Saying NO

Nannies (and parents), please help.
Lizzie Riches

I have been working as a nanny for almost 6 years. I have been a live-in nanny, live-out nanny, worked in big cities and small, and as an au pair. In almost every single position I have ever worked in, job creep happens. I know this is a common thing for many nannies, but I feel as an experienced nanny in my late 20s, I should freaking know better by now. I have never asked for a job contract because I'm afraid if will make me look pushy and untrustworthy of the family; I have never asked to be paid on the books for the same reasons. I work and work and work my ass off until I am burnt out and in tears. I consider myself a great nanny; usually work with school-age kids, very academic based, organized, responsible, etc, etc. I have always gone the extra mile and that earns me a lot of brownie points with families who are quick to recommend me to their friends because of it. Unfortunately, it also earns me a lot of extra responsibilities that I did not agree to when hired and am not paid extra for. I do not have time nor energy to detail every time this has occurred, but rest assured the occasions are numerous. I have lived with kids for 2+ weeks while both parents have been traveling for my regular pay plus $50 extra per night because MB did not feel like she had to pay me for sleeping. I been saddled with all the usual cleaning/laundry/take the dog to the vet/take the car to the shop/do all the grocery shopping nonsense because I did it one time and then it was expected of me. Most recently I was asked to take the family dog into the vet on my WEEK OFF. (I said no to this one because I was out of town.) During summer jobs, I have literally taught children entire school years worth of material over summer breaks because they were so far behind and never paid a dime extra for acting as an intensive special-ed teacher, but I just cared so damn much about those kids that I wanted to help them, you know?? You all know the drill. It's endless and repetitive. Please, for the love, help this too-nice-nanny have the guts to say NO for once without being made to feel GUILTY or like I am going to lose my damn job for not bowing to a family's every whim.


Rachael said...

My coffee hasn't kicked in yet so this will be harsh. I have absolutely no sympathy. You know the problem and you know the solution. So as my mom used to say: do you want advice or are you just complaining?

You already know the answer to this. It's in your OP. Say no. No is a complete sentence. It fixes a crap ton of problems in this world. If there were some benefit to be gained from your doormat routine, I'd get it. But there isn't. You can't take appreciation to the bank.

This is ultimately a job. It has to be worthwhile to you in order for it to make sense. Stand up for yourself. Trust me, the feeling of self-worth kicks the Martyr Complex's ass!

To put it in dollars and cents: where I am, the overnight fee alone is 100-180+ on top of hourly rate while you're awake. Think how much money you missed by not getting paid. The mom not wanting to pay you to sleep is full of #$#@. Anytime you cannot leave a place of work, you must be paid.

Oh and a contract protects you as does getting paid on the books. Hopefully things change for you soon.

Jamberry said...

A family that doesn't accept that you're not a dog walker, errand girl, housekeeper, driver, laundress, personal assistant and whatever else isn't worth working for anyway.

I've never lost a job for standing my ground. You can be polite and firm. For your own sake, get a contract and get paid on the books.

Job creep happens, but you need to check it. There's no need for all this stress! You can do it.

this_nick said...

I'm gonna go ahead and warn you, I don't see a lot of sympathy about to flow in your direction. You know what you have to do (work with a contract that you hold a family to, discover the consistent ability to say no), but you won't do it. No one here can fix that.

An employer can't make you feel guilty unless you allow it. If you know you're being expected to take on responsibilities outside of those agreed upon, why would you feel guilty for saying no? You need a change of mindset so you can view things like contracts as standard practice for professionals in the industry, not some insult to your employer.

As long as you keep being afraid of offending someone else, you're going to be stuck in this cycle. The good news is that since you put yourself here, you can get yourself out. You just have to find the will to do so. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Hi all, OP here.

Thank you so much for your responses. Just so everyone is aware, I did not submit this for sympathy or to be coddled. I've heard plenty of "Oh poor you" and have thrown myself more than one pity party, thank you very much :) I read this blog and the advice from commenters regularly and that's why I posted - I wanted real, honest, kick-ass advice from other real caregivers. I know what needs to be done, you're right, but I needed a kick in the ol' behind to get started in the right direction. Thank you again for tr honest responses, and keep them coming. This is an awesome community that I'm grateful for. I'm not one to get offended by tough love; trust me, I need it right now.

Jill said...

Glad to hear it! Cause I have no hugs to give! This is so easily remedied. Just say no! Not rocket science. If it's not in your contract (which, by the way, you needed like yesterday ) then you need to say no.

Why feel guilty? Does a shoe repairperson feel guilt when s/he won't also make you a sandwich? No!

Life as a nanny is hectic enough. Do your job with the kidlets and everyone else can kick rocks.

Parents need to know you have boundaries. How can you teach kids boundaries if you cannot set any for yourself?

Former Nanny said...

Most workplaces have a contract so that both the employer and employee know what to expect and can refer back to the written documentation of everything that was agreed upon if necessary at a later date. You should not feel that you are being pushy or distrustful of your employer- it is meant to protect both of you! Some families new to the idea of employing a nanny may be surprised or initially suspicious if you suggest having a contract but once you explain why it’s important to have one and show them the contract you’ve drawn up, any reasonable employer would see the desire to have a contract as both professional and smart (two qualities they should be interested in for a nanny).

Start searching online for example contracts. It doesn’t have to be 20 pages long but should be very detailed with regards to duties, salary, benefits, overtime pay, etc. It should include a clause that states that if in the future the parents would like you to perform additional duties or provide care for a situation out of the normal schedule (i.e. weekend birthday party, travelling on vacation with family), the details/compensation will be agreed upon by both parties and put into writing. I think drawing up a contract together sets a precedent for good communication which is so important for a good nanny-employer relationship. If you find a family willing to have a contract and pay on the books and you have good communication from the start, I feel like job creep is less likely to occur.

Anonymous said...

OP here again. @FormerNanny great idea looking online for contracts. I have worked for many, many families who are new to having a nanny and some just do not understand basic nanny etiquette, e.g., don't text me at midnight etc.

Nanny said...

Yea. Just like good fences make good neighbors, clear contracts make good working relationships

former pushover said...

I don't know what you expect to hear. This is something that only YOU can do and you know it. So grow a pair!

Anonymous said...

Well. I don't think there's much you can do in about your current job. What's done is done.
The only advice I have for you is that you need to start strong at the very beginning. Once you start doing all the errands and cleaning, there's no going back!!!
The best way to stay strong is to have it all in writing. If a family won't hire you because they think you're sounding too strict, well then that's clearly a family who's looking for a nanny to do all tasks under the sun. The right family will respect you and your boundaries as a professional. Those families aren't always easy to find, but I know they're out there!
The other thing you can do is at the very beginning when you're interviewing and discussing pay, you can nicely say that your rate is $20/hr, however if they require additional tasks beyond childcare then your (constant) rate will be $25/hr. That way you don't have to price out each individual task and it's a clear way of setting boundaries and expectations. Then put it in writing and absolutely stick to it, no matter how mean you sound!! The right family will respect you for it! Remember, you are a professional! I'm pretty sure the CEO at an accounting firm doesn't require the professional accountants to bring him lunch and do his laundry.
I'm sorry you're in this position, I truly do feel your pain!! Hope everything works out for you!