Mediocrity or Specialist?

Rebecca Nelson Lubin
guest column
In my freshman year of college, my assignment one day in my poetry class was to memorize and be ready to recite exactly half of the poem “The Waking” by Theodore Roethke. I dutifully went to my dorm room and studied the poem up to the halfway mark. The next day in class I stood up and beautifully recited exactly half of the poem. My professor said,

“Excellent Rebecca. Let’s hear the rest.”

I said, “You only said I had to learn half.”

My Professor sighed and said, “Well then Rebecca, welcome to mediocrity.”

When I retold this story to my mother her advice was more to the point. She told me to try and not live my life half assed. In my personal and professional life, she said, aim higher than the halfway mark. Do not do only what is asked of you, but always go the extra mile.

When I began my professional life as a Nanny, I kept this close as my code of ethics with my work. My agency had described my responsibilities for this first job as “everything related to the children,” that being, keeping track of their clothes, their toys, their school things, keeping all their play areas tidy and preparing them simple meals. It was easy work, and my first charges and I were able to spend hours engaged in games with very little other responsibilities to worry about. I had initiative however, and would ask my employer if there was anything else I could do around the house. When the four year old was in preschool, instead of taking a break and hanging out in a cafĂ© sipping a latte, I began to run errands. I became familiar with everything and anything my employer needed in his daily life. I learned to anticipate what he required before he realized it was a necessity.

“How did you know I wanted smoked salmon?” He would say, happily putting together his favorite afternoon snack.

By the time I had been employed for six months, he had handed to me over all the responsibilities for opening his summerhouse. I had taken a job as a Nanny but had become more of a House Manager, and was beginning to learn the skill set required for a Personal Assistant. Taking on these roles enabled me to stay gainfully employed long after the children were grown. I worked part time as a Personal Assistant for my first family long after the need for employing a nanny had come and gone. I had shown my first boss that I had ingenuity and that I was resourceful, and that I liked a challenge.

It has been interesting to me to follow the on going argument on this blog about the responsibilities of the nanny. As research for this article, I called three major Nanny agencies in three major cities. All three agencies had the same basic message: Nannies are responsible for ALL aspects of childcare, and that includes any work related duties that are directly associated with the children. Nannies wash the children’s clothes. Nannies wash the children’s dishes. Nannies clean up the children’s toys. Nannies scrub the crumbs off the car seats and the strollers. The Nanny changes the diaper pail and keeps the baby items stocked and in order. This is part of the territory that goes with the job.

Sue Collins, a placement consultant at Aunt Ann’s In House Staffing in San Francisco, one of the oldest (founded in 1958!) and most renowned agencies in the California, spoke to me at length about the process of presenting candidates for childcare for prospective families in the Bay Area. Her opinion is that the first and foremost important aspect of pairing a nanny and a family is the security that comes with using an agency such as Aunt Ann’s as her candidates are screened, have had a back ground check, have excellent references and are up to date on their CPR qualifications and have a proven clean driving record. She stresses that in the placement profession it’s not a one size fits all Nanny fit – it comes down to a personality match and communication with the family and that remains a priority above what chores she will and won’t do. Yes, she said, there are childcare professionals out there who will only do childcare. Period. And there are families out there who will hire these nannies because the expectations for their employment had already been discussed. However, Ms. Collins did point out that even when she places a newborn specialist, such as a Baby Nurse with 20 plus years experience, that employee would still tiptoe around in the middle of the night and fold laundry and sterilize bottles. Communication of the job expectation is always key. The priority is always the children, but the Nanny is responsible for the well being of the entire family. I have been placed by Aunt Ann’s for several - including my current – jobs in the Bay Area. Each and every one has had a section of my contract directly related to my responsibilities to the upkeep of the house. Let me be very clear here: I am not a housekeeper. I am, however, the keeper of the house, and beyond the immediate needs of the children I have always been responsible in every job I have ever had for everything related to the upkeep of the home, from running the dishwasher to running errands. And I love it. Personally I would be bored without errands. I asked Ms. Collins about the topic of “job creep”, that popular theme that runs through so many postings on ISYN. She, as a placement professional, saw it differently. She said that as the relationship between the nanny and the employer develops, so do the skills that the nanny has brought with her to the job. She gave the following example: One night the nanny cooks dinner for the family. The parents realize that the nanny is an incredible cook. They realize that employing a nanny who can cook for them is something that they want. The nanny realizes that in providing cooking, she is becoming an even more integral part of the household and that makes her a more valuable employee, and one with a huge bargaining chip in her next salary review, another notch on her resume for when she is ready for her next job and a glowing recommendation from her employers stating how she was willing to take up any challenge with a great attitude.

Finally, Ms Collins advised, it is key the beginning of any employee- employer relationship is to write up an employment agreement where expectations and duties are outlined and the family and nanny can agree upon them from day one to ensure a long and happy relationship.

I also interviewed an incredibly insightful man at a major agency who would only speak with me on the condition of being completely anonymous as ISYN is viewed with distain as a very negative website in the professional placement community. (Really? US???) He said that there is a huge difference between an employee who views herself as an “owner” and one who views herself as merely an “employee”. The nanny with the “owner” mentality will always go above and beyond her job description, always reaching to improve her job performance, with career advancement in mind, treating her employer’s home and family as if they were her own. Now I know there will be the naysayers on this site who will comment that there in no possible career advancement in the nanny profession, but I beg to differ. In 1997 I went from an occasional babysitter who loved children to a full time professional nanny. In the past 14 years I have never backed down from any challenge any employer ever threw at me, from arranging flowers to arranging travel, and my salary and benefits grew as my responsibilities did. In the five years at my current job I have moved from the simple role of Nanny to the numerous and dynamic roles of House Manager, Personal Assistant, Administrative Assistant, Project Manager, Party Planner, Vacation Coordinator and Concierge. With my latest assignment, obtaining auction items for a benefit my employers hosted, I joked that I could now add Fundraiser to my resume. Their response?

“Why would you ever need a resume again?”

I think that would be my main point here, in this country’s unsure economic nature, wouldn’t you want to ensure that you would be the only person your employer could ever imagine doing your job? I strive to be seen as an irreplaceable. So far, so good.

I did finally memorize the last part of the Theodore Roethke poem, and it has become a bit of a mantra for me in my life.

“I wake to sleep and take my waking slow, I learn by going where I have to go.”
Rebecca Nelson Lubin is a writer and Nanny who resides in the San Francisco Bay Area. You may read more of her articles at


Marypoppin'pills said...

You went above and beyond the call of duty with this Article as well, Rebecca! Thank you so much for taking the time to do the research, it was a very interesting read!

Ashley B. said...

Excellent, I think you hit the nail on the head here. That should be the ultimate goal, hearing - "Why would you ever need a resume again?" A lot of people in a lot of different positions could use to learn from your example!

nycmom said...


You are truly excellent writer. Setting aside any content, you have a gift for creating a central theme with an interesting personal angle.

ITA about the entire article, though you will of course have many on here who disagree. This site seems to attract a dichotomy of nannies: the truly amazing and professional here to learn and share vs. those who started coming to make sure they weren't a "siting!" I try very hard with my nanny never to add extra duties during the year. At an annual review, if there is something I would like her to add, I always offer the choice of a standard and good raise with no extra duties or double the raise with the extra duty.

I believe that your idea that by taking initiative and assuming more roles, a nanny ultimately helps herself is very true - but ONLY with good employers. And, frankly, even with good employers, there would likely come a point that your skillset might price itself out of their market. I pay my nanny well, but I'm quite sure you make 1.5X her salary, and deservedly so. I will absolutely keep my nanny on well beyond the needed pre-school years because she helps with so much else and has become invaluable. However, if she were much younger, had more flexibility, and was able to do all you do, then I suspect she would kindly want to move on to the next level of nanny/house manager/personal assistant salary jobs.

ChiNanny said...

While I completely agree with much of what you are saying, the problem many nannies encounter is with a lack of choice in the "job creep" situation.

In my job, I started as nanny and have expanded to many other roles from dog trainer, personal assistant, occasional housekeeper, and secretary at MB's company. However, none of these roles have been forced upon me or come without incentive/compensation. When a nanny is expected to add more and more duties without the ability to refuse or any incentive (monetary or perk related) to go with the new responsibility, the resentment comes in.

In my opinion, a nanny should be flexible and open to adding new responsibilities, but employers need to realize that nannies are valued employees, not slaves.

Doin' Her Best said...

Hi Rebecca, LOVED this article. I've always felt in my heart that doind my best job was linked with that place where my integrity felt best...and you really put that into a delightful, interesting written piece. Thank you!

In March I moved from a great position as a twin nanny in Chicago, home to the Bay Area to be near my mom who nears 90. I am working with an agency in San Francisco, I have an excellent history as a kindergarten teacher, preschool owner and nanny. Glowing references. Enthusiasm to work. And I just can't find a job. It's the first time in my life I've ever needed to worry about employment. I just don't get it. The really odd thing is, my interviews go great (I've been on 6) and with 2, the mother's set up a working interview to follow...only to be canceled by the fathers!?! I also look at craigslist and see the climate of the California job market. My expertise gets lost among the pages and pages of ads. I'm beginning to wonder if it is because I am in my mid 50's and ageism is peeking it's ugly head. I am a totally forward thinking, mature woman, nature lover, energetic, soft spoken, humorous and calm, who continues to fill my free time with child development workshops and seminars. I am loved by parents everywhere. Does anyone else have experience or thoughts about this? Any advice, ideas? I'd love to hear your input.

I've also joined A Band of Wives! Looking forward to getting involved!

world's best nanny said...

Your column was almost verbatim my life as a nanny come household manager. I still have little ones, but I am also "the right hand and the other half of the brain" of my employers. Taking on the extra responsibilities came slowly,however with my natural sense of wanting to help out and my "almost" OCD I fell right in step. The money was never an issue, "The Docs" as I call my employers have always been extremely generous. The toughest part for me was being the supervisor of the cleaning crew, the cook, and the weekend nannies. I was responsible for collecting their hours, noting absences, and doling out pay checks. I also had to play referee many, many times and I don't mean with the kids. I would like to stay with this family 'til I retire, in 20 years. I am afraid to take out, dust off, and update my resume, I think it'll jinx me in someway.

nycmom said...

Doin' Her Best (and Rebecca),

There is a very good chance we will be moving to the Bay Area soon, likely the Peninsula.

Would either of you (or anyone else with current knowledge) be willing to share best sites and locations for me to find great nannies? And average (NOT asking you to give your own salary) compensation/hours? I really don't want to use an agency and I definitely want to hire a primarily Spanish speaking nanny to continue my kids being bilingual.



I actually liked reading this

ATL Nanny said...

Eh. I want to agree. I want very badly to agree. But I find it hard to do so after having spent over a decade in this field going above and beyond only to be told time and time again that my employers "can't afford" a raise but expect me to continue doing all extras I've been doing. I have been told time and time again by my employers that I am "irreplaceable" and that they "can't live without me". And yet only one family has ever given me a raise, none have ever gone above and beyond for me while I worked for them (requiring me to work while violently ill, after a car accident or after a death in the family and never acknowledging my birthday or other special occasions in my life), and many of them have let me go with no notice and the bare minimum severance outlined in my work agreement when they were ready to move on. (And two of those families tried to weasel out of the severance and paid only when I threatened legal action.) I have impeccable references, but I have never worked for an employer who cared one iota for my well being or considered once going above and beyond for me.

Also, I don't WANT to be a personal assistant/household manager/concierge/party planner/etc. I've done all those things in past jobs and not enjoyed any of them. I enjoy working with children. Period. I will gladly do the child-related chores (cleaning up after them, children's laundry, researching pre-schools, buying school clothes, etc) but I will not cook dinner for the family or pack the parent's suitcases for vacation or make their travel arrangement or whatever else falls in those other categories.

I will continue doing my job to absolute best of my abilities, but I will respectfully disagree that it is beneficial for me to go above and beyond by taking on non-childcare related tasks that fall outside of my work agreement. If that makes me mediocre, so be it.

Doin' Her Best said...

ATL Nanny,

While I always go above and beyond...when appreciated....I just wanted to say that I totally respect your point of view. Being clear at the beginning of a job and then sticking to a contract does not make one mediocre. :)

Just My Two Cents Just Now said...

Welcome Back Rebecca!!~

Rebecca said...

NYC Mom and Doin' her best - MPP has my e-mail address. Contact her and she will give it to you. I would love to talk to both of you about working and hiring in the Bay Area!

Texas Nanny said...

I do think that nannies should be willing to go the extra mile for their employers, but I know where it becomes a job creep problem: when the employers start demanding those extras.

My agreement with my current family was childcare, the kids' meals, and the kids' dishes. That's it. Do I do more? Yes.

I do the kids' laundry and sometimes the parents'. I reorganize and sort the kids' closets when they outgrow clothes. I offer to run errands. I fix my boss' coffee in the morning. I sweep the floors and febreeze the house if there's company coming. I load the dishwasher.

But I do all that stuff occasionally when I have time because the kids are napping and I'm bored. And my boss thanks me when I do it, which is great. But she doesn't ASK me to do it. Some bosses, they get used to that extra mile. They complain if you miss the laundry one day because the baby wasn't sleeping well, but they don't think to compensate you financially for that extra work.

One of my old jobs, our contract didn't include laundry, but I did the laundry at least once a week anyway. When they let me go, I asked for a reference, and the reference stated that they weren't happy with me because I didn't do laundry often enough. It wasn't in my contract! I wasn't supposed to do it at all! I was doing them a favor and they gave me a bad reference for not doing it enough. Sorry, I thought I was hired to take care of the baby.

Also, I will say that I will never cook for a family ever again. One of my old families asked me to make their dinner occasionally and it was torture for me - over an hour spent preparing this beautiful, healthy meal and as soon as it was done they were like, bye! Of course I'd get home and not feel like cooking again, so after smelling the roast or what have you cooking for an hour I'd have a date with Cup O Noodles or grilled cheese. It seemed rude to me, that they'd ask me to make food and then not only did they not give me extra pay for doing that, they wouldn't even offer me some of the meal.

Different Strokes said...

I think it is incredibly insulting to conclude that nannies who are not aggressively ambitious are “mediocrities”. Not everyone who has chosen the nanny profession has aspirations of advancing to household manager or personal assistant. This does not make them lazy, nor does it indicate a poor work ethic.

I had a successful career as a software developer, then was a SAHM for years while my children grew up. Once they reached high school, I took a nanny job. I took my position very seriously and took great pride in my work, but had no desire to take on more and more responsibilities to satisfy ulterior motives. I didn’t intend to stay on after my charges outgrew me. I didn’t need to be “indispensible” to the family. If extra things were asked of me and I wanted to do them, I did. If didn’t want to, I said NO.

My charges loved me and I loved them. The parents trusted me 100% and respected my boundaries. Being willing to identify and enforce your boundaries makes you mediocre? Get over yourself... not everyone shares the same life goals.

Being a career nanny who wants to become more and more entangled within the family unit is perfectly fine. Being a casual nanny who wants to enjoy being with and mentoring children -- and earn some money while doing -- it is fine as well. It is certainly not mediocre.

Apron said...

The priority is always the children, but the Nanny is responsible for the well being of the entire family.

Didn't your college training teach you not to state opinion as fact, and not to paint with so broad a brush? Some families would find this sentiment downright presumptuous, and some Nannies would not dream of being so intrusive. I think that each Nanny position consists of a unique relationship and as long as it works for the parents, the charges, and the Nanny, it is appropriate and respectable.

Rebecca said...

Apron, go back and read it again. It's a quote directly attributed to the woman I interviewed. Didn't your college teach you reading comprehension??

Apron said...

It's a quote directly attributed to the woman I interviewed.

You're trying to hid behind a technicality. It doesn't work. Obviously you included her quote to bolster your snotty assertion.

Rebecca said...

Yeah, um...not going to go there with you dear. Have a great day!

Nannybythebay said...

To help nycmom, it's way easier and safer to use an agency in the bay area, your nanny will most likely be driving your kids and you don't want to guess about their driving/ criminal history. So I think Town and Country nannies is the best, they matched me with my family, and it's been a great 3 years! I'm paid $21:00 hourly taxed. I do everything, laundry, cooking (family dinners too), cleaning (all), shopping, errands, and running a fun, age appropriate, educational, consistant daily schedule for one toddler. I'm 37, have an AA in child development and 15+ daily experience with children either as nanny or preschool teacher. To the woman facing endless interviews, it's cause your not what they want in nanny, it might be your age, but I think baby nurses and infant care is given to older women so an infant expert may be he way to go. Or just go back to teaching, in many ways it's much less complicated than being a nanny

Wow said...

Welcome back, Rebecca, great column!

I agree with you. My first nanny job, MB said she only wanted me to take care of the baby. However, I have a work ethic that would not allow me to sit down and pass the time every time the baby was asleep. So, while he slept, I took a 1 hour break, then did whatever needed to be done around the house. His mom said she appreciated it and was surprised I was able to get so much done. As he got older and we were out of the house more, I only did what I had time to do and MB never complained. The common areas were kept tidy each day and the family's laundry was done. I also ran errands and occasionally prepared food in the Crock Pot, if asked.

My last job was with triplets and their SAHM. Though I had previously vowed never to work with a SAHM, it was a great experience. During the interview, when babies were just home from the NICU, their parents said they wanted someone who they did not have to give a lot of direction, but would see what needed to be done and do it.

One of the first things I saw that needed to be done was laundry, so I took on that task. In addition to helping with the usual baby related tasks, I also did things they would not have asked me to do, like rotating and labeling the baby's clothing when they outgrew them, and keeping closets, drawers and cabinets organized. There was a lot of rotating and organizing involved with 3 babies!

As they got older I did more activities with them and walked them daily when the weather became more seasonable. By then things were organized enough that our days went pretty smoothly.

Before they were a year old, MB realized I could handle the girls by myself and she would leave them with me to run errands. It was good because we weren't up under each other all day every day. When she returned, if the girls and I were engaged in an activity or circle time, MB would leave us alone until we were done.

I would also feed the dogs and let them in and out of the house, but was not willing to walk them. MB asked my advice when she was decorating or rearranging the house, or planning parties. Whenever a service person was due to come to the house, I was informed and given instructions if MB had to go out. If leaves and dirt were blown all over the porch, I'd sweep before taking the girls out to play (did I mention I'm a little OCD?). And I'd sometimes cook for the family, especially in the beginning when MB and DB were up half the night with the babies. And several times MB was sick in bed and I took her food and drinks.

It was a lot of work, but I loved it. A lot of nannies are adamant that they will NEVER work for a SAHM, but here's an example of a great experience. I never felt like I was being watched over and was never expected to do anything I didn't want to do, or that was unreasonable.

I got glowing references from all of my families and was surprised at how much they acknowledged what I did that went above and beyond.

Things were not perfect all the time, but any conflicts that came up were resolved. And I definitely deserved more money than I was paid by the time I left these jobs, but I kept building on skills and experiences and learning the nanny field. Now I feel empowered to only accept jobs that will pay me what I ask AND provide annual raises.

I think the most important thing is for each nanny to decide what she's willing to do, be honest up front and stay true to it. If you don't want to do any extras, make that known up front. For those of us who don't mind, that's fine too.

NapTown Nanny said...

I'm kind of in the same boat as Different Strokes. I was a high school English teacher for several years until we found out our son was special needs. My husband left me about a month after that news and I needed an income but also a job that allowed me to take him to his many doctor's appointments.

Being a teacher, I wasn't able to really take time off so I found a part-time nanny job (30 hours a week, 3 ten-hour days). I've been with them a few years and will stay with them until they no longer need me or I feel my son's dr. appointments may lessen.

Although I feel I do a great job, I don't really want to be promoted to Personal Assistant or anything. This is not a career for me. It is the best job I could find for me in my current situation. I'd love to go back to the teaching full-time again or maybe something in the corporate world. I don't want to nanny the rest of my life.

Also, the times I have gone above and beyond (like when I cooked a month's worth of dinners and stored them in the freezer before baby number 3 was due so the parents didn't have to worry about dinner), I didn't get paid any extra and barely got a Thank you for it. Some of those dinners are still sitting in their freezer uneaten 2 years later! MB doesn't want me doing laundry (not even the kids' laundry). I do unload and reload the dishwasher (despite her telling me I don't have to) because I don't like the mess in the sink. I have offered to do the grocery shopping (because sometimes there is no milk in the house for the kids for days), but I was told MB wanted to do it so she could make sure she was buying the sale items and store brands. I'm certainly not going to offer to plan her parties or make her phonecalls when she doesn't even want me doing basic household stuff. My point is every nanny and situation is different and that does not mean they are only mediocre.

Doin' Her Best said...

NYC Mom,

I was working for two different families while I lived in Chicago, whom I found through craigslist - and both jobs were dream jobs. I'd still be in the job I left at the end of March if I didn't have to return home to the Bay Area to be near my aging mother. But since I've been home I'm finding that the way to go is through an agency. I thought craigslist would be fine again, but unh-uh. I'm now working through Town and Country and I absolutely love them. Everyone I have dealt with there has been so warm and very professional. What is really great is they work as a team and you get to know them all. Their interview process is lenthy. Craigslist here is swamped with all kinds of babysitters who call themselves career nannies. Of course there is the fee for using an agency, but you know your nannies have been pre-screened by professionals who know what they're doing. To answer your specific questions, I'd say the average pay rate is $20-22 gross. $18 an hour is the lowest I've seen, and $26 the highest(through the agency, not on craigslist). Some families want a full time nanny, but something that surprised me was the number of stay-at-home moms who want mother's helpers. There are also families who want split shifts. So, as a nanny, all these scenarios are taken into account when deciding upon a position/salary. And yes, as was mentioned above, there is often a lot of driving necessary so a great driving record is important. The agency also checks into this. Good luck in your move! California's quite wonderful! ;) Nannybythebay, I have thought long and hard about it and I do not want to go back into the classroom. I left teaching in 2008 to become a career nanny and it was one of the best decisions I made in my life. From the two nanny jobs I held in Chicago I realized I have a lot to bring into households and families and find it exciting to expand into this new area. Sometimes we all get frustrated, but I trust that I have another perfect job waiting for me. Thanks for your input.

Tales from the (Nanny)Hood said...

nycmom, I would suggest that you contact Aunt Ann's, the agency Rebecca mentioned in her article. They have an excellent reputation, are members of APNA ( their CEO sits on the APNA board.

I know you said you want to avoid an agency, and that you arean experienced nanny employer, but I believe that in the down economy we are living through many many inadequate people are turning to being "nannies" as a way to earn a living after being laid off. I think the screening process you would face if you used or Sittercity would be completely insane.

JMHO, for what it's worth! When will you know if you'll be moving?

And Rebecca, good to see you back! I think you make some good points, and I am absolutely on the "do a little extra" side of the nanny spectrum, but I do understand why people might decide that their past experiences have led them to NOT go above and beyond. I do think it's possible to be a great nanny without adding tasks to your job description.

all set said...

This article made me so tired. I am very glad I am not a nanny. It's just too hard. God bless you.

MissMannah said...

I'm in the same boat as ATL Nanny. I really want to be able to agree with what you've written but I just can't. You are a wonderful nanny and an employer's dream and I'd love to have your dedications, but I just don't. I will never do an employer's laundry or cooking. I took a temporary job for 6 weeks and experienced "job creep" because I wanted to be helpful around the house. By the end of the job, I was mopping the kitchen daily. Yeah, the mom was nice and so grateful for all my help but the pay stayed the same and I was just glad to be done with the job and not have to go back. Too many nannies have had bad experiences with their employers in the past that they are guarded when it comes to going above and beyond. You listed all the roles you consider yourself and half of them I would hate and so I'd never volunteer. I don't think this makes me lazy and of course I always strive to be irreplaceable. But I'm not going to kid myself--we're ALL replaceable. There's always going to be some nanny out there willing to do my job for less money. It is the mark of a good boss if they choose to go with the cheap nanny. I've had to find this one out the hard way too.

MissMannah said...

Sorry! I meant to say it's the mark of a good boss when they choose to NOT go with the cheap nanny. Argh!

Just My Two Cents Just Now said...

Hi Rebecca! I enjoyed your article. It was well-written, well-researched and flowed well. I have to say that I disagree w/some of what you wrote, yet I want you to know I want to agree...but based on my past Nanny experiences, I cannot.

I used to tell parents I was willing to do "light household" tasks during nap time. I had no problem w/running the vacuum cleaner, sweeping/mopping the floors, cleaning/sterilizing the toys, washing dishes, sterilizing bottles/pacifiers, emptying diaper genies, washing/drying/folding/putting away children's clothes and linens and feeding pets. Yet, curiously I noticed a familiar pattern w/my families and it deeply disturbed me. It seemed the more chores I did, the more they asked me to do. It got to the point where I was asked to make lunch for a work-at-home parent, fold the parent's undergarments, iron the Dad's work clothes and cut up some veggies for dinner. I was never paid more for these duties and I was never told, "Thank you so much for doing these extra duties....I really appreciate it." I started to feel used and overworked so many of these jobs I quit when I had enough. I am also a single parent of two boys and I attend college at night so doing household tasks was most definitely hard on me when I could barely keep up w/my own laundry and housework.

Now I state upfront that I provide childcare ONLY. I will wash up any dishes, bottles and sippy cups used as well as wipe highchair trays and tabletops. I also will sweep floors and wash and dry children's laundry ONLY. If the child is using diapers, I am even willing to empty out the diaper pail once it gets too full. Toys are always picked up and if time permits, I sterilize them every few days. But that is the extent of my duties. I refuse to do any other housework. My current family understands this and agrees that I should not have to do any housework aside from caring for the child. They scoff at the stories I tell them where parents had the nerve to ask me to pick up their prescription meds at the pharmacy while they were at work. Hello??! Since when is a Nanny an Errand Runner slash Personal Assistant? Who likes dragging a cranky and bored baby/toddler into the store? One must make sure it is not during nap time and that child is fed, in a clean diaper and entertained. My current family ONLY wants me to care for their child and actually specifically state that they do not want me to fold the laundry or empty out the dishwasher. This would take time away from the most important reason I am there in the first place...which is to provide exceptional childcare.

Anyway, it is good to have you back Rebecca. This article was one of your best and even if I am at another side of the spectrum, I look forward to more of your articles on ISYN!! :)

SanDiegoNanny said...

I would love to agree with you on this. I really really wish that I did...but at the end of the day I completely agree with ATL Nanny with one caveat--

It also depends on whether or not a nanny is planning/wants to stay with the current family they are with long-term and if there is room in the family for advancement. If so, then yes--I completely agree with you.

nycmom said...

Thanks to all for the SF advice! I suppose my hesitation with agencies is they seem to recruit from the same places I'd be looking, but if it's the SF norm, then so be it

Tired said...

Rebecca, the families you have worked for seem wonderful and appreciative of your hard work. I share your work ethic but having worked 60 hour week, caring for the children, doing extra chores, going above and beyond, I have to say, I'm tired! I enjoyed improving the quality of life of this family at first but now I wish I'd set boundaries because I'm burnt out.

L.C. said...

Rebecca..perhaps it depends on the individual nanny. I have already been a housewife and stay-at-home mother to my own children and am truly burned out. Now I work as a nanny, but prefer to work with families who only need someone to focus on their kids. I simply do not want to run errands, cook family dinners and/or do family laundry/ironing anymore! I've done all that stuff for years now. I just want to come over and play with the kiddos. Maybe enjoy a picnic at the park or a nice excursion at the local zoo. Stuff I used to do with my own kids, but now cannot. I miss the good stuff. :)

Nice article and very well researched and fun to read.

Nannybythebay said...

Rebecca, thanks for a great read, it seems the economy has made it necessary to broaden our job descriptions if we don't want to look for new employment every two years. It's true many families stack your duties once they know your competent and willing, but this happens in many forms of employment. The harder you work, the more work they give you. As Homer said, " go in everyday and do a half-ass job, it's the American way." I always do extra and often it seems not to be noticed, although it's still worth doing.
nycmom and doing her best, you can join Berkeley parents network, they have a childcare offered/needed weekly post and great info on mostly east bay child related stuff.

Bostonnanny said...

I believe advancing really has little to do with the nanny and more to do with the income level of the family she/he works for. Not all families can afford to pay a nanny a huge wage and advance her into a household manager position. Some can only afford a nanny and if I were to go above and beyond what I did already it would lead to nothing but a good recommendation if the families were decent ppl.

I go above and beyond in my positions but not to the extreme like you. I set boundaries because I know the families I work for can't afford to advance into a household manager position. If I knew they could and even wanted that I'd prob take on a lot more. But why do more work when you prob won't get paid? I rather not become a doormat or over worked if I really have nothing to gain.

So I agree with Atl nanny, as much as I wish it were true and works out that way I have to remember it's a domestic job where no real degree is needed so you are always replaceable and prob the first to go if something comes up with the family.

Rebecca said...

Anon - What an excellent idea for a column! I also want to do one on all those families who insist on paying under the table.

MissMannah said...

Do it, do it! I'd love to hear some interviews from both nannies who gets paid under the table and from parents justifying it. I'd also like to hear how parents decide what kind of nanny they want.

Just My Two Cents Just Now said...

I agree that an article about parents who pay under the table would be a great read. In my area, San Diego, I find that 98% of the families I interview w/do not want to do it legally. They do not want to pay the unemployment insurance and all the taxes and they do not want the liability if I were to get injured while on the job. Sure, they give up their tax deduction in the process, but to them it makes sense. I personally prefer to be paid on the books so I can hopefully get job benefits such as heath insurance and 401k.

Anyway, I am currently being paid on the books, however I am not making a great salary and I still qualify for money for college. Go figure.