Posted ByTiffany Smith
What makes nannies want to resign? And how can both nannies and parents help prevent that from happening?
Challenges are inevitable in any job, but being a nanny often takes those trials to new heights. And sometimes nannies and families have to part ways.
But parting is never easy.
"The most challenging experience any of us handle as nannies is leaving a family," says Glenda Propst, a Missouri-based nanny of 30 years and founder of nannytransitions.com. "When you spend years of your life loving, caring for and nurturing a child, you fall in love with that child."
We asked nannies on Care.com's Facebook page why they quit jobs. Here's what they said, and how both families and nannies can help prevent these situations:
- Demanding Workload and Hours
"Too many hours, not enough pay -- also super unappreciated. A lot of times in nanny jobs, parents seriously take advantage of your time." ~ Kara M.
When a parent frequently comes home late without notice or asks a live-in nanny to pitch in during "off hours," a nanny may feel like she's constantly hounded by work. Or, worse, that her privacy isn't valued.
Parents need to respect a child care provider's time off. If they need her to come earlier or stay later, give advance notice.
And if you don't have one already, create a nanny contract. It spells out hours, responsibilities and pay rates so that everyone is on the same page about what is expected and when.
- Changing Responsibilities
"I worked for a family that hired me on as nanny, which turned out to be housekeeper/nanny. I had to clean to a seven bedroom home, plus take care of everyone else." ~ Christina M.
"Caring for a child is the most amazing thing," says Larissa Neilson, nanny of 13 years and author of The LA Nanny Book. "But it can be tiring, even more so if you are in charge of household duties, such as cleaning, cooking and laundry."
Duties -- and preference on the way these duties are accomplished -- must be outlined beforehand. "I will make very clear from the beginning that I am a nanny and that the child will be my priority," says Neilson. "However, I will commit to help (with) laundry, cleaning and cooking only for the child."
Whenever changes or additions in duties arise, parents should consult the nanny first to see if she's comfortable with a new workload. And of course, pay extra.
- Wage Issues
"Families don't always understand that this is our livelihoods. It's only fair that we get paid holidays and vacation. We pay taxes and insurance just like they do. In most cases it makes their lives easier." ~ Jeannine A.
Disagreement about wages is a standard reason why people part ways. Nannies want to be paid fairly for the work they do, but parents may be trying to stretch a budget or may not realize what a fair rate is, that they have to pay overtime or that they should give their nanny a raise.
Unfortunately, there are nanny-employer relationships that aren't following best practices. Ashley*, an Oregon-based nanny who recently terminated a four-year live-in relationship with her employer due to salary issues, says "I was working over 40 hours a week with no contracts and zero benefits. Often I would be told in just a week's notice that they were taking my charges for a week-long vacation, and I would be unpaid the whole time!"
Again, always make sure you have a contract signed by both parties prior to hiring. "Starting a job without a work agreement is a recipe for an unhappy ending," explains Propst. "(It) states what your pay is and what your responsibilities and benefits are. Don't work for a family that is not going to pay your taxes."
To learn more, read this article on nanny taxes.
- Cabin Fever and Homesickness
Being cooped up in someone else's house for long hours every day, with almost no adult interactions is a recipe for cabin fever. "I've worked with nannies who were never allowed to drive the kids anywhere," shares Neilson. "Nannies are sometimes socially isolated 40 or 50 hours a week caring for the children. We have very little social life."
And if you're a live-in nanny, it can feel even more isolating. "When your workplace is also your living space, it's hard to feel like you have time off unless you make a point of leaving when you are off duty," Propst notes.
Parents should encourage activities that allow nannies to establish social circles and gain new experiences while on duty, like taking the kids for a walk at the local park, zoo, museum or playground, and joining playgroups. Or nannies should suggest these outings as a way of helping children learn and practice socializing.
Neilson points out that in order to gain their family's trust, nannies should exude confidence from day one. This will help parents feel more comfortable with allowing some flexibility in their nanny's activities and destinations, and will prevent the nanny from feeling secluded.
- A Change in Personal Life
"I was working a wonderful job, but sharing a car with my best friend. My friend got another job where our schedules collided and I had to quit mine because I no longer had a way to work." ~ Marissa B.
When life-changing personal circumstances, such as an engagement, marriage, returning to school, loss of transportation or illness arise, nannies are sometimes forced to relocate and quit -- unless an agreement where they can attend to both their personal and work relationships is reached.
- Different Child Care Philosophies
"I gave notice on a job where I completely disagreed with the parents' child-rearing philosophy (they refused to child proof their home and I was concerned for the baby's safety)." ~ Ro H.
All parents prefer that their own values and belief systems on child rearing are taken into account by their nanny. However, hiring a nanny also means trusting her skills and giving her the freedom to take charge of minor details.
- Unappreciated Efforts
"I was taken advantage of too many times to count. Plus, I was extremely underpaid. I felt very unappreciated. I stuck it out for over three years because I loved those babies too much." ~ Sherri H.
It may be paid work, but caring for children takes heart, commitment and sometimes, compromises. Parents should recognize a nanny's efforts from time to time, especially on occasions like birthdays or National Nanny Recognition Week.
"No matter how busy parents are, they can always say 'thank you.' Saying thanks can sometimes make a terrible day fabulous!" Neilson explains.
"I was working picking up a child from school and dropping him off wherever he needed to be. I showed up to the school multiple times when the child was out sick -- the parents never contacted me and would never respond to my efforts at communicating." ~ Colby H.
A nanny-parent relationship involves two parties with different backgrounds coming together with a shared goal of successfully raising children. Without clear and constant communication, disappointment and resentment are likely.
"If you don't have good communication and mutual respect, chances are high that the job is not going to last very long. Say the words. Your employer can't read your mind," Propst advises.
Set up a daily two-minute meeting at the end of every day to go over things that happened that day. And at the end of the week or every other week, have a longer meeting where you discuss how things are going and any issues that may have arisen.
Learn about these 5 Real Caregiver Relationship Problems, Solved.
For this relationship to work, it's important for everyone to create an atmosphere of respect, trust and openness. Propst and Neilson agree that without these important values, nanny-family relationships will eventually fail. Looking for a new job or a new nanny is not easy. If the relationship isn't working, you need to move on. But you should try to salvage it first.
*Name has been changed
Tiffany Smith has written for All You, Time for Kids and the Boston Globe. Follow her on Twitter at @tiffanyiswrite.