Wednesday

Hint, Hint

OPINION
So I have noticed a strange phenomenon happening more and more in the nanny world. It seems like so many parents, moms especially, are giving their nannies hints and suggestions rather than orders. I have always started a job off letting them know that I am there to uphold their rules, and follow their parenting style, and take care of their house the way they want. So why don't they want to give clear instructions? Seems very illogical to me.

For example, a mom kept moaning about how she could never figure out where her toddlers dishes were, and I kept saying, "they are all right there in the dishwasher," and the next day she would again say she couldn't find them. I thought she was nuts, until finally one day she stammered out, "So um, I usually hand wash his dishes." I instantly said, "Oh, would you like me to hand wash them? No problem." Why couldn't she just say that in the first place? She was somehow hoping I would guess that she was hinting at hand washing...wouldn't it have been easier to just ask me? Parents say, "Do you maybe want to give them a bath before bed? You know, if you want," instead of "Please give the kids a bath." Then I have to wonder if they really don't care if the kids have a bath, or if they are hoping I'll bathe them. Or they say, "feed them whatever you want for lunch," and then when I tell them what the kids ate, they look all uncomfortable. I can tell that they wanted to kids to eat something else, but how am I supposed to know if they won't tell me? Why do parents do this? Are they playing some sort of game? I can't see any reasonable explanation for this. Tell me what you want, I'll do it. It's that simple people!!

Some of them are even more pathetic. Some of them will say something to a 2 yr old in front of me like, "Now you know you aren't supposed to have that toy/treat/whatever!" Yet they never told me whether or not that is allowed. Did they expect the 2 yr old to let me know about that? One mom told me how much her child loves Barney and I saw a bunch of Barney dvds. I let her watch about 20 min before bed. The next time I went over there, mom had hidden every single kid friendly dvd. Seriously...all you have to do is say no TV, believe me, I am perfectly happy to avoid Barney! Is it really easier to hide everything than to just tell me what you want? This makes no sense to me.

I asked a friend of mine about this and she suggested it might have to do with my age. When I started nannying, I was 20, now I'm 37. Sometimes I end up working for people younger than me, and I show the same respect to them as I have always shown to parents I work for. Do parents really feel weird about giving orders to someone older? Come on, I'm a nanny, I'm there to work for them! It didn't really occur to me that this would be a problem, if I am in your house watching your kids, you are the boss. I never try to act superior to anyone, I don't think age should matter at all. Don't a lot of people have bosses younger than them? I would love to hear perspective from both nannies and parents about this. Have other nannies experienced this? Do parents have any insight as to why so many people drop hints instead of giving instructions? If you tell your nanny exactly what you want, she will have a much easier time making you happy. If she won't do what you want, it's good to find that out now and look for a new nanny. That seems pretty clear to me.

29 comments:

Phoenix said...

well i think people are trying not to be rude. They probably feel uncomfortable giving you orders. Whether that is because of your age I don't know. But that is what it sounds like. In your first example about the mom hinting she couldn't find his dishes I was wondering if she wanted you to have the wash go through and put them away. It never would have occured to me she wanted to have them hand washed, which is stupid in itself.

But it just sounds like they are trying not to be rude. Which is silly because they hired you for a job and you wouldn't be insulted. I mean as long as they aren't ordering you around like a slave

Rhiannon said...

What a great post! I am a 36 year old nanny and I've seen the same thing! Not so much in my current positions, but in the past.

One mother insisted her children's hair be blown completely dry after every bath. Even in the summer. One day, the family was getting ready to leave for a vacation and running seriously behind. I was drying the oldest girls hair and it was taking forever. It was the middle of a hot summer and so I told the girl it was pretty close to dry and good enough for today. When we got downstairs, the mother felt her hair and then said to her daughter, "L_____! You know your hair is supposed to be dry!" She yelled at her! Why not just say to me, "I'd really like you to finish drying her hair."

knittynanny said...

People do this to me all the time. It makes me crazy. My mb will come home from work and hold her son before she goes into her bedroom to unwind (I stay a little bit after she gets home). When she's ready to give him too me, she tells the baby " okay. Mommy has to give you to nanny now." Instead of handing him over.

Or a lady I babysit for will tel her kids stuff that I should know. I can't think of any specific examples now but I know just what you're talking about. They want you to know something but they won't tell you directly.

nynanny said...

The best advice I ever got was from my Lawyer:

Don't offer up too much information... it will leave you vulnerable (and sometimes looking stupid)

Sarah said...

OMG, seriously! I think it's because parents I work for have completely lost their authority (even with children) and will beg, bribe, suggest their kids to do things, and can't imagine *telling* the nanny to do anything.

In my day the parents said, "Take out the trash."
Parents I work for say, "Um, Eowyn, do you um think, maybe, it's time to pick up toys now?"
Child: NO!!
Parent: Oh, ok. Maybe in a little bit.

I would have to wait for the 3 year old I used to care for to tell me herself she wasn't allowed to listen to the radio (I used to let her listen to preschool hour and once I didn't turn it off right away and she liked a Taylor Swift song and asked me who sang it, then later on she asked her mom, "Mommy, do you know who Taylor Swift is?" her dad started laughing hysterically but her mom freaked out about the media influence on her child).

She also asked me once why I forget to pick up the toys in her room sometimes so I know the parents were talking about that in her hearing but never said anything directly to me.

So I think it's just because parents don't use their authority anymore. I don't know why. I use my nanny authority all the time.

Belle Vierge said...

My current bosses are very clear about what I'm supposed to do. My first boss expected me to read her mind and then constantly hinted that she would fire me when I didn't meet her expectations.

Like she never told me that the kids were supposed to do their homework in practice notebooks first, that I was supposed to check all of it (not just for accuracy, but creativity), that they then had to recopy it, that I had to check the recopied version.

And I was supposed to just know that if she left out full suitcases when they returned from vacation that I needed to put all the stuff away.

It was ridiculous sometimes. I love my current bosses. They're very very clear with what I need to do!

ALL the time!!! said...

I get hints like:
"I just wish I had time to unload the dish washer before work.."
Or "it would be great if I had someone to water my plant for me.."
Another favorite "Wouldn't it be nice if the kids ate a lot of vegetables today."
Umm? Lucky for MB I'm fluent in "reading between the lines."
There's ways to ask things of nanny and NOT be rude. I think it's more rude to hint around it or leave stick it notes all over the counter with "suggested tasks".. Seriously, just ask and openly communicate!!! We all know that's a huge factor to a successful working relationship.
Excellent points OP!!!

bostonnanny said...

I don't think it has to do so much with age as trying to be polite or having no backbone.
I'm a very direct person and express my needs clearly but most of the families i work for can't be as direct. I make it clear in the beginning that if they would like me to do anything in a specific way to let me know. However, I still get "if you want" added to the end of everything. God just tell me!

My other thing that drives me up the way is the passive aggressive way they handle cleaning up and organizing. I don't know you house and I don't know how you clean...just explain to me where you want things to go or how u want it cleaned, it's not gonna piss me it actually makes my life easier.

Ann O'Neemus said...

Passive-agressive twaddle

MissMannah said...

I have not experienced this. I guess in a way, my last boss would do this because she would often say "If you want, you can do this or that." or "I wish I had time to get this or that done." I would sometimes do it or sometimes not, I would take her rather literally when she'd say "if you want" and then if I did it, she was really grateful. So I don't see her way as passive-aggressive, which your MB is clearly being. My current boss is very direct with me and I am direct right back at her. She will ask me to do a household chore and if I really don't want to, I tell her so and she's fine with it. This is other than my normal duties, I would never tell her I don't want to do something that is written in my contract, of course.

Dr. Juris said...

I think they're confusing with "maybe you could" with "would you mind?" The second gives you a clear thought, although it's framed in such a way where you are given the choice. As far as the lawyer's advice to you, NYC, that may be true for litigation, but for your employees, hopefully you don't think that applies!

nycmom said...

This is why I always say that learning to be a good nanny employer takes time and experience. I employed my first caregiver (au pair) at 24yo and a nanny at about 26yo who was much older than me and had two teen kids. You can be sure I was inexperienced and uncomfortable with giving direct instructions. Yes, I still felt young in many ways and still had the kid mentality of "respect your elders" = no confrontation. Of course, respecting everyone is good, but when you are the boss respect means being direct!

It truly did take me a few years and a lot of trial and error to get better at this. Being a boss to an employee in your home is *much* different than being a boss in a workplace (which I never had much trouble with). Lots of parents also fear that confrontation with their nanny will be taken out on their kids. Ridiculous fear, but common in inexperienced employers or new moms. Frankly, if you fear that from your nanny you obviously have the wrong nanny.

Bottomline is that it is usually an error made by young parents and/or parents inexperienced at employing nannies. It is fine for you to take the lead here and politely, directly ask if you can sit down to discuss some communication issues, then ask to be told things directly with the great examples you provided.

Fear of confrontation is not limited to this dynamic, but is more common and difficult in the nanny-employer dynamic because you often develop a genuine fondness and affection for your caregiver. You recognize how important her job is on a personal level and you don't want to offend this person alone with your kids for hours ever day. It takes time to learn than being direct, when appropriate of course, is LESS offensive than the passive-aggressive comments and off-handed remarks.

I will sometimes still ask my nanny to do some tasks, rather than present it as a requirement, if as Miss Mannah mentioned it is something I think is reasonable but was not specifically addressed in her Work Agreement (you can't think of everything). In those cases, I would be fine if my nanny said no for a variety of reasons. But usually I ask directly and also write down important things to avoid miscommunication. In return, my nanny does the same regarding schedule flexibility and duties she can/cannot juggle. I appreciate her directness also.

OhhPlease said...

UGH I totally agree OP! As a PP stated, I too am great at "reading between the lines" I just wish they would flat out tell me instead of hinting or using the child as a way of telling me. Right now my current employer talks to me "through the baby". LOL. For example: MB would say things like "so what did you do today? what did you have for lunch? how are you feeling? did you poop?" And will wait for the answer and until I answer. DB is now doing it as well and it just drives me insane! hahaha

hmmm said...

i actually get the 'royal we' til i want to die.
'did we order new white polos?'
'did we gas up all of the cars?'

aagh, just say 'can you please'

and, when my boss has an issue with ME specifically she will frame it as a complaint about another staff member, 'can you believe so and so let them watch a movie when it was raining' (me, the day before) my response 'that's crazy, what was she thinking, trapped for 14 hours with 4 kids in the rain, geez'

blecch.

Grow a pair said...

I wish parents would figure all this stuff out before they have kids. So many people just pop out babies without thinking if they are really ready to be a parent. If you are too damn chicken to give your nanny orders about your child, maybe you shouldn't have had children in the first place. Grow up before you bring a new life into this world!

MissMannah said...

After reading some of the responses here, I just want to say that many of yall are just as guilty as your MBs. If you want her to talk straight to you, force her to do it and the easiest way to do that is to play dumb until she has to spell it out.

Example: for the mom who asks you questions through the baby...stop answering! She will ask the baby "What did you do today?" and you just stare and smile as if you are waiting for the baby to answer. An unpleasant pause will occur and then the mom will ask you "Well, what did baby do today?" Then you can say with faux surprise "Oh, I'm sorry! I thought you were talking to baby, not me!" Odds are, she will address her questions directly to you if you keep that up because she'll realize how idiotic she sounds.

Overworked in the West said...

ugh. I read this post earlier today and was baffled. I am typically pretty happy with my boss, she leaves list of things to get done throughout the week, etc. which is helpful. And then this afternoon...

I'm sitting in the rocking chair in the babies room playing music and hanging out because someone decided that today was a day to not nap. However he wasn't ready to get out of bed so we hung out in his room and had a ball.

Mom comes home, I fill her in and she turns to baby and says did you have fun? I bet ****** had time to get your closet organized and probably even your dresser! Maybe even ** and ** closet too! And then turned and left the room.

WTF. I was beyond baffled and so irritated. Little does she know (because she clearly hasn't dressed her kids in 7 freaking days) that they're all organized, neat and newly labeled because I'm that awesome. AND all the damn laundry is done and put away. Including sheets. Sheesh. Give the nanny a break after working 10 days straight. NOT COOL.

Sorry to vent. Just so happened to go with this post.

nycmom said...

Reading more of these examples is exactly why I find ISYN interesting and helpful as an employer.

I don't *think* I do this "talk to my kids instead of my nanny" thing. But I will definitely be more self-aware and make SURE I don't do it now! I do often ask my 4yo "What did you do today?" with my nanny present, trying to encourage him to talk a bit more about his day. However, he only answers about 25% of the time, so I then end up turning to and asking my nanny how their day was. I also sometimes chastise my 12yo daughter for eating on the couch or leaving her empty containers around. I do this within my nanny's hearing, but I am distinctly chastising my daughter not my nanny as 12yo is certainly old enough to clean up after herself and follow rules. If anything, I ask my nanny NOT to clean up after her too much or she won't do it herself. I do want to make sure this doesn't sound like I am indirectly chastising my nanny for my daughter's behavior because that is definitely not my intent.

Still, it is really helpful to hear these examples and see how pervasive this pattern is! It isn't something I would have thought about on my own or that I think employers would randomly discuss among themselves either. That's why ISYN is so helpful for me at times. Here's hoping I don't do this inadvertently and putting extra conscious effort into ensuring this!

OhhPlease said...

Well, I normally do not answer. I go about finishing up what I was doing so I can leave. Today for example when MB kept doing it I just kept cleaning up the bottles while she was asking the baby until she finally asked me personally. It's just an annoying habit that they have. I totally get when parents ask a child who can use words instead of asking me. But for a baby? I find it annoying. haha But part of me thinks that they do it because they like talking to her and want to be her to be "involved". I know I will not go out of my way to make my MB feel stupid or bring it up because it's truly not an issue and there is no need to cause hurt feelings. I honestly love my job and them. And when they do "hint" at stuff I will read between the lines but I will follow up and tell them that I did whatever they hinted at as well as ask them if this is something they would like done routinely. I also remind them that it's OK to ask me to do something. I just think that they are nice people and do not want to "give orders". My MB herself said she feels bad when I do things outside my contract or if I go out of my way for somethings. But in return she appreciates all I do immensely so I can't complain. I was just venting a bit! ;)

nynanny said...

Dr. Juris,
I was meaning myself, a nanny. I try to watch what I say as sometimes I tend to ramble just like OP did! lol

don't be rude said...

nynanny, you don't have to be rude. If this post is too much of a "ramble" for you, don't read it.

Logical Skeptic said...

This happens because people these days aren't familiar or comfortable with the notion of hired household help, especially childcare. Having household help in general is perceived as snobby and childcare in specific is perceived as bad parenting.

Sadly, this country's policies on good, affordable daycare haven't caught up with the fact that most women with children have to go back to work to support their families, and many women with children WANT to work because they enjoy their jobs. So you have to hire a nanny to look after your kids, but you never had one yourself, or probably any other household help unless you were very rich, so you have NO IDEA how to deal with them.

Plus, your nanny is taking care of your kids, not your house or garden. Presumably she's educated and smart, so you feel weird ordering her about (because you never saw your mom dealing with a cook or a nanny or whatever), and on top of that you don't want your kids talking to her like little emperors either, so you don't want to model imperious behavior in front of them. We've all seen "The Help", and "Downton Abbey", and "The Nanny Diaries", and all the other media that tells us that people with servants treat(ed) them like crap, and you don't want to be that guy.

Add to that the fact that you feel guilty for *having* a nanny in the first place, and the insufferable tendency of a lot of women to be diffident and circumspect instead of direct and to-the-point in all sorts of circumstances*, and there you go: you end up hinting and suggesting instead of delivering polite, direct requests and orders.

To combat this, I would put MB on the spot and say, "it sounds like you want me to do [x]. Shall I start doing it tomorrow?" If they say, "oh, only if you want to", you have to be firmer: "it's not about what I want. It's about what you want. If you want it done, just say the word, otherwise I won't know what's expected of me". And of course, if you're female, you have to say all this with a smile or people will think you're bitchy (grrr).

Of course, you shouldn't offer to do things that aren't in your job description, like non-child-related housework. But we all know how to handle that by now, right? :-)






*Yes, I am female. Yes, I am bold and direct and straight-talking without (I hope) being rude. Yes, sometimes I am not direct. I *hate* it when that happens; it makes me feel weak and fragile.

Logical Skeptic said...

This happens because people these days aren't familiar or comfortable with the notion of hired household help, especially childcare. Having household help in general is perceived as snobby and childcare in specific is perceived as bad parenting.

Sadly, this country's policies on good, affordable daycare haven't caught up with the fact that most women with children have to go back to work to support their families, and many women with children WANT to work because they enjoy their jobs. So you have to hire a nanny to look after your kids, but you never had one yourself, or probably any other household help unless you were very rich, so you have NO IDEA how to deal with them.

Plus, your nanny is taking care of your kids, not your house or garden. Presumably she's educated and smart, so you feel weird ordering her about (because you never saw your mom dealing with a cook or a nanny or whatever), and on top of that you don't want your kids talking to her like little emperors either, so you don't want to model imperious behavior in front of them. We've all seen "The Help", and "Downton Abbey", and "The Nanny Diaries", and all the other media that tells us that people with servants treat(ed) them like crap, and you don't want to be that guy.

Add to that the fact that you feel guilty for *having* a nanny in the first place, and the insufferable tendency of a lot of women to be diffident and circumspect instead of direct and to-the-point in all sorts of circumstances*, and there you go: you end up hinting and suggesting instead of delivering polite, direct requests and orders.

To combat this, I would put MB on the spot and say, "it sounds like you want me to do [x]. Shall I start doing it tomorrow?" If they say, "oh, only if you want to", you have to be firmer: "it's not about what I want. It's about what you want. If you want it done, just say the word, otherwise I won't know what's expected of me". And of course, if you're female, you have to say all this with a smile or people will think you're bitchy (grrr).

Of course, you shouldn't offer to do things that aren't in your job description, like non-child-related housework. But we all know how to handle that by now, right? :-)






*Yes, I am female. Yes, I am bold and direct and straight-talking without (I hope) being rude. Yes, sometimes I am not direct. I *hate* it when that happens; it makes me feel weak and fragile.

Logical Skeptic said...

Oh no! Duplicate posts! I apologize; computer was acting up.

luckoftheirish said...

If someone, under any circumstances spoke to me in such a passive-aggresive manner, I would probably be stunned silent the first time!(lol) But after that, I would react by: stopping whatever I am doing, letting the mom finish whatever she is saying, pause a minute, while I look @ her, then Id say something like,"Do you think it would be easier if you just asked me what you wanted directly, instead of talking through the kids and hinting?" Then, Id wait for her answer & not speak until she answers. Thats uncomfortable, but not nearly as uncomfortable as being spoken about through the child & being given cryptic messages.

nynanny said...

don't be rude said...
nynanny, you don't have to be rude. If this post is too much of a "ramble" for you, don't read it.


Sorry OP! That comment was meant for the "mad dad" post! Forgive me!!!

talesfromthe(nanny)hood said...

Ironically, I thought of this post today when I got a text from DB that tomorrow (which is ALWAYS playgroup day from 10:30 - 1:30 with a group of kids) he had scheduled an HVAC person to come out.

My first instinct was to respond: "Oh, that's playgroup day, and little guy was so looking forward to it!"

Can we say, Hint Hint????

I actually said: "Is there any way to schedule it for W/Th/F at the same time? Tomorrow is playgroup."

The HVAC person is now coming Wednesday.

Amy said...

Heck, I don't just talk to my 5 month babies (who are certainly not going to talk back to me), I even talk to my cat.

"Cat, don't go near my food or I'm going to have to get up and move my food, and that means I'll have to stop feeding Son, and then he'll scream, and you know you don't like it when he screams."

Cat approaches food. I get up and move both food and cat. As I sit back down I say, "Cat, you sure were lucky that Son didn't scream this time."

Meanwhile, my Nanny is feeding my daughter and totally cracking up.

When I want my Nanny to do something, I just ask her. However, talking to my children (or cat) as if they'd understand is just a quirk of mine, and lucky for me, my Nanny finds it hilarious.

Anonymous Mom said...

I'm a young(ish) mom with a wonderful old(er) nanny working for us. I have to admit I'm guilty of the "hints". Our nanny is awesome and we love her. The things I hint about are such small things (how a dish gets washed, where some clothes get put away) that I don't want to come across as making a big deal out of them or caring about these little things. If she didn't do it as I wanted, I would still keep her since the most important thing is how she cares for my daughter. So I guess I always try to just point them out as, "it's not a big deal, but maybe we could..." Please don't blast me for this! :) We all have our shortcomings. I don't do it passive aggressively, only as a means to not inflate a small thing.

But, I do see that nanny's point of view, that while I am trying to keep you happy in your job, I am still your boss, and you won't be upset if I ask directly.

Will try it next time, if I can work up the nerve!