Received Sunday, February 21, 2010
I am a 20-year-old college student working for a very close family member as a nanny to his three children, ages 1, 4 and 6. I started on June 1st 2009 working 25 hours a week for $1200 a month. While things started out on a positive note, they have steadily declined and led me to feel overworked, underpaid and degraded to my breaking point. At first I was only assigned light housework, although that included the entire family’s laundry. In November I moved to a more expensive apartment and asked for a raise to $1400 a month. They seemed very hesitant to shell out that much money, although we were standing in a 5,000 sq. foot house and they had just returned from a week-long family vacation. They said I would need to work extra hours and “extra cleaning duties,” although they didn’t specify what those would be. We all decided I would add Thursdays from 7:30 – 1:30 and that these would be my “cleaning days.” We agreed that the children would be out of the house with their parents so that I could get the cleaning done. The mother would give me a list every Thursday detailing what she would need done. Each day would consist of 3-4 hours of actual cleaning, but some common tasks that appeared on the lists were cleaning the parents’ bathroom (sink, shower, tub), vacuuming the entire house including the stairs, changing the sheets on all five beds, wiping down the entire kitchen including inside/outside all appliances and counters, sweeping/mopping all tile floors, cleaning all the clutter downstairs, dusting the entire house, scrubbing the baseboards, the lists go on. Although I am not a trained “maid” I was almost always able to finish the list in plenty of time and there weren’t really any problems.
Last month school started up for me again and my class schedule was a little different than last Fall. So now I work 7:30-2:30 Mondays, 7:30-6:00 Tuesdays, and Wednesdays and Thursdays from 7:30-4:30. Apparently it was hard for them to arrange for someone to be home by 2:30 every Monday so that I could get to class, and they told me that, but they made it work and I was grateful. They said the cleaning day wouldn’t work with this schedule, that every hour was a childcare hour. The mom said that “I shouldn’t have trouble fitting the cleaning day into my free time during the week.” Well, she’s wrong. Since the baby is the only one who takes naps anymore, and I still have to finish the entire family’s laundry, I really only have an hour or two of “free time” each week.
Then one of my friends who happens to be a nanny showed me the Berkeley Parents Network 2008 salary survey. 880 families participated and I am on the extreme low end of the payscale reported in the survey. This came as a complete shock to me. Why would my own family members, who constantly tell me how happy they are with me as a nanny, pay me less that most families pay complete strangers? I brought this information to the father, assuming that he was just ignorant of the norm in this area (he moved here to the San Francisco Bay Area from Redding last year). I was appaled at his reaction. First he said that I hurt his feelings by bringing him this, and that it apparently signified that I wasn’t being emotionally open with him and had to hide my true feelings by boiling it down to numbers. Second, when I tried to tell him that the cleaning workload is unrealistic with this schedule, he said something that boils my blood as I type this. “I know it takes away from your time with the kids, but you don’t know how invaluable that service is to us. By making sure my wife and I don’t have any little chores to worry about when we get home, you allow me to focus on my kids. You’re helping us be better parents.” To me this suggests that he expects me to ignore the kids in order to clean up after HIM! Then he told me to go organize my thoughts and come back when I was sure what I wanted to be paid, not just what “some extremely wealthy family” pays their nannies. He said that there isn’t a lot of money left on the table, and that he feels that $11.75 an hour is a fair wage because “that’s what we pay the employees in our business.” Well, the sittercity.com rate calculator says that someone with my age and experience should make $14.75 an hour for watching three children.
How do I present what I think is fair when he rejects data as a basis for it? I seriously don’t know what to do, I know it was my fault for not doing the research in the beginning but now I feel trapped in an unacceptable situation. I don’t know if I’m just looking for some validation from other nannies out there or help to find the strength to stand up to them. I’m in a bad place right now and could really use some advice… And hey, if what I’ve described actually isn’t all that bad, then tell me. Maybe what I need is a wake-up call.