When Nannies Step Up to Parent a Neglected Child

Received Tuesday, February 2, 2010 - Rants and Warnings
I have been contemplating writing this since I stumbled upon this site a few weeks ago. I finally decided to just do it because I have nothing to lose and maybe I will get some great advice and relieve some frustration at the same time.

I am the nanny to one great little boy (Little Dude) who is 23 months old and have been with him for nearly a year. I will start out by saying that I know I was naive going into this job (stupid of me since I have been a nanny for a decade and worked with many families) but I have decided that once my year is up I will not be renewing my 'contract' with this family. This decision has brought a lot of issues to the front of my mind and I find myself being torn up about them all.

When I first started this job Little Dude was very quiet, he didn't say a word, he didn't interact with me at all, he didn't show any form joy when playing with the numerous amounts of toys in his play yard. All in all he wasn't your typical 1 year old child. A few days into my position I approached the mother with my observations. She sat down all upset and told me all about this horrible nanny that they had for Little Dude when he was 6 months old until just before I arrived. Supposedly she just left him in his crib, in his swing or in his play yard all day long with out any interaction. The parents only found out because the mother arrived home early from work one day and her son was laying in his crib in a soiled diaper and the nanny was in her room with an ipod plugged into her ears and uncaring that her charge is in need of care. Well The Mother let her go right away and they started searching for a new nanny (ie ME!)

I was upset for Little Dude, wondering why someone would do that to a child. (I know it happens, but it breaks my heart). So I started working hard to bring Little Dude out of his shell. Within a month he had said his first word, he was laughing and he had started being a little less aggressive. (He had a problem with biting, hitting out, and scratching anyone with in range). I had thought that maybe the issues with the previous nanny would slowly be forgotten by Little Dude and he would not have any scars from it.

By the end of the month I had come to the realization that a bad previous nanny was one of the least problems Little Dude had with his life. Slowly but surely his parents' interactions with him began to wane as they became more comfortable with my presence there. They began working later, not getting up with him in the mornings (knocking on my door asking me to take him because they didn't have the time) and then finally they stopped getting up at night with him. (I once listened to him scream and cry for 50 minutes one night. The next morning they sat down with me and 'informed' me that they had 'important' jobs that they needed to be alert so they couldn't be responsible for waking up all night long.')

His mother sees Little Dude a maximum of 30 minutes a day (when she isn't working late and when she takes the time to slow down). And his father sees him possibly 5 minutes a day in the morning when he runs out the door. The sad part is that Little Dude has stopped asking them for attention. He used to go in the mornings and sit by their bedroom door and sob for them. (They ignored him, but he could hear them through the door). Until I would come and pick him up and try to distract him. Now he doesn't ask for them, he ignores them and will just play as if they aren't there. (This breaks my heart because I have told them what is going on and they don't believe me). Sunday's are supposed to be Little Dude's time with his parents but 9 times out of 10 he ends up spending the day with his Grandmother while the parents do incredibly important things with their day.

It is bad enough that they withhold their attention, love (Little Dude's dad won't even kiss him because he thinks it is 'Gay') and respect. They can't even be bothered to spend any of their hard earned money on him. This Spring/Summer Little Dude went 3 weeks without any shoes because they couldn't take the time to pick him up a pair that actually fit him. When I kept reminding them that he was missing out on activities etc because he couldn't walk in bare feet, they told me to just put his old shoes on him, which is ridiculous because they were too small.

Little Dude has been playing with toys that are too young for his age and maturity level because they can't be bothered to purchase toys for him since he has 'a playroom full of toys to play with'. I finally went out and bought him some age appropriate toys and it was amazing. From a set of lettered blocks he has learned to recognize all the letters of the alphabet in one month (he now points them out and says them for me when we are out). Little Dude is a very bright child when he is properly stimulated. He is now speaking in clear sentences, learning his colors, numbers and takes a joy in reading books with me.

This is where it gets so hard. This is where I feel like bawling my eyes out as I write this. I will be giving my notice the the beginning of April and leaving the beginning of May. On top of all the issues with Little Dude, I have been working 24 hours a day 6 days a week without even being guaranteed my Saturday nights off (they once left on a Saturday night without letting me know and I made plans to go out. As I was leaving the house through the garage I noticed that one of the cars was not there. I texted the mother and she texted back to say they had gone out to meet some friends ON MY NIGHT OFF, so obviously that night out was ruined... but the worst would have been if I had left and didn't realize that no one was home with the BABY!). I am burned out. I have actually contemplated not staying in the child care field (which if you knew me was a huge thing to even think about). But now I have to leave because it is becoming detrimental to my health to stay here. I am exhausted. I suffered from a kidney stone last month and they got MAD at me for making them take a day off from work. All I heard was how hard it was for them. Hello, I am on massive pain killers and still in a lot of pain. Well after 2 days off they made me come back or they were going to kick me out. So there I was in massive pain, unable to take pain pills and unable to pick up Little Dude and they were telling me that I either started working again or I was out on the street. That was the beginning of the end.

But the idea that I would be leaving Little Dude in their hands (I know he isn't my child, there is no boundary issues like that here), but it really upsets me that he is older and will remember this. Also, they got lucky when they hired me, they could easily hire another woman like the first nanny, and the idea kills me. But I can't honestly recommend this position to anyone of repute because of the parents. The best thing would be for Little Dude to go into a child care center so at least he will be getting proper care without anyone having to deal too much with his parents.

I don't know if I am making sense in this post, I just needed to get this out and honestly see if anyone has had this experience before. What did you do? How did you leave without it killing you walking away from the child?

On a note I have spoken to a friend who works for DCFS to see if there is any form of abuse or anything like that going on, but she states that since they have hired someone to look after Little Dude they aren't doing anything wrong... but of course they won't win parent of the year award. The crazy thing is, is that they just don't see that they are doing anything wrong... they just don't grasp it.


MissDee said...

This is very, very, very sad. Allow me to explain:

Parents are the child's first teachers. They also teach social skills, and improvise on cognitive skills learned in school through homework, strengthening the home-school connection.

So what are the parents teaching this child? That he is not good enough for them. They have made this perfectly clear by the interactions or lack thereof that teach a healthy self image and self esteem. They are teaching him that he is unable to be loved, which in turn, causes SERIOUS emotional damage in the long run. My father passed me along from relative to relative, only to give me over to complete strangers when I was almost 17 due to "behavior issues". (I ran away, was gone for one night due to fear and had sex with a boy one weekend. My maternal grandmother had passed away a year earlier, and what I needed was counseling, only he didn't see it that way.) I feel as though I had to prove how pretty and smart I was, since my father saw me as pretty, but also stupid. I know now that beauty comes from within, and it took years for me to understand that.

They are not teaching him ANY cognitive or self help skills, which in turn will also harm growth and development. He will become dependent on everyone around him if he is not taught how to do cognitive activities and self help skills. When he starts school, there will be serious issues the parents will have to deal with, if they choose too.

OP, I feel bad for you, because you obviously love this child like your own. I feel even worse for the child, because you are the only person who truly loves him and positive thing in his life.

AMom said...

This just makes me so so sad!

I wish parents would care... said...

I am a nanny of an almost 2 year old child and I am in the same boat. When I came aboard- I noticed the child did not respond to his name or conversation. He was just over a year old at that time. He would scream, have terrible tantrums (flexing body and now making himself throw up(not just one time- up to 10 times- each time- it is very scary))- and he does not like being with/ around other people or going into places he is not familiar with. This is when the puke sessions start. So going out is always a challenge. I know there is something going on and I, too, try to talk to parents and they would say "oh, its just a phase or a tantrum- he'll grow out of it. The idea of him non-responsive to his name at almost 2 years old- is not normal.
I wish parents would care more- I know I would- if I could have any.

Unknown said...

I wish, has the little one been to the doctor? I would hope they would recognize the possibilities.

Shel said...

my heart is aching for you and little dude. seriously aching.

it kills me that technically they parents aren't doing anything wrong because they have hired you to take care of him. they are his parents and regardless of who is paid to care for him, they decided to bring him into this world and it all comes back to them and their influence. in my opinion, they are neglecting him.

don't give up. see if there is anything else you can do to get word out about these parents to people who will listen and can do something about it. for little dude.

Ugh said...

What a sad situation. I feel terrible for that poor baby. I've been in a similar situation and leaving was so so hard.
You sound like a good nanny but no one can last in a position like that.

another mom said...

OP, I'm so sorry you're in this situation. I imagine you are hoping to leave on decent terms so you can get a good reference from these people, but the temptation to tell them to their faces what you have told us must be very strong. One other option occurs to me: have you discussed your concerns with the kid's pediatrician, and urged him/her to talk to the parents directly about the developmental consequences of their neglect? The way you've described the parents, I imagine they might be quick to ignore a nanny's point of view, but a doctor 's opinion might carry more weight with them. They must have some small amount of concern for the kid if they at least bothered to dismiss the first unattentive nanny (or maybe they were just mad at her because she wasn't giving them their "money's worth"). Either way, I am sorry for you and even sorrier for the kid. Good luck.

mom said...

How very sad. Worse yet...this is not an uncommon story at all.
As a society we have gown to excuse..no, condone...such selfishness. "A happy and fulfilled mommy makes a better parent." Ugh, Not when it takes 23 1/2 hours a day of "me time" for mommy to feel "fulfilled." Part of being a parent is learning to SACRIFICE from time to time for your child, and still be able to feel GRATEFUL for the opportunity to be blessed with such a miracle as a child.

Victoria Anne said...

If you don't need them as a reference and you are planning on leaving, I would type them a letter saying exactly what you wrote here. Either way you are leaving, and it is worth a shot that they might take your advice to heart.

Terrible situation, I feel really bad for you, but worse for that poor innocent child.

MissMannah said...

Poor you and poor Little Dude. This story just makes me so sad. I wish I had some good advice to offer but all I can think of is maybe talking with the pediatrician? I'm assuming he's going in for a 2 year check-up pretty soon and you can discuss his home life with the doctor. Perhaps the doctor can counsel the parents on what it takes to actually be a parent. Also, if you think LD would benefit from a childcare center, tell the parents! Make sure you specifically mention that preschool is a lot cheaper than a nanny. One thing's for sure, don't leave on a bad note. You'll never be able to see LD again and have a bad reference. As for no longer wanting to work in childcare, maybe you could just take some time off from it. I had to do that a couple of years ago after a bad nannying experience and now I'm with a family I adore. We get burnt out and it is ok to do a different job for awhile. I would hate to see you give up on working with children because you seem passionate about it.

Original Poster said...

Thank you so much for the pediatrician idea. I hadn't even thought of that at all.
I don't need the reference I have half a dozen other ones, so I have a feeling that I may sit down with them both during my one year review and tell them exactly why I am not returning and what I think they need to do for their son to re-establish any form of a relationship with him before it is too late.
The whole reason why I posted this was to get some way to help Little Dude, and thank you all for your support and advice.

Village said...

I am so sorry for you and Little Dude. Hopefully he will get another nanny like you who will care.

You are not his parent. You have to move on and take care of yourself.

Good Luck.

so sorry said...

I don't think I can tell you anything you don't already know. You shouldn't martyr yourself for this kid, because in the end, he'll still suffer from having these parents, and you'll just run yourself into the ground. You can't really tell these parents anything. However, I think it would be worth mentioning that he would benefit from a "school" setting where he could learn to interact with other children. Also, that might mean less burnout for the night/weekend nanny. Maybe do a little legwork as far as researching preschools for him, since they won't care enough to do it for him.

Just Another said...

I will recycle some advice I got when I was in a similar situation: These parents are doing the best they can. By hiring a 24/6 nanny, they recognize that they are not capable of giving a child the love, attention, and stimulation that he needs, so they have hired somebody to do it for them. It could be worse- they could care so little as to not even hire a nanny, leaving LD with absolutely no one to nurture and protect him.

Repeating a variation of this to myself helped when I was struggling, because it can be incredibly difficult to do your job (esp. if you work for a sahm whom you see throughout the day) when you're seething with anger at the parents.

NanGal said...

Just Another does the mom you are talking about work from home or is she truly a sahm...
just wondering..

MissMannah said...

Just Another, you said...

"These parents are doing the best they can. By hiring a 24/6 nanny, they recognize that they are not capable of giving a child the love, attention, and stimulation that he needs, so they have hired somebody to do it for them."

I disagree. I think these are lazy, ungrateful people who do not deserve to be parents. My guess is they never wanted to be and so that's why they have someone else doing the parenting for them. I don't think they understand anything about the necessity for love and attention, I also think they just don't care.

OP: You're welcome. It is a shot in the dark, but it might help a bit.

Momkat said...

Offer to adopt him! But seriously...I would call child protective services; clearly there is a bad case of neglect going on...and parenting is all dependent on them hiring the right person to care for the child. You could also talk to the pediatrician and grandmother. If you don't need the reference, I would certainly do it for the sake of the child. I'm sorry you've had to go through this--and thankfully he's had you as his nanny. You sound amazing.

Just Another said...

MissMannah, you said, "I think these are lazy, ungrateful people who do not deserve to be parents." I really don't disagree with you. But from having worked in a similar situation as the OP, I just found it was helpful to ME in doing MY job to reframe the parents in a more positive light. And I do believe the child would be worse off if he didn't have a nanny.

And yes, in that situation, the mom was technically a sahm- she didn't work from home.

Springmoon said...

I really feel for you! That is an insane predicament to be in: you care deeply for the child -- who is plainly neglected -- but you also need to take care of yourself. For what it's worse, I think you are making the right decision, and maybe you can recommend some combination of daycare and nanny to the parents on your way out? LD goes to daycare during the day and the nanny collects him in the afternoon for work and it's not as strenuous as a 24/6 position.

However, this whole situation smells strongly of the one spelled out in The Nanny Diaries (the book, not the movie version of it). Sounds like these parents had LD as a status symbol and didn't want to make any adjustments to their work or social lives to accommodate his presence! That's just awful, and they will realize (I hope they do, and I hope it's sooner, rather than later) that they are deeply damaging their relationship with their son. Or maybe they don't care, because he's just a status symbol to them.

CuriousDad said...

Something my wife mentioned.
If and when you finally leave, Might think of passing on your info about Little Dude to the Gandparnets? Write them a letter or talk to them face to face.

Original Poster said...

Springmoon: I know exactly what you mean. I figured that out real quick. Unfortunately the mother has started talking about having another baby because 'he has his son, and now I need my daughter.' I shudder at the thought.

Curious Dad: I have spoken to the grandmother, but she doesn't speak english well and won't hear a bad word against her daughter.

I have made an appointment with his pediatrician next week before his two year check up. I hope that he will have some advice or some idea to help me open their eyes.
I know they are going to be so angry and betrayed when I leave that I don't think they will hear anything I have to say (I wouldn't be surprised if I ended up out on my butt even regardless if I give them a months notice or not) so I hope the doctor will step in and speak when I can't.

Thank you so much for all your support and ideas. I am still torn up about leaving, but I know that it is the only way to stay healthy.

NannyCams4Ever said...

To the OP: If you are truly concerned for the child, you have to call DCFS. Forget whether it will be taken seriously or not. You should have called DCFS by now...if this is really tearing you up inside.

If you are a 24/6 nanny then you shouldn't be so worried about the child's welfare because he is never with his parents...he's always with you.

If parents hire a 24/6 nanny that means you will be 24/6. Not 18/6. What did you expect? They seem to be paying you well, so focus on giving that child all of the attention you say he needs, and spend less time resenting the parents, for what 'you think' they are not doing.

You are presumptuous and rude. What we have here are parents who don't want to spoil the kid with more toys. Enter a presumptuous nanny who feels the child should have some 'developmental' toys. (I for one do not like most of these toys on the market. So if a nanny bought a toy for my child that I didn't like, nanny would be in trouble for that alone.) If I say my child can't have more toys, and then Nanny goes over my head and buys toys for my child anyway, the Nanny is fired. How dare you?

They have given you access to their child, their home, and fair pay. You should be honored.

If they were perfect parents...you wouldn't be there. If you want to tell them how to raise their child, be prepared to walk.

Look on the bright side. This child won't have to be with these "horrible" parents at all because he is with you 24/6.

Lisa said...

Wow, that is a heartwrenching story. I was close to tears just reading your dilema. I understand that you can't stay with them, but please feel good that while you were there he has some wonderful company and a great role model. Poor Little Dude...

chgonanny said...

This completely breaks my heart. I am lucky to not work for a family like that, but my good friend's employers are exactly alike. Recently, her 4-year-old charge has been acting out (and in very odd ways) because he never gets attention from his parents. Recently, his teachers asked to speak with my friend, the NANNY, not the parents, because even they realized the parents are clueless.

Do you get vacation pay? Perhaps you should take a day or two off and perhaps one of the parents will be forced to stay home with Little Dude. Then they could see how much work goes into a regular day with a 2-year-old.

MissMannah said...

What an elitist know-it-all you are. I thank god my employers are nothing like you!

Thank you for the clarification. It is understandable that you have to spin a bad situation positively in order to survive it.

Original Poster said...

Wow, the whole time I was reading your post all I could think was that you sound devoid of human emotion and cold as ice.
For your information, I was NOT hired as a 24/6 nanny, I was hired as a 7am-6pm 6 day a week nanny. They just stopped coming home on time, and refused to get up with him.
I am NOT getting paid an amount that is equal to the level of work I put in. But you will notice that I wasn't complaining about that in my post.
I was more worried about the fact that THIS child who is not MY child was not getting any attention from his parents.
And I am sorry, but what 2 year old child is going to be stimulated by rattles and mobiles? What would you say if you found out that all your nanny did was allow your child to play with rattles and mobiles?
I am an early childhood educator, not a person that can allow a child to sit and mind numbingly stare at a rattle for hours. So yes I went out and bought him some toys that were age appropriate. FIRE ME? Go for it, I will move on to the next job with a family that actually loves their child and appreciates what I do for them. Maybe one that doesn't break my heart every time I watch them turn their back on their child, slam the door in his face or just ignore him.
I am sorry that you think that this is appropriate behavior, I must say that I pity your children immensely because they must have NO self esteem and be unstimulated all day long. (Unless of course you pay a nanny to parent your children)
But thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy day to let me know that Little Dude's parents aren't the only ones like this in the world.
Have a lovely Thursday.

anonymacita said...

Regarding N anny Cams,
I don't know if I have ever worked in a home with nanny cameras, but I assumed I had. I was never a great nanny but I made $14 cash as a nanny per hour and that was better than what i was making as a sales associate at Saks. My deal with the kids is once they feared you, they were pretty good. If I needed to impart some discipline on the kids, I would make sure to do it out of the house, in the backyard, places I was sure there was no camera. No I wasn't cruel to the kids and I never hit them. I would grab them and get right up in their face and scream the crap out of them. A couple of times I tossed a kid in his bed when he got out of his nap. When I was broke and wanted to go through drawers and jackets for petty cash, I would simply cut the power to the house. I don't know if any of the people I worked for had nanny cameras, but dude, it's a false sense of security. I used benadryl religiously, not because the kid wouldn't take a nap but because I was taking a night class and a three and a half hour nap really gave me some much needed me time.

About the author said...

That is the most horrible thing I've ever heard. Religiously using Benadryl? Unacceptable! Are you just trying to start a huge debate or something?
You weren't worth the $14 hourly you were paid. I hope you aren't still there.
Too much else I could say in response to that but I refuse to get started.

Original Poster said...

Reading your post makes me want to vomit. It is people like you who give nannies a bad name.
$14 an hour? I make $10 less than you do, but at least I earn mine honestly. I wouldn't let you take care of a cat let alone shape the lives of children.
This is exactly what happens when parents don't a) do their homework properly and b) hire a qualified person.
From this post it is obvious that not everyone is able to or should be watching children.
And Benadryl? Do you realize that children become immune to medicines when they take them too often? So not only will you need to give more and more to get the same results, it is morally reprehensible, what happens when these children have allergic reactions, the parents will use Benadryl and it won't work. YOU ARE AN IDIOT AND I HOPE YOU GET CAUGHT AND GET THROWN INTO JAIL.
Oh and children respond better to love and respect than they ever will to threats and fear. Emotional abuse is something that will come back to harm the children in the future and I really hope that the parents track you down and beat the crap out of you.

Parents: job experience at SAKS is not going to help your children at all. When you look at a resume you should be looking for a reliable background of child care, even if it is only babysitting as a teen.
I don't even bother to use any job experience on a resume that doesn't have anything to do with child care.

one more said...

After thinking about it, I do believe that the incident in which they left the child on your night off could be reported as neglect. You are not a family member- you are a paid employee. If you are not contracted to work at that time, then technically you do not have responsibility for the child. If they then leave without telling you, they are leaving a 2-year-old unsupervised, which is neglect. However, in reality, it's doubtful anything would come of it, and it would certainly jeopardize your position, which has to be a consideration due to you being a live-in

Unknown said...

nannycam and anoncita are trolls - they just want to start something so try to ignore them and discuss the issues - i hope the original poster keeps us informed. It looks like a no-win situation. The parents are just this side of legal - onkly a miracle will help little dude so i will hope for one

good god said...

I have not read the other comments yet, but this situation is horrible. To me, this is a case of neglect. I would inform the authorities. Immediately. If nothing else, it will give them a wake up call.

One more thing: do you really expect them to keep you on after you give notice? They sound like jerks, so I doubt they will.

cali mom said...

Oh, this is so sad, I wish people like this would use birth control!!!

OP, I think the best thing you can do for poor little dude is to research some preschools and daycares, GOOD ones that provide the stilmulation and nurturing he obviously will never get from his DNA donors, and then, BEFORE giving your notice, sit down with the assholes (oh, I mean the "parents") and tell them that his chances of future success would benefit from the group setting at such a place, and ask them if they'd like you to go ahead and make the arrangements. Phrase it as if it will ensure his acceptance into an Ivy League university, not as if you personally feel that he needs the stimulation (though of course you are 1000% correct here). If they can let you handle getting him settled into a good preschool, it will be less traumatic for him when you leave, and assuming that your hours will reduce at that point, you'll be easing into the transition of quitting them anyway.

cali mom said...

Oh, and nannycams and anonycita are obviously trolls, and most likely one and the same one.

NannyCams4Ever said...

This OP has 2 problems.
1. She doesn't know how to express to her boss that she is overworked.
2. She thinks her bosses are bad parents.

First of all, if you are having a hard time expressing that you are overworked, can you imagine that the parents are having a hard time expressing to their own bosses that THEY are overworked??

Secondly, you think they are neglecting their child. Basically you are saying they don't deserve this child. it is so unfair for you to judge them so harshly when they have let you into their home to see everything about them. It is unprofessional. It is such a betrayal of trust, that's why I'm furious with you.
Think about this, they don't walk into your home everyday and see how many dirty dishes you have in your sink.
My advice to you is to hit the mommyblogs and the workingparentblogs so you can try to understand what kind of parents you work for, and what kind of pressures they face. it is all out there for you to see.

Calling a person a bad parent is 10 times worse than calling them a bad boss. You dislike these people, but miraculously, you bring yourself to keep taking their money. If you really care, just offer to babysit a couple nights a week for free. That way, you can keep contact with the child without creating this situation of angst.

cali mom said...

Cammy, OP is a live in, so these people are in HER space every bit as much as she is in THEIR space, and that's the way they want it, so what's your point?

And if a parent is a bad parent, then why not call a spade a spade? Unless your are the female producer of poor little dude, why are you so infuriated at a nanny who wishes the child's parents cared about him?

duh said...


calling someone a bad parent is not unprofessional if they are, in fact, a bad parent. OP is in exactly the position to see how they parent. I have worked for bad parents before. As Cali mom said, if the shoe fits, wear it.

Genealogy said...

Awww, I really pity the little boy and you! Hopefully things will change for the better in future!

Nanny Lala said...

I feel for you, I too have had a job like this and it's awful Please do not be hard on yourself imagine if you never came into "little dudes" life? Thank god for you!You gave him love and attention even if just for awhile. Little dude was very lucky to have you in his life never forget that!

BTheVoice said...

Well, OP. I don't mean to sound all mystical, but maybe your in this child's life to advocate for him. I believe you should communicate clearly your concerns. And no shoes for 3 weeks or whatever, I would have called DCFS. Let them do the investigation.
But at any rate, please help this child. If you don't: who will?

EML said...

Nannycams you are an ass. You do realize, do you not, that children are actual HUMANS and not dirty dishes in the sink?

I'll be on the look out for your child's future Mommie Dearest novel.