Wednesday

a day in the life 2012... of a Retiring Nanny
I found this site a few days ago, and I’m so disappointed I hadn’t seen it sooner. My first thought was, “Where have you been all my life?!?” Or at least, why couldn’t I have found you five years ago? I’ve been reading through the posts and debating whether or not to write one myself, for fear of being flamed by other members. For my own sanity, however, I’ve decided to get my story off my chest.

I have been working in the childcare industry for five years now, as you may have gathered from the previous paragraph. In general, I have not been very lucky when it comes to finding good jobs. I know this is mostly my fault, and I attribute that to the fact that I am young, a bit na├»ve (although that had drastically changed), a chronic over-thinker,­ and I just recently grew a backbone.

I have always liked children, and I’m very good with them. In high school, I took every child development class I could, read many informative books, and when I felt confident in my knowledge and skills, applied for a job as a daycare assistant. The job was wonderful. It was a small after-school daycare chain (I believe there were five or six different centers, spread over two counties). I worked there during my senior year of high school, and they were wonderfully flexible, understanding, and really helpful. When the director felt that there was something I needed to work on, she sat down with me and spoke to me like a peer, rather than a child. To add a little more “awesomeness” to the job, they also hired my best friend of over 10 years. I barely made more than minimum wage, which was fine with me, since I mostly wanted the job to get some childcare experience.

I worked at the daycare from August until May—nearly the entire school year. I had to leave this job because the father of one of the little girls began stalking me. It started with simple, inappropriate comments, such as complimenting my looks in a creepy way, and gradually progressed to him asking me to attend functions with him. Mind you, I was 17, he was 44, and I was completely grossed out. I did report this behavior, and nothing was done about it. One day, this father showed up at MY school, blocking in MY car, and waiting for ME. I was terrified. He saw me and began speaking to me, asking me to the dance at his daughter’s school, since he was a chaperone and “needed” a date. He wouldn’t move his car unless I said yes. I ran away, called my mother, and burst into tears. My mother absolutely went insane on the school and had a serious conversation with my place of employment for allowing this man to behave this way after I had reported him. Police were involved, and it was a nightmare. When I put in my notice in shortly after, they were very understanding.

My next job was my first nanny job. The mother was a friend of the family, and she was (and is) AMAZING! I watched her twin 11-year-old daughters full-time for two summers, and often during the school year in between. It was perfect, because I was in my first year of college and needed the extra money, but didn’t have enough time for a regularly scheduled job. When my days with them would end, I would often end up staying for another hour or more just talking and laughing with the whole family. They would have my boyfriend and I over, and actually asked him to help their girls when they started Lacrosse (something with which I would have been useless). My job ended for them at 19, when my parents divorced, causing my mother and I to be kicked out with an hours’ notice. I was also informed by my father that college would no longer be an option for me if I was requiring his financial help. That night I moved about 2 hours away, where my boyfriend was attending college. I should add that I was not currently employed full-time by them. The girls were in summer camp, and after that week would be immediately starting school again (sorry, I know I made that a bit confusing).

Here is where it starts to get really fun! When I moved near my boyfriend, I didn’t have a lot of options as far as employment. I was stupid and didn’t really save my money, but I did have enough for a security deposit and first month’s rent. I found a roommate, who was my age with a toddler, on craigslist (Do. Not. Do. This. EVER. I just did what I had to do to survive and keep a roof over my head). She was also a nanny, and we got along very well. She was the only other nanny I had ever met, as my hometown is not a place where anybody really has a nanny. I know now that I was stunningly misinformed when it comes to the nanny career. I did not know about contracts or anything of the sort, and it just never occurred to me how evil some people could be to their employees.

I took the first job that came my way. I received a frantic call one night from a mother, claiming that their nanny had left on short notice, and they desperately needed someone for the next day. Well, what a coincidence, I am also desperate! I’ll be over in the morning. Neither of us checked any references or used any kind of safety precautions. I am absolutely horrified now that I ever did something so stupid.

I arrived at my new place of employment the next day with a big, bright smile on my face. The mother was beautiful and kind. She showed me around the house, explained which light chores I would be doing, and introduced me to the children, a 12-year old boy and 10-year-old girl. She made a point of telling both of them, in front of me, that I am in charge, she expects them to listen to me, and anything less than good behavior was unacceptable. She said this in a way that was not mean or intimidating, simply an expectation. She said it perfectly, and I was in awe of her. She then mentions that, oh, by the way, my son is a spectrum child, no one can control him, and only a few months ago had returned from a 10-month program at a school in Arizona for children with similar problems. Have a nice day!

For several months, I dealt with the most unbelievably disturbed child I have ever come across. He would cuss his parents and me out, he would kick and hit us, threaten us, and do anything he could to get his way. He was a big kid, too. He was about 5’ 10” and 150 lbs or more. I, on the other hand, am 5’ 6” and 115 lbs. Guess who was stronger? I kept the job for as long as I did because I cared for the family and desperately needed the money. On my last day (granted, I didn’t know it would be my last day), a behavior specialist came to the house to help get him a bit more settled. Upon trying to get the boy to do his homework, he threatened both of our lives. The specialist told me that it was no longer safe for me to work in this environment, and she insisted I call his family and leave this job immediately. She stayed until his parents got home and told them what had happened. The parents asked if I could stay a little longer, until they found someone else, but the specialist told them it was unacceptable and it was putting my life in danger. We all cried.

My next job was working for an acquaintance of my upstairs neighbors’. She was a single mother with a 4-year-old daughter. Again, no contract. Coincidentally, I also knew their last nanny through my roommate. She had warned me that this woman was a terrible employer who makes many amazing promises, but keeps none of them. I didn’t believe this nanny, though, because I knew she was lazy at her job. I began the job and it seemed amazing. It was winter, freezing cold, and I was dirt-poor without anything more than one sweatshirt to keep me warm. My employer noticed this, and gave me a coat that no longer fit her. It was the nicest thing anyone had done for me in a while, and I was so excited to make her happy. My first day on the job was a 24-hour shift, and she even offered to let my boyfriend stay over also, so I would be comfortable. I told her I appreciated the offer, but wouldn’t be taking her up on it. I didn’t feel it was appropriate, especially on my first day. That winter happened to be a particularly bad one, accumulating over 60”, I believe. As any nanny and/or parent knows, this weather makes for prime snow play, hot chocolate, chicken noodle soup, and fuzzy blankets. We went outside every single day and played in that snow, since my RWD sedan was not safe to drive in that weather. To be honest, it was not safe to drive ME in that weather, but I had already been warned that calling out of work was unacceptable and would almost definitely result in termination. One morning, I went outside to find my car covered in another foot of snow, and my only way of getting to work was in my boyfriend’s SUV. I thought for sure that this was creative problem solving that she would appreciate. Nope! She called me that weekend, screaming at me for not bringing my car to work, not driving her daughter anywhere in a week, and bringing my boyfriend to her house (even though he was outside, in his car, in the parking lot). She then went on to say that because I hadn’t taken her daughter anywhere, she was getting fat. First of all, who would EVER call their beautiful 4-year-old fat, especially when she was nowhere near. Again, when I say I didn’t take her anywhere, I mean we didn’t drive anywhere during the blizzard. We went outside more than once every day. There was also the issue that I was not allowed to address the little girl when the mother was around, because “it will confuse her as to who her mommy is.” I was also not allowed to sit on their couch, as “that is for family and guests.” She fired me because I asked if she had plans to send her daughter to pre-school. I asked out of simple curiosity (and maybe a little to see if I was going to be out of a job soon), but a few days later, she called and asked what kind of horrible, uneducated idiot would say such terrible things about her daughter. I asked her what she meant, and she shouted that her daughter didn’t need any kind of schooling before kindergarten, and how dare I take it upon myself to teach her daughter things like letters and numbers without her consent. I was fired for being a good nanny. On top of that, she showed up at my house a few days later to get her coat back. According to her ex-husband, she goes through nannies like tissues. I feel so bad for that little girl.

After my CL roommate stopped paying rent, moved out, and I lost my job, my mom decided it was time to move in with her. By this point, she had bought a house, and would just need me to pay a little rent. My boyfriend was already planning to transfer to a school not far from her house anyway, so it all worked out. I got a new job with a family with a 3 year old girl and a 15 month old boy. I stayed there for a year and a half. The children looked like they could have been mine, especially the daughter. Of course, I always corrected people that thought they were mine. I think credit should be given where it’s due, and I can’t take any credit for how adorable those two are. That being said, the little boy was a holy terror. There was little-to-no discipline in the house, because the daughter rarely ever needed to be told no, but her brother was born the polar opposite. I did everything I could, used every method in the book, and then many, many, many other books, all to no avail. Unfortunately, if you’re the only one participating in the discipline, it usually doesn’t work out very well. My pleas for discipline consistency fell on deaf ears, and he just beat me down. I would often come home from work in tears from the stress of the job, not to mention the utter filth that I worked in (I did clean, although it was not asked of me. I just couldn’t stand the mess). I cared deeply for the family, and was easily encouraged by the promise of a raise, or simply acknowledgement that I existed in their eyes. They knew this and took advantage. This job ended recently when the mother’s job situation changed, making them unable to keep me employed. They gave me a weeks’ notice, no severance pay, bonus, or ever even a raise the entire time I was there. I never got a sick day or vacation day. Yet again, no contract. Despite the poor behavior of the little boy, I adore those kids and am not over leaving that job.

I found my current job pretty quickly after receiving notice for my last family. This time, I really researched what a nanny job should be, and made sure that I have a contract in place. I did not let the parents just name my salary without my input, and they will not be using me as a doormat. I have trained my mouth to form the word, “no,” and I have come up with a few standard responses to requests not outlined in my contract. I can finally pick and choose what, if any extra responsibilities, I want to take on. Yes, I will feed your cats for you while you’re away! No, I will not organize your garage! See how awesome that is??

This current family seems very nice so far, but I’m having a lot of trouble connecting with their child. There are no behavior problems or anything to speak of—just no real connection. In late summer, I am officially retiring from nannyhood and going back to college full-time to be a Nurse, which I am so excited about. I’m a bit conflicted because of my current job, though. I am an excellent nanny (if I do say so myself), and will have absolutely no problem keeping my desire to move on to myself. Of course, if I ever feel that it is getting in the way of my job, I will give notice and help them find someone else who is perfect for the job.

If you pulled through to the end of my way-too-long story, you are a real trooper. Just putting this in writing, even though I haven’t covered half of the things that happened in my “away from home” jobs, I still feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Please, no comments that are mean just for the sake of being mean. It’s not constructive, and I would never do it to you!

Parents- you’re wonderful! But please be sure to treat your nannies with respect. Remember that they are people trying to make a living, just like you!

Nannies- you are strong and amazing! Protect yourselves. Don’t meet a new family without an escort or some safety measure. Do your research, and get a contract. Treat your charges well, no matter what the parents do, and keep your chin up when the job gets tough!

21 comments:

MissMannah said...

Wow, I really enjoyed reading your story. You may have covered this and I just overlooked it, but why are you retiring from childcare? Have you just always wanted to do nursing instead?

Reading your story, I have a million questions about why you did this, or didn't do that, but I think I already know the answer: you were young and didn't know any better. Believe me, I've been there and made some really dumb choices too. Fortunately not in my nanny career, because I've always had a contract and was fortunate enough to have a nanny friend to guide me before I started out.

I do hope you are happy and successful in your life. You sound like you're in a much better place than you were. And I thought the exact same thing when I stumbled upon this site over a year ago!

Marypoppin'pills said...

My sentiments exactly, MissMannah. OP, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your letter and wish you success on all your future endeavors.

If other Nannies/Parents want to send their Stories in, good or bad, please do... we would love to Publish them!

Nanny25 said...

OP, maybe you should become a writer! Your story was really well written, thought out and fascinating, not to mention inspiring. Good luck with your nursing career and do some writing on the side ;)

OP said...

Thank you so much for the positive feedback and support, ladies!

MissMannah- I didn't mention it, but I have always wanted to go into pediatric nursing. When it didn't look like I would be able to continue with college for a while, becoming a nanny was just the smart option.

Marypoppin'pills- Thanks for posting this! I got a little nervous and wanted to take it back after e-mailing you, but I'm glad it's up!

Nanny25- Thank you! I actually do write from time to time, mostly about my nanny experiences, but this is the first time I've actually posted.

eric01 said...

Good for you OP. With a nursing degree you will be able to take care of yourself. Plus you can always move up the ladder, continue your education,etc. The pay isn't half bad.

Hope all works out!!

Phoenix said...

Wow. i can't believe a mom got mad at you for teaching her daughter numbers and letters. Shame on you! And your evil ways!

a. said...

I was offended by the part of the story regarding the "spectrum child." I feel so bad for the child in this story. I feel bad for him on so many levels. I feel bad that the mother is so desperate that she would hire a person off the street with no special needs experience, and without checking her references, I feel bad for the child that his disability is met with apparent horror by his new caregiver, and I feel sad that his "specialist" did not try to explain autism to this young nanny. Just a sad, sad part of the story from the perspective of a parent with an autistic child.

OP said...

A.- My "apparent horror" at the child's behavior was only brought on by being regularly attacked by him. He was highly functional, bigger and stronger than me, and his behavior was met by zero reinforcement from his parents--positive or negative. After my first day, I went home and researched for hours. I researched often, and I talked to people with experience in this situation. Do you know what that got me? Several black eyes, a scar, and countless other injuries. None of this was never acknowledged by the parents. Would that have been a little horrific for you? Obviously, this hits close to home for you, and I'm truly sorry if you were offended by my word choice. That was the way his parents explained his diagnosis to me.

ericsmom said...

Geeze its not the O.P. fault that the child was so violent. It is true the parents should have gotten a different caretaker. Maybe, one that specialized in this. Maybe, it was too expensive to hire a specialist, I don't know. Alot of times there are services out there offered to parents with special needs kids. Sometimes, a child can qualify for social security benefits. Not sure if this family fit in this mode. If so they should have used the money to hire someone with experience.

MissMannah said...

If you guys had paid attention, you would see that the family DID hire a specialist eventually. And that she demanded OP quit on the spot even though she didn't want to.

A, plenty of parents hire nannies off the streets with no experience and without checking references, either because they are desperate, cheap or just plain lazy. This just hit close to home for you, but believe me it is not a one-time thing.

ericsmom said...

No I did see the part where a specialist came in. Guess what I bet the specialist told the parents they need to hire someone trained in the field. Ms.M you are probably right. They didn't or couldn't afford someone specialized in that field.

OP said...

They could have afforded someone specialized, but they chose to hire people that would work for at least $10/hour less (no, this isn't me being judgmental, it's repeating what they told me). They were still trying to recover financially from his time at the special school. I was the 8th or 9th nanny they had hired in just that year alone, though, so you would think that at a certain point (maybe after #5?) they would just shell out the extra cash for someone who knew what they were doing. I know this all sounds bad, but they really are great people, just in a difficult situation.

ericsmom said...

Hi OP

Not sure what state you worked in. My son has some developmental delays. He is in an inclusion class that he loves. I receive Social security for him. So I can use it for some of his programs. Its really sad our state we live in cut alot of programs especially for special needs. I applied for assistance for extra activities offered thru JCC, and even things like the Little Gyn that he loves. Sad thing theres really no funding like their was in the past.

Oh well. I know your going for nursing. Have you considered maybe a field as Physical Therapist, or Occupational, Speech Therapist? The ones that work at the public school my son attends make really good money. Plus, what an awesome job if you enjoy being around children!

ericsmom said...

P.S. The family really don't seem like great people. If its okay that you get the shit beaten out of you. Especially, after the specialist had to call them on the phone and come home. It had to be a pretty bad situation. The specialist didn't even know you and she was more concerned about you than they were. For them to have the nerve to beg you stay a little longer, blows my mind.

If you were paid on the book you probably could have collected some compensation.

ericsmom said...

sorry for the typos

ABA Therapist said...

As a former nanny and current ABA Therapist (we do home based services for children with Autism, for those of you who aren't familiar), it is not "wrong" of the parents to hire a "normal" nanny for this child. Of course it is better for all involved (especially the child) if the nanny is trained in ABA, but it is not a requirement. That being said, the nanny should at the VERY LEAST be aware (before taking the job) that the child has certain special needs. A "normal" nanny can be trained fairly quickly to be able to get along with the child just fine. HOWEVER, a child who is violent consistently (ie the child of whom you are speaking) obviously needs someone trained to deal with aggression or someone with really thick skin who is willing to learn to deal with it. In either case, the person should be compensated accordingly.

OP, I am not discrediting you in any way... I am aware of the special needs that children with autism can have, believe me! I am just saying for other nannies out there that a child with autism shouldn't scare you away from a job. It is often very rewarding (especially for myself) to see the growth and accomplishments in these children who just need a little extra help.

All in all, I don't think it was very wise of these parents to keep you in the dark about the situation. I don't think they would be going through nannies as quickly if they properly screened potential nannies for the one who may have experience with children with autism. I am guessing it all came down to money in this situation as they weren't willing to shell out the bigger bucks for someone with experience. That's sad for the child ;(

OP said...

ABA Therapist- You are absolutely right. I've been making it sound like I don't believe a "normal" nanny should care for a special needs child. What I mean, is this particular child needed someone with special training, or at the very least, prior knowledge of the situation. Scattered throughout my nanny jobs, I've had some families I'll occasionally babysit for, and one of them is a 5-year-old with Asperger's syndrome. Since I knew well in advance, I was able to use the experience I've gained as well as the research I've done to develop a great relationship with her.

Just My Two Cents Just Now said...

OP, I enjoyed reading your post. It was not only well-written and flowed nicely, but it was entertaining and informative as well. You are an excellent writer and I hope to read some more of your stories on ISYN@.

ericsmom said...

Yes, alot of kids on the Spectrum have "normal nannies". This child is different because of his violent behavior. He may have even reacted better with a male role model, who knows.

a said...

ABA therapist: thank you for stating what I was trying to convey.

ABA Therapist said...

I am glad you all understood where I was coming from and didn't think I was trying to lecture you LOL.

OP, thanks for being so understanding and I am SO glad you knew what I was saying. I could totally see how you were scared to death of this situation because typically developing children are challenging but when you throw in a special need, things can get very tricky! I am saddened that the parents didn't preface you about his autism. As I said before, children on the autism spectrum vary greatly from each other, some high functioning, some low functioning, and everywhere in between. BUT, a child who is violent and abusive obviously needs special, trained care and it is terrible that his parents didn't look for that. The child is the sole person who is suffering from that type of situation.

I give you a lot of credit for not running out the door right off the bat, OP! I am also glad that the specialist recognized this problem and stood up for you. If she didn't, who knows what could have happened.

And "a"... you're welcome :)