A Spoon-Fed, Bottle-Drinking 6-Year-Old?

Received Tuesday, July 14, 2009 - Rant
All right, I'm a huge fan of this blog and never felt like I had anything to write here because my work has always been very pleasant, but I've had enough this summer. With the recession and all, finding a job this summer was a bit difficult but I ended up getting 2 offers. One offered $150/wk MORE than the first, but it was more hours and with an infant that did not talk. The second was less money but with a 6 year old, bilingual girl. I chose the second job after weighing the pros and cons because I figured I could interact more with a bilingual child (I know both languages she speaks) and the mother and I got along great. I was told that I would be working 15-30 hours a week depending on the child's schedule and when the parents would get out of work. My job including preparing meals, driving the child to and from camp and play dates and doing math with the child. I was also told that I would be able to take the child out and go to the park, or the beach, or the zoo, etc. The first week of work was alright, it took a bit to get used to the traffic patterns and a schedule with the girl, but we managed. I soon started to realize that all the wonderful plans the mom told me I could make with her daughter like going to zoo...were not going to happen, because by the time I picked her up from camp, she was absolutely exhausted and grumpy and there were just not enough hours in my work day.

Getting the girl to do her math work was like pulling teeth...but I was not surprised. Then things started to get irritating. The mother insisted on giving her daughter a bottle whenever she asked for one. This meant me filling a bottle...yes, a baby bottle, with nesquik and milk, then heating it up in the microwave...and making sure it was the perfect temperature, or else I would have to cool down and reheat the bottle as the daughter saw fit. Then the girl chose not to eat/finish her meals. I told her mother (I talked to her for at least 30-40 min every night, letting her know how the day went, during my free time at night) because I was concerned for the girls health but the mother just brushed me off and said "It's ok, she eats at camp." It wasn't long before the camp called alerting the mother that her daughter was not eating their either. She called me (again during my off hours) and told me how I needed to implement more foods into her daughter's diet, and then condescendingly told me "you're a smart girl, you know she can't run on macaroni and cheese all day." To which I was shocked, because I had written a detailed list of different foods I could make her daughter for breakfast and dinner....but were impossible to make because there was never the correct food in the fridge. The mother told me that sometimes I would "just have to cuddle and watch a movie with her as you feed her," and of course, that meant spoon-feeding her 6yo daughter. At first I was taken aback, because a. I do not like watching tv with my charges, and b. I know 2.5yo that can feed themselves. But, seeing as how the girl was not eating, I figured her fainting was way worse than me having to spoon feed her while watching the Backyardigans. Then, when she finally did start eating, she would demand that the different foods in the meal be seperated into different plates. I was somewhat understanding because I too do not like when certain foods touch other foods so I did what she asked...but then she asked me to use a different utensil for each plate.

The mother did not have a set schedule and would come home whenever she could. Her daughter would also wait up for her every night and therefore had no set bedtime. If the mother came home at 9:00, then the daughter would stay up till 9 and they would play together for an hour or two. That meant that there where nights in which the girl wouldn't get to bed till at least 11pm. I was supposed to be in every morning at 6:30, and sometimes the girl would be wide awake, sometimes she would be sleeping (to which the mother told me to let her sleep), and sometimes she would just be getting up and grouchy and demanding her bottle. This made it difficult for me because I never knew what to expect and it constantly changed our routine because I would have to push everything back. Also, the girl would go to a different camp every two weeks, so after we had gotten the hang of one routine...we'd have to change to another one completely and adjust. Also, it did not help that some days the mother would be like "today, she is going to have a play date so you do not to come this afternoon," or "today you need to pick her up at this time instead of this time," or my favorite, "I'm taking the day off tomorrow to spend more time with ***** so I'll see you x-day instead." While I love having time to myself and being able to sleep-in, I'm a college student and I have bills and loans like most people, so this annoyed me.

All of this was building up for me but I figured, I'm only here till August, and money is money. Plus, when my charge wasn't being overly picky about food, we got along pretty well. Please note that I love children and have had wonderful experiences as a nanny before. I've also worked at a day care center and ended up having long lasting relationship with those children and still babysit for them today. I would always tell the mother what was going on and how the day went. However one day, in which the girl was sleeping in because her mother had gotten home late, the mother starts criticizing me that her daughter had not done enough math homework the past couple of days and that she should be doing at least 3-5 pages a day because we had "so much time in the mornings." On a good day, her daughter would be up by 7, which meant, 20-30min to eat, we're now at 7:30am. It took her daughter about 20 min to do one page of math but at least 10 min to convince her to do it, so now we're at 8am. Usually the daughter wants to play before math for at least 15min, so now we're at 8:15am. It took her about 15min to get ready for the day and out the door, so now we're at 8:30am. But to get to her camp we needed to leave by 8:15, 8:20 at the latest. So now we're about -15 min, yet we had "so much time." I tried to explain to her that it was very difficult to get her daughter to do math and there were good days and bad days. She then continued to criticize me by saying that the reason she doesn't do her math is because I don't have a set routine with her and that I let her watch too much tv. How am I supposed to have a routine with her daughter, if she (the mother) doesn't even give me a routine to stick to?? She told her daughter sternly that she had to do math everyday with me or else. To which her daughter replied in a whiny voice "but i don't want tooooooo." And instead of explaining to her daughter why should do her math, or trying to reason it out, she started laughing. I was dumbfounded. How was her daughter supposed to take doing her math seriously if all her mother did was laugh. Her mother would never do any math with her. The mother said it was because she spent so much time working that by the time she came, all her daughter wanted to do was play, so of course I looked like the bad guy "forcing" the girl to do math. I ignored her response, and tried to talk with he girl but by this point the girl was screaming and crying because her mom was leaving to go to work. After she left, I told the girl it was time to do math and she screamed at me and slammed the bedroom door. Once again I was dumbfounded. I would never yell back at child let alone hit her, but I felt as if I was at such a lost, because I had tried everything with this child. I believe children are very smart and understand what you say to them, especially an already bright 6 year old. I decided to remove all her toys from the living room, to distract her from doing math. Once I got her back in the room I sat her down and explained that what she did was wrong and how we needed to stick to our morning routine. I drew out a big chart, writing out our routine, letting the girl choose when we would do what, and what color to write it in. I wanted to let her know that together we could negotiate and it wasn't just me calling all the shots. After our talk and later in the afternoon, our day went great. She did her math, she ate all her food, we went to the library, she ate all her dinner and I gave her a bath. Her mom called me later that night and I explained to her what had happened in the morning but that her daughter and I had a nice long talk and we worked things through. The mother's response "oh...I don't think I would have moved all the toys, I think that was a bit dramatic..She likes the toys." I couldn't believe it. What did she want me to do then? Let her child get away with throwing a tantrum and letting her think it's ok?? (btw, I put all the toys back after she finished her math...just like I told her I would). I again tried to explain, that we talked about it, made up our routine and that the afternoon went smoothly. She told me that she would be taking the next day off and that I should come back the day after that. I was not surprised. However, I was surprised when I got a TEXT MESSAGE the next night at 10:30pm saying that she was uncomfortable with the way things had been going and that she didn't think her daughter should be afraid of doing her homework. I called her back and left her a voice message telling her that I'm sorry that that's the way she felt and that their must have been some miscommunication between the two of us, but that we should meet up before the weekend to talk about this.

I didn't really want to go back to work for her, but she left me in a horrible position. I had only worked 13 hours the week before, and because this happened in the middle of the week, I only worked 12 hours this week instead of the 15-30 hours/wk we had agreed upon. I also have to go back to school mid-August because I'm a resident advisor, therefore, finding a job for basically 1 month would be impossible. I am now out of a job and out of money because I did not let a child get away with having a tantrum. Sorry for the length, but I just needed to get that out. Some feedback would be appreciated. Thanks!!!


MinuteMuggle said...

that whole story is just...bananas.
I'm so sorry.

Just Me said...

I think the mom is just way out of line!
Out of curiosity, why was it so important that she be doing this large amount of math homework during the summertime? I didn't get the impression that she was required to do any other homework or specifically educational work.
It kinda sounds to me like she used you. I'm so sorry to hear you are in such a tight spot now with having to go back to school so soon but it sounds like it really wasn't worth it.
You weren't the bad guy, that's for sure!

Village said...

The pathology of the mess in this household is so great, you are fortunate to have escaped. The daughter is dying for a schedule to follow, and the mother is making sure that won't happen.

Very, very sad.

A lot of people vacation in August. Maybe you could find one that wants to take a nanny with them. It's not right you missed out on so many hours.

mom said...

I go with what Village says.

I can't stand to see bratty kids being coddled by their parents. It's a HUGE pet peeve of mine. (I have apparently gone on about it more than once, because my children also now share my disdain for such people. Oops.)

Nanny in Florida said...

I recently ended a job where I had to go through almost the same type of situation. The kid was such brat and he ruled the house it seemed, instead of the parents. To make matters worse, I worked alongside the mother and had to watch this kid get away w/murder...almost! Yep, the mom was pregnant w/twins and the kiddo punched her in the stomach when he go angry!!!! He only got a slight reprimand, like a 4 minute time-out I think. :(

Anyway, you did the right thing and you were not over the line. I don't know why some parents w/nannies coddle their children. Be it the guilt that comes w/not being there for the child or what, but it is unacceptable. I am glad you stuck to your guns, sorry you do not have a job now, but am hopeful that you will soon.

L said...

I have a job similar to this (but I only have 3 days left of it!!). I have been there for a year now, and the kids totally rule the house, throw insane and violent tantrums, and don't take "no" for an answer, no matter how big or small their requests are. Like Nanny in FL said, the parents probably feel guilty for never being home, and now their kids are going to turn out to be awful human beings as a result of being so f-ing spoiled. However, I've never dealt with having to bottle feed/spoon feed a 6 year old- that is CRAZY. Honestly, be glad you got out of it when you did, and I wish you luck finding a job.

On a separate note, I have a question of my own. This is my first nanny job, and as I said, I have been there for a year, which is the minimum time my employer and I agreed upon for me to work for them. I am moving out of the country soon, which is the (main) reason I'm leaving the position. I just bought the kids some pretty decent "goodbye presents", I work for much less money than I should, and I do ALOT of housework, etc. Also, I was supposed to have 2 wks paid vacation, which I got, but for Christmas I only asked off for a week, and got a call at the end of that week from my boss telling me I could go ahead and take the next week off as well. Therefore, the week that I didn't plan to take off became my 2nd week of paid vacation. *NOTE*- we do not have a contract, but these people are pretty trustworthy with this sort of stuff.

FINALLY, my question is, should I be expecting a bonus of some sort? Is this customary at all? I feel like I have done a lot for this family. I know they can afford it, and I also know they won't be paying any nanny next week because they will be on vacation, therefore making them even more able to afford it even more. Am I just getting my hopes up? And am I right to feel like they owe me for my 2nd week of vacation, since I didn't have a choice about taking off that 2nd week off for Christmas?

mom said...

A mother of a kindergartener at my kids' elementary school showed up at lunch time the first day and spoon fed her child his lunch. Who knows if she would have done it all year...the principal was so aghast that he told her that she was not welcome to come do that ever again.

jeb said...

I don't know who these people's parents are, but have you seen NY Prep? The most laughably repulsive crop of teenagers, ever. Just having this on television makes us look weak to our enemies. The ugly, fat blonde girl- she must have the most money. The bisexual douche bag (you're gay honey and the reason you put up with the fat ugly blonde chic is because you're gay and she's your hag). The whorish 15 year old who has been dating for a couple of years? Sebastian who's father takes him to dinner and salivates over the idea of him balling a 14 year old? All of these parents need to be hunted, gathered and buried alive-along with their sickening spawn.


And if any of you nannies had any hand in raising these monsters, kill yourselves now!

Lola said...

That family seems disturbed. I feel very badly for that little girl. So strange, as soon as things started to work, you were out. On the other hand, it doesn't seem that you were what the mother was looking for. I think she needed someone more malleable. Unfortunately, you probably could have sraightened that child up right, if you'd been given the chance.

monkeyshines said...

kid will be in therapy very soon! I used to nanny and it boggled my mind how many kids are "emo"

only maybe said...

As everyone has said, this family is craaaaaaazy. And I know some people will disagree with me, but I think in some instances there can be such a thing as too much communication between nanny and parent (i.e. in a situation like this where the parents are crazy). Kind of like, you need to find what works for you with the child when the mom is not around and then do that. Maybe it's a little bribery: "You can have a bottle after you do one page of math." Or maybe it's a consequence (like removing the toys), but you don't necessarily need to go into detail about it with the mom.
She probably hates that you are so thoughtful and deliberate in the way you try to interact with her child, when she herself obviously takes the easy way out (case in point: bottles and spoon-feeding). She just wants to see the outcomes (her child doing math and eating food), she doesn't really want to hear about how you get there.

my name said...

There is no need for sitting and talking to the Mom for 30 minutes after every shift (ESPECIALLY during your free time) to tell her what happened during the day.

Instead, spend 2-3 minutes updating her. Or write her a daily note of anything she should be aware of, or any questions you have.

Too much info can be bad - the more detail the Mom knows, the more she will nitpick anything and everything you do, even if it's working for you and the child.

When you are there, you have to do things YOUR way, within reason. You are an adult. When a kid goes to school, you don't see the teacher asking the parents how she should teach their kids - she just teaches them how she sees fit, and how the school prefers it to be done. You also don't see the teacher having a daily 30 minute conversation - They get 2 or so parent teacher conferences a year.

The Mom in this situation sounds like a wack job though.

I just finished a job where feeding the 10 year old boy was a pain in the ass. He was so picky and required his own separate dinner every night. Different plates and different utensils for each item. His milk had to be a certain temp too, or it was trash. He would LOVE a dish one night, and then the next night he'd say the same exact dish was disgusting and would throw it in the trash and demand something new.

His Mom approved of it too, so it made my life very difficult.

Nanny Sarah said...

This family would be great for an episode for Nanny 911. I would love to see the mother and Nanny. What a crazy mother and that poor child.

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Momkat said...

It sounds like this child has anxiety--and complying with her requests, ie. to have a bottle, to have different plates, etc. only makes the anxiety works. My son has anxiety, too. And we've been advised by psychologists to not comply with these types of requests because it escalates things. By insisting our child does things in an age-appropriate way, we've actually reduced his anxiety--and improved his comfort and happiness--dramatically!!!! So, any of you nannies/parents with children like this--don't give into excessive demands. It may seem kind on the surface; but in reality it's unkind and even a bit harmful to the child's development.

ATL Nanny said...

This is insane, and you are lucky to escape. However, I totally understand your anxiety about not having a job or income for the next month. That's really unfortunate, and I'm really sorry you wound up in this position through what sounds like no fault of your own. (I know how nice and wonderful a family can seem in an interview.)

I think you should focus on finding as much babysitting as you can for the next month. Maybe you can find a family to take you on vacation as someone suggested, or maybe you can fill-in for a family whose nanny is going on vacation. Even if you just got 2-3 evening sitting jobs per week, that should add up to 15 hours a week. Sign up for all the online sitter services, put an ad on craigslist, and NETWORK with former clients, family friends, etc.

Good luck!

mom said...

The last couple of post remind me of a family I knew many years back. They were good parents. Two of the children were wonderful and very well behaved, but the middle boy (we knew him from about ages 3-6 before they moved)had some serious problems. (He had not been diagnosed with anything at the time, but I'll bet he has by now. The mom once asked us other playgroup moms if it was normal that her 3 year old walked around with a boner literally almost 24/7...which clued me in really fast that there was a serious issue.)

The parents' only recourse in public was to give him whatever he wanted, because if they didn't he pitched such a horrific fit (many levels above any normal temper tantrum I've ever seen), which may literally carry on for hours...screaming, writhing, flailing, etc...like an alien in a horror movie. If they didn't give in, the other children would have been forced to leave practically every park or pool visit, and every special event within a very short time after arriving.

I felt really sorry for them. They coddled him, but there really didn't seem to be a way out. It was like everybody was on pins and needles around him at all times, and you never knew what would set him off. Thinking back now, he should have been in serious psychiatric care...which, in hindsight, is the parent's fault.

reality tv said...

Somebody mentioned Nanny 911- Did anyone see that episode of Super Nanny where the 4-year-old twins were given bottles and wore diapers at bedtime? When they got rid of the baby stuff, the children transformed, suddenly acting like their age instead of like toddlers. It was really amazing. Maybe for this child, it is incompatible to expect her to sit down and do 3 pages of homework each day when she is being treated the rest of the time as a baby.

nannyneedscoffee said...

by just reading this and not knowing the child or parent I really got the impression that there may be some underlying disorder, learning or otherwise. I know many people would think that a parent would tell the caregiver if their child did have a special need, but not always. I worked for a family for a year and a half and the mother never told me in as many words that their son was on the Autism spectrum. I pretty much figured it out on my own. About three months into it she did admit that he had some social problems.
Thats what it sounds like to me, and it sounded as if the mother is a single mother, which means that their bond is even stronger and that the daughter gets her way even more (not always the case, but sometimes). Try to at least have a good relationship with the little girl, as that will make any bad confrontations with the mother a bit easier(maybe, at least for me its the case) since you spend most of the day with the girl.
Stick it out until the end of the summer. Youre almost halfway through!

Pull-Ups? Please! said...

You know, this post really struck me. I've been with a terrific family for 3 1/2 years now. The three children and parents are wonderful people, however...the five-year-old girl still wears a pull-up to bed every night, demands to be spoon-fed her breakfast in the morning by mommy or me, talks very little at school (she only communicates in nods/head-shakes for yes/no to her teachers).

She is a really sweet little girl, and pretty well-behaved (aside from being a tad tempermental)...but the coddling bothers me. I think it feeds into the anxiety that makes her clam up verbally at school. Thoughts on how to get her/her parents past these things so she can shine like the big girl she really is?

Mind you, when mommy isn't home in the morning for breakfast...she eats by herself. Just sayin'...

fox in socks said...

I did not read all the comments on this thread.

OP, it sounds to me like the girl's strange eating preferences, which are obsessional, are an attempt to exert control over a situation that feels scary to her. The mother's lack of schedule/routine, and therefore unpredictable presence or absence in the girl's life is not healthy. This is leading the girl to try to attempt to control things that ordinary people don't feel the need to control, and be obsessional about, such as having many plates and a different spoon for each plate, only wanting to eat by the tv, etc.

The mother sounds like a whack job. It sounds like you handled things really well when you wrote out everything and tried to give the girl control over her schedule, etc.

I'm sorry it ended badly for you due to the nutty mother. Maybe she will shape up and realize what a benefit you were to the girl.

webay said...

I'm so sorry.

Wicker Park Nanny said...

Think of it this way: The money you would be making during this month would have been spent on therapy after working for this lady. So I think you're coming out about even. ;D

justcuz said...

This is how hispanic mothers usualy are. It's not your fault. It's hers and thats the way they will raise their kids.

OP said...

Thanks for all the feedback guys!!! I'm still lookin for a job, but after reading all of ur comments I definitely feel that I'm better off without a job and my sanity intact, then slowly losing my mind.

Just to respond to some of the comments, the mom was very intent on aing sure her child kept up with learning and education even though it was summertime which I definitely agreed with up, but I also thought that 3-5 pages of math, each 20 questions each was a bit much. Yes, i definitely agree that there was way too much communication btw the mother and I, and I would always try to get her off the phone but she just kept talking...I felt as if she was using me...like, if she didn't have any one else to talk to. I never really saw her have an amicable conversation with her husband and they were constantly bickering.

and for "Just Cuz" I take offense to your comment...I am hispanic...and the mother and her family are not, so please do not stereotype, it doesn't help.

fox in socks said...

To just cuz -- what the ?!?!?!?

mom said...

Just cuz is probably just a troll. Please just completely ignore stupid comments, otherwise they get excited and continue posting.