This might be too long of a story/question, but found your website several months ago and have enjoyed the advice of your readers for some unusual situations and hoping you can help me with mine.
I hired a nanny in January 2010 to care for my 6 month old son. She was the daughter of a friend of my mom's from her work who had experience working in a childcare center but no real formal training or nanny experience. She wanted to do a nanny share so we found another couple with a daughter about my son's age and we shared for nearly a year when our share dissolved on friendly terms because we had another baby and the other family was also expecting another. During the time of our share we paid $9 for hours that were shared and $12/hr for any hours the nanny just had our child. Most of the time she had both, so she generally was making $18/hr for 2. Everything was informal, no contract, cash under the table. No paid sick or vacation leave but if we cancelled or took vacation we still paid her our usual rate. I had planned a 6 month maternity leave so we parted ways with our nanny and my husband and I began mulling over options for care. When our former nanny found out we were looking into these options, she approached us about nannying for both of our children. We talked it over and decided to hire her.
When we put together our "contract" it was fairly informal, via email. It was basically that she work for us 4 days per week, 9 hour days for a "salary" that worked out to $17/hr for both kids. She wanted it to be "legal" so we paid our half of her taxes, paid an agency to handle the payroll, gave her 2 weeks paid vacation (one of her request, one of ours and both after 6 months of employment). Any hours over 36/week we paid her cash $15/hr (we did this because it made it easier from an accounting perspective and cost us less to use the payroll service to have it the same each time). We agreed that she would "accrue" sick leave at the rate of 5 hrs/month and if she didn't use it she could carry it over to the next year or be paid out at her hourly rate of $17/hr. In the year she worked for us previously she only called in sick twice.
A month into our contract she approached us saying that the money wasn't enough and she wanted to do another share to make more money. We discussed it and told her that until our second son was at least a year, we'd prefer to not have another child in the mix. She pushed back saying she was making less overall, particularly because of the tax issue (her choice, mind you...) We agreed that we could do a trial with another family but when it came down to it she wanted to find another family with kids the same age (note I said "kids"...she wanted TWO more in her care), didn't want to reduce the rate we paid her, and basically wanted to make $36/hr to care for 4 children. We put our foot down and a week later she came to us saying she'd found another position. She agreed to a month's notice because the other family didn't need her yet and we needed to arrange other care. The second week of our last month together she came down with something and took a week off. Because she had only accrued 8 hours at this point we told her it would be fine, we'd keep her pay the same, but that she could just pay us back for the hours by working a few extra days (I normally didn't work Fridays) so I could get caught back up at work after missing the week she was away. She agreed that we were "owed" 3 Fridays.
Come the end of our contract, she had an excuse as to why she couldn't work 2 of the 3 Fridays I requested, in her new job she worked M-F. I decided to write it off, it wasn't worth the hassle, and besides being a bit grabby, she had been good to our children and we would just consider this a parting gift of sorts and remain on good terms since my boys loved her.
Fast forward AGAIN and her position didn't work out. We had been using my cousin to babysit and are now again at the point of weighing options because she is moving back home and we are ultimately landing an au pair, but we need a couple of months to put this in motion. So she approached us AGAIN (my mom talks to her mom at work) and wondered if we'd want her to watch the kids while we wait for the au pair to arrive. Cash under the table. We thought it was a great option, figuring that she was known to our boys, would take good care of them, and we wouldn't have to train her or anything. Then she tells us that her rate is now $22/hr for 2 kids, and doesn't mention at all that she still technically owes us 2 days of work (although I never would have made her "repay" at this point, you'd think she'd at least take our generosity into account and not try to charge us $5/hr more than she was 5 months ago!!) I told her this was outside of our price range and she said "well, that's what you'll pay an agency if you don't hire me".
We are not sure what to do about this. I could use an agency for about the same price but the nanny I get would be a gamble. We are thinking that it will be at least 2 months before we match with an au pair, get the house ready, etc. I don't want to cut off my nose to spite my face, but I feel pretty annoyed at how much she has jacked up her prices and her comment about the agency. She's a good nanny but no formal education in childcare, she REFUSES to do any housework besides cooking kids' meals (won't even load the dishwasher). I just feel like it might be time to cut bait. Am I being unreasonable? I hate to be perceived as "cheap" because I obviously would invest whatever I could for good childcare for my boys, but I think that for her background, skills, and experience, she is asking too much. We live in Seattle and $22 is pretty high end for 2 kids, I believe. Many of my friends pay around $15-17 depending on age of kids.
I'd love some nanny perspective here!