The Stressed Out Governess

     I was a nanny for six years. In February I started my first governess job.

(back story: That was the title. The job description read pretty much the same as most nanny jobs. There are four children. The two younger have a nanny and I have the two older children. They hired me knowing I had never officially been a governess. I found this description of a governess online: A governess is an educationally qualified individual employed by the parents to educate the children in their private household. Governesses typically hold a bachelor’s degree. Generally governesses are not responsible for the general care giving tasks but are primarily focused on education. 
I however, do provide care for the children. My hours are 2-8, Sun-Friday. The nanny's hours end at 8. I am also a live-in. I make dinner for the kids, and do everything for them the nanny does for the younger child. The housekeeper handles the laundry of the whole family. The housekeeper cleans, dusts, vacuums, etc the children's room, but they and I are responsible for keeping their beds made and their rooms organized. I also take them to playdates, appointments, parks and activities.)

     The children I care for are 9 and 11. The 11 year old is a type A worrier, who requires little oversight and direction to exceed in school assignments and extra curricular learning activities.He doesn't need to be reminded to practice piano, he is always reading and he meets our weekly educational activities with genuine enthusiasm. When the parents review his school work and our extra curricular work, they have been complimentary and seem generally so. He is easy to work with because he wants to learn and is open to any project or subject I put forth.

Julianna Swaney
The girl is 9 years old and started out third grading reading at a 2.9 level. She is now at a 4.0 level with 3 weeks left of school. I thought that good. The parents do not. They think this is "barely average" and will cause her to struggle with "competitive peers". In the past two weeks, they have made it known that they are very unhappy with her and I. One problem we have is spelling words. The teacher sends the spelling words home on Friday a test the following Friday. There are 25 spelling words. The teacher has made several suggestions on how to get the child to learn the words. We use ALL of them. I use pinterest and educational resources where I get still more ideas, where I enter spelling words into a list and they give her tests on it. We play cards with the spelling words. We write poetry with it. She is spending so much time on homework every day (about three hours) and when I brought this to her parent's attention, they said, "well clearly it isn't enough".

     They removed her from soccer as of this weekend. She didn't love playing soccer, but loved being with friends and doing normal things.

     I am not hear to bash the parents but to ask for help. I don't want to lose my job because I love the hours and pay and I love the kids. I think I understand this girl. I know the parents are basically saying, be harder on her, and while I will work harder with her, I would never be harder on her. I do fear though, that should I be replaced they would chose someone without empathy for the child solely focused on measuring their job performance by her educational performance.

     I understand my job and I know it is not to judge the parents. I am responsible for checking all of their work for 100% accuracy, They are expected to perform at 100% at school. The spelling test is an example of where the girl is not, having scored 22/25. 23/25 and 22/25 in the past three weeks. For a point of reference, before I started, she was scoring 19 & 20 out of 25. So while there is progress being  made, it isn't as fast as it should be.

     Does anyone have experience working for highly competitive parents? a 22 on a test in 88% and 23 is 92, which is an A, but it is absolutely not acceptable. I want to know how to help her get to the 100% . She works really hard. When we do reports and book reports, she revises and rewrites them multiple times. It isn't a matter of effort, but at the same time, I feel the need to secretly soften the blow. I want to tell her she is perfect and wonderful but that her parents have asked for x,y,z and so that is what I am working on, but it isn't a reflection of who she is.
Julianna Swaney
     Starting this week, we are to start practice tests on Tuesday, again Wednesday, and a final on Thursday. Then, she will go and take the real test at school on Friday. It isn't as if we hadn't done practice tests before. She does quite well on those, usually missing none or zero. This is another problems the parents brought up. If she is not able to repeat the performance of the home testing at school, I must be allowing her to review the words too close to the tests because she doesn't "really know them".

     In one of our activities last week, we went to the library and picked out some books for non fiction reading and book reports and she found some chapter books on faeries which she loves. This was in addition to the books checked out for my time with her. This morning, there was a note on the three faerie books that said, "return these. ___ is distracted by them". I want to do my job well, but I guess I am wrestling with the mentality. From this I understood, there is no time for reading for pleasure at 9 years old?

     I am looking to hear back from other governesses or persons experienced with this sort of family. I am in the New Haven area of CT. I appreciate any advice on how to help her succede educationally without totally sacrificing her self worth. The parents have scheduled a next meeting with me on 6/14. I think that this next two weeks is going to be my sink or swim window.

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Jessica Simpson NYC said...

Yeh, eh, You have to pick a family worth working for because the kids are always likable and innocent and the families can be awful.

Anonymous said...

I totally understand this whole situation. I was a governess for a very smart boy that just turned 3 when I started. He was a fluent reader within weeks of me working with him. He also picked up how to write very quickly. The problem was that the parents thought learning should only be sitting down and answering questions in a workbook. They also felt that other children were "bad" and would influence him to make bad choices. With that being said, he was a prisoner in his own home. When the parent left home I had to sneak him out of the house to go play at the park. The two of us would then need to lie to cover up why we did not answer the home phone. The child of of course advanced for his age, but his father always had to point out things that he saw as weaknesses in his child. He was upset that he did not know multi. digit addition, multiplication, and long division. Well duh.. I find it sad that parents feel the need to belittle their child when they are ahead of the game. Positive encouragement often helps children want to do better. They want someone to point out their accomplishments. Spelling is very hard for some kids. I suggest You can enter the words on the list and the child can play games using those words(if such an evil thing is allowed). It is also helpful to teach words that have similar patterns together. I am a teacher now, but if I were ever a governess again this is how I would approach the meeting..I would point out all the gains the child has made. I would also have samples available to show the progress. Every time they have a so called weakness to point out, you then have something to counteract what they are saying. I'm not sure how they will react to this but... it seems like you have the best interest of the child in mind.

the teaching diva said...

Let's be realistic: these parents need to get a grip, take a sip and CHILL.

A 2.9 to a 4.0 is progress. And if they can't see it, they are blind.

The expectations they are placing on their child are too, too high, and she will resent them for it. If they keep pushing her, she will push back and refuse to put effort into her work.

I have ADHD, and wouldn't do homework, only because my father didn't make me do it. Consequence? Me? Him? Ha! Never. If I didn't want to do homework, I didn't have to. When I brought home the incomplete work slips, that's when I got the consequence, like TV or Hulk Hogan being taken away. (I was a huge wrestling fan back then, and I still am today.) For every five pink slips, I got a referral form, a huge pink slip

The life of an ADHD child.

My father always said I wasn't much, and I wouldn't amount to much. The negative attitude a patent has toward a child can be very, very hurtful. The attitude and feeling the parents have toward this child can be harmful.

Thank you for standing up for this child. Are her patents type A perfectionists?

this_nick said...

I'm not experienced with working for these kinds of people, but on the off chance they read this site to check on the nanny, I just want to say to them: KNOCK IT OFF. Maybe your own parents pushed you too much and you don't know any better, but if you keep this up your kid is going to hate both learning, and you.

Fostering achievement us wonderful; pummeling the joy out of your own kid in pursuit of perfection is deplorable. I realize in your minds you're trying to give your kids a leg up on all the best opportunities, but it also seems you're making your daughter compete not only with her brother but with every other child in some mad attempt to hold up your kids to the world as "the best."

Continue on this way and you'll get at least one of a few outcomes. 1.) Your daughter is pushed so hard that she rebels as a teen, her grades tank, and she won't get into UConn let alone Yale. Maybe she goes to Gateway Community and actually enjoys her college experience thanks to having already stomped your dreams. 2.) Your daughter rebels at university, thereby making you the proud parents of an Ivy League dropout. Congrats! 3.) Your daughter keeps trying to live up to your expectations instead of her full potential as a human with her own hopes and dreams. She goes on to be a wildly successful (_______) who hates the two of you for ruining her childhood, so you end up bragging about her at Christmas parties while making thin excuses about why she's never there. It's super-awkward and everyone pities you for crazily pretending she still speaks to you. 4.) God forbid, you push her until she breaks, and who knows where she ends up then.

Please, if you care about this child as something more than a trophy you can trot out to impress people, cease your toxic behavior at once. Otherwise you'll send your daughter the message her only worth is what she can achieve to make you look good. (Spoiler alert: parents behaving like this NEVER look good.)

Sara said...

There are a lot of overachieving parents out there who have high expectations for their kids. I remember getting grounded for my first B. It was also in spelling. My nanny at the time solved the problem by getting me my own library card. I read so much that summer that my spelling and reading comprehension grades shot through the roof. These parents don't seem to have the same idea. Generally governesses only teach, tutor and work on social graces. They want you to nanny while being called a governess.

Anonymous said...

I am a Specialist Nanny - Special needs, situations (divorce, death, adoption, etc), behavioralist and homeschooler. The children I nanny overcome issues, become independent and strong individuals and exceed their medical professionals expectations by the time I am done with them.

That said, you are working for unrealistic, judge mental and militant parents. A child under these circumstances almost always end up in trouble trying to meet those expectations or rebelling against it. They can feel stressed, inadequate and develop major issues (eating disorders, depression/suicidal, alcoholism, etc)later.

I fear for this girl in many ways, especially since she is one of 4 kids. When you have multiple kids in the family it becomes an added issue of trying to match up or compared to the other siblings, being singled out and isolated.

If I was in that position, I would ask for a meeting between the teacher and the parents. I would discuss the issues with the teacher before that meeting. This is a child that needs protected and put on a healthier path. Bare in mind, if you do decide to go this route, you will likely lose your job, so you may want to secure a new job before going this route.