Resignation Brings Strong Determination

opinion 1
I need to share my story and gather advice for peace of mind. While I have already decided I need to leave this family, I would like to hear what other nannies would have done differently, and how I can avoid being taken advantage of the next time around.

Here goes... I started working for a family that were new to my state (and the US) a mere nine months ago, at the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year. Both parents travel for work frequently, with the dad being away every other month (six months out of the year, essentially making the mom a single mother) and the mom traveling two weeks at a time; she said she would only be away 3-4 times during the year, during which time I would live in with the kids (I am a live-out nanny) for the full 14 days. Other basic duties I agreed to take on, when neither or only one parent was away, included taking the children to school, picking them up after (I am a student and also attend university during regular school hours), helping them with their homework, and "light, child-oriented housekeeping". She agreed to pay me a flat-rate that would guarantee my full pay if they decided to have me work less or go out of town last minute. I thought that sounded like a good deal, even though it was only $10 an hour for two kids, and I really needed the job at the time, so accepted the position because I felt like I really clicked with the parents and the kids, despite the ominous possibility of having to work full-time for two weeks straight.

This is my fourth year of nannying, and while I have lived-in with families many times, I have never had to spend multiple nights as the sole guardian. This is where things get tricky. When the two kids were at their after-school activities, I was expected to come home and attend to my agreed-upon light-housekeeping duties. These "light" duties quickly morphed into me doing whatever my boss thought needed to be done because she was "so swamped" at work. This ranged anywhere from dusting the entire house, from top to bottom, to cooking their meals, to picking up and delivering packages, and the whole families laundry. Once, when they went out of town for a long weekend and I was due my regular pay, she instead insisted that I come to their house while they were away and "fulfill" the rest of my hours doing a variety of mindless chores, even though they had already had their housekeeping services in that day. One of the chores on that day included washing their sheets; so I did, I washed and dried and folded the sheets and put them, folded, on the beds. When I came into work the next week, my boss took me aside to chastise me for not having the foresight to put the sheets on the bed; because they had gotten in "so late" the night before and she was "so tired, but still had to go around making all the beds." I apologized, saying I didn't think to actually make the beds because she hadn't been specific and it wasn't a chore I was accustomed to doing, for them or any family I've worked for. She seemed like all was forgiven, but ever since then she has been extremely short with me.

I should also take the time to mention here that I don't get paid for the overnights I do, despite the periods being a minimum of two weeks at a time. She pays me up until midnight, but she doesn't feel like "she needs to pay me while I am sleeping." I had zero foresight to correct her on this measure when I first started working for her, because although I have been working with kids for four years, I had never accepted a job exactly like this one and assumed that that was how things were done. Also, concerning the homework situation: the younger child is just fine, really smart, bright 1st grader. The older child has ADHD that his parents choose to keep unmedicated, although he is in no type of counseling service or anything otherwise to help him cope with his ADHD. Instead, they force me to spend hours with him on expensive self-help computer programs that supposedly guarantee improved brain-function. When it comes down to actual homework time, it is utter torment. He will spend 3-4 hours every homework day (we usually designate 2 days a week for homework) painstakingly laboring over one or two pages of homework. Part of it is his ADHD, I realize that, but the other part of it is pure laziness. He is very manipulative and tells his parents I'm a bully and mean and that "I never smile" in order to get out of having to do homework with me. His mom has now hired a separate tutor for him (for the better, I know) and she is probably paying her double the amount that I am getting just to tutor him, and I play the tutor, nanny, chef, and personal assistant cards all for $10 an hour.

She supported me at the beginning when he first started having homework issues, but now seems convinced that it is a lack of effort on my part, and also on the part of the school's. The kids go to a well-to-do public school in the neighborhood with the standard 20-25 in the class, but her "poor children", who are accustomed to international private schools that their mom's company pays for when they relocate them to other countries, can't work in that kind of awful environment. She really became rude to me when the older son needed to get braces. She could not fit his orthodontist appointments into her schedule because she was "SO booked" and asked me if I would take him; the only times available were times I was in school. I told her no, I cannot skip school to take him to the dentist. She backed off. Next week she asked me again, practically pleading with me, if I could be late for class or leave early in order to take him. This was over my FINALS WEEK. I said NO, I cannot (will not!) skip class to take your son to the orthodontist. At this point during the school year (about 7 months in) I knew I could not come back after the summer to work for them again.

Time and time again she had taken advantage of me; both monetarily and personally. The last two weeks I am supposed to work for them (currently going on now), she is out of town again. Last week, I finally told her I needed to be paid at least minimum wage from midnight-7am, when the kids get up for school, simply because it is not my time; I am not off work, I am not free to leave, I am still on the job site--therefore I need to be paid. She said okay. But the next week she started treating me even worse. She only seems to be happy with the work I am doing for her if there are no complaints on my part. If I have to talk to her about a problem with her kids, or address an issue I am dealing with at work (e.g., the lack of monetary compensation, or doing more than what I am paid to do), she instantly gets annoyed with me. The end of that same week, she was paying me my weekly amount when I pointed out that she had been late twice that week. She tried to brush it off saying, oh, but it was only an hour past.... I said, no actually, it was two hours past. She said, fine, I guess I'll give you another $20, but this is getting really annoying (referring to my always having to remind her how much she actually owes me). She then started making personal attacks on my personality, and claiming that her kids said "I never smile" and how "I'm so mean" and that "other mothers say I never smile" (a complete fallacy, because I am honestly a happy, go-lucky person) and that this wasn't a win-win situation anymore and we should be "professional" about the next two weeks (the two weeks she is away, currently) and then go our separate ways.

This is very long-winded and not at all organized, and I haven't touched on all of the problems I've had with this family, but my question is essentially thus: how do I avoid being taken advantage of, (something I thought I had the hang of already, but apparently not), get paid what I'm worth concerning my experience/number of children/amount of work I am doing, and the like? Have other nannies had similar experiences not being able to communicate with their boss families? My MB is a straight-up business woman and she can easily manipulate me into seeing her side of the story and only her side of the story so I will easily relent and do what she wants. This experience has put a very bad taste in my mouth. I have worked for other high-profile families before, many of them difficult, but have never been taken advantage of and treated so poorly. Thoughts?


Aries said...

I can give you very simple advice, and that is, 'do only what is written in the contract'. No more, No less (unless you WANT to do the family a 'favor' and that is only if they are the type to appreciate, the type that do you favors as well.). Don't be passive, don't be a pushover because people can sense that and will milk you for all your worth.

In the real world, its every man for himself. Many people don't respect you unless YOU make them respect you.

Glad you started putting your foot down with this woman, she seemed to act like you owed her something. Like she was doing you a favor when in reality, you were doing her a huge favor that she took for granted and she will have a hard time finding someone longterm who will stick around.

Just My Two Cents Just Now said...

I have seen this time and time again not only on this blog, but in my own Nanny career as well.

Just My Two Cents Just Now said...

I will NEVER in a million years understand why families would treat the person who loves and cares for their children in this manner. The only reason I can think of is the stigma that domestic employees are beneath them and do not deserve any respect at all.

Anyway, good for you OP for standing up for yourself. You did a great job and you did nothing wrong here. You were only trying to work it out because you needed the job plus I am sure you have strong feelings for the kids as well. Your MomBoss is totally treating you like dirt and it is a blessing that you are going. I feel sorry for the next Nanny they hire...

Anyway, to avoid getting taking advantage of next time, try to nip things in the bud. In other words, once you are asked to do a certain chore or errand, kindly state that that was not part of your original agreement and that you can only stick to your original agreement, whether that be a written or verbal contract. If the family balks, then look for another job. It is unethical to have a mutual agreement agreed upon, then for one party to try to change the terms.

By the way, your pay of $10/Hr for two kids plus housework/errands/tutoring was insane.

I know your MomBoss is trying to make you look like the unreasonable one here, but keep in mind that you are anything but.

I wish you the best of luck in your next position. You sound like a very competent woman and I am sure whoever snatches you up next will see that.

Consider this experience another life lesson learned. Maybe it was a hard lesson to learn, but it was learned regardless. No other family will ever screw you over again!! ☺ ☻

Lyn said...

I'm so sorry your experience with this family has been so awful! I am glad you've decided to move on and should you decide to Nanny for another family I wish you nothing but happiness and a great "fit".
However, this is the reason we have work agreements thoroughly discussed, written, signed and dated. They may have been new to the US and possibly to having a Nanny, but you have past experience and should have known better than to go outside of your work agreement. As responsibilities change you add an amendment to your contract, whether or not any extra fees for the family will accrue when x is preformed, if those extra fees will be added to your check at the end of the week or paid daily, then initial and date it once agreed upon terms are in order.
Hey, if you're still looking for work I can spit out a kid or two and pay you $11 an hour to be my slave too. ;) kidding. Kidding.

nycmom said...

I agree with Lyn. You need to negotiate a Work Agreement you are comfortable with and stick to it. This is why I list every single expected chore in the WA (that I can think of) even if it's "Duties include loading, running and emptying the dishwasher daily, or more often if needed.

I learned long ago that ANYTHING you do not put in writing can and often will become a problem. New to NYC, I did not clarify late nights/cab fare. A sitter who lived 10 safe blocks away wanted $20 for a taxi. Another in Queens wanted $50 (then take the subway). Now I say, "After 10pm, we will provide a late night bonus of $20. You are free to use this towards a cab or not."

And it works both ways, I have asked a nanny to do chore I did not realize was not listed in the WA. I think it was to pick up a birthday gift for another child's party on the way (at a store that gift wraps, etc). She politely said she had not thought this would be part of her duties. We sat down, reviewed the WA. She was correct. i had not specified "occasional purchase of birthday gifts." I had said something like "transport to and from school, arranging playdates with other kids, and other child-related duties as needed."

I felt that she had the letter of the WA on her side. So I said, skip the gift. At the one-year anniversary, I made sure to include that, review it with her, and address every other issue imaginable. I don't think she was being petty or lazy, just worried that one thing would lead to another.

In your case:
1. Never agree to a flat rate regardless of hours worked with the assurance "it will all even out." Even if you unfortunately choose to work off the books, insist on a set weekly salary for a MAXIMUM number of hours with a clear OT rate. Also address your rates for overnights.

2. For the "light, child-oriented housekeeping," do as I did and spell it ALL out. It's even fine to include a list of chores that your job does NOT include such as cooking for parents, package duties, parent laundry, etc.

3. Given the kids' ages, I think homework supervision and assistance is pretty standard and within your abilities. But I would specify that if the child develops/has a learning disability or significant difficulty cooperating with homework, that other assistance in the form of a tutor will be hired. If they ask how to judge this, suggest asking school teacher and getting a formal evaluation.

4. The pay is just your bad, unfortunately. Of course, it is not reasonable with the job creep. But since you let that escalate, it's tough to address both at once in a meaningful way. Employers won't know if you want less work, more money, etc. Negotiate a rate you can live with. I do think it is great that you are insisting on OT. I will add that if my nanny ever works OT, I pay her for those extra hours that day upon arrival home. I do not expect her to wait until the weekly paycheck for that as it can fall through the cracks.

5. Sheets thing IS a bit odd. Of course you should not have had to do them, but you did. So do it well. It seems fairly obvious that washing sheets includes replacing them with clean ones on the bed. Regardless, you handled it well and made it clear to her that it wasn't a chore in your job description.

Finally, your employer ultimately fired you with 2-weeks notice, correct? Man, just tell her NFW, you cannot accommodate her trip and will move out within 24 hours. Even now. Call her. Tell her you can not stay. Insist she find other care for the kids or you will be calling CPS for them to take custody. You sure aren't getting a good reference. I truly cannot imagine why you would agree to that final debasement!

I also have no idea why you have stayed with this family for NINE MONTHS! You are seemingly only posting now because of the firing. Would you have otherwise continued to endure this? Really, really set better limits and leave bad situations quickly.

Phoenix said...

well in my opinion you already fixed your outlook. Meaning by the end you were demanding she pay you for your time. You learned your lesson. Not many people do and it could take them 4 or 5 families to get it straight they need to be treated well.

Very proud of you. Now you know all the warning signs. You will know what needs to be in your contract and you will know how to approach your boss when they are trying to stiff you on pay.

you made your own answers and advice. follow what you were doing by the end of this family and you will succeed

talesfromthe(nanny)hood said...

Well, as far as your rate goes, the market in your area will be the biggest influence.

You need to sit down and dream up your ideal job. Hours, number of kids, ages of kids, what work you do, what work you don't do, hourly rate, OT rate, benefits. time off paid, etc.

Then, write up a DETAILED contract outlining the exact specs on the dream job. Include specific chores you will/won't do, specific pay you expect for overnights, every single thing that occurred during your last job that made you feel angry and taken advantage of needs to be fully covered here.

When you interview parents, talk with them about their ideal nanny, ask how often they plan to meet with nanny and "check in" on how the work relationship is going, and emphasize your belief that open and professional communication is the basic element of a successful nanny/employer relationship. If they brush that off, be wary!

Then, once you have the job offer, go through the contract. If they balk at something, negotiate, but you should also feel free to say that you WANT all the details ironed out from the start, so that even if they swear you will NEVER have the kids overnight, you will have all agreed on a rate for that event. Then, you are all set when NEVER turns into "Yikes, Nanny, can you stay the night?"

Once the contract is written and signed, WORK THE CONTRACT. Say no. Say it politely, but say it whenever you are told to go beyond that contract. If you are willing to add duties, ask what the additional pay will be.

Good luck!

workingMom said...

Agree with the other posters: work agreement is your best friend.

As a mom, I also want to throw in that if I asked you to change/launder the sheets, I would be annoyed that you did not put the clean ones on the bed too - as far as I'm concerned, that's just par for the course when doing that task, just like replacing the full trash liner/bag with a new clean one when taking out the trash!

I also agree with other posters that the ADHD kid should receive homework help from the tutor and only the tutor, but I wanted to mention that if you decide to take on another position with another ADHD kid who is NOT on medication, read up on managing behavior through diet modification and a reward chart.

Diet modification is basically removing foods from the child's diet with additives, preservatives, and especially red and yellow dyes. It's a lot more work because you have to actually cook real food, but it's healthier and you will notice a significant enough difference in behavior to make it worthwhile. It's also something the whole family can do, so that the ADHD kid doesn't feel singled out or deprived of certain foods or treats. (depending on the kid, once he/she notices how much better they feel and function it won't be an issue anyway)

And the reward chart is simply a measurement of tracking behavior that helps motivate the child toward better behavior and self-control through a graphic visual they can refer to repetively throughout the day, week, and month. (abstract does not work well for ADHD kids)

My final bossy piece of advice would be to approach your next job as a BUSINESS. You said your MB is a straight-up businesswoman; I got the impression within your post that the MB wanted you to step up and treat the job in a more business-like, professional fashion as well. I would bet she would have been up for a little re-negotiation at different points in the relationship, to make the relationship work successfully for BOTH of you.

Best of luck with your professional outlook and growth in your next position.

Bethany said...

The short answer is a work agreement/contract in all future jobs.

I'd also think about the kind of nanny you want to be.

Think about the ages you want to work with, hours, duties etc.

Wish you the best of luck!

♥ Amy Darling ♥ said...

I hate it when parents ask me if I am willing to work at a reduced rate if I can stay overnight. That is nonsense. It is MY time and I am on the clock. It's not like I can run to the store when the child is asleep and grab a cup of joe. Or even go for a jog around the lake, etc. Every hour that I am in their home, I should be compensated. Responsibility is responsibility....NO EXCEPTIONS !!

Nanny J said...

Have a contract, follow it. That's the simplest way to ensure you won't be taken advantage of. Make sure the contract is neutral, that it benefits both you and the family equally. Make sure to include how much you make, how often you'll be paid, how much you will be paid for additional hours.

Write a clause in that states that if the hours change, the contract is renegotiated (or money will be equal to amount of hours worked. If I work 35 hours instead of my contracted 25, I make the wage for ALL of those hours).

Do not accept a position where you're not paid hourly, period. That's not legal if they're paying taxes (and they should be!).

Keep up with your end of the contract as well as possible. The more you adhere to it the more they are likely to, and vice versa- if you don't adhere to the contract you will find they most likely won't either.

It took me many years to gain these skills, but honestly I can't imagine living without them anymore.

hmmm said...

loved nyc mom's nfw on the "will you work your ass of for two weeks and then we'll fire you!" so true, quit, now, stick it to her, shes a jerk!