Nanny Needs Help Dealing with Mother's Outbursts

Received Friday, December 11, 2009
Perspective and Opinion on ISYN I'm a nanny and I need some advice on how to approach and handle my current situation. Let me start off by saying I really love the family I work for. I adore the kids, the parents are fun, easy going, and I genuinely enjoy my job. As a live-in nanny I know things can get sticky. Emotions sometimes seem to a run a little higher (or at least in my experiences) and I'm not sure how to handle the moms random "outbursts".

Things have been said over the past couple of months and I've just let them go because I'm not one to make waves, especially at a good job but this past week something happened and I thought the mother was totally out of line. Let me just point out a key factor: I use my own private vehicle for this job. I pay for it, pay the insurance, pay for my own gas, and pay for the wear and tear to the vehicle. When I started this job I had an older vehicle and over thanksgiving got a new one. When I was cleaning out my old car I realized that certain things the kids had brought in my car had ruined the seats. There were pen marks, part of a melted crayon, food under their seats, and a hole where either a pen or a pencil had poked through the seat.

Well the mother asks me to do her a favor and take her to the shop to pick up her car. Of course I said sure no problem. Before we leave one of the kids is asking to bring things in the car and she said "yes" without even consulting me. I then said "I'd really prefer if they didn't bring anything". She asked if they could bring a paper and pen/pencil and I said "I'd rather not, the nintendos would be better". I'm all for kids bringing things on long car rides to occupy themselves but we were only going down the road. So the kids leave the room to go finish playing before we leave and she wants to talk to me. She proceeds to tell me that she "doesn't ask for much and when she does, she doesn't like to be told no, and if I'm going to lay down the law and be like no, no, no then we need to discuss that because she doesn't like to tell her kids no". She then went into "we try to make this job so easy and simple and we do what we can to help you out". And she's right this job is simple and easy but I didn't ask for her to make the job simple and easy, it was presented that way.

The only time they helped me out was when my former vehicle had mechanical problems but I paid them back, never missed a payment to them, and its been paid off for over a month now. And I completely agree with her on one point she made, which was I am partly responsible for making sure the kids take their things out of my car. Totally true and I agree. I should also always know what they are bringing into my car but at the same time if I'm helping one of them get ready to go and the other is sticking things in their pocket I'm not always aware of what comes in my vehicle but still I agree with her on that point. I mean the conversation went on for close to 20-30 minutes. I didn't say much because I was completely stunned at how she just kept going on and on about how it was "rude of me" and then I started to get upset. I listened to everything she said and I didn't agree one bit. So I just let it go and now I'm asking for help.

My problem is I have a feeling she was having a bad week but it's not the first time her anger has been directed at me when it's not been my fault. We have had 2-3 other issues like this (which she later apologized for) but I'm not sure I can handle her "outbursts" for much longer, especially when it comes to things like my time off, my car, or my personal space. This happened on friday and here I am still upset by it. I'm a nanny who feels like family but knows that when this year is over, the jobs end because they don't need me. I need a way to bring the "outbursts" to her attention without it becoming an emotional scene, I need this to be a strictly professional matter.

How would you guys suggest I handle this? Has any other nanny been in this position? Thanks in advance for any help.


MaryPoppin'Pills said...

My apologies... your Post did get lost in the e-mail shuffle and until I received your MEEBO, I did not know which one it was.

emily said...

On first reading there doesn't seem to be much of a problem here except lack of communication. I may be missing something, because you very vaguely mention issues with your time off, but it sounds to me like you need to both be more flexible and stick up for yourself.

It seems clear to me that you resent the fact that you're not in any way compensated for the use of your private vehicle. Perhaps you need to talk to the mom about this, because it doesn't look like your feelings are going to go away on the matter, they're probably just festering.

Then get on the same page with the mom about what's allowed in your car. Tell her about the damage done to your old one. Tell her about your feelings towards pens in your car, etc. Don't assume that she'll know how your feeling because you suggest the kids bring video games instead of art materials, she could totally misinterpret something like that.

Finally, I think you need to examine your feelings about your job. Your language doesn't seem to fit the situation. The way you describe it, what the mother did can hardly be called an "outburt" and it's quite common for the stresses of life to be taken out on the people in your home--that's normal and one of the things you have to deal with as a nanny. If it's only happened a few times and the mother has apologized afterwards, I think you have it very well.

Put things in perspective & communicate your feelings to your boss.

Bloomfield babysitter said...

I use my own vehicle as well. When I got a new one last year I bought an large, inexpensive piece of material and put it over the seat they sit on. I also have to say the mom was courteous enough to explain to the kids that nanny as a new car and they must be careful in it. But not everyone is that considerate. Also, not everyone treats new cars the same (The Last Lecture comes to mind; excellent read)

Speak up and you will clear things up. Also if you take the kids in your car invest in some sort of inexpensive seat covering.

Momkat said...

If you're working for someone and living in their home, things are bound to get sticky from time to time. I admire live-in nannies...because I couldn't imagine having to "live" with my boss. That's A TOUGH thing to do.

Village said...

Maybe you ought to put it in writing to her, just as you did in your letter. You will only take the kids in your car if they don't damage it. If she wants anything and everything in the car, you are going to need a $100 bump per month for the use of your car.

It seems to be human nature for employers to take advantage of nannies after a period of time.

If she continues to punish you, and she may, you will need to quietly get another job.

Nanny in San Diego said...

I am a nanny and I HATE being yelled at by my boss. I think it is totally disrespectful of someone to do that to me, especially since I take such good care of their children. I would talk to her when she is in a better mood, and if she doesn't apologize or admit she was out of line, then unless you can let this is time to find another job. I agree w/ takes a lot to live w/your boss. I sure couldn't.

jj said...

Man, I would pop that lady in the mouth. And then I would tell the bitch that her kids needed to hear No from her because it's a rough, tough world out there and we don't need anymore weakass kids.

VAnanny said...

Yes, j.j.. That sounds like it would be very effective. Seriously? At least give OP some advice she can use!

OP, I feel your pain. I was in a similar situation. MB was a complete nightmare and I always felt like she was looking down on me as some sort of domestic. I can understand how you would feel hurt about this. I definitely think you need to sit down and have a rational discussion with her. It helps if you write down all of the key points you would like to make beforehand. I also think it's a good idea for live-ins to meet with the family regularly to discuss things. When I was a live-in, we met monthly to discuss either party's concerns (if any) and talk about the development of the children and any issues or concerns with that. It made things a lot easier because there was no lack of communication. Everything was communicated seamlessly and it worked out well. Anyway, good luck and do keep us posted!

MissMannah said...

I'm confused. At the end of the post, you wrote "I'm a nanny who feels like family but knows that when this year is over, the jobs end because they don't need me". Does that mean you'll be moving out and no longer employed by this family? If so, then I think you can just wait it out another 3 weeks and ignore the outbursts to the best of your ability. If not, I'm totally lost. But I think you and mom need to have a sit-down chat and you need to explain how it hurts your feelings to be yelled at.

so with you said...

First, defuse the situation. "I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to discuss it with you before the fact" then state your argument, "but I realized how much damage has been done to my car by the kids' toys (do not say by the kids), so I need to set some limits (not rules) about what toys can be brought in the car, since I can't necessarily be watching them every second while I'm driving."
Also, next time you could try being more directive: "Sorry, Johnny, we can't take pencils in the new car, but you can bring your Nintendo. Why don't you run and get it." Instead of just saying no.
But it's not okay for mom to treat you this way just because she's having a bad day. Maybe next time it happens, point that out but then set the limit. If we can't have a rational conversation about this now, lets wait till later.

so tired of this said...

This mother does not sound nice at all. Why would you say she is nice? She sounds awful.

I am so tired of reading posts from nannies who start off saying "my family is wonderful, I love them" and then immediately give an example of how there is no way in hell they could be nice.

Pfft. Not nice. End of story.

Anonymous said...

I'm the OP.
MissMannah- I should have stated I started in the summer so my agreement goes from june-june.
I appreciate any advice and help.
So tired of this- a lot of us do feel we work for nice families. Just because we give an example of how they aren't always on the top of their game doesn't mean they aren't nice. I have had a bad day at work as well. She is a very nice lady. I just came out of a horrible situation in which even after I had left the job the mother harassed me via email. I could do much worse than the job I have now.
They really are lovely people.
I just wanted advice on how to sit down and make our conversation completely professional and try not to let any emotions get the better of me and say something I don't mean.
It is extremely hard being a live-in sometimes. No matter how nice the family is or how well you do your job. Sometimes its just overwhelming. The nanny (unless she has somewhere to go every weekend or on her days off) never really gets a break between "work" and "home". And I'm sure the parents feel they never really get a break from their nanny as well. It is just a difficult situation sometimes.
Again thank you for any advice.

Manhattan Nanny said...

I'm sorry, this is not what you expect to hear from another nanny, but I understand where the mom is coming from. You had not explained to her that your seats had been damaged by pencils etc., so when she told her children they could bring them, and you said you'd rather not, and they should bring something else, without explaining why, it just sounded like you were contradicting her in front of the children, something you should never do.

I suggest you apologize, and explain the car situation, as you did to us. As for her other outbursts, I'm wondering if maybe they result from a lack of communication on both your parts? The next time you feel she is having an "outburst', speak up for yourself and explain your side of things if you can do so in a calm manner. If not, suggest that you discuss it later when you have more time.

I hope you can work it out, it would be a shame for a job to go sour if it can be fixed.

MissMannah said...

Thanks for clarifying OP! That makes a lot more sense.

Some people are just lovely but one little thing can set them off and they turn into the beast. (I would know--I am one sometimes.) The fact that you and she do have a good relationship is great and it means she will respect you when you tell her how you're feeling. The key is timing. Hold off till after the holidays because it is so stressful for everyone right now. Maybe sometime when the kids are in school or equally occupied, you and she can have a casual conversation. Always start off with good stuff and end with good stuff. If the bad stuff is sandwiched in the middle, it won't seem confrontational.

I have to give you props, I could never in my life be a live-in nanny. I love my charge but I love living as an adult too.

ericsmom said...

Thats nuts! Don't apologize for anything. Its your car and your rules. Like you said your out of their in three weeks. So tough on them. Why should you ruin YOUR car.

And I never heard of a live-in using their own car?????!!!! They usually provide one. And they pay for the gas. Maintenance and insurance. Why are you paying for everything???

Wake up girl and get some self-esteem!!

And I hope you find a great live-out position. Trust me I understand!

VAnanny said...

Ericsmom, OP clearly states that her contract is from June-June so she is there until June of 2010. She stated:

"I should have stated I started in the summer so my agreement goes from june-june."

ericsmom said...

okay thanks for the info. But she still shouldn't have to use her car. And if she does they should go by her rules.

Mary L said...

If she's a nice person, you should be able to email her and explain why you don't want pencils or crayons in the backseat of your new car.

rainbowbug1 said...

i don't have good news. Outbursts by associates is a deal breaker for me. The way i react to it is - if it's an employer i need very much i bend over and take it. If it's an associate i do not need - i take it for a while, try to talk to them and then when i disengage they just can't see why

When i was in dire straits moneywise i spent 10 years in a restaurant with 2 managers who blew off steam by yelling - i took it

later, as a mommy's helper i worked for a mom who blew off steam by raising her voice etc - yelled at me while was using the restroom,no one else at the agency would take her ( the child was awesome and she was nice when not outbursting). I slowly disengaged without telling her why

now that i own a child - oriented business - i let an employer do that if their account is HUGE - yep i take it. But the smaller accounts - when they yell at you from stress - got rid of three in the last 2 years,give em to my friends who are not sensitive to outbursting and need the money.

Get this - sometimes the people who work for me do it - i take it for a while,send an email detailing the verbiage and voice level i feel is inappropriate and then after about the 3rd discussion i disengage. Have 2 of them now who want work and i send them to other companies. Also have 2 of them now who i am in the process of disengaging from and they are trying to be supersweet after a prolonged series of outbursts but the die is cast.

There is one young lady who quit in an outburst seven years ago, came back apologized for the outbursts and wants work - we are getting along great and making money along with 10 other employees and friends who get along without the verbal drama

so- the only way the mother will not treat you that way is if she needs you very much but usually the people who attack others verbally cannot help themselves - it's just what they do - anger brings an adrenaline rush - attacking you is how they blow off stress

i would love to hear from you if communicating with this lady works

but i think - you simply will have to take her behaviour if you need the money, pretty simple

what? said...

rainbow bug:

so you're saying that you allow people to yell at you for money, but if they don't give you as much money you don't take it from them?

that sounds sort of like you're a sell-out. just saying.

mom said...

Mom was out of line for sure. Not necessarily worth quitting over...but you ought to be able to speak calmly as a professional and tell her why the kids cannot bring certain items in your car. If mom rants at you, sit there and act as dignified and professional as you can, while absolutely holding to your guns, and hope the contrast between her childish behavior and your professional behavior becomes evident to her. Maybe she will then be ashamed enough to control herself in the future.

Personally, I did not allow my children to play with potentially dangerous or destructive things in the car. Accidents happen, and sharp things flying around...or their little faces bent over writing surfaces with pens and pencils in their hands at the point of impact are not ideal, to say the least. (I even gave them suckers with soft handles in the car.) Ink, paint and crayons have their place, but it is not in the car. One undiscovered crayon on a hot day is all it takes to permanently ruin a carpet or seat. Kids can learn to wait for gratification. they don't HAVE to do exactly what they want exactly when they want to do it...unless you're really trying to turn them into raging brats in the minimum amount of time possible. I like what somebody suggested above, "You can't bring the crayons in the car, Willie, but you can take your Gameboy or a book instead. Why don't you run on and get those while I get our coats." End of discussion. The child still gets to choose a toy by himself....but from an "approved" list. (This also works for clothing with "choosy" kids. )
Whatever you do, don't cower to the mom when she acts like that. That will only fuel her entitlement to rage in front of you. Be so professional that she is embarrassed for you to see what a ninny she can be. She'll save her tantrums for somebody she feels superior to. Don't let it be you.
As an aside, Manhattan nanny makes a good point in that it might be best to speak to her about this stuff away from the kids

rainbowbug1 said...

dear what-you are right - i am a sell out for a living - i do put up with verbally abrasive people when it would affect my living and i disengage when i am financially able.

but - the situation used to be worse - recently i let an EMPLOYEE browbeat me with emotional outbursts for 5 years until i got enough of it and disengaged

i am now at about the 3 month limit where i will put up with "outbursters" for about three months while trying to counsel them and then disengage if no success

come to think of it - i have no accounts at this time where those who hire me are outbursters because i have become financially independant enough, but i am in the process now of disengaging from an employee who outbursts

so the way all this applies to the OP is - there are outbursters in the business world, it's a human trait in a certain percentage of people - they gain something from the behaviour - release of stress, endorphins.

you can rarely change them or their behaviour and they never see their behaviour as wrong - they usually deny it

so - if you are a person for whom rudeness and verbal attacks wash off you like water off a duck - no prob. But if you are like me and that behaviour is distressing you have to decide if you are as "what" says - a sell out - you have to take the behaviour of an employer which apalls you for money or quit/disengage to extricate yourself from the behaviour at the expense of your living and food on the table

the ideal is to work to become financially independant so you can choose your work environment - i wish that for the OP and all of us

m said...

I honestly don't get the whole 'nanny's vehicle' thing. Why on earth would I use my own car to transport my employers kids is just beyond me.

I know that quite a few people do this, and I do remember my last position my employer tried to get me to do this- of course I told her no, and she always acted dumb when I tried to figure out how that made any sense. It didn't.
Your employer does not like the word 'no' too funny, well perhaps she needs to get herself a reliable car.

I think some employers really do feel that as a nanny you should just simply say yes to everything they suggest inspite of the ramifications. Nuts!

I say you insist that they do not come in our car with their pencils, crayons, etc. It is your car, but you can tell your employer that you have no qualms driving their car and of course the kids can bring spaghetti sauce if they like.

One does not give up their rights as a human being simply because they are a nanny.

Alas, the disconnect between nannies and their employers- sigh!