Tuesday

What Am I Doing Wrong?

I need some help from people in the Chicago area! I was born and raised in New York and had been living in Connecticut for the last five years before I moved to the Chicago area late last year. I’ve been a nanny for eight years, the last five years have been solely for high end families. I’ve always been completely full charge, extremely well compensated, noticeably appreciated (most important), and have always genuinely looked forward to going to work every day. Until I moved to Chicago. :(

I accepted a position caring for six month old twins after only a Skype interview and it was really great at first. But my employers work a school schedule with summers off. So I worked full charge January to mid-May. Then they were both home for a full three months. They genuinely didn’t need me. I’ve never had a harder time with a job. I’ve thrived in positions where I’ve been needed and not been a luxury and for all three months I was a luxury. Both parents were home the whole time I would be there. It was so incredibly uncomfortable I came home so frustrated every day. This may sound petty, I don’t mean it to be. But my last position in CT was 60+ hours a week, completely full charge for 3.5 years. To go from that to essentially be a mother’s helper for so long was the last thing I was interested or comfortable with. They dropped my pay from my generous weekly salary to paying me hourly. Some weeks I didn’t even clear $200. FOR THREE MONTHS. So on top of being completely uncomfortable at work…if I didn’t GO to the uncomfortable job.. I made no money. I even visited my old boss back in CT in June and when I told her about the job the first thing she said was “…but they’re still paying you your full salary during the summer right?…Why don’t these people understand this is your career?” This summer has completely changed my feelings toward my bosses because I can’t wrap my brain around how they thought I was surviving financially for that long amount of time (I had to borrow a large amount of money from my boyfriend). And to answer a potential question if I spoke with them about it..I didn’t. Because these are the type of people that write checks out to the penny…i.e. $110.25 My old boss would’ve rounded to the nearest 100…rounding to the nearest dollar would’ve been decent. So I knew having a conversation about summer compensation would’ve been a waste of breath.

School is back in session so I’m full charge again. But I’m actively looking for a new position and have gone on a few wonderful interviews. Most usually start with a phone interview that goes great and then I go to the family’s home for an interview that never lasts less than an hour. They all act impressed with me, I make them laugh, I leave my references’ contact info before I leave if I’m still interested in the position, I send a lovely follow up email later that night thanking them for their time, etc. I’ve yet to land a new position. I turned jobs away left and right in Connecticut and I can’t for the life of me figure out what families in Chicagoland are looking for that I’m not bringing to the table. I’ve got extensive multiples experience, I genuinely love my job, love caring for children. I go in completely professional with the greatest attitude. I say not a SINGLE bad word about my current family - I simply state that I’m looking for a new position that will be consistent throughout the year. I have the greatest of references that not one of the interviewers have contacted - I feel like if they did I’d be a shoe in. I’m contractually obligated to give at least three weeks notice to my current employers which I would never morally give less. One family had been looking for someone to start ASAP. So I understand that one. But what am I missing for the rest? Is something important in this area that maybe wasn’t back east? Something I should be highlighting or doing differently? Help!

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Are you asking above market rate in Chicago? That's the first thing coming to my mind.

Jill said...

I wouldn't have accepted it. The first time both parents stayed home, I would have brought it up. Also, the first check the was short i.e. hourly instead of the correct salary amount, I'd have asked why AND quit if/when the answer wasn to my liking. Situations like this happen when we don't speak up for ourselves.


Parents who are cheap and want to cut nanny''s pay because their situation has changed aren't worth working for at all imo. I agree you should leaves soon as you find another job. And I personally would tell them exactly why I'm leaving. Professionally and still politely of course.

They need to understand that this is a career for you and struggling to get by is no way to work!!

I'd look elsewhere :) said...

NYC/metro area is a completely different ball game nannying than any where else I have found.

The pay scale is diff - something to consider.

And the families mostly think if you as a babysitter not that they are employing you to help raise their kids and oversee the household.

If you're rattling off job details and responsibilities that you had in CT. And all the free range you had that might come across as too much for them. Might you take over their job as parent, too bossy, too demanding, etc. You're not any of those but to people outside metro area may think so.

Not your fault at all but I think people elsewhere just have diff expectations and want diff things.

For all the drama starters on here- this isn't a sweeping generalization. It's my experience. I'm sure that many people employing nannies outside NYC area are wonderful and amazing. I'm just stating my opinion that some view nannying differently. Some in nyc as well. Again just my first hand experience

Petite Sofi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Petite Sofi said...

I am a parent and one of the things I look for in a potential candidate is if her current employer/family knows the candidate is looking for a new position. If the candidate says no and I cannot check her current family as a reference that is a red flag for me and I wouldn't continue with the process with this person and would move on and pursue the opportunity with other candidates. Also, if your resume shows gaps in time that cannot be explained and you have stayed for little time with a family that is a red flag for me as well.

My recommendation to you is to talk to your current family and let them know that the summer month salary structure does not work for you and because of that you need to move on and find a new family. Let them know that you will give them proper notice so they have a chance to find a new caregiver.

Anonymous said...

Another Chicago nanny here :)
I work for 2 families - first family is also on a school schedule as one of the parents is a teacher, and so we only have a contract for August - May/June. They've mentioned they might need me during the summer too (but with less hrs & pay) but I've mentioned to them I might find another job just for the summer, babysit for them (if they need it) and come back once again for next school year. I really like this family and I'm paid salary with great benefits. I work for them Mon-Fri, 7am-2pm
The second family I work with is on the weekends - it's a very wealthy family that prefers to be hands-off with their kids. At the same time, since I'm there on weekends they are always home. Another thing is that there are 4 kids, all under 8 years old, and they fight terribly with each other :(. Very stressful but I'm mostly there for 5 hrs Sat & Sun so I deal, especially since pay is not bad...I do know that they are looking for a full time nanny during the week if you are interested, though :)

Miss Dani The Nanny said...

I'm familiar with the nanny market in Chicago, and from what I have seen, their market is the highest in the Midwest; the lowest I've seen starting is $15-17/hr, and the highest I have seen is $22-25/hr. I live in WI, and the lowest I've seen starting is $9.00/hr and the highest is $16. Milwaukee is a pinch higher than Madison, and lower than Chicago. I have extensive experience with children, a degree in education, experience with all age groups. According to Chicago agencies, I would be on the higher end of the scale with my experience and background.


Just out of curiosity, where did you find this family? I'm only asking becuase I have found that some families are clueless when it comes to nanny pay and benefits. Some of them, I believe don't research pay prior to starting their search, and wonder why they can't keep a nanny. I interviewed with a family who wanted to pay on the low end of the scale and other goofy things with time off and vaycay. I knew this wasn't for me after meeting with them. They've been through at least 2-3 nannies in the last 12-18 months, and I believe it may be the pay or lack there of. Of course not every family can afford a nanny or agency fees, but I also believe that many families think a nanny and babysitter are the same thing, not understanding they are different jobs with different backgrounds.

I own an agency, but I'm not able to place in Chicago yet. You sound amazing! If you are considering an agency, talk to Chicago Nannies, A Nanny To Love, Strollers and Stilettos, or Nanny Boutique. They are fantastic agencies with friendly people. Stay away from the following: First Class Care, Lincoln Park Nannies and Nanny Connections. I'm not impressed with these agencies customer service or reviews, and I'm not impressed by Nanny Connections nannies.

Keep us posted!

Anonymous said...

Just out of curiosity, where else have you nannied besides in the NY metro area?

I was a nanny in Chicago for 6 years and I don't see how it could be that different from NYC. I would assume just like anywhere, nanny expectations vary from family to family. I do not think it's fair to paint with such a broad brush.

Anonymous said...

Try urban sitter and nanny boutique! People here forget a nanny is a luxury and also our career. Good luck!

I'd look elsewhere :) said...

The bottom disclaimer was obviously for you

"This isn't a sweeping generalization"

I've nannied with high end families in NYC. I am expected to take on all responsibilities and I gladly do so because I am most comfortable in that roll. ( picking out pre schools, dealing with private school interviews and admissions, attending parent teacher conf, buying all clothing and child related items, dealing with all Dr appts- making and going to them, managing household staff- drivers, cooks, tutors, planning meals, choosing extra curricular or baby classes, attending performances, free reign on manners, religious beliefs, etc...

Is that every family in NYC- hell NO

But that is what a lot expect and pay for.

I have found even the most high end families in Austin, Atlanta, San Francisco, Los Angeles can be put off by such an inclusive roll.

Is that all families? NO but again I said I wasn't generalizing.

Thirty-something said...

If you are hiding your desire to look for a new job from your current family and prospective families know this, they probably have you marked down as nice but disloyal and not trustworthy.

Anonymous said...

Lol. You say you're not generalizing, but then you go and generalize.

I'd look elsewhere :) said...

Can you read? Like seriously are you literate??

Stephanie said...

I agree that your approach should be tailored to each family /ad. If someone advertises fot household manager, you should go in with your full list of qualifications. If, instead, they ask for a nanny and list laid back responsibilities, you should tone down the do-it- all rhetoric.

Some families will be intimidated or put off by someone coming across so strongly.

Also, be selective about the ads you reply to. Some parents really do want as someone who will simply keep the kids alive.

Anonymous said...

I worked with a family in NJ and was the same. He was a teacher ansaid on summer I only used to work 10 hours weekly at 15 dollars. I also had to use my savings to survive . I got tires and quit. They got really mad at me but I already found a new job so I gave them 4 weeks notice and even though they didn't want me to leave . I did. I didn't have more savings so couldn't stay more longer. Good luck but find a job 1st .

Amy said...

Do you have experience with newborns? I know of a family in Chicago looking for someone!

OP here... said...

Anon -- I actually haven't gotten to talk money with every family I've interviewed with so I'm uncertain if that's the issue. I'm honestly not 100% sure of what the going rates are in the area. Especially since it seems as though each town in the suburbs is a completely different demographic as far as income so there's no consistency there. I've turned down two offers I've gotten since January because the pay wasn't enough though so I'm sure that's a definite factor.

Jill -- I agree completely. If I could find something sooner I'd be giving my notice for sure! I was hoping to have found something by time summer started but then I was stuck once it did. I've been on the fence about how to give notice, I'm tempted to be completely honest (while being totally polite) but I'm afraid they may give me a bad reference in the future - I don't want to rock any boats.

I'd look elsewhere -- Thank you! I hadn't thought of it that way. I don't feel like I come off going way strong into my full charge past responsibilities unless I can tell the family will appreciate that. It is certainly another world outside of NY/CT, I'm learning that for sure. And I absolutely get the feeling that most families in this area, including my current employers, just see me/all nannies as glorified babysitters. Sad really, and frustrating. I've worked hard to get to where I was.. And your second comment...that describes almost exactly what I did for my last family in CT. Except the doctor appointments. The mother worked 80-90 hours a week and sometimes didn't see the kids at all Monday - Thursday...she needed an extension of herself to mold them the way she would be if she could be there all day. She was willing to compensate incredibly well for that while still being hands on as often as possible. But the difference was, when she was hands on..I was home...with no docked pay. I think what I'm learning is that my old boss was extremely rare, I was extremely lucky to have found that family, and should fully expect it to take a miracle to find another one. :(

Petite Sofi -- Thank you for a parent's perspective, much appreciated. I will say I have no gaps in my resume whatsoever from August 2007 through now. Everyone I've spoken to who has interviewed me has seemed incredibly understanding when I explain that I'm looking for a new position because I can't go from a full salary for 9 months out of the year down to about 15-20 hours a week for 3 months. I've never said in an interview that my current family does not know I'm looking. There's really no reason to say that unless I'm asked, and I haven't been. I simply explain why I'm looking. I say not a bad word about my current employers and if I'm interested in the new position, I give three references which are all my latest three employers just not including my current employer. It is written in my current contract that I must give them three weeks notice and I fully intend on giving them at LEAST that. I always look for the position starting the furthest out so I can give as much notice as possible.

OP here... said...

Miss Dani the Nanny -- I'm working in a western suburb of Chicago - 13 miles west of The Field Museum, for a visual, so not far at all. Upscale neighborhood, whole nine. I'm at $14/hr for twins and that's the highest I've seen. I found this family on care.com This family is absolutely clueless. I'm sure they looked into absolutely nothing before this and am fully expecting no holiday bonus or anything of the like. And that's fine - I've accepted the position so I made the choice. My nanny friend back in CT and both agree that this is the type of family who will go through nanny after nanny and not realize why they can't keep one. Lucky me for finding them first! I've been very hesitant to go with agencies in the past - seems like added pressure, more people to answer to. That might sound crazy haha. I did connect with Strollers & Stilettos and Chicago Nannies before I moved here because I figured it would be the only way to get a position in the area while still living in CT. Strollers & Stilettos dropped the ball a bit and Chicago Nannies was great but I ended up getting hired by this family and didn't end up needing outside help. I've been considering a live-in M-F position though for a baby or twins 0-6 months and would totally be open to Wisconsin if you ever come across anything! I've been looking for that type of position in Indiana, southwest Michigan, and Wisconsin.

Anon -- I only ever nannied on Long Island, NY and in southwest Connecticut...that's where I grew up. I only moved here last December to move in with my boyfriend otherwise I would've stayed there. I also am not nannying in the city of Chicago. I'm working in La Grange. So while downtown Chicago may be comparable to NYC, that isn't where I'm working. For the western suburbs of Chicago, it's absolutely fair to paint such a broad stroke. I've been looking daily for different options for almost 5 months and have been ramming my head into the wall ever since. I live too far out from downtown to consider a position there unless it's live-in and those are few and far between.

Thirty-something -- If I'm disloyal and untrustworthy because I'm keeping my options open...like anyone with a career or job of any kind would/should do..ever..always...then I guess that's just going to have to be okay. I personally would much prefer to interview someone who currently has a position versus interviewing someone with no job at all. But that's just me I guess. Though I've never said in an interview that my current family does not know I'm looking. There's really no reason to say that unless I'm asked, and I haven't been. I simply explain why I'm looking.

NJ Anon -- That's exactly where my frustration lies. They made multiple comments about "keeping me happy during the summer" before summer started and I don't understand how barely making $200 a week was supposed to keep me happy. I had to use my savings and use credit cards to make it through the three months also...chipping away at the debt now and it's so so frustrating.

Amy -- I have extensive newborn experience, mostly newborn multiples experience! Would love some more details if you have any! Thank you!!

Miss Dani The Nanny said...

OP: Send me a message via email.....

Kate Feathers said...

I'm from CT, have nannied in Westport and lived and nannied, live-out in Chicago for 4 years for twins. Fairfield County pays $30 an hour where Chicago pays between $15 and $22 for twins. It took Chicago a while to warm up to me. I was told I'm too East Coast by a nanny recruiter, I'm well spoken, direct, but gentle, so I don't know what that meant. Families expressed when I first moved there that I was educated, so I'd probably want to become a teacher. No, I wanted to nanny. It's all about timing and maybe like the mom suggested in the comments, start closing another door before opening another. People seemed more conservative in Chicago with their money than I'd experienced in CT. Try Olive You Nanny Agency and Chicago Nannies Inc. for placement. One thing I always did was make sure that the family knew that I was a career nanny and that if they were hiring me for 45 hours a week, then in our contract it had to state that I'd get that even if they changed plans. They abided buy that, but I get met with resentment sometimes over it. Good luck. Breathe and know that the right family will come along. Hopefully!

Kate Feathers said...

Sorry, I should have edited. Close one door before opening another. And if they hired me for 45 hours a week, I would be paid for that even if they cancelled a day, but would always be paid beyond that if I worked longer.

Kate Feathers said...

Yikes. Lots of typos! Sorry. I don't see an edit option!!!

OP said...

What a small world! I lived in CT for five years (Darien, Greenwich, SoNo, and finally right on the border of Westport and East Norwalk). I worked in Greenwich and East Norwalk for all of that time. I just wasn't prepared for the vast difference it is here. I'm getting $14.25/hr for twins in La Grange Park. Will go up to $14.50/hr January 1st. It's just a completely different world here. Are you still in Chicago?

Anonymous said...

Hi, I work as nanny in Chicago on the very high end of the spectrum discussed above in the city. I was lucky and found this job on accident through a website. I've had friends go through agencies here all with satisfaction. However as a native Southern Californian I do find that Chicagoans, the family I work for included, tend to have an entitled attitude, not rude, but entitled. My employer will ask me to leave the room if she has a friend enter the house, they regularly add house maid tasks to my already full schedule and never openly show gratitude. From what I hear this seems pretty typical of Well to do Chicago families. It's kind of a love or leave it situation. Chicago self importance isn't going anywhere any time soon.