Is Honoring Two Weeks Notice Worth the Price?

opinion 2 I am first time nanny who moved around 30 hours away from my home and life to do this, hoping to find a family to spend several months to even a year or so with. I was excited to try being a nanny for the first time, and the family, especially the mother, seemed so welcoming and accommodating in the beginning. However, things quickly began to change as her true personality came out. She was 9 months pregnant when I arrived, and I was told I would have little to no responsibilities regarding the baby as I was very clear that I had no experience with them and was uncomfortable dealing with a newborn. I was told this was completely fine, that I would rarely be left with the baby for even five minutes, and she was taking work off to help out with the house and the children. Shortly after he arrived the baby was often left in my care for hours as the mother did things around the house (personal, not cleaning), clearly hearing this baby screaming in my arms and knowing full well my discomfort regarding this. On top of this, I had a 2 boys to look after at the same time, older, but emotionally stunted and needed far more attention and hands on babysitting than other children their age. Fights, often culminating in screaming and slamming doors were common between them, and being rather new I had yet to figure out what works with the boys and how to best deal with them. While I had discussion with the parents about tactics, nothing seemed to work.

Around a month and a half after giving birth, the mother returned to work. Her returning to work coincided with the boys getting off school for the summer, so I was left alone with them for the majority of the day. I was told I would be working 30 to 35 hours a week, and would have 2 days off. I was not told that I would be working 50 to 60 and given no time off on weekends for myself. Furthermore, any time I did have to myself was resented by the family, and I began to feel guilty for going to my bedroom between 9:30 and 10 pm if the boys were still awake. I had no defined limits as to what my days were and it was beginning to take a physical toll on me. I was expected to be up and ready for 9, and would often be left alone with the boys until 11 or later on weekends. Furthermore, the oldest child is beginning to develop anger issues and had begun to lash out at me verbally, making my days stressful and emotional roller coasters.

I believed I could deal with all this, except around the 2 month mark my relationship with the mother changed, I lost any support system that had existed before, and felt isolated and taken advantage of within their home. The mother brought the child with her to the salon that she owns, but began to take the frustrations of her busy days out on me. She would return home from a days work, and find minute problems with the house, or things I had done wrong. Often, she'd lay out laundry lists of chores for me to do (cleaning and tidying the entire house, maintaining the boys rooms, caring for the 3 large dogs they own) all while keeping the boys entertained. This was very difficult, because as I mentioned before, the boys did not get along and could not play with each other, and were starved for attention; they could not play alone or keep themselves entertained without my constant input or involvement in their games. Also, the house itself was isolated within the countryside, leaving me with little choices of entertainment if I did not have access to a vehicle. The only thing that could keep them quite and entertained for more than ten minutes at a time was watching tv or playing on the computer, and these were limited to an hour a day before dinner. This always bothered me as whenever the mother was home, the boys were constantly watching tv, but as soon as she left, she was extremely critical of it and was very harsh if she found out I had let them watch a movie during the day. Therefore, I began struggling getting the chores done in the time frames and specific ways she requested, and instead of opening a dialogue, my concerns were either treated as lame excuses or brushed aside with useless suggestions of what could be done.

She often gave me very detailed instructions (to the point of being condescending) but I accepted that this was her house and followed them to the best of my ability. However, if one towel out of the 50 I had folded and put away was not as perfect as the others, this was pointed out to me, discussed at length, and then further discussed in a one person conversation she would continue under her breathe, while I was still standing infront of her! This emphasis on my flaws rather than strengths was a common theme, and permeated into all aspects of my day, whether it was something I'd done around the house or with the boys, it became a huge deal. A well done or thank you was a rare thing for me to hear, yet the smallest of mistakes was brought to the entire households attention and despite having been discussed, and then in my mind dealt with, would keep being brought up in mocking and belittling ways for the rest of the day. Also, I'd like to point out that I was not making mistakes constantly. Instructions were very muddled and would begin very detailed, and end with "well whatever, you do whatever you want". This confusion left me second guessing everything I did, as I realized she wanted it done a certain way, but, since I am unable to read minds could not fully deliver to her.

The final straw came about 5 days before the new nanny arrived when she began making backhanded comments about my work and began raising her voice to me. At this point I had already told them I would like to leave early, and had arranged to stay a little over two weeks until another nanny could come. However, after belittling me in front of the boys, and straight up yelling (something I have rarely experienced within my childhood and never in a work environment) at me over something I had not done that day, although when she told me about this task, she had voiced it as something to be done on a rainy day when I had time, giving the impression that it was not something urgent I went to my room and packed my things, and waited until the next morning when the house was empty and left, leaving to stay at a friends house (this was on my day off so I did not abandon the children or anything like that). I sent an email to the mother outlining some of my reasons and thanking them for the good times we had (as there were some) but explaining it was for the best. My health had gone downhill living in such a stressful environment and I had actually begun to start losing hair. It was at a point where staying was worse than leaving, and I had to stand up for myself. Honestly I don't think I could've lasted those last 5 days without experiencing some kind of emotional breakdown. I don't regret losing the reference, and I have never been so happy to be returning home.

Obviously my nanny hopes did not turn out as I would have planned, and I have realized that being a live in nanny is not a chance I will take again. I do feel bad about leaving the boys as I did, as they are good kids and I will miss them, but I am not a servant or a mind reader, and I believed that enough was enough and I couldn't stay in such a toxic environment anymore. However, what all this explaining and buildup has led to is a question, would you leave abruptly in circumstances like mine as I have done? Do you think I'm a terrible person for doing this to the family? I'd really like to get some more experienced nannies opinions, I know what's done is done, but I'm still haunted my lingering guilt, I'd like to get some discussion on if you believe honouring two weeks notice is worth the physical and emotional price staying would have taken.


cheshirecat said...

I think you should have warned the next nanny. I was in the same situation when I was an au pair. In the months leading up to the job I was in correspondence with the au pair before me who told me that the family were delightful to work for. When I got there I was working 60 hour weeks and having daily panic attacks. Turns out that the au pair before me was experiencing the same thing but decided not to tell me because she thought I could 'find out for myself'. After leaving the family I sent her an email making clear how cowardly I thought she was for not having the stones to tell me what I was really in for. Just saying.

Laurie said...

Wow. Do not feel guilty. I felt stressed out just reading that. I think that most nannies that you talk to about this type of situation will tell you about their horrible first nanny experience.

I think that once you go through something like this, you become much more selective when you are meeting new families. You start to look for those red flags that tell you that something is not right or that they have the potential to be the type of employer to take advantage or just be crazy in general.

My theory, after hearing so many "first time nanny" horror stories is that families like this prey on first time nannies. They know that first time nannies are generally eager to please, submissive and don't have a ton of expectations for what a normal or healthy nanny workload and nanny work environment are.

In my first position, I was worked to the bone. I seriously did EVERYTHING for the family- cooking, cleaning,running errands, working more hours than we had agreed upon, and caring for children that sound a lot like what you were describing- starved for attention and acting out constantly. I had constant guilt and always felt like I should be doing more. I felt like all of these things were my responsibility and if something didn't get done I was always afraid of what they would say or do.

I was mentally and physically exhausted. It ended finally when I called the agency that I met them through to ask a question about something else unrelated to the situation. I somehow ended up on the phone with the owner of the agency for an hour spilling my beans about everything that was going on. She was appauled by the way that they were treating me and explained to me that these things were not in my contract or job description and that this couple had been taking advantage of nannies this way for years and were currently on their "last straw" with the agency. (Um, thanks a lot for sending me to them then! When the agency presented them to me they told me they were wonderful)

The agency immediately sent me on interviews & I gave my notice. MB was furious. In fact, this job was three years ago, but I just recently ran into her and the kids at a cafe and she refused to say hello to me. Bitch.

Anyway, my point is, do not feel guilty. THEY should feel guilty for the way they treated you. That is just simply unhealthy and you did the best thing by leaving. If you continue to nanny, remember this experience and try to look for those red flags. I have an amazing job now and the family treats me like gold. You can find that too! Keep your chin up, I am sure you are an awesome nanny and person and that is why you feel guilty, because you are kind. You deserve better.

I did quit too... said...

You shouldn't feel guilty! If I were you, I'd have gone a really long time ago!!

I used to have issues in standing up for myself, but not anymore!

I worked for a family years ago, and I used to do everything, just like you: Cook, cleaning, laundry, even giving the dogs a bath!!! I was working 50 to 60 hours a week and was live-in.

One day, I was just too tired of working for them. I realized I did not have to put up with their crap, and left on the following day. I called them early in the morning and left a message saying I couldn't work for them anymore.

The dad called me pissed saying they were Christians (so?) and they go to church, that they were good people and I was a bad person and he hoped I had bad karma forever!

Some people think nannies are servants and are supposed to be up for everything and anything. There is no respect. That's when you should leave and not look back.

Truth Seeker said...

You should absolutely not feel guilty that you just quit on the spot. After reading your posting, I was starting to feel stressed myself. I am so sorry that you had to go through all that and I sincerely hope that if you continue to work as a Nanny, you will find a nice family to work for. This lady sounds nuts to me and it seems to me that you are a very fair and competent Nanny...she just liked to micromanage is her weakness, not yours OP.

There was a posting on here last week where some Nanny stated that she continued to leave positions without notice and she got flamed for saying so. People called her unprofessional and seemed to blame her entirely for not showing up and quitting effective immediately. I disagree. If you were lied to, are being taken full advantage of + are working in a toxic work environment, you should have the right to leave as soon as possible. If you were just bored on the job or got a better paying position and just left the family in the lurch for that, that would be wrong. But if they are not honoring their contract with you and are yelling at you, assigning you chores you had not initially agreed upon and giving you extra hours, you did the right thing by leaving them cold. Do not harbor any guilty feelings whatsoever. They deserve to be left in the lurch. They wanted that "2-for-1" Deal...a Nanny/Maid. Well tough luck for them.

I think you should have notified the new Nanny if at all possible. Because she is in for a horrible experience and I would want to know if I was her.

ellemayo said...

Don't feel guilty about it! That was an absolutely toxic work environment and nobody should be expected to "tough it out".

I spent some time working for an Olympic medal winning horseback rider as a groom/exercise rider, and she reminds me SO much of the woman in your post. I was always walking on eggshells, knowing that I would get in trouble for asking what she expected, but also for just trying to do it myself and getting it wrong.

I ended up talking to her and telling her that I wouldn't be flying back after Christmas. It was so unbearable for me there that I told her my flight was on a Tuesday, when it really didn't leave until Wednesday. I ended up spending 29 hours in the airport just to get away early.

I don't regret it a bit and you shouldn't either.

UmassSlytherin said...

You absolutely did the right thing.

RBTC said...

do not feel guilty and do not let yourself be treated like that again.

google "psychic vampire"

Marypoppin'pills said...

If other Readers would like to share their first time experience or horror story with ISYN, please send it in.

We often receive e-mails from new Nannies relaying how it helped them in feeling like they weren't alone.

MissMannah said...

Good lord, no you're not a terrible person. I can't believe you lasted as long as you did!

Village said...

This is such a classic story for a first time live in nanny. A family with a critical spirit that lives to enslave another unsuspecting nanny. My dear, I'm guessing you are one in a long line of many. You weren't the first, and the new nanny won't be the last.

Get thee to a agency, get a contract, get a car, and as soon as you can an apartment, so you can go home when your day is done. If the contract states 45 hours, don't work a minute more. You have to learn to stand up for yourself, and that's so hard with a first experience, and no one backing you up.

And don't fell guilty about leaving. I doubt they even remember your name at this point.

Village said...

Don't feel guilty either.

Phoenix said...

the mother was a class A abuser. She sounds just awful. Most abusers in fact are very charming in the beginning and they don't really show their true colors for quite some time. Happy that you got away. I feel bad for the man who is with her tho

Truth Seeker said...

I can't believe the other post where the nanny wanted to leave on the spot was flamed big time, however on this post everyone is saying the nanny did the right thing by leaving.

What's the difference?

By the way, in my opinion...if a nanny is being overworked, underappreciated and used and abused, she has the right to leave on the spot like this OP did.

MissMannah said...

The difference being, this nanny had bent over backwards for the family and was suffering considerably stress and abuse. The other nanny did not state her expectations up front multiple times and was surprised to have more tasks than was "agreed upon" on her first day. Also, this nanny is feeling bad about her choice and the other one seems nonchalant and was playing the blame game.

Chicago's #1 Nanny said...

Do not feel guilty at all. I know exactly how you feel except I was not a live-in or au pair. The family I had worked for had 5 boys age range from 9 month- 8yrs old. I was told that I will never be by myself with all 5 which turned out to be a lie. Also, the friends of these boys would come over and it be more than just five. I was just the weekend help (she had an au pair). The au pairs kept coming and leaving, no one wanted to stay with them snobbish boys. They cried, fought, yell, hit and were never told no. I definitely warned the au pairs that came and when they found out for themselves they were gone. I only stayed because I was away at school and I needed a job to pay for rent. I ended up moving back home, got a great nanny position with a very nice family and sent the other mom (who was a SAHM) that I was not coming back after christmas...

runawaynanny said...

I'm the OP and I just would like to thank you all! I honestly still have dreams where I'm trapped in the house or something and it's so nice to hear other nannies stories and to have some closure.
I guess I should have pointed this out in the original article but the nanny replacing me actually worked for them before, so I didn't feel a need to warn her. Perhaps she's made of tougher stuff, because there is nothing that could make me go back.
Perhaps I should maybe contact her and just let her know what some of my concerns were.