Sunday

Super Nice Nanny Needs Advice... and a BackBone

opinion 1
I've been a nanny for 15 years, and I'm great with all the "kid stuff". I am great at saying the right things to get the reaction/behavior I want from the kids. But when it comes to talking to the parents, my employers, I totally wimp out. There are things that I look for in a job like parents who NEVER work at home, who come home on time, pay a decent wage, etc. It seems like when I go to an interview and mention these things, people react negatively. I say I want a definite ending time, they take that as "I can't wait to get away from your kid and go home." If I say I don't like it when the parents work at home, they think that means I'm going to neglect the kids or do something bad in the house. In this economy, I feel kind of desperate sometimes, so I sometimes don't mention these things at the interview. Then there is always a period of me trying super nicely to ask for things like sticking to a schedule, and usually they still come home late because I am nice about it. There have been so many times when I have been seething, looking at the clock, and being furious that it is 6:45 when I'm supposed to be off at 6. Yet the minute the parent gets home, I am all smiles, and I don't even mention it that they are late. They think everything is fine because I don't get mad at them. I feel like I don't know how to stand up for myself in a way that sounds nice, but still gets them to take it seriously. I feel like after 15 years I should be better at this. Anyone have any ideas about how I can stop being a wimp without becoming rude and nasty?

25 comments:

OrangeBlossom said...

Jezebel just had a great article about how to be more assertive. I am a super assertive woman, but I still found this article particularly helpful.

http://jezebel.com/5877566/how-to-quit-worrying-about-being-bitchy-and-actually-assert-yourself

I am also a firm believer in you teach people how to treat you. If you allow people to walk all over you, they will continue to do so without any hesitation.

ELam said...

Why do you mention in the interview that you don't like when a parent works from home? In the interview process, if they say they work from home, say 'ok' and move on. You don't have to accept the job if they call you and ask you to. You are definitely right in saying you need a definite ending time, if they get upset about that then you know they are not a family you want to work for.

Next time they show up late, even just 10 minutes, kindly say "Could you please just give me a call if you are running late?". That is all you need to say and it should get your point across, it doesn't matter if you have plans or not, if they say you are done at 6PM, they should be home by 6PM. If they are running late, you need to be PAID. If you are paid hourly, on payday you could say "Did you include the extra pay for January 16th when you didn't make it home until 7PM?". That would prompt further discussion where you NEED to make it clear that you do not work extra for free. If it makes you uncomfortable to sort of surprise them with a comment like that then when they show up late you can just come right out and say "Not to have an uncomfortable conversation, but am I going to be paid for working past 6PM?" The answer is inevitably yes, but if they say no, then you definitely need to grow a backbone and say "I am sorry but we agreed I would be off at 6PM, if you need care past that time then you need to find a new nanny or compensate me for that time".

If you are paid a flat rate and they are consistently running late then you need to ask them to sit down and go over the hours, if they are needing an extra hour then you need to renegotiate that along with your pay.

You could suggest keeping a "nanny notebook" where you write down what time you arrived and left each day, that's what I did in the past to avoid any confusion and to ensure that I was paid for all of my time.

StrawberryShortKakes said...

I liked how you said that you brought up these topics during the interview. That shows that you were trying to be proactive about your preferences, which is the first step. I think the work at home thing is pretty simple and can even be discussed on the phone or through email before you even meet the family. Even if you make it to the interview stage without knowing if either parent works from home, you can ask them in a way that doesn't make it sound like you are doing anything wrong. Just word it in a way like "Do either of you work from home? I was wondering because I prefer working for parents that work outside of the home." Simple as that. You'll get your answer and can decide from there if you want to proceed. If they ask you why you asked, just say it's your preference.

The issue of late arrivals can be tricky. I ran into this a lot with my first nanny job and it drove me crazy. I understand things come up last minute but that doesn't mean I should be available until whenever Mb decides to come home. In the interview, you can approach it in a non threatening way. Just say something like "I've had issues in the past with parents coming home later than the agreed-upon time. How would you like to deal with this issue?" I bet they will say they will ever be late (yeah, right) so you should say "In the event that you do come home late, I just ask that you please call me to make sure it is OK first. While I enjoy working, I often have plans after work and enjoy my time off." I bet the parents will understand and they will know that you aren't just gonna let it go. You don't have to be threatening about it but letting them know you are not a doormat is important, especially in the beginning.

I feel that it is also important to train the parents in the beginning. The first time they are late, you have to work up all you assertiveness and say something (in a nice way). If you let it go the first time, then the next, then the next, it will be too late. Nip it in the bud at the beginning and you'll be better off.

Nanny S said...

I always screen out the NO WAYS in an initial email/phone call even before the interview. When making contact I ask what their work schedules and situations are like and this is where it comes out they're working from home.

General advice is to set the precedence RIGHT from the beginning and some basic people skills. Rather than saying "I expect to be paid a decent wage" you just ask what sort of compensation they're offering. If that's too low for you, offer a compromise. Etc. These are general people/negotiation skills, look into business tips for these.

As for the coming home late, I always emphasize that respect is a two way street, and stay firm on it in the beginning. I also pick my battles, if a parent is late every once in a while and I'm calm about it, they will also give me leniency if I'm late arriving every once in a while. I always make sure to mention on days that have plans that I need to leave EXACTLY at my scheduled time off. If it starts getting ridiculous like 45 minutes late with no call, just say that you'd appreciate a call. If it becomes excess, say, "I love spending time with the kids but the extra 45 minutes is really taking a toll on me, I'd like to start charging time-and-a-half for these situations, this is pretty standard in childcare."

Just My Two Cents Just Now said...

Funny...did I write this??! This could be me!!

Anyway, you probably are not confrontational which is exactly how I am. The reason I am afraid to stand up for myself is because I usually am desperate for money and cannot afford to lose my job so I just suck it up. What usually happens is I keep it all inside me then one day I explode over something small.

I encourage you to stand up for yourself...however be prepared to lose your job if the family gets an attitude which many do get as seen many times on this blog. If you cannot afford to lose your job, then do what I have done in the past and secretly look for another position.

Village said...

You need to put this stuff into writing. Like, you get time and a half when they are late, and so forth. Put in penalties for them when they don't behave, kinda like you do for the kids.

Lila said...

As a busy mom who does not hover, pays generously, and rarely is late, I nevertheless would feel alarmed if a nanny indicated that she did not want to work around parents that were at home. If my husband or I got sick or had to work from home once in awhile, would there be an awkward feeling or would the nanny feel like she would have to take our child out? I would wonder what the nanny was doing that she wouldn't want a parent to see.

WAHM3 said...

I work from home a few days a week. If a nanny had told me that one of their top priorities was that the parents NEVER work from home,lag. Not just the sense that we were not a good fit, but a sense that the nanny wanted to hide something about the way she interacts with the children. Which would have led me to not recommend her or warn my working mom friends who were also interviewing nannies that she was shady. I understand that there can be issues with parents working from home, but I would expect a professional nanny who just wants to avoid those issues to be able to deal with those particular issues if and when they come up. A blanket rule that you won't work with a parent working from the house EVER sounds suspicious. I fully expected nannies I interviewed to tell me what their concerns were with me working from home, and to be able to discuss those concerns (i.e. me undermining the nanny, the kids being distracted by my presence, etc). I also fully anticipated having to stop working from home if it became problematic. But an outright statement that the parent NEVER work from home sounds...shady.

LaureeOhohoh said...

I'm a big wimp too, and my first position was as an at-home mother's assistant for 3 kids under 5 years of age, whom, while not necessarily blatantly invasive, did 'cause more riffs between the kids and I, especially the eldest son. He was Mom's Big Helper, and when she was in the house nothing I said mattered a lick. This was not something MB ever acknowledged, and I was too timid to bring it up - This gave me a distaste for working with parents in the home, because even the best boss-parents ARE scrutinizing your every move with their child! It's understandable, and I know it's my job, but it makes things very uncomfortable. I explain my feelings, based on that experience, with any family I interview with, whether they work from home or not, since it is always a possibility! By focusing on the specific 'issues' of childcare while parents' are present, I feel like I'm not being defensive, just smart and showing my experience. And, it allows parents to think from your perspective, before any problems can occur.

StrawberryShortKakes said...

I think most nannies who do not feel comfortable with work at home parents are not trying to hide anything and are not being shady. I for one get really uncomfortable when anyone is watching me do my job. Not because I am doing anything wrong, just because it makes me feel weird. Would any working parent feel comfortable with their boss sitting right next to their desk all day? Probably not.

The have had 2 nanny jobs and both jobs included a work at home parent, at least part of the time. The first job, a seven year old boy would run upstairs to his parent whenever he "had a question" or whenever I asked him to do anything he didn't want to do. This got weird for me because the parents sometimes acted annoyed that I allowed the boy to bother them while they were trying to work but I did try my best to tell him that mom or dad was working and that he could talk to him/her when he/she came downstairs but sometimes he just didn't listen. Other times I just felt like they were listening in on our conversation which is just never enjoyable. How many people like being eavesdropped on? The boy and I would just talk about normal things like our day and interests but I always felt like I had to be extra peppy and positive when I knew the parents were listening.

In my second job, I had an infant and a work at home mom. The mom was great and barely ever bothered us but when she did, it was often annoying to me. Sometimes when the baby was crying she would come upstairs and inquire what was going on. Obviously the baby is an infant so she is going to cry! Also the baby would sleep a lot and there were no chores to do so I would often be sitting on the couch reading. I would always ask MB if there was anything I could do but she always said no. It was super awkward getting paid to do nothing but even more awkward when the mom was there seeing me do it!

CanadianMom said...

As a working parent, I would suggest trying to find out why they are late. Maybe their own employer expects them to stay late sometimes. Or maybe they have errands to do that you could help them out with. I don't want to sound like I'm suggesting being passive-agressive, but maybe you can say something like: "I'm sure it must be frustrating for you when you can't get home straight after work, and I bet you really miss spending that time with your kids. It's hard for me too as I often have plans. Is there anything I can do to help you get back home earlier so that we can all enjoy our evenings? I really don't want to go down the road of making lots of rules and talking about over time rates, and I'm really uncomfortable to even have to bring this up, but personally I'm finding the situation a little difficult so I really hope we can work together to find a solution.

WAHM3 said...

I'm not sure how a parent working from home equates to having a boss at your desk all day. All of my jobs have involved my boss and I working in the same building. If I walked into an interview and stated that I only accept jobs in which my boss will never be in the same building as me during my working hours, I would not expect to get that job. If the work from home parent is actually hovering at your elbow, of course that is obnoxious. With the number of companies that offer telecommuting these days, and the extent to which telecommuting gives parents more flexibility and more time with their children, it seems she is going to cut herself out of a lot of jobs by stating it in such rigid terms in an interview. Addressing the issues: perfectly understandable. Demanding that her boss is never in the same building as her during her working hours: very limiting.

MissMannah said...

WAHM3, I agree with you. A nanny should never say in the interview that she prefers to not work with a parent in the home. Even if that is the nanny's preference, she needs to keep that to herself. It is simply a rude thing to say.

A few years ago, I had a 4 year old charge who rarely got to interact with his parents. (He was in school most of the day and I had him the rest of the time, parents came home right at dinner time.) So on the rare days one of his parents worked from home, it was a nightmare. He would throw the biggest fits because he wanted nothing more than to be with his parents and unfortunately there wasn't a door to the home office so he could see right in. So that experience kind of soured me on work at home parents for awhile until now, I'm with a work at home mom and she's great. She keeps the office door open so I can bring the baby in for her to nurse. And she knows her daughter is going to cry so she doesn't pop her head out to see what's wrong every time it happens.

StrawberryShortKakes said...

I just used the "boss sitting next to your desk" thing as an example of how SOME parents are. Yes, some will hover over you like a helicopter while you are trying to take care of the children/play with the children/etc. Of course not all work at home parents are like that, in fact I'd be willing to bet the majority actually do work elsewhere in the house and are too busy to be concerned with the children- hence why they have a nanny. I was just trying to be dramatic I guess because I just don't like knowing that someone could be listening to or watching me at any given moment. That just freaks me out, even if I am not doing anything wrong.

I agree that a nanny saying she won't work for a work at home parent AT ALL is very limiting in terms of jobs because you're right, more and more parents are able to work from home with all the technology we have. However, if a nanny is not comfortable with parents working from home, it is perfectly fine to weed out the jobs that definitely will have parents working from home. If she knows she is not comfortable with that, there is no need to force it unless she really likes all other aspects of the job or if there are no other job prospects. That is the same as a nanny who refuses to take jobs that require chores or driving or older/younger children. If I nanny is not comfortable caring for an infant, she should not just "suck it up" and do it because it's a job. It will definitely limit your job selection but that's the nanny's choice and the nanny has to go to work day after day. She deserves to feel comfortable at her job.

another nanny said...

I do think a lot of it comes down to how you state it. For instance, "I only work for parents who never work from home" comes across as shady and offensive. However, "One challenge I've faced in working for WAH parents is that the children constantly want to interrupt the parents. How have you dealt with this in the past?" Or, say nothing, and just cross them off your list. But just realize that even parents who typically work out of the home may end up being home on a day when you're there. You're gonna have to suck it up, because there's really no polite way to say "you told me you would never be working from home."
As far as coming home late, I would make sure to work that into your contract, to be paid for those times. That way, it should come up when they are paying you, and you'll have a natural opportunity to speak up (e.g. "It looks like I left late three times this week...") and problem solve with them

WAHM3 said...

I agree with the idea that it is in how you say it. If someone is not comfortable working for work at home parents, then ask the right questions to find out if they work from home, and turn down the job if it is not one you want. If you state in the interview that you will never work for parents who work from home, you may also be missing out on jobs that do not involve parents who work from home, simply because you either appear to want to hide the way you nanny, or because the parent knows that if the opportunity ever presented itself to work from home, they would jump on it. Frankly, the kind of parents who hover while working from home are probably going to come with their own issues even if they don't.

Phoenix said...

well.... I am someone who is rude and nasty. But in a professional environment I understand I can't act that way. But I am still very stern with my boss when I feel like I am not being treated fairly.

You need to explain to them why you would like them to stick to a schedule. If you just tell them to be home on time they will think that you are bossing them around or that you don't like their child. You have to explain to them nicely and give them an example of how they wouldn't like it if their employer was always late. You need to let them know that while you don't mind staying late in emergancy situations you NEED to be home at a certain time to do "x" Or tell them if they want to negotiate a later ending time you will draw up a new schedule with your new hours and new pay. Or tell them you will need overtime. If you can't speak these things face to face, write them a letter and leave it on the kitchen counter for them to read while you are gone and ask that they have a resolution within the next 3 days. Also make a copy of this letter. It is always good to keep a back-up of things.

Good luck

OP said...

OP here...thanks everyone! A lot of useful ideas here.

First of all, of course I don't make it a definite statement like that about parents never working from home. I was just making a point in my post...I'm wimpy, not stupid! But I get people who say they sometimes work from home when the weather is bad or if they feel like staying home. They ask if I'm ok with that. That's when I run into trouble, and a few of you proved my point when you say that as a mom, it sounds suspicious when a nanny says she doesn't want the parent at home. I explain what the issues are as best I can, but I can't really say to people that I think they will annoy the hell out of me and disrupt the baby. Or that I find it annoying to have to make small talk with them when I would rather be playing with the kids. Or that I can be really fun and goofy around kids but I feel inhibited around adults.

About coming home on time, it isn't an issue of having to be somewhere, or of being paid for those hours. I am paid hourly, and I find it easy to be adamant about an ending time if I have a 'legitimate' reason like another job. It's when I think I am about to get to go home and put my feet up after an 11 hour day, and suddenly I'm stuck for even longer. What bothers me is that they assume if I don't have something that they deem worthwhile, they don't have to respect my time. Often I will have a MB call me five minutes before she is supposed to be home and ask if I mind staying late so she can run a few errands. Then I feel like I have to say yes since I'm on the spot. I have no excuse that sounds good. 'I am tired and want to go home' sounds bad. But how would she like it if I called in the morning and said I was coming in late because I was going shopping? I make it a point to always always be on time. I just want the parents to do the same.

Phoenix said...

OP. you can't say you want them home on time and then say that it isn't an issue due to "x"

The point of saying you have other things to do or you have to be somewhere is all about letting the parent know they can't be late but doing it nicely. Even if you don't have anything to do, you say that so you don't sound like a bitch. If you say "You can't be late anymore. I don't think it's fair, and you should be considerate, even though I don't have anything to do my time is important." (you would sound like a bitch. if you say "so and so, if you could please try to adhere to the agreed upon end time I would appreciate it. I do have obligations that I attend to in the evening. I wouldn't mind discussing a later start time with you but I would need to know exactly what time you will be coming home so I can make the proper arangements and shift my schedule. Of course I will be here if you have an occasional emergancy. blah, blah, blah"

It's all about sticking up for youself. If you have to manipulate the situation that is ok. It gets your point across in a professional manner.

As far as you not liking the parents working from home. To me this just sounds like a confidence issue. I know it would feel like you would be micromanaged but I honestly think that one is in your head. Don't tell your employer that you feel uncomfortable when they stay home on occasion to work. You will just have to deal with it. If it makes you feel better I would assume that maybe your boss feels a little off too. When my sisters nanny was staying late at the house and I came home with her still there, I didn't like it. I could feel her vibes that she was not herself. That one you shouldn't say anything about. Just don't work for a family who has a person always work from home

Phoenix said...

And one good tip. When you come in when you are about to start. Let you bosses know before they leave you can't stay after work because you have obligations. You tell them you are taking care of a family member regularly now and you have to check up on them, or you are reading to the blind, or doing some other charity work, or you are taking yoga, or something. Make something up that you must be at every night at "x" time.

Just do that so they don't ask you. If they ask you remind them you told them you have plans.

It happens said...

I used to feel like this when working very long days, personally disrespected that parents would be late, but after 20 years of teaching in preschools and nannying..parents are still late. It happens, getting sore about it never helps, communication can help, but not in all cases. If mom calls and asks if it's ok if she can be late it's up to you to say, " actually I'm pretty tired tonight." let go of the anger next time they are late and instead make it clear you are tired and ready to go (it should be easy because you really do feel that way). Have all your stuff ready, leave a journal about the day ( food, naps, and day) and say "I'm exhausted, see you tomorrow". Do not put on a happy face if you are frustrated, you can talk to them about it, but they may still be late. As long as your paid and clear about your needs you should feel less frustrated when they are late.

Scttygrrl said...

Re: working at home. The nanny is not hiding anything, it is just extra stressful because the child knows the parent is home and wants to be with her/him. Once the baby is old enough to be aware and protest, the trouble starts. Especially true if the parent makes their presence known to the child throughout the day. I am a retiree who babysits for the daughter of a friend, and the day they go to a regular work at home schedule is the day I quit.

I said...

The family I work for has a work-at-home-dad. If his little girl cries/screams for too long, he'll come up and ask what's going on, which makes me give in to whatever the girl wants. It's like I can't say no to her whenever her daddy is around. Sometimes she'll even open the door to his office and complain to him (in her 3-year-old way of complaining) that she's not getting what she wants. I hate it.
And EVEN THOUGH he works from home, I'm still getting off later than what they told me (around 5/5:15pm). It usually ends up being closer to 5:30/5:45pm.
And I don't do confrontations so I guess I'm stuck too. haha

Nanny Fine said...

i have been a career nanny for over 20 years, and I still screw myself over by not being assertive. Unlike your 20 minutes, my MB and DB are supposed to be home at 7 but then call to say they will be home at ten. Asking me to come in at 11 am and then text messaging me at 8 am asking if i can come in at 9 am. And can i pick up milk/diapers/wipes on the way. Once it started, it never let up, just got worse and worse. I had no life for 3.5 years with this family. Unfortunately I fell completely in love with the children, and I say unfortunately because the MB knew this. I know in the future I have to be far more assertive since being emotionally detached from the kids is NOT a good idea. This is a tough job, and I have always loved working with kids, just wish I didn't have to deal with their parents.

Anonymous said...

ugh! to the parents, you have no idea what it's like to be a nanny, and when you are around it makes the job 10 Times harder. having a parent at home is like having your boss hanging at your cubicle and pushing you out of the way of the keyboard whenever he feels the need to interfere.