What NOT to Say to a Nanny

Are you hurting your relationship? See what nannies and sitters had to say on Facebook.
Leanne Proctor, Contributor
Articles> What NOT to Say to a Nanny
parent talking to nanny

Whether you just hired a nanny or feel yours is part of your family, you may not know that some of the things you say are hurting your nanny's feelings and thus your relationship.

We recently posted a question on the Care.com Facebook page asking nannies and babysitters to tell us what their employers sometimes say or do that upsets them. Below are five of the most popular answers, with recommended solutions from Cameron MacDonald, author of "Shadow Mothers: Nannies, Au Pairs, and the Micropolitics of Mothering."

  1. "Sorry I'm Late"
    Brittany L. struggles with the mom she works for "Not being organized with the schedule and letting me know ahead of time days she needs me to stay late."

    Solution: Everyone is late occasionally, but it shouldn't be a habit. Find out what your nanny's typical evening demands are, so you can be respectful of her time: does she have classes, a second job or family obligations? MacDonald suggests talking with your nanny about when she can be flexible and times she just can't be. Discuss how you're going to reimburse her for the extra time: will you pay her more or give her more time off? Learn about nanny overtime rules

  2. "Can I Pay You Next Time?"
    As Amy E. says: "[I imagine parents] would pitch a fit if their employer forgot their check at the end of the week. Same for me. I provide a service and expect to be paid for that work."

    Solution: Even though your nanny feels like an extension of your family, this is her job and source of income -- she deserves to be paid on time. MacDonald says to think of yourself as your nanny's payroll department; it's your job to make sure everything's running smoothly. Decide when you'll pay your nanny and stick to it. Learn how to set up an automatic employee payroll account

  3. "Can You Do the Dishes?"
    Stacy A. finds that her employer "leaves the house and kitchen a mess, expecting me to clean it all up."

    Solution: Your nanny should be in charge of keeping the kids clean and their rooms organized. Unless housekeeping duties are part of the job description, it's not her responsibility to do other chores. If you need extra help, hire a housekeeper or find another solution that doesn't take time away from the kids. If you have little ones, maybe she can tidy while they're napping, but make sure both you and your nanny understand what she should be doing and when, and put it in a nanny contract.

  4. "Today You Should..."
    The mom that Rebecca G. works for is constantly "explaining everything and micromanaging my time. 'It's nice outside, so take her out from 1-2, then watch a video from 2-2:30."

    Solution: While it's understandable to want to manage your child's life, it may be affecting how your nanny does her job. Tell her if there are things you want prioritized, but let her make her own decisions and trust her judgment. If you feel separation anxiety, check in during the day. Read about 9 Ways to Keep in Touch with Your Nanny

  5. "We Treat You Really Well"
    Chelsea A. works for a great family, but is bothered by "a lack of appreciation for all I do. I do a lot more housework than what was originally agreed upon, and they also upped my hours, and when I tried to tell them [it] was a lot on me, they said 'well, we treat you really well.' But they seem to forget I treat them well too..."

    Solution: MacDonald says this is many nannies' number one complaint: the lack of recognition. Do you value the skills your nanny brings to the job, her attachment to your child and how well they get along? Yes, you pay her, but your nanny is more than just a nameless, faceless employee. Let her know she's doing a great job and you appreciate her hard work. Check out ways to Show Your Nanny You Care

If you want to maintain a great relationship with your nanny or sitter, you need to communicate. Set up weekly meetings to check in and encourage her to talk about what's working and what could be improved. Remember that no relationship is perfect. But the more you communicate and work together, the happier everyone will be.

And in the comments section below, let us know if there are other ways the nanny-employer relationship could be better.

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(51) Comments
I am a mother who employs a nanny, I actually feel like my nanny doesn't appreciate me & my family! We are usually home early each day, to give her and us time to discuss how the kids were that day. She's had a lot of issues this year and needed lots of time off: total for the year about 2 months. We also gave her a couple of extra sick days to help her out. We've worked with her and moved our schedules around for her, and when we have asked for that in return she says she is busy or she wants us to pay her 25% more than her normal wage. We tell her all the time thank you for taking care of our kids, you are doing a great job; she's even gotten a raise this year. It just seems to me that none of this is enough. She is acting "entitled" in our home like we are under paying her and not giving her what she needs. She is wonderful with the kids, but her attitude is absolutely horrible! Any suggestions for that situation?
December 16, 2015 at 11:32 AM
Dulce I.
Dulce I.
If long term caregivers were to write a book about all the experience we go thru it would not only be a thick book but also an eye-opening to families and future care providers to see what goes on. I have been a nanny for more than 9 yrs and I love it but there are just times and moments where you just feel like giving up. It can be anywhere from a unacceptable child behavior or disrespectful parents. My way of thinking is "There is no perfect family, but I can become the best nanny". Thankfully I have had worked with many great families. Even though being a nanny is a challenge I would not exchange it. Too many good memories with certain families and children!
November 16, 2015 at 4:40 PM
Shamarra P.
Shamarra P.
The worst, an employer who has scheduled me for over 40 hrs and on national holidays told me that they would roll any hours over 40 into the next pay period, and next few after that to make it appear as though in only work 40 hrs per wee or less because they don't want to pay me over time or holiday pay because it would cost too much money. I'm sure that this is illegal, if you don't want to pay time and a half then don't schedule 46 hr weeks forgot sakes don't have me scheduled on Easter Sunday. 4 vacations per year instead of 7 could cover all that overtime.
August 28, 2015 at 6:02 AM
This article speaks loudly. I have been a nanny for years and have experienced many cultures, personalities, etc -- no matter how different each individual is, you end up dealing with the same issues. There are plenty of Nannies who are well educated and have all the qualifications -- experience, strength, and a nurturing quality. We should all be treated like a professional employer would treat an employee, whether you have a degree ot not. I mention the education because families tend to pay more if you have a degree, however, experience can be equal to an education. I also bring education up because they treat you like you are not intelligent because you are at home, taking care of their children! People also assume that nannies have nothing else to do! Not true. My overall point is: Families treat nannies like they are there to be over-worked, they think they can say anything because your desperate to work(why else would they be so brasin??!), absolutely no days off, god forbid we ask for time off! It gets ugly. I get it, you have a job to go to, but I have a life as well. I need to go to the dentist, doctor, just like you do.
I am sure there are great families out there, but they are not the majority. One last thing - when you tell them what their child accomplished or said, they get all defensive and think you are telling them you taught them. I will probably not continue my work as a nanny, as I am educated and have many opportunities.
March 13, 2015 at 1:26 PM
I love being a nanny and I so could relate to many of you. Right now I'm working with a really nice family, but I'm starting to feel underappreciated. I only get paid 7.50 which was .50 cents lower than the original amount that they posted. But, at the time I agreed because I was unemployed for a while and I was desperate for a job. Then after a year, I'm still getting paid that 7.50, I don't have any sort of benefits e.i no vacations, no sick days, and barely any holiday vacations. I work with a work at home mom and at times she makes it impossible to do my job. When the boy throws a tantrum or cries because he tripped, she's quick to come to the rescue. It seems like she doesn't trust me, even after a year of me working here. When I do things to help her out like wash the 5 million dishes she never likes to wash, I never even get a thanks or any sort of recognition out of it. Right now I'm to the point of quitting and finding another job, but my thing is it was hard enough to get this job as is. People on here have such high standards (some of them are ridiculous) and hardly no one ever replies, even to say no thanks. I'm actually considering being something other than a nanny, which I hate because I love being a nanny.
March 2, 2015 at 1:17 PM
Jerri G.
Jerri G.
Is a live in nanny still. Good idea? How do you calculate pay rate? I child age 7p. Need help with homework, play , and reading. I hear horror stories....! Need input from experienced nannies.
January 21, 2015 at 6:19 PM
Destiny W.
Destiny W.
On average, are part time nanny hours pretty consistent? I love my nanny family so much, they pay well, but it is a 50/50 custody deal and there are some weeks I work 27 hours while the week after I may work 3 hours. It's getting hard to pay bills because of the inconsistent paychecks and I'm not sure how to bring it up without sounding rude. Any advice?
January 20, 2015 at 1:56 PM
Rebecca R.
Rebecca R.
I love working with children, it's all I have ever wanted to do and have done for over 20 years, but dealing with families where I live and how the ads are losted by them, have made me consider new career options. :( It breaks my heart, but I get tired of being taken advantage of, treated like they are doing ME a favor by having hired me, and the lack of responses, and even when I get responses and interviews, the families failure to close off saddens me. I wish more families, at least where I live, showed more professionalism and more consideration, it's discouraging. It's been said many times, but we are held to such high standards and response times, families should be held to the same standards and accountabilities as we as caregivers are. And they are not. I left 2 jobs because I figured, when it got the point where I'm in tears after I leave each day, it just is not worth staying. I truly want to beleive there are good families here in my area, but the truth is, I don't believe it. Not anymore. The few kind words mean so little when the actions say different. If you cannot show me simple respect during the interview process, how am I to believe that I will be shown any if I am hired????
December 10, 2014 at 6:25 AM
Margaret H.
Margaret H.
Glad to know I'm not the only one encountering these situations....
November 9, 2014 at 2:34 PM
Jessica R.
Jessica R.
Wow, really love this article! I have nannied/babysat for years and my two recent families were very kind to me! I feel saddened by some of these rates they offer you guys.. I get $15-25 an hour depending on how many children I care for! My current family wrote down everything we agreed to such as paying me weekly and giving me gas money. It has worked out really well! And they tell me a day or two ahead of time if they are going to be late. The mother plans any activities she wants me to do with her kid and gives me the money to spend! So far its great!
I have also had worst families such as never paying me on time, asking me to bring change, telling me to clean the house ( and it was filthy), one time a family paid me less than what we agreed to, so I sent them a long text message nicely abiut our agreed rate and they gave it to me the next day!
Communication is teally the key to this job, make sure to write a contract agreeing to what your tasks are and how much you are going to get paid and you will attract better families! Good luck to all!

Loving nanny,
July 25, 2014 at 4:45 PM
Kayla A.
Kayla A.
All parents looking to hire a nanny should definitely read this. There's nothing worse than being on a salary and having the parents slowly add on additional tasks without paying more. Also, I never want to hear the phrase, "Well this is what we pay our daycare..." I am not a daycare!
June 17, 2014 at 9:08 AM
Lindsey R.
Lindsey R.
This is so right. I have had parents that forget that I'm a person.
June 16, 2014 at 3:55 PM
Stephanie B.
Stephanie B.
Hi Linda!

I'm Stephanie Breedlove with Care.com HomePay and I'll be happy to answer your question. You're absolutely right that nannies are required to be paid overtime if they work more than 40 hours in a 7-day workweek. The best way to approach the subject with the family is to politely inform them of the law. Don't come at it from the angle of "you owe me money," but rather explain to them that overtime laws exist to take care of hourly employees that are required to work longer hours than most other workers.
May 29, 2014 at 3:21 PM
Linda L.
Linda L.
Hello. I would like to find out how you discuss with a family the subject of overtime, I believe that if you work ove 40 jours a week that you are supposed to get time and a half for each hour over 40 is that
May 27, 2014 at 10:44 PM
Sue D.
Sue D.
I have always wanted to be able to get references on the parent from previous nanny. If parents can ask for theirs, we should be able to as well.
May 23, 2014 at 2:22 AM
Kim S.
Kim S.
I only apply to jobs that offer the pay I want. Also I only apply to jobs that I'm comfortable driving the distance. Most parents want the Nanny to have a reliable car for emergencies or to run kids to activities.

I want to comment about parents that work from home. Most if my experience has been positive. The parents stay in their office or come out and don't want the kids to see them as to not upset the kids. My last job was not that simple. The mother wanted to stay involved with raising her kids. Make sure you know that at the beginning. Be sure your personalities don't clash and you can handle criticism. I put up with it only because the job was for one year and I couldn't find anything else to go to.
March 1, 2014 at 10:29 AM
Erika L.
Erika L.
I have always enjoyed being a nanny. After, I left my job at a daycare I wasn't unemployed long and found a family to work for full time. I was excited. It w decent money and they seemed nice.

I have nannied before and have a great relationship with that other family and he children. However, this family has become an extremely stressful situation.

I have to disenfect every day. Not usually a problem with me, but they're extremely anal about it. They don't allow me to go anywhere. I work close to 50 hrs/ wk. they're afraid of germs with the kids (twins) who are 18 months old. I have to do the laundry, dishes and clean pretty much every room. I am doing things that a housekeeper would do.

I've done dishes and put new sheets on beds before but, it's never been like this. The father was concerned a few weeks ago because the children ate two hot dogs a piece?? What? So, they were hungry. I am so stressed by the time I leave and it's not a good feeling at all. They have never once said thank you or have a good day. They also put up a camera just because the kids had the flu after Christmas. They never had a cam with he previous nanny. I have this feeling and my parents too that the previous nanny left because she was in a similar situation.

I'm having problems getting people to respond to me because I want to leave my current position. I'm not sure what to tell perspective new families. But, I do know that I am done with this treatment.

I still babysit for my previous family after almost even years. They have twins too. Help...please?

February 1, 2014 at 12:09 PM
Rebecca R.
Rebecca R.
I wish I could say that my experiences have improved, but truth betold, they have not. I am looking to leave the p/t family I have worked with for nearly a year and a half. The mother just has no respect, and the children are mirroring her behavior... When I bring things up, like the innaproriate things the middle child says or the attitude, she always acts shocked and surprised. I have walked in to 3-4 days worth of dirty dishes, with food still on them! To me, parents need to be more clear about what they expect and what they truly want. With the job wizards being used, there are a lot of details being left out like distance concerns, what they mean by "light housekeeping", etc. To me, light housekeeping means cleaning up after the children while I am there, nto messes made when I am not, and not cleaning up after the entire family! I have even been expected to watch her friends kids, being told I will be paid extra... I ended up being paid an extra $10 at the end of the night as opposed to what it should have been. It boils down to communication. I am finding that a lto of families in my area do not want to communicate with their sitter/nanny. That lack of communication can create bitterness and resentment, but also down talking to your caregiver will also eventually cost you that "valued" caregiver.
November 25, 2013 at 7:56 PM
Kaitlyn W.
Kaitlyn W.
Really great article. My employer and I have a system, it works really well. She leaves a notepad with dinner instructions(what meal to prepare), and other errands that may need to be done that day, such as a run to the local library. I usually know ahead of time if she will be running a tad late, but sometimes if traffic is really heavy she will text me that she will be late. So far it has been a great system. And I am usually not upset if she is running late because I have nothing after work.
October 19, 2013 at 3:33 PM
Shannon T.
Shannon T.
@Trisha K. - I hope you have quit already. If not, do now and file for unemployment. You can make a case that you are qualified for it, in my (non-legal) opinion.

You deserve to be treated better than that and PAID better than that; it's not even minimum wage, which is required by law if you work more than 1,800 hours a year.

Best of luck!
September 17, 2013 at 6:42 PM

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