Resignation Brings Strong Determination
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?
at 12:46 AM