The following article was written by Glenda Propst with feedback and ideas
contributed by NAN’s online mailing group. (For those of you who are new to the Nanny industry: NAN was the National Association of Nannies, founded by Glenda Propst, Eva Harkness and the late Harriette Grant. It was the first organization run by and for nannies and operated from 1992-2005)
The NAN MEMBERS group still stays connected via their online forum.
Surviving the Challenges of a Difficult Position
|The nanny profession is challenging in even the best situations. We work and often live in our employers’ homes, so it’s easy to go from being a helper to being taken advantage of.
If you’ve never been through this yourself, you probably know someone who has. It can happen in many ways.
• The job that seemed perfect during the interview process suddenly turns into the 24/7 position you swore you would never take.
• The dual-career family suddenly becomes “mommy at home” and “nanny on duty.”
• You clean the house once because company is coming and the housekeeper is sick – the next thing you know, your employers have let the housekeeper go and you’ve been given a new responsibility.
• There are changes going on in your employer’s company. Suddenly you become the brunt of all frustration.
• Someone in the family is sick, and now you find yourself working longer hours with no compensation and no time to communicate.
• Construction on the house has you out of the kitchen and eating TV dinners five nights a week, and mom yells at you because the contractor is a neighbor.
• You enjoy being an in-control nanny – yet you suddenly find yourself doing it all, and doing it alone.
We asked a group of NAN members what their tips for surviving job challenges are, and they came up with a great list. You might want to refer to it the next time you reach the end of your professional rope.
1. Have a work agreement. This puts your duties in black and white, and it helps clarify confusion.
2. Ask the tough questions during the interview. Come to the interview prepared, and bring your list of questions. Be sure to take notes. Regarding Nannies has a list of Nitty Gritty Interview Questions here.
3. Remember: During the interview process it is just a question. Once you take the job, the question can become an issue – and issues are emotional.
4. Don’t assume. If something is on your mind, you need to communicate your thoughts to your employers.
5. When you need help, ask! Whether it’s for a day off, or for help with a birthday party or sick kids. Speak up!
6. Don’t start doing work you don’t want to do all the time. This is a tricky one, because sometimes you just do something you didn’t even think of.
7. Before assuming your employer is upset with you – ASK.
When you know you’ve messed up – apologize and explain.
Your employers will respect you for it.(Something good for the kids to see happening, too.)
8. Just as we try to give children options we can live with, do the same for your employers.
Be proactive and assertive.
Address problems with your employers as best you can.
Approach them in a professional manner.
Try to find solutions that can work for both of you.
Let them know you want changes but are willing to meet them half way.
9. Don’t stay for the children. We all get attached to our charges. It is extremely rare for a nanny to leave because of the children. Yet there comes a time when you must do what works best for you. If you have never read the Nanny Transitions Blog and you are in the process of leaving a family…you will find it very helpful.
10. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you are not sure about something. Ask other nannies.If you don’t know any nannies in your area, there are message boards online. You can ask a question on Nanny Island or Nanny Network. Both have a very helpful forum for nannies and Nanny Networks forum includes parents as well. Consult with an agency. This is especially important for rookie nannies. It takes time to learn, and a veteran nanny can help.
11. Remember: Your charges are not your own children. You are there to do a job.
12. A nanny must learn to pick her battles with employers. If the good outweighs the bad, then stay. Some things come with the territory. This is where asking questions can help.
13. Vent your frustrations in healthy, productive ways, and you will learn new ways to alleviate stress on the job. Always have a phone buddy, someone you can talk to if things get out of hand. That way, you can blow off steam before you say something you don’t mean to your employers.
14. Update your resume and bio letter every six months – no matter what your work situation. While you hope things will go smoothly with your employers, you must prepare yourself for the worst. A positive written evaluation (signed and dated by both your charge’s parents) can be worth its weight in gold if your
15. Look out for yourself and your emotional well-being.
16. If you’ve tried talking but nothing changes, if they say they will change but they don’t, or if things keep getting worse, start looking for another job.
17. Sometimes we nannies grow to love the families we work for as our own. That can make it really hard to leave them. However, when it comes right down to it, most families will look out for their own needs in a situation like this. It is necessary – and it is your responsibility – to take care of and protect yourself.
18. If all else fails: Quitting a job does NOT make you a failure.
19. Talk to the parents about who will tell the children you’re leaving, and how it will be done. Never take it upon yourself to tell the children unless the parents know and agree to you doing it.
20. Let the children know they are not at fault for your decision to leave – even if you are leaving because of a conflict with them. Kids should not have to feel guilt over a grown-up’s decision.
21. Again: Be sure to have written evaluations. (Re-read #18!)
22. Have a back-up plan. If you give notice and your employers release you early, know beforehand where you’ll go.
23. Save money. Put aside some earnings each week for an emergency.
24. If you leave a job under unpleasant circumstances, always take the high road. You will never regret it because it preserves your integrity and enhances you as a professional. You will never have to look back and say, “Gee, I am so sorry I took the high road,” but you might look back and say, “I am truly sorry I was so nasty during those final days on the job.”
25. Don’t be intimidated by employers who try to scare you into staying. Do not fall for it. One or more of these tips might work for you if you are in the middle of a tough job. Even if you are settled into a good job, you might want to tighten and tone your professionalism by adopting one or more of these failsafe habits into your working policy.
Remember: taking care of your career is your professional responsibility, no matter how difficult the task.