Overworked, underpaid and degraded to my breaking point...

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 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.


East Bay Nanny said...

OK, I can speak to this situation since I too nanny in the Bay Area. Not sure exactly where you are, but I'm very familiar with the 08 BPN nanny survey.

You should be making at least, bare minimum $15 an hour, and that's for one kid with no family housekeeping. If they want you to do all that housekeeping (which is totally unreasonable) $20 an hour is pretty fair.

What they really should do (but probably won't) is have you be the nanny and get a separate housekeeper like everyone else.

I just left a job similar to yours - they advertised it as a nanny job but it was mostly housekeeping. Somehow they wanted me to do it all.

It sounds like the dad's trying to manipulate you. Just because they pay $11.75/hr doesn't mean it's the going rate for nannies. I agree with the previous poster - probably your best recourse is to quit pronto.

That they think they can do this is just madness and sadly, you probably won't be able to convince them otherwise. Too bad it's your family.

leave said...

OP: leave. Look for another job and leave.

Nanny in CA said...

OP, you do not need the wake up call, this family does. Maybe they think they can pay you less since you are family, but that is not right. They are taking advantage of you BIG TIME, I mean three children + housekeeper for such a low rate is highway robbery! He is laying the guilt on you and that to try to diminish his own. If they are that cheap, then they can put their kids in a daycare (still would need to pay more $$ though) and hire a separate housekeeper, etc.
If you want to keep your sanity and I know you do, you need to leave because this will eat you up inside if it hasn't already.

maryjanepoppins said...

Hey, sorry that family feels that they can take advantage of you, but do not allow that! I am a live out, who works between 35-40 hours a week and I make 2,000 a month, with NO CLEANING TASKS. They have a maid who comes in and cleans, because I never wanted to sign up to clean a house that isn't mine. If they ask me to clean, i ask for more money. Nothing in life is free and I suggest they pony up or you go.

maryjanepoppins said...

and one more thing...."wealthy people" live in a 5,000 sq foot house so they need to stop being so damn cheap! These are the tight skate rich people I am glad I don't work for. I know they are your family, but that is NO excuse...

oh noooooo said...

OP- My first advice would be to look for a new job. However, I think you have some advantages here: They need you more than you need them. Because you could get another job that pays you $15, and I doubt they could get someone to do your job (as well as you do) for the rate they are paying you now.
Decide what you feel is fair and then lay it out to them. Draw up a contract and present it to them. Ignore manipulative comments about "emotional openness," and be prepared to walk if they don't agree to your terms. Get the word out in the family before they do so you don't become the pariah.
Goooooooooood luck.

BayAreaMom said...

Dear OP,
Two issues you should consider as you think about leaving this job:
1) The salary survey from pre-recession 2008 does not reflect the realities of recession 2010
2) Seems like the current family has been able to match your somewhat odd school schedule. Most people look for either a full-time nanny (where you can work at least till 6pm every day when parents are at work) or a part-time nanny for afternoons when kids are back from school. Your schedule is not a good match for this either.

I am not saying you shouldn't push back, I am saying it may be easier for your employer to replace you than for you to replace them, that's all. Good luck.

VAnanny said...

Never, never, EVER work for your family members. It rarely works out! Good luck to you, OP!

Original Poster said...

Thank you all so much for taking your time to read this and for leaving your comments. It means so much to me that I am not alone, and that my feelings in this situation are justified.
BayAreaMom, I agree with you that they have been very flexible in accommodating my school schedule. I try to take as many classes as I can and still work at least 30 hours a week so I am pretty much restricted to only taking classes at night, usually from 5 oclock to 9. They are business owners so they have a fair amount of flexibility on the hours they themselves are at work, which is the only reason why they are able to accommodate my class schedule.
There is so much more that has happened in the past eight months regarding this family, so it was hard for me to distill it to these "main points." Thank you all again for your support!

world's best nanny said...

Family or not!

Work Agreement, Work Agreement, Work Agreement!!

Village said...

Maybe it's just me, but this solution seems easy to me.

Just don't clean. And when they ask you why you didn't clean, just tell them you only have time for one job, not two jobs. You only signed on for one job, and you only want one job.

If they want an housekeeper, they need to hire one, and pay s/he $11.75 hour. And good luck with that.

cali mom said...

Interesting to read something from local readers. I'm also on BPN.

I agree with most here, they are taking advantage of you in a BIG way. Your original salary, that you all agreed to, was based on a 25 hour work week. They've managed to beef up your hours now to over 35 hours a week, and they are getting full housecleaning services and then some for a VERY low rate. I do have to say that coming to your employers after 2 months on the job and asking for a raise simply because you moved to a more expensive apartment is not something a professional would do in any industry, but since they are close family, I can see how it would be tolerable in this case.

I would suggest, sit down with them and explain that you are finding it increasingly difficult to accomodate your school schedule with the increase in hours since you started, and that the simplest way to re-balance your work hours and the salary discussion is to limit your hours AND duties to childcare only. I don't see where the dad is getting his $11.75/hr. figure, because if I calculated your weekly hours correctly, multiplying by 4.2 for the weeks per month, you're making more like $9.50/hr. Nannying three kids and full housekeeping duties should pay at least twice that, so the salara rate is grossly unreasonable and he dad is just taking advantage of the fact that you are related to him by laying guilt trips on you when you raise the salary issue.

If they cannot make any concession for you, I would tell them that you feel it would be better if they hired a nanny who was not related to them, as it wouldmake the job negotiations easier for everyone to handle, and tell them you will stay in until they have found your replacement. That way they know you are serious about leaving, and I'd be surprised if they found anyone to do what you're doing at that rate, but you will be showing them that you are willing to make the transition easier for them, since they are family, and hopefully stay on decent family terms with them.

cali mom said...

Sorry for so many typos!

cali mom said...

No, make that closer to $9/hr.

nyc mom said...

I just reviewed the BPN survey. Since I am in NYC, the closest we have is the Park Slope Parents Survey. Like BayAreaMom, I also want to point out a couple of things about the survey that struck me.

1. I completely echo BAM's comments about the recession. The PSP's survey is also from 2008 and I have noticed a significant drop in nanny salary since that survey with the recession.

2. Unless I'm misreading, it seems the BPN survey is overwhelmingly skewed toward nanny shares. It says at least 2/3 of the responses are from familes in shares (this is VERY different from my nyc experience in which shares are much less common). It seems from reviewing the survey, that shares pay MUCH higher than one family rates. The idea being that each family is getting a deal and the nanny is getting paid extra (for juggling multiple families and close in age kids). So two kids in a nanny share might pay $18 b/c both families pay only $9 each. There were also a ton of responses that indicated they were in a "share" but one of the two kids was nanny's child so they paid only $9/hour, but counted it as $18/hr with nanny paying for her own child in the share. All little things, but just made me think the numbers do not translate to 2 or 3 kids in a single family home. I'm not sure the overall numbers from the BPN survey generalize to single family numbers very well. I would email the BPN and ask if they have the numbers for single family only. Perhaps this was hidden in there and I missed it, but I couldn't get a good sense of this.

3. Finally, any group running a survey like this is going to skew a bit higher than your average parent/nanny in terms of education and awareness of employment situations. Your employer/family likely asked around before hiring you and perhaps got lower numbers than the BPN survey if their demographic was different.

4. You are working for family. This is always complicated and difficult. It is also my (personal) experience that family members working as nannies do so with the understanding that they make less than a professional nanny, but also aren't expected to do the same as a professional nanny. My mom was our "nanny" for a couple of years. We paid her about 60% of regular nanny rates, but understood that she would leave the house kind of messy, teach my kids some things as grandma that I wouldn't want a nanny to do, etc. It worked for us. The problem in your situation is that they want to pay you like a family member, but expect you to function BEYOND the abilities of a professional nanny/hker.

For 3 kids, I agree that $15/hr should be a minimum number. Just not sure the $24/hr from the BPN survey is realistic (since that was likely 3 families paying $8/hr each). Good Luck.

Let's Be Fair said...

I think you are being as unfair as the parents in this situation. YOU are the one that asked for more money just months after starting because you decided to move into a more expensive apartment. Then you changed the hours and although you say you are grateful the family was able to be home by 2:30 you don't sound grateful at all. I'm not saying you shouldn't be paid more money but you act as if this family has not made any effort to accomodate your needs. When you told the family that you could not clean anymore did you also inform them you would not be taking the extra $200 they agreed to pay you-which you both agreed were for cleaning services. I agree-I would never do what you were asked to do for $200/mo-it's just too much work. But you agreed to it and the only reason you can't now do it is because YOU changed the schedule. I think both sides of this need to be fair. If all other nannies in your area are making more then you should also, but I am sure the other nannies work with the parents schedule and not the other way around. If you want to be paid the going rate-then you should be willing to accept the terms that come with that-which means most likely working a standard 40+ hour/week and you work your school around your work schedule not the other way around.

lynn said...

I agree that you are being underpaid. If you need to the job, hang in there til you find another one. Agree with what bay area mom said....if you still want to nanny and take classes, make sure you schedule your classes in the mornings. Most families either need ft m-f 8-6 or if part time from 2:30/3 pm onward. Arrange your classes for mornings and advertise yourself as an after school sitter from 2:30 on - but you need to be available Mon-Friday to do this

ericsmom said...

I am sorry these people are your "family". They are not treating you with respect. They probably assume since they are family you should work for less. Not the case. You should be getting paid the same like everyone else.

They would have to pay more just to put the kids in daycare.

Original Poster said...

Lynn, that's an excellent idea! I could probably get a FT summer position for a family with school age kids, then transition to PT in the Fall. Very helpful stuff, thanks :)

MakeMore Money said...

Oh, Dear. I am so sorry. You sound like such a warm young lady. Totally workable. Well, I only have 1 child, and I would not pay 11.75 for childcare and cleaning. Sorry, it's ridiculous. I don't know about your experience or education as that factors into what I pay, but with 3 kids, I agree 15/hour is minimum. I know this is a tough position for you, but perhaps mixing business with this family relationship will not work. You can even break it to them like that: You value the relationship, and do not want to jeopardie that... Good luck.

carol said...

I don't think the pay is the issue. But the pay for that kind of work. If your current salary was just for taking care of 3 children then fine. It's not high on the pay scale but it happens especially when you have schedule that fluctuates. BUT. housecleaning? laundry for the whole family? not just baby care cleaning. NO that's too much work.

what I pay.

house cleaner comes once a week. 2 hours - $65 She cleans kitchen, living room and bathroom while I clean bedrooms

laundry taken out every 2 weeks - $60 washed, dried and foiled.

Baby sitting- $14 an hour plus any food she wants. We make or bring home dinner for her. $20 on weekends or late nights.

I want my baby sitter or nanny to be focused on my children not the dishes. If I had 3 children that would require ALL of her time during working hours.