Budgeting and the Beloved Nanny

Received Friday, September 11, 2009
Perspective and Opinion on ISYN My wife and I have a wonderful Nanny who has been looking after our 6 month old, 50 hours per week, for the last 3 months. We all live in NYC, however her commute to our apartment is an hour long subway ride. A few weeks ago we had our 1st night on the town since the birth of our son (woo hoo) and we naturally asked our Nanny if she would like to do some overtime. Well long story short, we ended up staying out much later than we anticipated. Our Nanny was happy to stay later, but we didn’t feel right about her riding the subway home at that hour so we paid for a car service to take her home. Between the overtime hours, buying her dinner and the car service we spent about $160. Add our own drinks, dinner and a cab home and we were over $320 for the night (ouch). We, like so many families at this time, are struggling financially and our Nanny is working below market rate with the understanding that we will raise her salary as soon as we can afford it. Here’s our dilemma; my wife’s birthday is coming up and we’re going out again (I know, twice in 6 months!). We would love to have our Nanny work some more overtime but we certainly can’t afford another $160 baby sitting expense, especially when we can have one of the trusted teenage babysitters in our building do it for around $30. But we feel like we’re ‘cheating’ on our Nanny by using someone else, and I’m sure she could use the extra money. Obviously we need to discuss this with her however, I’m fairly sure she will argue that she is fine taking the train home late and not having us provide her dinner. So on the one hand we would feel like we’re ‘cheating’ on her by using the cheaper option, on the other hand we would feel like we’re underpaying her, starving her and causing her to take a long ride home on the subway at night. What’s a new, guilt racked, inexperienced, broke-ass parent to do?


citysitter said...

Why exactly do you need to confer with your nanny about your plans? I think your outlook is incredibly reasonable. You do not want to cut your night short to get the nanny on the train at a decent hour, nor do you want to shell out a ton of cash so she can take a car service home. Perhaps you should just not mention any specific plans about your wife's birthday, and hire one of the teenagers in your building, who i am sure would also really appreciate a little bit of extra spending money.

I was typing something out about what you should say to the nanny regarding this, but as i was typing i realized how ludicrous it is. Why do you need to tell her about an opportunity that you are not willing or capable of giving her? What she doesn't know won't hurt her, do what is best for you. There is absolutely no reason to shell out $160 dollars when you have someone else who will do the same job for $30. If your only concern is sparing your nanny's feelings, than a little lie of omission should do the trick.

the original gimmeabreak said...

How did it cost you $160 for the nanny? How long were you gone and what hourly rate past her normal time did you pay? What sort of dinner did you buy her?

perhaps if you want her to do it again on your wife's birthday, you can cut back on some of these things. For instance, buy her pizza (or provide food at home for her) instead of giving her $40 bucks towards a dinner or drive her home yourself instead of sending her with car service, etc. etc.

Upstate Mom said...

I think you can hire a teenager from your building without anyone thinking of you as a "cheater". If your nany learns of the plans, there is nothing wrong wtih saying that you needed to have a less expensive night, wouldn't feel comfortable with her taking the train, and don't want to shorten the evening. The fact is, the nanny might resent how much you "blew" that previous evening when you have told her you're too "poor" to pay her more, then spend hundreds on one night. She might prefer you be frugal for your wife's birthday even if she doesn't make the extra dough, then see you blow another $300 while underpaying her (your words).

just another mommy said...

The other option would be to just ask her to stay the night. This would eliminate the car service or train ride home delimna. Also, come morning she would already be there (unless of course it was a weekend and then she'd just go home in the morning.)

Also, feeding her shouldn't really cost that much. If she ordered takeout, what's the most that could cost for one person? $20?

You could also pare down your portion of the night out and keep things a bit cheaper on that end as well.

MinuteMuggle said...

I think you should just hire another babysitter and don't tell her about it.

I will say that 160 dollars seems high for a few hours of babysitting. As another poster said, how much did you spend on her dinner? Why are you buying her dinner and not just inviting her to eat out of the fridge? Do you have no food in the fridge? Furthermore, how many hours did she work? I'd just be curious to know.

But no, you shouldn't feel bad about having a back-up sitter, especially if it is more convenient or less expensive. You sound like you are trying to justify it yourself more than anyone else. Do you feel like a cheapskate? Are you filthy rich, is that why you feel bad? Money can do strange things to people.

Come on. Lie down on the couch and tell us about your mother. (leans back on desk and looks over her glasses at OP while chewing on a pencil.)

mom said...

Oh, just hire the person in the building. It's not a big deal.
If you must tell nanny anything, let her know that you absolutely did not feel right having her traveling so far home at such a late any means of transportation. If she protests, tell her once again that the thought of how late you are keeping her hinders your ability to have a long, relaxed evening without worrying about how late it's getting.

OR, you could tell a little fib and say that one of your close family friends in the building has a teenage daughter who wants to learn to babysit and you are doing them a favor on some of these after hours outings by letting the girl gain some valuable babysitting experience while in her own building with her mother nearby to help her if she becomes overwhelmed.

That ought to suffice and she should not insist on any further explanation. I know you don't owe your nanny any explanation, but I m the type of person who would feel guilty not offering some form of explanation, so I get why you're feeling like you're cheating. I'd feel better telling a fib than saying nothing. That makes no logical sense, I know...but that's just me.

I just got a haircut for fun at a fancy hotel in Las Vegas, and sweated bullets afterward about how I was going to explain it to the woman who cuts my hair at home.

Momkat said...

You are majorly overthinking this! Just hire the babysitter in your building. End of story.

lynn said...

Hire the person in your bldg. If you are a company needing 80 hours of help a week, you hire two people and give them 40 hours each. You don't hire one person and pay them overtime for the 41st -80th hour.

And I don't think Upstate Mom understands that a cab ride to an outer borough that is an hour commute by train can cost $75+. And who ever heard of having a frugal celebration so you could pay your nanny more?? Just because you hire a nanny, you shouldn't have to give her every bit of discretionary income you have.

just do it said...

I think it's a good idea to hire the sitter in the building. You have already stated that you cannot afford to have your nanny sit at night because of the transportation issue. Also, at 6 months, it may be easier to introduce your baby to several sitters, because soon stranger anxiety will set in. You could use this as an "excuse" if you feel you need one with your nanny.

NannyTS said...

As a Nanny I don't think I'd be offended if my employer's hired a teenager to baby-sit on their night out; it makes sense if it's more cost efficient. Any good Nanny will understand the financial decision you made and respect it.

Manhattan Nanny said...

I don't think any of the above posters are in NYC. In this city, nannies get cab fare home after 9:00 PM, period.
Your problem is, your nanny lives an hour away by subway. That means a very expensive cab ride. It also means she is going through some dangerous areas, so even if she is willing to take the subway, that shouldn't be an option.

I can't speak for your nanny, but here is how I would feel. I am happy to eat leftovers for dinner. I would not be upset if you used a teen to baby sit at night. (And I would not feel that you needed to discuss this with me.) Even if I would like the overtime, I would understand that my $50 cab ride is a burden. I would be willing to sleep over and go home in the A.M. if it was a Saturday night.

Just a little advice. As you say you are paying below market rate, try to give even a very small raise for her six month anniversary. It will make her feel appreciated.

ChiNanny said...

I would hire the babysitter, however, I would make sure that you are the one doing the handoff to the babysitter, not the nanny. It's not her job to brief a babysitter or make sure everything is okay.

If your nanny asks why you hired a babysitter be honest, that it was cheaper and what you could afford. I don't see any problem with that unless it's in your contract that nanny gets "dibs" on all extra hours first. If you really want to offer the extra hours to the nanny, see if she'll stay overnight. I do it often when I work late nights so that I don't have to spend the time driving back and forth and can get extra sleep.

Ma Nanny said...

have Nanny sleep over. Ask her if she wants the job, if so, to sleep over. If not, hire the teen in the building.

Village said...

I think you are an excellent employer, thinking as you are of your nanny's feelings. However, using a babysitter is not cheating. And with the money you will be saving, you will be that must closer to giving your nanny her well deserved raise.

NannyJ said...

If your nanny is working 50 hours a week, she will probably be OK with you going with a cheaper option. It's not as if she is missing out on her regular work hours.
There have been a few times when the family I work for has asked me if I wanted to come in for a date night, and though yes, I need the money, and yes, I love taking care of the baby, I don't really want to do it. However, unless I have a direct conflict I say yes. I feel that it is an obligation.

Maybe your nanny is completely different than I am, but I don't think she would feel too bad if you used someone else for the night. Working 50hrs a week with an hour commute both ways and a late night...she's probably exhausted!

TC said...

I'm a full time nanny and my charges parents trade off with the neighbors across the street often to save money for both so they can afford to go out. I don't mind, nor do I feel slighted. I understand money is tight and trading childcare (or finding a cheaper sitter) doesn't bother me and it shouldn't bother your nanny either.

mom said...

OP, I would think your nanny might also appreciate the fact that you are concerned about the spending of even a hundred dollars. She will be more inclined to believe that you are paying her a lesser wage because you truly need to and not because you are greedily hoarding huge reserves of cash that you can afford to toss about willy nilly for town cars after midnight.

I have seen plenty of nannies on here, waiting for that raise, and complaining about the wanton spending habits of their "strapped" employers.

I'll bet she'd appreciate a few hundred extra dollars in her Christmas stocking, free and clear, a lot more than she would like having to earn it over several late nights of extra babysitting and having some of it spent/wasted on her riding home in a town car.

OP said...

OP here - Thanks everyone for your comments.

As you asked I'll clear up some points.

1). Nanny will be doing the hand off so we can't keep it secret (we will be briefing the babysitter prior to).

2). We have a 1 bedroom so sleep over is not an option.

3)The cost break down was 5 hours at $15 per hour = $75
$20 for take out dinner
$60 for cab ride home

I'm sure we'll go the baby sitter route.

Adria said...

I was a fulltime nanny for over two years and worked on average, 45 hours a week. If asked to work a weekend or pick up extra hours outside my normal shift, I would always say yes.. but by the weekend, I was totally exhausted and it was even a relief to know they'd managed to get someone else to watch him. Making that extra money was always a really good option to have but there were still some days I would be so drained I'd choose sitting at home with the boyfriend, watching a movie and vegging out over working extra without even hesitating to.

Just remember, if your nanny is anything like me, she'll always say yes to working those extra hours because that's how devoted, loving nannies are. That doesn't mean she'd be upset you chose another, cheaper option. She may even be relieved that she would have her evening free.It isn't as though her normal hours were being cut or given to someone else.

...and I agree with the others posting here. You do sound like really, really lovely employers.

Phoenix said...

if you have family in the area ask them to watch the baby overnight and tell the nanny that your chosen family member wants to spend time with him. She can't get mad at that because family always comes first.

My Two Cents said...

Hire the babysitter. Your nanny may be very accomodating but 50 hours a week is a long week. I'm sure she'd rather have some down time than a few extra hours.

ChiNanny said...

If I was your nanny I would be VERY uncomfortable doing the handoff. You're hiring a teenage babysitter, it's not a family member or an adult, and if something goes wrong I, as the nanny, would not want to be the last adult to have seen the child.

o said...

I would do the handoff but call children's services and report that a teenager is taking bad care of a child and the parents are out drinking. that'll learn em.

broke mommy said...

So if your nanny's overtime rate is $15 an hour, is she making $10/ hr. regular?

And you've got a reliable, responsible teenager willing to work for $6 an hour?

Those are really low rates, at least where I'm from.

mom said...

As the person who handed the child off to a person you deemed incapable of caring for it, and then making the call to CPS yourself, I would suspect that might make YOU the person responsible for endangering the child. I would hope anyway, since you sound kind of mean and vindictive..not to mention tremendously passive aggressive.

Nanny in San Diego said...

If you really are in a bad financial situation, I do not see any problem w/hiring the teen-ager. Just let the nanny know (if it ever comes up) that you wanted to enjoy a night out and wanted to give her a break. Maybe she wanted the break as well.

Nanny P said...

My employer often uses someone else to watch my charge at night, cause she feels that my nights are just that MY NIGHTS, and that I want to spend time with my family. there are days that she works incredibly late, and on those days I stay and watch the baby. But she lets me know of those days in advance, on nights when she wants to go out with her husband or friends. she has a family friend watch the baby. Im totally fine with this.

MinuteMuggle said...

When I was a nanny, I was pregnant and married and the last thing I wanted to do after working ten hours was babysit. They had a teenager, a 17 year old who was very nice and responsible, sometimes relieve me so that I could go home. It was a relief to see her walk through the door.

I don't agree that having the nanny do the handoff is a big deal. I really don't. If the nanny is a mature, responsible adult, she will not mind in the least.

As far as "O": why would you assume because it is a teenager she is negligent? I'm assuming you were trying to make a joke.

Nycnanny said...

Hire the teenager. If she finds out tell her you were trying out a backup to have on call if she's ever sick or busy.

She won't be offended and she will appreciate you not expecting her to always be at your beck and call.
Nannies love when their bosses respect that they have lives.

Laura said...

I think you should let her know your situation. I say this only because I am a nanny and I know that if I had been originally watching the kids for "date" night then found out they hired someone else, it would really hurt my feelings and leave me wondering if I wasn't trusted.

Something I have done with a family I worked for, who also had a simler problem, was I got paid my normal rate until the kids went to bed, then after made $10. This way you get the person you prefer and she can make some extra cash.
I have NEVER been given money for dinner. EVER. That's nuts to me. Its not your job to provide food, and if you do then offer your fridge/pantry to her. I always have been allowed to make my self whatever.

Also it is not your job to pay for her to get home. If you think you are going to be out late either drive her home or maybe let her stay the night. If she wants to work the hours its really her up to her to get home.

I think I sound harsh but you seem like great people, a good nanny will see that, just be honest and remember its still our jobs....your not obligated to feed and take us home.

Ravenswood Nanny said...

This happened a lot in my last position. The parents had to pay my overtime rate and in addition to that they left money for takeout and a cab ride home. The latter two I did not expect nor ask for.

However, it was apparent to me that it was difficult financially on them to do this and eventually they bluntly spilled out that they needed to hire people with a car for the evening sittings. I respected them for being open and honest about their needs and they offered me any extra day jobs there may be.

So by them being open about their needs/expectations I had no hard feelings towards them and they were able to go out guilt free with a few extra dollars in their pockets.

cecily parsley said...


Do not listen to any of these posters. I'm a nanny who is now a mother, I know both sides!

explain to your nanny your finances and offer her the option first at a reduced rate of pay; she'll understand.

Why have a teenager who could be a flake and harm your child be a sitter when you already have a very trusted nanny?

MinuteMuggle said...

cecily parsely,

you are misguided. Just because someone is a teen does not mean they are a flake. That is simply ridiculous.

I did a great deal of babysitting when I was a pre-teen and a teen and I did a great job. I am also a mom, and have been a nanny. I know many teens, including my nephews and their girlfriends, who I would trust with my child in a heartbeat. There are also children in my classes that I have had babysit my daughter and they have been wonderful.

You sound very prejudiced against teens. They are young adults and should be treated as such.

As far as them "harming your child", do you not read the news? Your child has just as much of a chance being harmed by an adult.

You're really wrong on this one, imo.

mom said...

Once again, GULP, I agree with MM, I was also an extremely kind, competent teen babysitter. I'm sure there are others out there too.

Of course, there are also immature teens, so, as with any babysitter, the key is to know WHO you are hiring BEFORE you hire them. I would want to have extensive personal knowledge of the teen, and her family, before trusting my child to them...just as I would with any adult.

Sometimes a teen, with an eager mom living nearby, ready to step in and lend a hand if necessary, is a fantastic solution...both for the employer, and for a really good kid in need of a little bit of "official babysitting time" to get some references. That said, I didn't let teens actually take my kids anywhere. But for somebody to sit at home and play with the kids and keep them safe while you are out for a few hours, a teen can be a great, economical solution.

Mascha said...

I almost always cooked so my babysitters could get a warm meal or something from the fridge, for one I even bought the Lean Cuisine she liked, but that was a bit silly, I know.

I don't agree that getting evening babysitting always means providing a meal AND providing transportation. Your job starts at 6.30/7 pm, you eat before that. And not in the busiest moment of the day with young children, right after your arrival and when the parents leave.
Put kids in front of the TV while you fix your own dinner? Not good.

We had a sitter that actually played with the children, tag, hide and seek, in 45 minutes or an hour she had them tired enough to have them stay in their beds the rest of the evening. It doesn't always have to be TV and then straight to bed.

After a night out (drinking too?) you can't get in a car and bring the sitter home, in Manhattan a lot of people even don't own a car or it is parked and you can never find a spot again. Gone is your feeling of having had a lovely night out.

Try and find a city/neighborhood sitter for evenings, hell, we even went on the train and bus late at night half the times (alone or together)!
Rates have gone through the roof. 20$ per hour? $10 per hour extra per child that has come for a sleepover? Not something you'll do often, or rather: don't ask that sitter to come on those nights. $40-70 for a cab ride home for the nanny? I would try to avoid an arrangement like that. Most people pay for their own transportation to and from work, I realize it is late at night and maybe the train goes trhough not so nice neigborhoods. Just say you don't feel comfortable sending her home with public transportation late at night but you can also not afford to go out (as any normal couple/parent(s) should do) or work on improving your nanny's pay.

It seems to me you two spend enough time at work to be allowed another night out on the town! Congratulations!

Bloomfield babysitter said...

I'm sorry but I don't believe you are truly struggling. Think about it. Is it that you really can't afford to pay your nanny or is that you would rather get it on the cheap. You don't have to answer here only to yourself.

As for lying to your nanny I'm sure that's Ok as long as you think it's Ok for her to lie to you...right....


How about being honest with her you know like how you expect her to be honest with you. Explain things to her and see if something can be worked out. Really 15.00 an hour is not outrageous, If that's overtime you really are paying her a low wage. if you are going to splurge on yourselves splurge on her as well. Consider it a deal since you are not paying her fairly anyway.

I can guarantee your nanny is having a harder time making ends meet than you are. Show some respect.

mom said...

Bloomfield babysitter,
Not everybody has extra cash to throw around. Even though they may have a nice home, they may have almost no discretionary income after that. When you are young and trying to get started in life (especially in New York...ever price apartments there? I'm thinking no) it is often the case that, although things may look pretty nice and cushy to some outsider, you are actually hanging on by your boot straps.

Give this guy a break. There is no reason to suspect he's lying. If he's worried about a hundred dollars, I suspect he's living in the type of situation I just mentioned. he's trying to be prudent now so they won't always be so strapped later. And he and his wife have gone out TWICE in six months. They deserve to go out from time to time without being tense all night about every penny spent or feel like they have to be in early to save money, or because nanny has to travel several towns away to get home.

mom said...

And they can't afford to have her services in the evenings if it means hiring a car service and getting her dinner. They treated her very well when she worked that night. They just can't afford to keep doing it and they are unwilling to treat her poorly to save a few bucks...which is why they want to hire a babysitter nearby that they CAN afford.

There is no crime in not being a gazillionaire, people.

Go take it up with Lisa Marie's nanny. I have a feeling she'll back you up all you want.

Stefani said...

Ask the nanny if she minds you having someone else do it, she may not, especially after a long day with your little one.
If she would prefer to take the job perhaps she could stay the night but be "off the clock" once you and your wife arrive home.
I certainly wouldnt feel as if you are cheating your nanny. The families I have worked for often used other sitters for "date night" jobs because they felt I needed a break after the work week.

SoCalOCnanny said...

Im still getting over the fact this couple live in a one bedroom apt with a child and have a nanny too. UGH! I know its NYC, right? I couldnt work 50 hours in a 1 bedroom apt. .

mom said...

So Cal Nanny,
My husband rented an apartment in bedroom, one bathroom, kitchenette...had to be less than a thousand square feet total...all of it crummy, old, and worn out, in dreary, nothing special building, for $3600.00 a month...4-5 years ago. It is VERY expensive there. If you want to be n New York, you get used to it.

Manhattan Nanny said...

It sounds like your husband was living in the lap of luxury, he had a bothroom!
There was an article in the NY Times recently about a SRO on the UES where for only $800 a month you get a room.
Yes, one small room. No kitchen, a shared bathroom in the hall. New Yorkers see this as a huge bargain to live in a highly desirable neighborhood.

mom said...

Well Manhattan nanny,
I suppose that does make me feel a smidge better about the fact that his bathroom door wouldn't even stay closed. You could pull it closed, but it popped right back open...and it didn't lock. OH, and the bathtub (which was so grungy that no amount of cleaning could have ever enticed me into it) had a perpetual drip.
He kept that apartment for exactly the one month he had paid for and then we went back to hotels. It was that gross. In Dallas, that amount per month can buy you a large custom home, with a decent plot of land....and a pool.

mom said...

Well Manhattan nanny,
I suppose that does make me feel a smidge better about the fact that his bathroom door wouldn't even stay closed. You could pull it closed, but it popped right back open...and it didn't lock. OH, and the bathtub (which was so grungy that no amount of cleaning could have ever enticed me into it) had a perpetual drip.
He kept that apartment for exactly the one month he had paid for and then we went back to hotels. It was that gross. In Dallas, that amount per month can buy you a large custom home, with a decent plot of land....and a pool.