Communications Not Meeting Expectations

I need seasoned experience and some professional suggestions. As nanny to a family with two busy school age boys and even busier parents, clear communication is a challenge. My duties include coordinating care and twice daily driving to two locations in the Bay Area, an average of 15 miles apart, sometimes with other visiting kids who need pick up. I also shop weekly and help prep dinner for 30mins each afternoon. And run various errands to places like the hardware store, shoes for kids... I enforce 20 minutes of reading each day and tend to the garden. All of these things have been set up as expectations, and I've been very happy to be helpful. I work with this very lovely family 4 hours a day, and we're struggling to get organized with communication.

I interface with both parents fairly evenly, and each has expectations, often last minute needs and transportation duty changes. Parents are not always aware of the other's expectations. One asks me to work Friday afternoon and the other wonders why I was asked because I'm not needed. Emails about the coming week's schedule arrive on Sunday night, but always there are unknowns to be worked out later in the week, which I am often forced to remind them of. I identified fairly early on that unknowns and question marks were part of the family dynamic and have been able to roll with it. I suggested we begin meeting monthly and six weeks have now passed since the first meeting I requested. I'm starting to worry that I won't be able to meet all expectations and worry that this will be perceived as my shortfall. I feel as though I'm constantly asking for clarity to the point of feeling needy. It's just odd. Any helpful advice? Thanks folks!


Sarah NY said...

If they aren't willing to meet again, I'd say see if you can get a large dry erase calendar and put it on the fridge. As things change or needs arise put them on the calendar for all to see, then there won't be any of the well mb said i should come in but db said i wasn't needed...It will all be there spelled out for them!

Keeping up said...

That's a lot of driving in four hours, sheesh it's a lot to do in four hours. A dry erase or just a sheet of paper you put out for the next days events fill in as much as you know and let them fill in the blanks. Pick ups times and places, activities times and places, errands, and dinner expectations, the more simple you make it the easier it is for the parents to quickly fill out and check on. Explain that it's to hard to keep up with last minute changes and put it where parents will see it and use it.

workingmom said...

The dry erase board idea is a good one, but all three of you on the same smartphone plan with calendaring would be better.

That way, they can cc each other when they make requests, and you can cc both of them your acceptances/responses. Everybody remains in the loop, all the time, in real time.

blurp said...

Firstly, cc the other parent to bring them into the loop when one parent emails you a change.

Secondly, send them both an email saying "I'm starting to worry that I won't be able to meet all expectations and worry that this will be perceived as my shortfall. I feel as though I'm constantly asking for clarity to the point of feeling needy." That way you're putting it on them to make a change, and covering your ass.

Jamie Delaney said...

Thanks everyone! I've mentioned real-time shared calendaring twice...
in an email with no response.

Can I add that they have forgotten to pay me twice in the last two months as well, and I'm in the uncomfortable position of having to ask? And yesterday they were $100 short, and I had to ask for more?


Just trying to figure out how to manage what seems to be a permanent chaos.

Adele said...

It sounds to me like they are super busy with their jobs, two kids and just life in general.

They need a household manager in addition to a personal assistant.

OP, I hope you are making a pretty penny here because as a nanny for two busy kids, you should not have to run to Home Depot, fertilize the vegetable garden or cook dinner for 4.

nycmom said...

I tend to be a last minute scheduler also. I did identify significant flexibility as a key factor when interviewing but I know it is still annoying. I think having a written calendar that is prominently displayed is key as others have suggested. To compensate as an employer, I always guarantee a set minimum hours and I expect that anything I cannot confirm by the start of the workweek is potentially lost coverage. In other words, if I cannot provide a firm schedule for my needs by Monday morning, then I state other hours are at my own risk. If my nanny cannot be available for them, that is on me to find coverage and not her failing.

I also, in return, attempt to provide the same flexibility for her as much as I can. If she wants to take a last minute day off, make an appointment or bring her child unexpectedly, I am able to accommodate that 95% of the time.

I think you do need to set some firm limits with your employers. I assume if you are only working 20 hours for this family, you have other obligations whether it is other work, school, family or just your own needs. I would nicely tell them that anything that cannot be confirmed by Sunday night (or whatever weekly timeframe works for you) is time you may not be free. I also would request that only one parent be the contact point for scheduling. This way, they will need to communicate better with each other, as they should be doing anyway. One parent should also have responsibility for paying you and a set payment time be identified. Never hesitate to ask if you they are forgetful or underpay -- you need to more comfortable addressing money issues as this will be an ongoing, intermittent issue in any nanny position you have (not late paychecks, but raises, petty cash, etc).

Nanny2 said...

My family and I keep a notebook of reminders, requests, lists, opinions, etc. It's not as good as talking face to face, but I like it because it keeps everything in writing on the counter where we can all see it. If MB is at work and something comes up, she'll write it on a stick-it note and add it to the notebook. If they forget I needed the 5th off, I point it out in the notebook where I wrote it 2 weeks ago. (we also dare each entry.) It also helps with reminders about both kids schools and activities. It's not as high tech as some of the available technology out there, but I like it that way because then I don't have to cling to my phone all day checking for texts and emails from MB and DB.

gypsy said...

I hope they're paying you for forty hours per week because they've monopolized you're time. Why are you grocery shopping & gardening? I mean, yes that is your choice. But those aren't nanny duties. So, I hope you're getting paid very well. If $20 an hr is average for two kids, I hope you're earning $30 an hour. I will never get over the shock of seeing these insane expectations of a nanny. Honestly, you sound like a personal assistant & not a nanny.

So as far as the schedule, when you receive it Sunday, send an email back that you think its fair you get paid for the "?" Days because they've reserved your time. If they don't agree, Id find a new gig. I don't know anyone who would tolerate this kind of arrangement. If someone wants me to be on call for them, you better believe they'll be paying me for it.

Please let us know what you do & what happens.

katydid said...

You've been given good tips on how to deal with scheduling issues.

In my opinion, which depending on who you ask isn't worth much,

it sounds like a terrible situation.

Not paying you is NEVER acceptable!

I seriously doubt they forgot to pay you or how much you earn.

Many of the duties you've agreed too aren't nanny duties by default. I agree you sound like more of a PA that sometimes watches the kids.

Please look out for yourself this one has job creep and nickle and diming red flags all over it.

Jane said...

This sounds just like my MB and DB. They forget EVERYTHING. I'll be out with the kids somewhere and I'll get a call from DB asking why I'm not at home because the repairman just showed up. And then I have to tell him that they never told me about it!!! I have been with them for 4 years and I still have to ask for my check every week. They'll have out of town visitors show up while I'm there and they never told me anyone was coming!!! I'm SO glad I'm changing careers in 2 more weeks.

Darcy said...

Regarding pay:

Perhaps you can ask them if they wouldn't mind using direct deposit for your checks.

Anonymous said...

Oh no! That is my most HATED thing to do. Your job sounds exactly like my last position. It was truly a rewarding position but the lack of communication ( on their end) and general chaos everywhere ended up being it for me eventually. My current boss gets with her husband and discuss their schedules ( they are super busy) but she always manages for the most part to always send me my schedule on a spreadsheet and tally up my pay. If changes need to be made last minute she emails me and that works great for us. I know what it feels like to work for someone and have to ASK for pay and be under paid. Um no. If they can't pay you on time and the right amount put in your notice. I took that for almost two years and I never want someone going through that. Whatever starts in chaos will end in chaos. People can say thank you all they want but at the end of the day people SHOW you how much they value you. Red flags everywhere. You deserve so much better. And you work in their garden? That's insane! You are not a landscaper and if you were, you would be making at least 20+/hr.

Anonymous said...

Great idea!