Am I being taken advantage of?

Two weeks ago I moved from Detroit to Chicago for a nannying job, but I'm starting to worry that I'm being taken advantage of. It's a live-in job, I work 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday through Friday. The kids go to school from 7:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. and I am expected to clean the house, do the laundry, take care of the dog, etc. until the kids get home. Usually one of the parents is home in the afternoon with me, so I'm mainly just an extra set of hands around the house. However, the parents have made me work late both fridays because they have a dance class that goes to 11 p.m. (if this was regularly scheduled, why wasn't I informed in the original e-mail?). They also have told me I need to work both Saturdays I've been here so far, despite the fact that I'm supposed to have weekends off. This is my first nannying job, although I have experience teaching preschool and working in a daycare, as well as substitute teaching and 90+ credit hours in early childhood/elementary education. They are paying me 350/week. I thought there would be a contract when I got here, but they haven't shown me one at all. I'm nervous to approach them because I'm afraid that they will throw me out onto the street, but I'm also frustrated that they keep expecting me to work extra hours and not pay for it. My room was also COVERED in toys when I got here, to the point that I couldn't even unpack my suitcase, but I pushed to get the toys out of my room and into one of the two playrooms. Do you think I'm being taken advantage of? Or are my expectations just too high?


VA Nany said...

You are definitely being taken advantage of. You need to sit down and have a serious conversation with them regarding your expectations and the reality of what has been happening. Go through the emails they sent and write down things that said so you have specific examples. In addition, write down everything else that you feel needs to be addressed so you're able to get all of your points across. You need to set the standard for how they will treat you and now is the time.

Did you have a sit-down overviewing all of the ins and outs of the job when you got there? If not, you can just tell them that you'd like to do that at a time in the next week that's convenient. Tell them that you would like to discuss the details of the job and get a contract worked out. That's a pretty standard thing to do so they shouldn't be upset about it. If you did have that conversation already, tell them that you would like to do a follow up where you review the first two weeks and both parties bring up concerns, and you get the contract nailed down.

Don't forget that contract part. Mention it when you're asking about the conversation so they know it's coming. Research some contracts online and even bring along a basic contract layout so you're prepared for the meeting if they neglect to do anything about the contract.

And please remember that you ARE being taken advantage of. You have a right to demand to be treated with respect. You should have hours that you agree upon in advance, you should be paid for overtime, and you should have a contract that the parents stick to.

Do you have a backup plan? Is there somewhere you can go, even back to Detroit, if they do fire you? They shouldn't throw you out for just wanting to be treated fairly, but crazier things have happened. Go into your meeting hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst. Good luck!

Siriusly_James said...

Oh my God, you are definitely being taken advantage of. You make less than 6 dollars an hour for 12-hour days (which apparently turn into even more hours without you knowing in advance).

However, if you don't treat this position professionally, why do you expect the parents will?

You have to stop acting as if you're a big sister to the kids who's just earning her allowance, and step into the shoes of a professional nanny.

That means that you have to let the parents know that you want to sit down and write out a contract - at some point next week when it's convenient for them. Get a set time for that talk.

Then prepare what you want in your contract - it should state exactly what your responsibilities are ("take care of the dog" is not enough, it should state whether that means "let out the dog", "walk the dog", "feed the dog", "groom the dog" etc.) your hours, what will happen if you work OT, are there specific times you will have to work OT, when is your free time, etc. (Look it up online, there are plenty of nanny contract suggestions out there).

Then sit down with the family and tell them something like: "Now I have been here for two weeks, and I have spent some time getting to know your habits and your everyday life. I would like to have it in writing exactly what my hours and responsibilities are, so that we can all make sure that we will meet each others' expectations."

You must have talked about the position in advance, so I expect that you have agreed to 12-hours days and 350/week. In that case, I don't think you should ask for more money. If you agreed to only one of these, I think it's perfectly fair to ask for a higher salary or fewer hours.

Treat these first couple of weeks as a "trial period" or something, and when you have a contract in your hand, you start working for them "for real", and you start anew, no hard feelings.

You ask if your expectations are too high - if the family don't know your expectations, they will never be able to meet them. If YOU don't know what your expectations are, nobody's ever going to be able to meet them.
Find out what your expectations are.

I know some of this may sound a bit harsh, but that position seems like a bomb waiting to explode, and it's important that you take action now! I have been in such positions myself, afraid of speaking up, but I have found that MB and DB respect the nanny more if the nanny respects herself and treats her position as any professional job.

I wish you all the best!!

hmmm said...

i agree. don't be shocked if when you try to pin them down, which you should, about hours and pay if the job goes totally sour. But the upside? If you are a nice competent person, other nice families will be thrilled to have you at a more competitive rate.

I started a live in job and spent the first day I had off interviewing all over the city to gtfo of there. It happens. Move on.

Manhattan Nanny said...

Of course they are taking advantage of you, and they know exactly what they are doing.
I don't see you negotiating with these people and it ending well. Leopards don't change their spots. They are paying below the legal minimum wage, and not paying you at all for overtime hours you work. Why would a family in Chicago where there are plenty of nannies, hire someone from out of town? They know it would be hard for you to leave as you live in and are from out of town without friends or family to go to if they fire you.

My advice is this. Make arrangements for someplace to go, even if it is just a friend's couch you can crash on temporarily. Have enough money to get there, and tide you over while you look for another job. Then give a two weeks notice, and be prepared to leave at any time.

Do not start your next job without a contract! There are wonderful families out there and I hope you find one. Good luck.

Kristen said...

I was already horrified... then got to the $350/week part... -_-

Find a roommate said...

Please find a roommate, get a teaching or summer camp job and get out! You should be able to do most of those things on your computer and put your foot down about weekends and after 7:00 ask to be paid hourly cash for those hours beyond your original agreement. Write out a nanny agreement and tell them your emailing it to them, then do so. It might not make a difference, but it may make things easier while you look for an escape route. Chicago is an awesome place it the summer, so if you can find a friend to room with and a regular job you could have an amazing summer. Get moving, and make friends, put the word out what your looking for!

Mymommatoldme said...

Honey, I am in Chicagoland and I make just under what you are making, only work three and a half days a week for a 1yo and have no extra duties other than his laundry. Plus I get paid holidays, paid vacations and sick days. Run far, run fast. You can, and will do better.

Miss Julie said...

The short answer YES!

♫ Selena said...

Oh Hell yeah...Honey you are MOST definitely being taken advantage of.

They are making you work insane hours. For your extra hours, they should be paying you overtime (OT). Also, they lied to you. They said you had weekends off, but have made you work the last two. WTF???!!

If you really need a roof over your head, you have no choice but to grin and bear it for now. Start looking for either another live-in position or find a room to rent or a room mate. Things will only get worse if you stay!!

OP, I am really sorry for your predicament.
Families like this make my blood boil. How dare they treat the person who cares for their children in this demeaning manner??

Oh well.
Thank goodness for karma. It never forgets. Hehehehehe.......

Miss K said...

I would try to contact a few agencies and look online for better positions. I was in your position once and basically it sounds like they hired you as a low pay servant. Good Luck.

I worked with Nanny Boutique and they were fantastic. Interviewed with them and then the family had a position in LESS THAN 5 days!!!

I have worked with several other Chicagoland agencies but honestly in over 10 years as a nanny these guys were the best.

Hope it all works out for you Please let us know what happens.

riderthenanny said...

Yep. Ring someone just in case it goes balls up. But, sit them down and tell them 'no' now, you'll probably end up screaming or swearing at them eventually out of pure frustration. In some places, families justify a lower wage if they are housing you rent-free and paying all of your power and meals/transport expenses. However, you are still a live-in nanny, and you don't deserve to be treated as a slave - ever.

Letter Writer said...

Thank you everyone for the advice! Things have gotten even worse since I wrote in. I've worked for several hours all three weekends for no pay, usually being woken up in the morning by a pounding on my door. Mom and the kids went out of town this past weekend, and Dad told me to be out of the house Saturday night! I feel like a prisoner in this house sometimes, and not only that, but when I work these extra hours for free, I generally just watch/feed the kids and don't do anything extra like house cleaning and Mom had the nerve to complain about it and leave me nasty notes around the house! I'm already applying for other jobs and have an escape plan set. I'm not putting up with this for another minute. I also have to badger and remind them obsessively to pay me or else they "forget".

Anonymous said...

Aw op, that's terrible. Use that escape plan and get out! I hope you can find a new job and get out of this hell hole. Best of luck to you.