. ISOLATION: Occasionally a family outright forbids the nanny to leave the home with the child. Nannies look forward to taking a walk with the baby on a nice day, perhaps walking with another neighborhood nanny or at-home mom, chatting, enjoying the interaction. Toddlers look forward to spending an hour exploring the local playground. Webb observes, “Criminals get sentenced to house arrest - please don't do this to your child's caregiver!”

A live in nanny, especially one who has relocated for the job, must have the opportunity and means (transportation) to establish a social life outside the home. Generally a live in nanny who does not have reliable access to a vehicle in the evenings and weekends will not stay long.

9. LACK OF RECOGNITION: Nanny spends long hours with your children, with little interaction with other adults. Parents who are so preoccupied with the demands of their own careers and lives that they forget to express appreciation for the nanny often find themselves without a nanny unexpectedly. Words really do matter.

8. FAMILY DYSFUNCTION: Substance abuse, physical abuse, marital wars, emotional instability... any and all of these in a household can cause a nanny to quit.

7. MICRO MANAGEMENT: (SAHM and WAHM) When one or both parents spend a considerable amount of time at home while nanny is on duty problems often develop unless steps are taken up front to establish boundaries.

6. EXPENSES: Nannies who are asked to run family errands – whether groceries, dry cleaning, or party gifts – should be left adequate funds in advance. When nanny is required to provide transportation in her personal vehicle, adequate mileage reimbursement should occur.

5. TAXES: Employers, take the time to discuss wage and tax issues SPECIFICALLY at the very beginning and memorialize this in your Work Agreement. Consider giving the nanny a breakdown of the tax deductions from her paycheck with her first payment, and any time there is a change to her compensation. Consult a nanny tax specialist for assistance when needed.

4. POOR COMMUNICATION: The employer must make the time to establish regular communication with the nanny. Find 15 minutes once a week to just sit down and talk over the relationship and how things are going. Consider requiring a Nanny Log and actually look at it every 24 hours, jotting a note to nanny every few days with recognition, suggestions, or just the information that you might be a few minutes late on Thursday.

3. NON-COMPETITIVE COMPENSATION: New nannies especially are often eager to accept the nanny job and do not investigate local wages or costs. When they find out, they will leave for a better paying job, often without notice.

2. DUTIES ADDED ONE BY ONE: Sometimes referred to as job creep, the family adds duties (housekeeping, cooking, shopping, watching your neighbor’s son after school) with out appropriate compensation.

1. SCHEDULES THAT GROW, GROW, GROW: Careful! Abusing the nanny's schedule with unplanned overtime can cost you your nanny! Just as an employer will fire a chronically late employee, a nanny will quit on a chronically late parent. And remember, always compensate for overtime. You don't want a disgruntled employee filing a wage and hour grievance against you!


DenverNanny said...


I really like that isolation is on the list...everybody always talks about the other issues. I think parents really underestimate how important it is to encourage your live-in to get out... Ever met a SAHM of a toddler who hasn't gotten a break in a couple weeks? Now take that emotional, scary woman, put her in a room in your basement, multiply her by maybe 3 months and now, would you want her watching your kids?

Nannies are people, too! Before you assume we're all greedy, lazy, creeps just waiting for you to leave so we can abuse your children, drink your boose, and steal your heirlooms, maybe you should *try* to comprehend how much we really do for you...

Village said...

What a great idea to make a list. It reads like 'do unto others as you would have them do unto you.' Parents who show respect and consideration keep their nannies.

Wicker Park Nanny said...

AMEN! I agree with everything said, most especially the taxes and the isolation. Taxes are confusing when you get a W-4 from a normal work place, imagine having to do your taxes without anything, many employers don't even send a 1099! Very daunting to a nanny who is not a tax accountant.

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get a moniker said...

I don't agree with number 9. I have bosses who tell me that I am a great sitter and this and that but they only call me when their babysitters aren't available. I always know when people is just saying, not when they really mean it. And I'd rather get extra bucks than hear "you're great!". That I want to hear from my bf. :)

But I do agree with number 7: it's awful when parents work from home. You see them all the time, if the kid cried they come to see what's up, I feel like I am getting paid to do nothing but at the same time, I am being monitored. That's why I like to work for people who doesn't work from home.

Apr 22, 2009 2:17:00 PM

TC said...

I agree with the isolation! Thank goodness I work for a wonderful family who allows us to go out into the big wide world daily, otherwise I would go crazy.

bitch said...

Nannies quit when the parents are total bitches, plain and simple

CBS said...

I am generally very satisfied with the family I'm working for (coming up on two years soon), but I will say that my only real "gripe" isn't on that list. Now I won't quit over this because there are many other good aspects to the job that compensate for it, but I can see where it could definitely become a deal breaker if it got worse...

...and that is, style differences. My charge's parents practice that godawful consensual parenting advocated by Anna Brown and let me tell you it drives me insane. Their three-year-old and his immature, impulsive demands totally tyrannize the household.

I have established a different relationship with my charge so the dynamics are totally different between him and me (and very pleasant), but when the parents are around I stay out of it and just bite my tongue in frustration watching them spin their wheels trying to reason with a tiny dictator.

I just have to find my zone and not let it get to me... if I couldn't do that, I'm sure I would have quit long ago.

Manhattan Nanny said...

I think the difference between families with long term nannies, and those who have a lot of turnover lies to some extent the hiring process. Parents need to give a very detailed job description, and nannies need to know what they do and don't want in a job. A good match is key, and every family's needs are not the same, nor are every nanny's. During the interview process being honest, thorough, and laying everything on the table is your best bet for a happy long term match.

Here are some additions to the list:
Parents don't come home on time. ( I hear nannies complain about this constantly. If you have a job that requires flexibility on quit time, make that clear in the interview! )

The home is an uncomfortable work environment, either disorganized, Messy/dirty, not childproofed, or the other extreme, an immaculate showplace without space where you feel you can play or do arts and crafts.

Long overdue for a raise.

Children who are "high maintenance" because the parents never set limits.

Good Grief said...

I TOTALLY agree with #7! It feels like your being watched and listened to all the time. The kids misbehave, cry, and don't nap well when Mommy or Daddy are home the same time as Nanny (at least in my experience).

Nanny in San Diego said...

Well said!! I have gotten up and quit on people and usually am the one who was blamed at unprofessional or irresponsible because I just quit w/out notice. Well, let me explain the "job creep" part. I have had parents who say I will watch a certain number of children and only do certain household duties...and I agree. Then slowly after I start, a little change here and a little change there. Before I know it, I am watching an extra kid or two and doing not only the agreed on child's laundry, but am washing the parent's as well. It starts off w/just a few towels, a bathrobe...and soon, I am folding Dad's underwear!! I quit before they had me cleaning the toilets!! And then I was told I am unreliable and unprofessional. Well, if you treat your nanny like this, then don't expect her to show up for work the next day. It's common sense. We love your kids, but we deserve respect. Be honest w/us and don't try to squeeze every bit out of us and only pay us the bare minimum. And tips are nice...say you owe me like $46.50 for the evening...well to make it a even $50.00 makes me not only happy for the $$ speaks volumes in how you appreciate me!!!

Agreed said...

I think Manhattan Nanny's comment is right on. I lost a great nanny just shy of the two year mark because of the one thing that I hesitated on in the hiring process. She had worked as a nanny in the past and but had stopped nannying when she had her first child. After a break she started an in home daycare after the birth of child 2 and continued for several years until child 3 started kindergarten. She did not like the business/collection issues she ran into and wanted to go back to working with just one family. I hesitated when I hired her over whether a working Mom who had built her work life arond being home for her kids is really able to commit to a full time job in someone else's home. I spoke to her frankly about the concern and her Mom had committed to putting her childer on the bus and taking them after school until she got home and we decided to hire a local babysitter for end of day so that she could count on leaving at a reasonable hour every night. She was a fabulous nanny for a year, then her Mom decided she didn't want to keep taking care of her kids, she found an alternative babysitter and another, but she was eventually facing having to put them in a before and after school daycare when she decided our job just didn't work for her anymore. I don't think I would do it differently, because she was great for us for the time she was with us and two years is a long time, but the signs of what would eventually make her quit was there in the interview.

Wicker Park Nanny said...

I find it interesting that they mentioned the wage and hour grievance. I work for a lawyer and so all my pay is done very carefully. If I stay one minute after our weekly hours they pay me overtime. In fact I work 50 hours/week and 10 of those hours are paid at an elevated overtime rate. If I work weekends I get paid overtime. It's a great bonus for the nanny and you'll find them very eager to work weekends for you when they are making $18/hr. Also, setting this up prevents you from a lawsuit later on.

I encourage all parents to make sure things are done completely LEGALLY. Now that I've worked for this family I will demand "by the book" in all future employment jobs. Take nannies seriously, they are professionals.

DT said...

I think these are all great points. I'm not sure why there is such a disconnect between nannies and parents, but many of them don't seem to realize that we are human beings and not robots.

They would certainly be angry if their employer dumped extra work on them, made them stay late without notice or overtime pay, or abruptly closed the office to go on vacation and left them in the lurch without pay for 3 weeks.

I'm not sure why anyone would expect another person to tolerate conditions they would not accept for themselves.

I quit a job once when a mom gave me 2 day's notice that her MIL would be visiting for 3 weeks and wanted to spend time with the kids. I told her I could not afford to miss 3 weeks work and that if I'd had notice I could have lined up temp work or babysitting, but she couldn't have cared less.

I just quit on the spot, and told her I would finish out the weand she was furious and actually called me selfish for not giving her any notice!

DT said...

That should be "finish out the weekend".

Sarah Hall said...

I interviewed many people who quit their jobs to find out the reasons why. I was really surprised. Follow the link to read the whole article 15 common reasons why people quit jobs