Throwing in the Towel

I've been a nanny for a family of 2 middle school boys for almost a year now. From my perspective, everything has been going reasonably well. There was a small adjustment period for the kids in the beginning since the mother went back to work, but for the most part I felt like I had good communication with the kids and they trusted me. This job is only part time and even though I make an average hourly wage doing this, per month I don't make enough on this job alone to live in this expensive city. So I work another job in addition to it which means, yes, I DO have a life beyond being a nanny, and I do have other daily responsibilities.

The other day, the mother of the children walked in the house and immediately pulled me into another room to "talk". She didn't give me any specifics, she just said that she needs me to put my full focus on the children while I am with them. She said that children can pick up when someone is distracted or preoccupied with something else and that makes them feel as if they aren't worth the attention. I'm not exactly sure where this was coming from, but I'm guessing that her children told her something that led her to this conversation with me. She was extremely vague in her words and I'm really not sure what she's referring to, or how she would even know considering that she works full time and doesn't see me interacting with them most of the time. It was a pretty embarrassing conversation because I take great pride in what I do, I work my ass off with those kids (and they are NOT easy to handle!) and I almost feel betrayed, as if the kids don't like me and they're feeding their parents false information about me.

I can admit that I might glance at my phone a little too often during my time with them for work-related things. But to ask me not to seem distracted around the kids - how do I even do that? I'm human. I work 2 jobs and I have a lot of things going on in my life. I'm not a couch potato nanny - I play games with them, I have interesting conversations with them. The only time I'm not 100% engaged with them is when they're studying and need quiet time. If I come off as distracted or preoccupied, then unfortunately that's just my personality that they're looking at, and they need to find another nanny that will please them.

I'm not sure how to approach this situation. I'm tempted to just quit - I'm so discouraged at the negative feedback after I've tried SO hard and honestly thought I was doing a great job. At times, I really wish they would put up a hidden camera so they could see just how hard I work with them, and how patient and loving I am. I want to throw in the towel. This doesn't feel worth it anymore and if the mother isn't happy with my performance now, she never will be. Thoughts? - Anonymous


BrooklynMomma said...

Before throwing in the towel, I would approach MB and have a chat in the hopes of her elaborating on what she meant. I suggest approaching it from the perspective of wanting the constructive criticism in an effort to improve the work environment. I'll say this though, mom's vagueness is a red flag to me. Either she's awful at communicating or experiencing feelings of guilt at having to go back to work.

RBTC said...

if you CAN quit - then do. When someone treats you like that they do not value you. And you may want to tell her everything you said in this letter so she will know in the future not to treat a nanny like that if she wants to keep her

and - it's entirely possible that the kids think if they bad mouth you they will get their mom back

let us know what happens

ericsmom said...

No No don't quit yet. Wait and see first if you get a holiday gift. Then quit

Bethany said...

You sound very overwhelmed like your burnt out?

Are you doing too much?

It's possible mom & kids are having a hard time adjusting to mom being back at work full time , and are dealing with feelings, of anger, abandonment, jealousy, and guilt. Though that would be strange considering you've been with them a year. It's possible mom had a bad day at work and decided to take it out on you.It's also possible mom saw something she didn't like.

I would ask to talk to her about it. Don't approach it being defensive or with excuses. Approach it as you want to improve.
I hope things work out for you.

♥ Amy Darling ♥ said...

Love your comment. I cannot argue w/you on that one, it DOES make lots of sense. LOL.

Anyway OP ~
It sounds like you are not "good enough" for this family. As long as you interact at times w/the kids, then you are doing your job right. Does this mother expect you to interact 100% all the time?

As a nanny, I interact w/my charges quite a lot. However, the older they are, the more I let them do things on their own from time to time. It is unhealthy to expect the nanny to ignore everything else and concentrate on her charges..esp. 2 middle-schoolers. I notice my older charges do not like it when I answer a text message or when my phone rings and I go to answer it. They always sigh and tell me to ignore my phone.

Perhaps this is what the boys are doing to you. Since Mom is working now, they probably crave someone to give them the undivided attention their mother once did.

I personally would give notice and leave.
You are only part-time, not making a stellar wage + you are being indirectly criticized for absolutely nothing.

I wish you the best of luck OP.

MissMannah said...

Why didn't you ask her for specifics right then and there? If she couldn't think of something in particular to say right on the spot, then she is probably just griping for the sake of it.

nycmom said...

My perspective is a little different because I have had to deal with this issue and it is so prevalent in general.

She probably doesn't want to give specifics because she doesn't want it to become a "he said, she said" blame game with middle school kids. I will say my two older kids absolutely tell me when a new sitter spends tons of time texting, using the computer, or "resting" rather than engaging. When my kids raise concerns, I do address them directly but I avoid putting the kids at the center of the issue also. My first time addressing it would be intentionally broad with an attempt to avoid attacking you or arguing specifics, especially if I thought you were otherwise doing a good job. I don't think arguing over what a child said is productive, but I do think the general concerns warrant addressing.

Also, she has two middle school boys, who are often not stellar reporters of specifics anyway. They may have simply told Mom vague things, true or not, such as you are often texting and not interested in doing things with them. This may be something they haven't said about other sitters so mom is worried. Perhaps even more worried because she works and is relying on you for a lot of things she cannot be present for due to work.

I also thing texting and internet use can easily escalate from occasional to frequent. You admit you do "glance at (your) phone a little too often." So perhaps, if and only if you like this job and want to continue, view this as an opportunity to improve this area.

I do 100% agree with you and others that kids should NOT be engaged constantly and need quiet time. But I actually think with the tween/early teen age group, you need to actively seek them out to engage if their tendency is to isolate. Obviously, I have no idea of your job performance, but I do not think all nannies or all human beings at work seem "distracted."

As I have said in the past, I think part of doing a good job in any profession is managing your personal life such that it does not routinely distract you during your workday. Of course, emergent and urgent situations arise and those are separate. But I am definitely not frequently distracted or texting at work, nor is my nanny. I have hired sitters who were and they were not a good fit for us.

If you are happy with the job, text less, focus more and see if things improve. If you are unhappy with the job or want a job that allows for you to have more time to address personal issues, then definitely look for a new job. But keep in mind that part of ANY job is performance reviews and any good supervisor gives feedback. Sometimes it will be negative and quitting over one instance of gentle negative feedback, when you yourself believe there is some truth to it, is likely not the best way to learn to deal with this lifelong issue. Just because mom had one thing she wants you to improve does NOT mean she is unhappy with your performance overall nor that you cannot improve this single area.

BTW, I think the camera suggestion is a good one. If my nanny's response to my concerns was to ask me to do this, I may or may not do it, but I would certainly feel reassured that she was confident in her job performance.

Katkat said...

I totally hear you, have been in that situation myself. Unfortunately some people don't want to understand that nannies are the same people as they are. We have our lives, our families and kids, and no matter who tells me not to answer my phone, I will do it when my teenage son or daughter is calling with question. My employer told me to turn off the phone while I was working and I was doing 10 hour days. Who wants to be cut off the rest of the world for 10 hrs straight, especially when there are two kids at home. I was also working part time and the mother was not happy bc I was looking for some extra hours on the side. Unfortunately they want to be happy with their incomes and have it all, but we have to be just dedicated to thrir kids and be happy with that minimal pay they provide. And guess what? I said it is not happening and I am not turning of my phone and this is only my job and nobody comes before my own kids even for a second. I am not saying I was sitting there with the phone in my hand and waiting for a phone call, I could miss a call, but I would call back as soon as I saw it and there was an appropriate moment, or I would create an appropriate moment. I also don't get how some parents don't like when you look away from their three year old for a minute, they want you to be in front of their face all the time. And they do it themselves. How come most of the kids nowadays can't play on their own for 10 min while I need to unload the dishwasher or fix their own breakfast. Honestly, I find this totally ridiculous. And the mother could not even speak with me for a minute, because the child was there and did not let her to do so, he could not stand when his mother was talking to someone besides him. I think tat age kid we have to tell that mommy needs to speak with someone else for a minute and he needs to understand it.
Anyway, I quit and found another job, where everybody believes nannies are also people and I could not be happier. Good luck

Lizardtails said...

OP- I so relate to your post. I also work part time with two boys, 9 and 11. I think the way this MB approached you would have really thrown me off and upset me as well considering you've built a rapport for a year. This doesn't add up. Has she approached you with concerns this way before? She really should be capable of talking with you more openly about specific concerns by now.

I've had to initiate several conversations about some manipulation that my boys have attempted by involving parents to question my decisions and work. Luckily, my parents have been super professional and thoughtful and have made it clear to their kiddos that I am in charge and to be respected. It's been a bit bumpy, even though they are a wonderful family. For many months our pattern was to go days without physically seeing each other at all. I would pick up their kids from school and leave before either parent was home. After awhile they realized that face to face check ins were valuable to our work relationship and now I see one or both of them at least twice a week.

I would not have stayed in the job if it were not for their willingness to communicate openly and allow for my feedback. I think it's time for you to determine if this family can show you the same respect and desire to make it work. Ask your MB if there was something specific she was referring to and if there are any other issues she needs to discuss. Get it all out on the table.

Anonymous said...


The feeling of not being appreciated is so difficult in this kind of work. I am doing a part time job (two days/16hrs wk), am paid well and love the baby/family. I was told this week, that while I was supposed to work through the holidays, there is just not enough dough, and then there were complaints about how parent had been underpaid, etc. It felt like a body blow. It is as if I am not considered at all, that the loss of income for me is not considered. I know I should have a contract, but as a part-time gig, it was not broached. I am trying to talk myself out of giving notice, but it is a physical reaction. Heading into work now. All of this is to say, I understand. Sometimes the feeling of being discounted is strong and surprising.

Moniker said...

What you really need to do is NOT look at your phone even once when you are with the kids. You are being paid to look after them and looking at your phone has nothing to do with looking after them.

Quit if it would really make you feel better and if you can afford to, but remember that not looking at your phone when you are working is a solution.

Lizardtails said...

Moniker- Parents either trust their nanny's judgment- or they don't. It has nothing to do with a phone. Many awesome nannies can look at their phone, use it to text and email kids and parents, look up interesting factoids ( I was asked yesterday by my nine year old charge what socialism means and we looked it right up). Lots of valid reason to look at your phone as a nanny. Is this all I do? No. Sometimes I check Facebook- its true! Sometimes I read this blog. Or look up recipes to use up my MB/DB's green beans that have been in the fridge for a week. Sometimes I check my email.

My very professional and reasonable bosses know that I use sound judgment. I wouldn't be able to work for them if this wasn't the case.

just commenting said...

yes, everyone has lives and occasionally looks at their phone. but you said it yourself, maybe I glance at my phone a little too much during the day. it sounds like this mom just talked to you about a concern she had. if her kids told their mom something, she as your boss has a right to discuss it with you. maybe talk to her and ask for examples to expand on what she meant. vague comments are hard to read into so if she won't go into further detail with you, i would stop looking at your phone so much if that if the only problem you could think of. maybe she also meant that you are often daydreaming or seem to have alot on your mind?? chin up, take the constructive criticism, and realize that the right answer to any boss is yes, i understand and will work harder on what you told me. bosses want to know that they are being communicated with and that you will be able to take criticism. remember, it was just a conversation. maybe approach her and say, i want to work better on what you said, so could i have some examples so i know exactly what you mean so my behavior gets better. if mom continues with such vague comments and you have exhausted all other reasons what you are doing wrong, then maybe then would be the time to look for other work. as a boss myself, it is hard to give criticism but when talking to someone about something, i always start on the positive first and then mention what needs to be worked on, and then end on a positive note. some people arent great communicators so keep that in mind and dont take it so personally. she never said you werent a bad nanny, and it seems like this is the first time she ever really talked to you. consider yourself a good employee if she has only had to talk to you once about something.

Manhattan Nanny said...

You sound like you do work hard and do a good job. There is going to be a division of opinions on phone use. What you have to realize is that not everyone considers it necessary to check your phone frequently, or that it is appropriate when you are working, especially for the short time of a PT after school job.
Those of us who came of age before cell phones became ubiquitous find "glancing" at your phone, when we are talking rude. When you do this, the children feel you are bored or disinterested in them. I have a feeling this is what the boys complained about to their mother. They may not have said specifically that you are on your phone, just that you aren't paying attention to them, so the mom couldn't be more specific.
If you want to stay in this job, here is my advice. If you feel you MUST check your phone while working, limit it to when the boys are doing their homework. Get them settled, sit nearby, and tell them you are going to do a quick check for messages, but they should let you know when they have questions or need help. The rest of the time, if it rings, check to see if it is the mom. If not, let it go to voice mail, and keep it put away.

A Nanny said...

I agree with Lizardtails, excellent advice. I don't think you should quit but I find your MBs vagueness strange and off-putting. Try and get her to specify what the issue is so you can work on it.

I think too much emphasis is being places on the cell phone use; for one, your MB didn't say that that was the problem, you're just taking shots in the dark here. The OP is the one that mentioned it which leads me to believe she's aware of it and working on it.

I will say that expecting someone (of any profession) not to check on their phone at least once during 10-12 shifts is laughable.

sigh said...

I would be careful, parents tell to over-analyze what information they get and some take it to extraordinary extremes.

HobokeNanny said...

Run! When you get "accused" of something and feel like you're not loved when you give your everything, unless they show extra appreciation, you'll never feel great.

GBRudy16 said...

Wow, so now our advice for dealing with constructive criticism is to quit? That's insane, how is anyone to improve at their job with that attitude? You assume that because one puts in a lot of effort, they are performing up to their employer's standards, which also makes no sense.

Lucy said...

It doesn't sound like the OP received any CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM here....only vague thoughts.

Daisy said...

You would think middle school age kids would need so much fuss, the children I have cared for at this age were involved with friends and after school activities. Sounds odd.

My2Cents said...

It's weird anyone would assume that giving examples would mean a "he said/she said." Most people are more mature than that.

I think the mom has issues communicating effectively. I would sit her down and ask her to go over my performance every month or so. because she doesn't sound like the type of person that will address issues as they arise.

I wouldn't quit over this, OP. But I would definitely listen to what was implied. And I would stop looking at the phone so often. You could check it every hour or only if you get a message. You dont need it to stay on you. You could leave it charging in another room. You can set it to where if its your kids calling, it has a special ring tone. You could ignore other messages until lunch, break or after work. I think its very unprofessional to be tied to a cell phone. You dont want to be known as the nanny who is addicted to her phone. Its a bad look.

Denvernanny said...

Always feel free to go back to a previous conversation for clarification. Even though my employers and I have good communication, we still often misunderstand each other, and need to backtrack. That's just human nature. Don't get mad and quit before you really give your employer a chance to explain what she meant.