"Am I Cutting Off My Nose to Spite My Face?"

opinion 2 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!


nycmom said...

I'm a mom, not a nanny, but have had similar issues.

My advice is do not hire this woman again. She has proven she is unreliable, dishonest, and greedy. I know it is "easy" to go with the known quantity, but I guarantee it will not end with the current demands. Once the extortion starts, it just gets worse. She feels she has you over a barrel and will continue to push for more. You would be better off placing an ad on Sittercity or a local board for a temp nanny, then you can transition this nanny to occasional weekends too.

BTDT with multiple au pairs and I can say you are in for a long road there too. Although I would *maybe* consider it again for wrap around care for school age kids, NO WAY would I do it for infants/toddlers. I could give you so many examples, but suffice to say these young girls are often away from home for the first time; the job is misrepresented to them and they are generally inexperienced. There is a reason the rematch rate is close to 50% (though you'll be hard pressed to get an actual number from any agency). I raise this issue because there is at least a 50% chance this au pair will not work out, leaving you again in a bind. Having the new temp nanny as a resource again will be a huge plus. Having to again turn to the old nanny will mean her rates have likely jumped to another $5/hour and who knows what else.

Move on.

Earth Angel said...

I know a few Au pairs that have moved across to the other side of the world for 6months-12months. they have been fine yes they have had a some bad bouts of home sickness. if you get an Au Pair. make sure she has that Au Pair support network and gets the chance to meet up with other Au pairs/nannies in your area, Just because they may be away from home for the very first time and may not have enough experience (if you get an Au pair through an Au Pair agency) the Au Pair does between 7-14days training before starting work. (they get first aid certificate and another certificate).

another nanny said...

I pretty much agree with everything nycmom said. This nanny is unprofessional and greedy (would you start a job after agreeing to a salary and go in after a month to ask for a raise, without any justification for why you've earned it?). The terms of your original contract sounded reasonable to me.

Also, from what I've heard about au pairs, they are usually told it is a cultural exchange, with minimal childcare and plenty of time for education and exploration. Thus many are not prepared for the reality of full time nanny work.

ericsmom said...

Most Au Pairs are paid peanuts and worked like dogs.

Seattle Nanny said...

I am a professional nanny in Seattle. I have had all of my placements through the leading nanny agency here and have done years of temp work on the side for them. I have a college education and come highly recommended. I know a lot of nannies in the area and I know what this nanny market is like. I make 19/hr for two and that is on the higher end of the nanny market here. Standard is 15-20/hr, lower if built into a salary. A typical nanny salary is 2400-2800a month, higher paid nannies usually get 3000-3400 a month. That being said, I will tell you that this nanny is asking for way too much. She won't even load the dishwasher???? Are you kidding me? Please, take my advice. Forget this nanny and PLEASE ask around with other moms who have had experiences with Au Pairs... I have heard some horror stories.

I know a lot of professional nannies who would love to nanny for someone like you and I would love to give you a few contacts if you would like.

And FYI..temps get paid 15/hr here. This girl is not only being unreasonable, she is lying to you. Call an agency here and give them her name. I bet money she has applied to the agencies and they have put her on their "Not Placeable" list.

*please forgive typos.. I am posting from my phone :)

alex said...

I definitely would not hire her. For all you know she would decide a week in to leave you because she found something else. She may be good with the boys and know them but is it worth it? Plus, she won't even load the dishwasher? I think chores related to the children (putting their dishes away) is totally acceptable.

Belle Vierge said...

When I was 12 and doing my first baby-sitting jobs, I loaded/unloaded the dishwasher! Find someone else. She is being unreasonable.

MissMannah said...

If you really want to hire this girl, tell her you will pay her $17 an hour because that's what you paid previously and that's what you are prepared to pay. No more justifications or listening to her trying to get more money. If she says something about an agency, tell her to go register with one and then hang up on her. She sounds like a major manipulator.

Manhattan Nanny said...

I agree with the above advice. Don't rehire this manipulative woman. Do reconsider the au pair issue. They can be good for school age kids, but as your children are young, I think you need a mature experienced nanny. Keep in mind that you are offering 36 hours a week, which is PT for a nanny. 45-50 hours is usual. You may have to offer a slightly higher than the going rate, or the nanny will probably have a weekend job. Or, maybe you could add on a weekly date night.

RBTC said...

when nannies on this site do not support a nanny that is saying something.

You were very reasonable with the nanny and she took advantage, there should be many nannies who would love working for someone like you - let us know what happens

Tales from the (Nanny)Hood said...

I think offering to hire her again would be asking for trouble. She quits on you, demands FAR more per hour than she is worth, and appears to be generally greedy and selfish to the extreme.

Go to an agency, find a good nanny with experience, and hire her.

I'll add my voice to those urging you to reconsider the au pair option. Hiring an au pair means you need to be prepared to start raising another child, aged 18+, wild with the excitement of being away from home and often husband hunting. Of course, not ALL au pairs are like that, but you need to look at the possible worst-case scenario.

Consider whether YOU would have been happy at the age of 18 - 26, away from home thinking you'll be getting a cultural exchange experience and lots of time to play, and then being saddled with some little kids. Would you have done a good job and done it happily?

Again, find a good, mature, experienced, realistic nanny and hire her - you didn't have a true nanny before, you had what I would call an au pair preview - spoiled, immature, demanding, and unreliable to the extreme.

Phoenix said...

first off I really like the way that you had her acrue the sick days. Just like a company. I like that idea.

But this girl is a greedy little bitch. I would have punched her in her stupid head. Negotiate with her. Bargain with her. $22hr is a lot of money to pay a greedy person for watching two kids. She is talking advantage of you. For Shame!

TC said...

Wow, I'd go through a company or sitter city. I wouldn't hire her again.

It's VERY rare that you get unanimous advice but you got it and I'd listen to it. Find someone else.

Nanny of One said...

Dear OP:

Despite the fact that you feel that this "nanny" whom really should be referred to as a babysitter is a good fit for your boys.

Do you really want to associate yourself in a business relationship with someone whom lies, is greedy, and is taking advantage of you and your situation.

If I were you I would, ask around and perhaps hire another individual to care for your children during the buffer period when your au-pair arrives. Upon arrival you can keep this new person in your life as a back up or weekend babysitter.

Also, if you must and cannot find any other option, be straight forward with the past sitter/nanny and explain this is what I am willing to pay, these are the conditions take it or leave it as we have other people interested in the position.

These are your children! You as their mother make the best decision for them, however, do not let another person take advantgage over you during this process.

Ps. I watch one child and reside in a big Canadian City, I make $3000.00 a month for one child. However, this is an exception in the nanny world.

Keep us posted on your decision :)

Warm Regards,

Nanny of One.

Tashinalove said...

Wow, this is completely ridiculous! Can the Nanny, even if it's temporary. A truly amazing Nanny is compassionate, respectful and APPRECIATIVE...

Denise said...

$22/Hr for two children? And she won't even do dishes??! Ditch this selfish, greedy and immature girl ASAP. Sure, your boys know her and from what you say, she takes good care of them. However, she is totally taking advantage of the situation. I think she has someone on the side influencing things, you know what I mean?? Like they are telling her, "You should be making such and such, etc.."

She just sounds young and immature to me. Go on sittercity or and place an ad. You will most likely find a quality Nanny who will not take advantage of you on there.

NannyAnnie said...

Ummm...yeah...I'm gonna go with what everyone else said and say do NOT hire this girl.

As for the Au Pair issue, I think instead of letting the Au Pair agency place you with someone, it might be a good idea to find one yourself through a sight such as or I was an Au Pair in Europe last year, and this was how the family found me. We then went through an official agency to set up things like a contract, etc. The agency offered to match them with someone, but they said they would prefer to find the Au Pair themselves.

I think this would be a good idea because then you can make sure that you and the Au Pair are on the same page as far as what will be expected, and then a scenario like Tales from the Nannyhood laid out would be less likely to occur.

Nanny S said...

Hi OP, I am also a nanny in Seattle, and my rate is $15+/hr. I am a student at UW and have been a nanny for over 5 years.

But really, am I the only one that thinks it's obvious there is more information to this story than we're being told? First of all, it's not some sort of "privilege" for your nanny to be paid legally. She needs to accrue social security just like the rest of working America. For you to present the issue like that really makes me think that even though you are paying her a fair wage, you probably do not treat her as an adult or a professional.

Secondly, her rate went from $18 to $17 per hour. She took a pay CUT working for you and it probably made a big difference in her budget as a single young girl. If $18 is outside your budget, then okay, but if not, again, I am surprised you would let a valued employee take a pay cut.

Third, I would just like to add that from this nanny's behavior--wanting more cash quick, it sounds like she could be in debt or needing to pay something quickly, as evident by her moving back home. Obviously, she handled it very poorly but I really know the effects of financial stress, and parents *surprise* coming home early, and I'm out two hours of money that was going to be my grocery budget for the next week! (Mind you, I'm a full time student, but you didn't share your nanny's situation).

Last, I definitely see your perspective and would definitely cut her loose. Trust and respect have been broken on both sides (I can tell by your post that you likely don't treat her with much respect, from how you describe her pay scale in the beginning, though $22 is excessive.) Her behavior is unethical, and it is quite unprofessional how she went about her demands/requests, but over all it just sounds to me as if she is really hurting for money and she's distressed about it, hopefully you both can learn from the situations. But again, as a nanny on a tight budget, who has worked for parents who seem oblivious to that fact, she's in survival mode and only thinking about the immediate future.

You are certainly not cheap, but presentation is everything. Going from $18 to $17 put a damper on the relationship from the start, so keep that in mind. Just tell her that you feel it will not work out and don't hire her again. You are right- cash under the table for her regular wage is fair, but for some reason she didn't disclose to you or you didn't write in your post, she won't take less than $22. I agree it is unreasonable of her to not want to do light housework like loading the dishwasher.

Learn from it and move on. Offer a fair wage, get a contract specifying duties, pay taxes, treat your nanny well, and the next one could stay for years. Good luck to you.

MissDee said...

Unbelieveable. She has no training as a nanny or formal education, has a damn good salary. $18/hr is not that bad for a novice nanny.

She left twice, thought the grass was greener on the other side, and now wants $22/hr without a college education? Add to the fact that she doesn't do housework, which leaves me with the impression that OP/MB comes home to a sink full of dirty dishes and a messy house, because the nanny is lazy and full of herself.

Apparently she isn't aware that nannies are paid on a number of factors: what the family can afford, education, and experience. Agencies DO NOT pay nannies. I would politely and firmly tell her you feel she is a good nanny, however you also feel she is not the right fit for your family, and leave it at that. I am not sure what you think of her, but IMO, she seems like a flaky, immature, greedy selfish brat who thinks the world revolves around her.

I agree with Seattle Nanny. I would call a few local agencies and explain to them the situation, (giving them her name so they know to avoid her) and see if they can work with you in finding a professional, qualified nanny who understands that this kind of work is about the children and their families, not about their bank account.

Keep us posted!

Original Poster (lulu) said...

Hi there. I'm the original poster. Thanks so much for all of the support. I feel vindicated...which I needed. I told the former nanny yesterday that we didn't want to hire her. She dropped her price to $20, but I told her it was probably best that we part ways. I am going to look on tomorrow and hope to find someone in the $17-$18 range.

Our next door neighbors use au pairs with great results so far, so we are going through the same agency. Seattle has a pretty large au pair community. I hope it works out.

I do think that we didn't "respect" the profession of nanny to was our first child...and her first nanny job. We paid her under the table at her request and then "on the books" at her request. I think her desperation for money was born out of not realizing how much is really taken for taxes. I think this site and experience have made me respect nannying as a career. My former nanny is no professional. She's just greedy. :-)

dandelion said...

OP, good luck with finding the right Au pair for you! There is a great blog for Hostparents. I am not quite sure if I am allowed to name names on here. But google Au Pair+Mom and you will come up with some great pages! There are a lot of rules and many mistakes one can make when finding/matching with Au pairs. But it will be a great experience when finding the perfect match for your family.

All the best to you!

Irritated said...

Seriously, if you guys needed help with this thats pretty lame. Set some boundaries.

Journey of love said...

I am a full time mom but I used to be a Professional nanny here in south east Michigan and I only got paid 10.50 an hour and that was with a college degree. The average nanny here makes between 10-13 dollars an hour. I know at least 50 people that would stand in line to make 18 dollars an hour as a nanny. I think 22 dollars is a lot of money. That women sounds selfish. Ditch her and find someone else.