There is Strength in Numbers... Rise Up, Nannies!

opinion 2 Hi fellow nannies. As we all know, there are some great things about being a nanny. The strong bond you form with the children, the accomplished feeling you have after a long day's work, and the paycheck at the end of the week are great perks, just to name a few. On the other hand, there are also things that we don't particularly like about our jobs. As a frequent visitor to this website, there are common themes that I often see. The one that sticks out in my mind, because it hits so close to home, is the general topic of being taken advantage of. It seems that us nannies are always subject to this, even if we have an agreement with the family as to what hours we are SUPPOSED to be working, what our duties are SUPPOSED to be, etc.

Personally, I find myself using the terms "of course I can", "no problem", and "I'd be happy to" far too many times. Before you go off and say that I am a pushover (which I'd partly agree with you on) I know that I am not the only one! For me, the biggest problem I have is with hours always being inconsistent. I understand life is not predictable and things happen (there is traffic on the way home, there was a line at the store, etc) but it just seems to me that hours being extended happens way too often, and not just to me. It happens to you too, admit it :) It's difficult to plan things outside of work when you don't know when you will be done working. Also, although this doesn't happen to me, as my household duties are (thankfully) very limited, a lot of nannies get chores added on little by little, and before you know it, they are running the whole house! I always try to be as helpful as I can be (especially while the children are napping) but I also don't want the family to expect that I will clean everything, thereby putting more pressure on me. Countless times I have read that nannies end up focusing more on housework and less on the children. And that isn't good.

So, my question for all of you is how you happy nannies out there prevent this from happening to you? I find it particularly difficult to say no, especially to someone's face. I also feel badly because I know this person is paying me and I don't know where to draw the line. It is one thing to be helpful and flexible but it is another thing for someone to walk all over you. I must say that in my current job, this doesn't happen too often but it has happened to me a lot in the past. I think a lot of us can benefit from the advice from those of you who feel as though they are being compensated for their work and not being taken advantage of. Thanks!


Nanny S said...

I agree, it's so difficult to stand your ground. I have had this happen to me a few times, and I have simply quit. The last time was for a 3 week temp job, I actually walked out my third to last day. There were a bunch of issues, but the mother started changing the schedule on me and would intentionally not tell me until I got there, even though she would call me to come in early, which I did, then when I got there she would tell me I would be done early. The last time this happened, my hours were supposed to be 11am-11pm, and I had planned my day accordingly. She called at 8, asking me to come in at 9 and I agreed. When I got there, she informed me that little Johnny's grandparents wanted to "spend the day with him" so I would get the day off! (big smile on her face, as if I should be excited...?) I let it slide. Then she sent me an email telling me that the next day I was scheduled until 8, her husband *might* come home early at 4, I would just have to wait and see. I put up with that. Then the next day, I got there ready for a 12 hour day, she tells me she will actually need me for 4 hours, then she will take the kids out for three, then I would need to come back. Well, that was fing it. I asked her what she would think if I showed up and informed her that I could stay with the kids for four hours, then would require 3 hours off, but then would come back. She told me there was no need to get "nasty". I told her I didn't feel comfortable working for someone who did not bring mutual professionalism and respect to the table. I handed her back her 2-year-old and walked out of her house.

I would say first to establish a contract and be very firm about your terms. You get a vibe from parents, and how they treat their nannies. Go with your gut. If you get the feeling that these people are penny pinchers and detached from the hardship of making less than six figures, think again about taking the job. The jobs I have stuck with have always been more than generous to the point that I don't even think about it if they come home late.

I would be interested in other solid answers, but so far the best I've come up with is to choose your families very wisely, establish a contract, speak up before it gets to be a reoccurring issue and get compensated for the extra trouble. It penalizes them for not upholding their end of the contract, and keeps you from being resentful as long as you're paid for your extra time.

Opinion nanny said...

This is a great question. Contracts are a joke, there is no real legal binding so I find it's best to be a clear communicator and a professional, not a member of the family. Go with an agency, be honest with the agency, I told them no stay at homes, full time, $20 an hour, taxes out, and yes I will cook dinner, clean house, do laundry, go to the park, library and do creative activities with my charge. The cover letter I provided stated I would, "keep your home tidy and prepare simple healthy meals so when you are home you can spend quality time with your child.". This really got my MB, they both work full-time, so three years later its been a good match.
To stay professional, I remember that statement when I come in the house is a mess (I also remember my pay). I don't share my private life and problems beyond what's pleasant or relative to the day. At the end of the day I know one day they'll out grow a nanny and I will move on and so will they. I don't get emotionally invested. It's best speak up, say no when you want to, it's easy to say, sorry I can't
I have plans, appointment, commitment, I'm just too tired, or I just don't have the time. It's up to you to be a good communicator, and represent, and expect what you want out of the position clearly to the parents. Hope this helps.

Anny the nanny said...

Opinion nanny Ha ha! you wrote exactly about me- esp the agency bit and no stay at homes. Been a nanny for nearly 30 years and you stated exactly how I feel about a job. I loved your statement about keeping the house tidy and meals so they can spend quality time with their child. Wish I could use it, but my next job in a year or so will have to be different; diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, so running around after small kids isn't on my plate. Healthy and fit, but not small kid useful! Any suggestions anybody?!

MissMannah said...

That anonymous was me, I don't know why it didn't post under my name.

Anonymous said...

OP here.

Sorry, when I said in the post that I wouldn't be receiving cash from her again for my services once I was renting the place, I was unclear. I meant to imply that this was my SOLE income for the property. I have outside income sources starting next month and was going to use this nanny position to solely pay for the condo. I wasn't going to have any extra cash, ever, from her because my condo payment would've been exactly what I made. I didn't realize how unclear I was about that until just now.

Anonymous said...

Whoops, sorry, I posted an anon comment in the wrong box. Disregard that last comment about rent checks!

Manhattan Nanny said...

The interview is key. I think with experience we learn what issues are important to us and what are not. If you have a class or family to get home to, you make it clear that you must finish by 6:30 at the latest. If MB's job requires a flexible quite time, it won't work. Some nannies would resent walking a dog and scooping the poop. I consider pets a plus in a job. On the other hand, I don't want to do the family's laundry, which many nannies don't mind at all These kinds of things should be covered in the interview.
If they have had a nanny, I always ask why she left Watch their reaction carefully. They aren't expecting the question. Is there an uncomfortable hesitation? Bad sign. You want to hear something like she is going back to school, or having a baby, was a wonderful nanny etc. I once took a job with a MB who complained at length about her previous nanny in the interview. She was a nightmare to work for, and I eventually discovered she had gone through 3 nannies in a year. I was able to leave after two months because she had never signed my contract. I learned my lesson.
Is the house either a showplace where you are afraid to touch anything, or a pigsty? Do they have a housekeeper, or a cleaning woman? Is there room to play inside on rainy days? Will you be comfortable working there?
Do they emphasize reading, doing art, do they want a lot of vigorous play? Or does the mom talk more about housekeeping chores that activities with the children Do their expectations match your interests and abilities?
If they don't bring up their views on discipline you should. Also what their feelings are about taking the children out to classes etc. if you don't like to be stuck inside all day
So keep in mind that while they are interviewing you, you also have the opportunity to interview them. And always do a trial week.

Ruth said...

I had a contract working for a family as a live in, and even though I had brought the contract to the embassy to obtain my visa, they neglected it. My contract stated 40h for 300 dollars a week, but my first 2 weeks I worked 60h for 300 dollars. So I told them that from now on I only work 40h. One day DB came home around 6pm and told me I had to babysit late because they were going out, and I told him I already had plans and walked out. They had never informed me that I needed to stay late that nite. I have no problem saying "No", but it also costed me the job. I was fired soon after when they realized they couldn't take advantage of me.

Truth Seeker said...

OP...this could have been written by seems you took the words right out of my mouth!! ☼

I tend to say, "Sure" or "Okay" whenever I am asked to do extra chores..then I blame myself when I start to feel taken advantage of. I know I should draw the line in the beginning, but I hate awkward moments and am scared to stand up for myself at times because I do not want to get fired. What a wimp I can be at times. Hahahaha....

That is why I love this blog. You see, none of my friends are Nannies so I have no support system when things go wrong in jobs. This blog lets me know that I am not alone in this and offers great advice and suggestions for how to handle situations that are unique to us Nannies.

In the Nanny world, as in the professional world, one must not be so afraid of confrontation that they let themselves get walked all over. If you let them do it, they WILL do it and you have no one to blame but yourself if you are being taken full advantage of. (When I say YOU, I do not mean YOU OP), I mean you in general terms.

OP here said...

Thank you all for your wonderful insight so far. I am glad to know that I am not alone in this. In no way am I saying that I am constantly being walked all over but at times I find myself agreeing to do things simply because it's easier to do, rather than say no and suffer the consequences. Then later I am kicking myself for saying yes when I should have politely said no.

My last annoyance was when the MB asked me on a Monday if I could stay late on Wednesday night because the DB had something to do after work. While I appreciated that she gave me as much notice as possible, I don't know why I felt obligated to say yes. After all, I do work full time and adding those extra hours would give me a 12 hour day. That is a lot when I then have to drive home and then be back early the next morning. I am not complaining about the job, I am simply listing reasons I had in my head for why I am allowed to say no. In the end I made up an excuse as to why I couldn't stay late.

I think it's important to think about why I felt I had to lie and not just say that I don't want to stay late. I think most of my reasoning is that I feel badly for the MB to be left with the kids alone while the DB is out enjoying himself. I know that is not my problem but sympathy always creeps its way in with me.

While I feel badly for you guys too, I am happy that this doesn't happen to only me. As for you others getting walked all over when it comes to other things like household cleaning and stuff, I really feel for you. Luckily my duties (outside of the children) are very minimal so I can't complain.

In the future, I am hoping to really stand my ground and more or less stick to the schedule that we outlined. I do like to be flexible because I know things happen but I am only one person and cannot work just whenever they need me. I remember a poster that said she considered taking a job in NYC but in those jobs you are basically on call 24/7, although the money is great. That type of job is NOT for me because I would be miserable! Thanks for all the advice so far and if anyone else has some, or even a story like mine, I would love to hear it!

Manhattan Nanny said...

You need to have a talk with MB and tell her what you told us about staying late after a long work day. It is important for the children's sake to be well rested when you come back in the morning. She needs to find a babysitter for those weeknights. Don't wait until it comes up again.

Wow said...


I was the one who mentioned the NYC jobs. I wonder what's wrong with many parents today that they don't want to take care of their children at all!

Good for you for working on standing up for yourself! I respect that you know your weakness and you're trying to change. And it sounds like you're doing a great job! Good for you for telling MB that you couldn't work late. Why can't she care for her own children alone for a few hours?

Another thing I'd like to suggest...if you're asked to do something and you're not immediately feeling like you WANT to do it, it's okay to say you need to think about it or look at your calendar and get back to them with an answer. That will give you time to consider if you want to do it and get your words together to give an answer. Keep up the good work!

Candi said...

You may be hiring a nanny for the first time. Maybe you’re even a first-time parent. Bringing a nanny into your home can be a blessing to all involved, but, like all relationships, good communication and a shared understanding are essential.

1. As soon as you leave, the kids will stop crying and start playing. It is heartbreaking to hear your children cry as they see you leaving for work each day. Your natural instinct is to rush to your children and comfort them. However, your children will be fine with their nanny once you are gone: your nanny will do a fine job of comforting your children and then diverting their energies to other activities such as recreation or education. As weeks go by, your children will learn that everything will be ok when you go to work, and your daily departure will no longer be viewed as heart-wrenching.

2. Nannies don’t mind cleaning up the house, but it’s discouraging when another mess is waiting for them when they report to work the next morning. Nannies are not housekeepers. It is reasonable to expect a nanny to clean up after the children, but it is not customary to expect nannies to be responsible for all housecleaning tasks.

3. If you’re going to be 30 minutes late, please call to let the nanny know. The nanny may have obligations outside of work. By letting her know that you are running late, you give her the opportunity to notify any people with whom she has subsequent appointments that she, in turn, will be running late. Alternately, you and she may be able to make other childcare arrangements for the half hour in which you are not yet home yet she needs to be elsewhere.

4. When the nanny goes above and beyond, a thank-you note or little perk is a nice touch. Nannies, like everyone else, need to feel that their good work does not go unnoticed.

5. Notify your nanny if you have a nanny cam. Most nannies won’t care, but they do (understandably) want to be informed. Some laws require you to notify nannies of the locations and circumstances in which they cannot expect privacy (for example, in the bathroom).

Most of the rules above can be summed up in the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. By placing yourself in your nanny’s shoes, and by expecting her to place herself in your shoes, good communication and a shared understanding are off to a good start.