When I worked as a private nanny, I looked after some truly wonderful children and was hired by some amazing parents.
However, like so many nannies before me, I was also the victim of many parenting faux pas that made me question my commitment to the family and had me searching for new opportunities.
It's a very strange situation when you work in someone else's home. You find yourself facing boundary issues all the time. Nannies see and hear things that they have to pretend they didn't. I have my own stories, but I spoke to a range of nannies and childcare providers about their worst working experiences and found some common themes. Here are a few things your nanny wishes you knew:
1. Your nanny isn't trying to replace you
Suzie, a career nanny from Boston, has cared for children for the last 24 years. She says one jealous mom was responsible for the worst working experience of her life.
"I was caring for a toddler and she really took to me. One day she accidently called me 'mommy.' Her mother, my boss, went crazy and accused me of telling the child to call me that. After that she was so passive aggressive, it turned into a very toxic environment."
Suzie's boss started to complain that things were missing around the house, before firing her and threatening to report her to the police for the "theft." She was a live-in nanny, so along with her job, she also lost her home, security, and her benefits.
"All because the mother was jealous that her little girl liked me," Suzie says.
2. Nannies are sometimes blackmailed
Live-in nannies seem to be especially susceptible to abuses of power by parent employers, especially if they are also facing a language or cultural barrier. Francesca, a German national, was employed by a Canadian family in Toronto and found they constantly used her immigration status as a way to control her behavior and movements. When she arrived her initial contract was only for childcare, but the parents kept asking her to do more and more housework, cleaning, and cooking.
"To keep my au pair status, I had to work a certain number of hours. If I didn't do something the parents wanted me to do they would cut my hours. They canceled my agreed upon vacation with 24 hours notice because 'something came up.' I was always terrified that I would lose my job and be sent home, ruining all my travel plans."
3. Your nanny is an employee, not part of your family
Many childcare providers complain that parents don't treat them like employees. This can seem like a friendly arrangement and parents will often say their nanny is "one of the family." However, too often, that means they simply take advantage of their caregiver, as Emma found.
"I worked for a couple, caring for their three kids. The father ran his own dental practice, the mother was a lawyer, they had a beautiful house and three brand new cars. They never once paid me on time."
Good nannies are worth their weight in gold (in fact, Forbes found some New York nannies command salaries as high as $200,000 a year). But they'll only provide their excellent services if you pay them well and on time.
4. Nannies know when you're skimping on supplies
When parents choose a private daycare provider they are often expected to provide supplies such as diapers and wipes. But some parents, knowing the daycare already has supplies for other children will conveniently "forget" to pack essentials. As Marie (not her real name), from Ontario, Canada, discovered during an overnight shift.
"The parents didn't send diapers for their children for a 23-hour shift!" she says.
Marie encountered further problems with this family when one of the children had an asthma attack in the middle of the night and she realized they hadn't packed her inhaler. When she called the parents, they simply didn't answer. Marie explains that they ended up taking the children out of her care.
"They sent the agency a complaint that I stressed them out too much with my 'problems.'"
5. Your nanny deserves to be communicated with
A lack of information led Shirley, who has been a nanny for 15 years and lives in Utah, to quit her latest post when the parents took poor communication to the next level:
"My hours were 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. At 9 p.m. when they hadn't returned, I was pacing the floors, imagining they had an accident. They weren't responding to my calls and I was really panicking."
It turned out they had simply decided to go for dinner after work and "forgot" to inform their nanny.
"They got home at 11.30 p.m. I quit on the spot. If they don't respect my time, they don't respect me."
You don't have to be a mind reader to know what your nanny wants. You need to simply consider how you would like to be treated by your employer, and then extend the same gratitude forward. To ensure that both parties are being treated fairly, parents and nannies need to agree to and sign a comprehensive contract. It should cover all policies and rules on every aspect of family life. It should also include information about wages, hours, vacation, sick days, tax information, and emergency procedures.
Communicate honestly and frequently with your nanny but never in front of the children. And make regular times to connect and review your working arrangement.
After all, a happy nanny leads to happy kids — and that's what everyone wants.