Update: Being Sole Caretaker for an "Away Parent"

Received Tuesday, May 11, 2010
update I'm the person who asked about how much I should be paid to be the sole caretaker of an 8 year old boy for the entire summer. Well... you were all right, $500 is definitely not enough money. Unfortunately, I did accept the job at $500. It was my only job opportunity, so it was pretty much $500 or nothing. I know that that's probably all he can afford right now, so he was being truthful and I don't think he's trying to take advantage of me, but it doesn't make the job any easier.

I've been on the job for almost 3 weeks now, and I've had 1 full day off. The relatives who live nearby are nice, but I do feel as if I'm on my own most of the time. The child has a learning disability, as well as ADHD, so doing homework is always a battle. I don't think his father really understands the difference between telling him the answers and helping him, so I get huge amounts of resistance when I tell him to try figuring things out on his own (even things like reading the directions himself). Papers that should take 5 or 10 minutes (I was student teaching in 2nd grade just a few weeks ago so I know what the skill level should be) take over an hour, with me sitting right next to him, prompting him every step of the way. I had a meeting with his teacher and she let me know that he's extremely far behind the rest of the class and I'm going to need to do quite a lot of teaching over the summer in order for him to be successful in the 3rd grade. I can only imagine the way he'll react when I bring that up.

Food is another issue that we have. I've tried over and over to cook things that are healthy and also kid-friendly, but I have had no success. When I got to the house his dad had said that he had done bulk grocery shopping that should last for several weeks, but I discovered that most of it was snack/junk food, or freezer meals. I did some of my own shopping and I've tried to prepare things that he'll like, but I always end up having to stick something in the microwave while I eat the meal I made, alone. With any of my other charges in the past I would not hesitate to tell them to eat what I cooked or not eat anything at all, but as this child has been brought up eating this way and his dad approves of it, I don't know if it's really my place to come in and impose all kinds of new rules. However, I did remove the soda from the fridge and informed him he could only drink it on weekends or as a special treat, which did not go over well. It's hard for me to see him eating this way, especially considering his ADHD, and the fact that all of those processed foods and sugars cannot be helping. I need to bring it up with his dad, but it will probably have to be done in an email, as the kid is always around and able to hear me talking to him on the phone.

I've had some problems with attitude/rudeness, and I often feel like I'm talking to a 15 year old in an 8 year old's body. I made it very clear to him from the beginning that I don't tolerate being spoken to that way, so maybe with time it will get better. I do fun things with him, but it's hard to want to when I get moaning/eye rolling/ talked back to constantly. I'm trying to stick to my guns and be firm, and hopefully things will get easier as time goes on.

This wasn't supposed to be a rant, just an update for anyone who was wondering if I took the job. This job definitely has it's challenges (more than any other nanny/babysitting job I've done) and I'm having a really hard time, but I made the commitment so I'm sticking it out. Luckily it's a short-term position so there is an end in sight. Thanks for all the advice you gave me, a lot of it was useful. I only wish I had listened to all of it ;) =


Nanny Sarah said...

Kudos to you for sticking to the commitment part. It sure must take a lot on your part to see things through. I remember reading your post on here before, how much longer do you have to work this job again??

I personally do not know if I could do that for only $500/wk. But let me tell you, in this economy, I have still to find a consistent nanny position and I have been looking for along time, believe me! So the best attitude you can take is to appreciate the job you do have and know in your heart there is an end in sight.

The father and child are blessed to have you in their lives.

A nanny who agrees!!! said...

I have worked with children with ADHD- its hard. I agree with Nanny Sarah- the family is blessed to have you. The show Supernanny- or the book has taught me a lot. Hang in there.

Former Nanny said...

From this post, sounds like even though the pay is not great, you're doing a great job.

I've found that there are a few parents out there whose children have ADD or ADHD who make excuses for them and the attendant behavior challenges. I used to do temp nanny work on the side for an agency and will never forget one morning where I cared for a little boy who was about 3. His mother told me from the outset that he would be a problem, wouldn't eat ____ or do ______. I went in there and was assertive with him and he took his medication, ate what was offered, and was dressed for pre-school long before his mother expected him to be ready. She was amazed, but she was also a very tired woman (they also had an 8 year-old with ADD).

I guess what I'm saying is stick to your plan of action for dealing with him and hopefully he will come around. Best of luck for the rest of the summer!

Kentuckychickrk said...

It truly does sound like you're doing an awesome job with what you've been given :O)

Keep giving it your all and don't give up!

One suggestion -- I would stick to trying to get him to eat the meals you prepare, but make him think it's his choice. Offer a daily menu... the night before give him a menu that has 2-3 choices for dinner (2-3 things you know he'll like that are at least halfway healthy and don't come prepared in a microwave box) even if it's bbq chicken in the oven or spaghetti from a jar, those are healthier options. Let him choose from the menu which of the meals he wants.

This way he knows it is his choice, even when you're the one dictating from the get go.

Good luck!! And stay positive :O)

Nicole said...

I agree with everyone here that you´re doing a great job for less than great pay and I think that this boy will benefit greatly from your time with him.

About the food issue... I used to nanny for 2 kids who had some food issues as well. Not so much that they only ate frozen meals and unhealthy snacks, but more that the menu was the same, every day:
cereal for breakfast, chips or cookies for snack, turkey sandwich for lunch, baby carrots, rice pilaf, and chicken for dinner, cookies for dessert... EVERYDAY.

I did something very similar to what Kentucky has suggested and let them choose a meal 2x/wk each and I chose once per week. I let them know each meal needed to be balanced and have a protein source, a starch, and vegetables. After a few (long) weeks they became really good about it and because they were more involved, especially when grocery shopping, they became more adventureous eaters as well!

good luck!

Phoenix said...

I don't think that kid has ADHD. I think it stems from all the sugar. It should be a requirement that doctors ask the parents if the kid just drank a 2 liter of coke before coming to the dr's. if they did that shouldn't diagnose them

just sayin' said...

Hi OP- Thanks for the update!
2 things I would keep in mind- 1. This is a single dad with a child with ADHD/Learning Disability. Caring for this kid right now is your whole job, whereas the dad does it on top of another job. Of course he makes concessions.
2. Think of how the boy must feel to be left with a babysitter for 3 months straight. How much of his resistance/attitude could stem from that?

I still think you're doing a great job, especially under the circumstances, and I don't mean this as a criticism at all. I just always find that having perspective can help me deal with difficult situations. Good luck with the rest of the summer.

shel said...

Have you thought about sitting him down and talking to him in a friendly manner and asking him how he feels about being there with you and not his dad? Maybe you guys can both come to an agreement that it's hard and you both have to work at making the best of it. It's worth a shot and shows him you're willing to listen and understand it may be rough for him and it gives you a chance to maybe get something back from him to clue you in.

Good luck to you!!!

The OP said...

OP here :)
Thanks for all of the encouragement and advice!

@Nanny Sarah- The job is supposed to last until mid-June, but the dad accepted an extension that would last until early September, so if I want to extend as well I have that option (If I choose not to stay he'll have to find someone else).

@Kentuckychickrk & Nichole- Great suggestions about the food! I'll definitely try that this next week when I'm grocery shopping!

@justsayin'- I understand what you're saying and I agree with your second point. I'm sure a lot of his hostility stems from missing his dad. The first, however, doesn't really apply since the father wasn't working while he was home, so parenting was his only job as well. There are other reasons he makes concessions, mostly his guilt about the family situation (which is complicated). Thanks for the input though, it's always good to have someone on the outside helping me to keep my perspective.

We did have a breakthrough this afternoon on the way home from school. He was extremely rude and actually pretty mean to me in the car on the way to school and I expressed that although I know he misses his dad, he makes it hard for me and treats me pretty horribly. He said nothing, but rolled his eyes and jumped out of the car as soon as he got to school.

However, when he got in the car to go home he handed me a card that said "I'm sorry" on it, and told me that he thinks he's been mean because he misses his dad. We got to talk about it and hopefully he'll be more aware in the future. I'm not so naive to think that things will be perfect, but any little improvement is awesome.

OP said...

@Nanny Sarah
I meant that the original position would last until mid- July, not mid-June

nycmom said...

As an employer hearing your description, I have to say I am incredibly impressed with the job you seem to be doing! I would be so grateful if I were the father to have a Nanny who clearly cares so much and goes above and beyond the basic job requirements. I think that whatever happens, this little boy will be better off for having had you in his life!

NVMom said...

From your update it sounds like you really could 'reach' this child and even bond with him. It's difficult about the pay but sounds like perhaps fate (?) has put you in this life at this time.

Regarding his school situation, as a child with ADHD that his that far behind his peers, he is entitled to some accommodations either through something call a 504, or an IEP, which is an even more in-depth education plan. It can mean things like shortened assignments, specially designed teaching programs, etc.

Now, I know this goes far and above your duties, but maybe you could tell his father that he can ask for an evaluation. The school must do it by law if he asks in writing. He could contact an education advocate to help him through the process. They can be free in some areas.

Again, I don't know if this is something you can approach the father about, but as a parent of a special needs child, I know what a difference these things can make in a child's education, self-esteem, and future.

oh well said...

Even if this position is not rewarding financially to you now, I am sure that all the effort you obviously put into your job will pay off at some point in the future. I was really glad to read about the breakthrough you have just had. Sounds like you are doing the right thing. But just make sure that you do not get emotionally drawn into a complicated family situation, because I sense that this could happen (but I could be totally wrong, of course). In any case kudos to you OP.

momofaspedchild said...

Regarding what NVMom said: I agree.

Does this child have an IEP? Because if there is an assignment that "should take five minutes" and it is taking him an hour with assistance, there is a problem with the assignment: not the child and not you. That is what concerns me about this story.

Don'tLetKidsBeLazy said...

As a former teacher who had to do IEPs, I really don't think it is necessary in this circumstance. ADHD is not a mental disability, so the child should be capable of doing the same work the other students are doing. He and OP need to work together to get his condition under control and for him to learn how to focus. IEPs essentially dumb down material, making it easier for schools to pass children, rather than making it a better learning environment.

Kudos said...

Kudos to you for all you are doing! As a nutrition educator, you are spot on in thinking that soda and processed foods can impact behavior.

The suggestions to let your charge pick healthy foods is excellent. In addition, another strategy to help him eat healthier food is to let him prepare it. It will give him a sense of ownership and accomplishment that may encourage him to at least try something new.

Best wishes! Remember, change comes slowly. Getting him to try something new that is healthy is a success in and of itself.

MissMannah said...

Wow, all that for only $500 a week? You're a stronger woman than I. I can't give you any other advice that hasn't been said because there are a lot of helpful and smart nannies here! Just hang in there, and we'll be here if you need to vent sometime this summer. :) Keep us updated, I'd love to hear how the kiddo is doing later on.

Katlee85 said...

I'm one of those moms who thinks ADD and ADHD is a cop out. Kids are kids, and yes he might be a little hyper but he's 8. Kids need to be forced to sit and focus. I'm a spanking parent, and yes I know I'll get all sorts of backlash for saying it but oh well.

I'm glad you had a breakthrough with him, but what he really needs is discipline and consistency. I don't know what dad does for a living, or what the situation is with his mother but it sounds to me like he's been spoiled.

Sugary sodas are just bad for kids in general, and a kid who has behavior issues or "ADD" as people cop out and say, does not need sugar.

OP said...

OP here:
@Kaylee85- For the most part, I'm in agreement with the things you've said. However, I'm not this child's mother, and the father didn't hire me to treat or "fix" him, he hired me to be his nanny. I want to do things to help him if I can, but it's not up to me to change his entire lifestyle. I've been giving him discipline and consistency and I believe it's helped, but it's not my place to throw out his snacks and take him off his meds.

In regards to the IEP- I've thought about asking his dad if he could be tested, but he goes to a private school, so they're not required to carry out an IEP. He actually does get quite a bit of accommodation already- he goes to a special class for language arts and there's an aid in the room for him during math. I know his teacher makes other concessions as well.

I actually kind of agree with Don'tLetKidsBeLazy; I don't necessarily think he has a "disability". I know that he's way behind his class, but when I sit down to do the work with him, his main problem is just expecting to be spoon-fed, and not being able to focus. He does have some trouble with mixing up letters/numbers, but it is very mild, and I think it happens mostly because he doesn't take the time to really look.

For example, if a word starts with A, and he tries to read it and thinks that he doesn't know the word, he'll look up at me and start saying all of the words that start with A, rather than trying to sound it out. It's obvious that he expects me to tell him what the word is. We've had some battles because of this, but for the most part, he tries to sound the words out now, and has been doing much better.

Lol maybe I should start writing a blog. It would be interesting to see any progress later in writing.

Don'tLetKidsBeLazy said...

I know what you mean about your charge wanting you to give him the answer. Many schools don't teach phonics anymore. They rely on "sight words," which is instantly recognizing a word rather than sounding it out. It makes sense in theory, but it hinders the child's reading ability in the long run.

My charge does the same thing--he also has a hard time recognizing a letter for what it is, he only knows it if it is in context with the rest of the alphabet in order.

Don't get me up on my soapbox about deteriorating American schools!

NVMom said...

Don't Let Kids Be Lazy...I'm sorry you had to deal with so-called 'lazy' kids. Sounds like they got the short end of the deal. ADHD is not a mental disability, it's a neurological one, so don't be ignorant when people are trying to seek facts. And by the way,if an IEP 'dumbs down' material, then it isn't being carried out correctly, since the idea is to achieve the same standards through different methodology. My dd received all of her academics and was held to high standards that I expected when she had an IEP.

Katlee, that's why God gave me my special needs child, and not to you. I'm not saying any diagnosis cannot be incorrect, but please don't think you can erase a recognized condition because you don't agree with it. BTW, my dd has autism not ADD/ADHD and I've heard the same crap about it, too. Until you have lived with it, please don't pass judgment on others who do.

OP, I'm glad you thought of approaching his Dad. The discipline and consistency are good for him and the fact that you care is great too. Just don't dismiss his diagnosis out of hand.

Don'tLetKidsBeLazy said...

NVMom, maybe you should read my posts a little closer. I am not anti-IEP. I have seen in cases of autism, et al that it can make a world of difference. HOWEVER! An ADD child does not need a "different" way of presenting the material. He simply needs to learn to slow down and concentrate, which can be achieved through medication and behavioral therapy. Yes, in certain circumstances, I do believe an IEP is allowing the child to take the easy way out. Do you think when this child grows up he'll be allowed a different manner of working in his career?

You're sounding a little on the defensive side to me. Just because it was the right course of action for your child, does not make it appropriate for all children.

PS: I said I was a teacher, so I had no choice but to study these disorders. So please refrain from calling me ignorant, kthnx!

Laura said...

I've been following this story with much interest, and yes, OP, you should do a blog! You are undertaking a HUGE responsibility for very little pay. This situation is so unique, I think a look into what life is like for you would actually be fascinating.

Anybody else with me?

OP said...

This is the OP again. I decided to start writing a blog. In case anyone is interested in checking up and seeing how the child and I are doing, here is the URL- http://pleasuresandperilsofnannyhood.blogspot.com/
Thanks again for all of your advice, it's really been a huge help, and it's awesome knowing that I'm not really alone in this.

Marypoppin'pills said...

I look forward to following your Blog and encourage others to as well!

Good luck and thank you for allowing us a peek inside your life as a Nanny.

Katlee85 said...


First of all, please understand that I wasn't saying that there's no such thing as a disabled child. I should know, my niece has Downs Syndrome. I also have a friend whose son has Autism and I am well aware that it is a very real disorder.

However, I do feel that at least 90% of ADD or ADHD claims are because parents don't want to deal with their children and would rather label them then make them sit and focus.

OP: I completely understand and of course you can't really do anything about it, it just frustrates me as a Mom to see a child that I know can do more and the parents use the "Oh he has ADD/ADHD so that's why he/she acts like that." It's a cop out, as I said.

I think you're doing a great job with him.

ghostfromthepast said...

Hi MaryPoppinp's
It's been a long time.
I see the blog is still doing great.

Marypoppin'pills said...

You are more than welcome to MEEBO me.