Thursday, April 16, 2015

...The Reality of the Diva Nanny

Diva nannies do exist. There are nannies out there trying to see how much they can get...nannies who try to push limits and abuse a good family's generosity.

BUT the reality of the diva nanny is they are the minority in America. A week ago Jane Ridley wrote a pretty bias article in the New York Post called The Rise of the Diva Nanny. After reading the article I couldn't keep my fingers from typing a rebuttal. One that hopefully will not leave the reader with the opinion that all nannies are money hungry, A-list celebrity wanna-bee's, who are expecting their employer to provide sushi and spas days.

The Truth? Most nannies are just trying to make a comparable income to the average working class employee (granted Jane's article address the families to the Upper East Side of NY but let’s broaden our topic to cover the nannies of America).  Most nannies are trying to support themselves and their families by doing something that they love - hanging out with babies and kids. Most nannies do enjoy perks that their employer offers and gladly accept them, just like any other employee would in their field of work.

Being a nanny there are generally some good perks like enjoying sunny days outside, getting to sight see as a job, going to museums/parks, traveling to new places for next to nothing, maybe even enjoying a beach vacation and driving around a fancy car. Jane insinuates one perk is “They’ll (bosses) buy them (nannies) country club memberships to use with their friends on weekends and lend them credit cards.” The truth is that if a family belongs to a club they often will add their nanny onto the membership so he/she can take their charges to lessons, classes, and social events for the family. Using the family credit card to pay for gas to transport the charges, food to feed them, and extras that the parents want the kids to have. The perk is when the nanny is also allowed to use this membership when she is off the clock.

You know the saying “too good to be true”? Apply that to any nanny perk out there. Yes a nanny may get to enjoy a non-alcoholic beverage while soaking up the sun on the beach one minute but the very next they may be running to the restroom to hold back a sick little girl's hair. A nanny may get excited to drive around a car way above her means but while she is being chauffeur for the 3 kids in the back seat. There may be a free weekend that a nanny gets to use the country club membership her nanny family has but only after a long summer of wrangling her charges at the club.

Usually when a job has such high perks there are also draw backs. For a nanny it can be long days, inconsistent schedules, low pay, or minimal benefits. Other draw backs come in the form of the parents - I hate to say it but it's true. Rarely do I head a nanny complain about their charges; often I hear complaints about the parents.

Let me say it again; the vast majority of nannies I have talked to LOVE their charges and take care of them in the same manor they would their own children. The struggles come in with bosses. IT IS NOT every boss and TOTALLY NOT every day but there are some key problems that are way too common for a professional work environment.

The one problem that is a game changer in any floundering parent-nanny relationship is COMMUNICATION! Parent you cannot communicate enough with your nanny!

Jo-Jo*, a full-time nanny, found out that her “4 year old is a special needs child. They NEVER mentioned that in the interview/hiring process (only that he had speech delays). I have never worked with special needs before...”

Lucy*, another full-time nanny, talks about the double standard in her boss’s communication “I am expected to respond to parent’s texts and phone calls immediately, regardless if I am on or off the clock. However, it can take hours or even days for a parent to get back to me. This can be very difficult as I try to plan other things around my work schedule. I am asked, or told, to stay late at a moment’s notice, never asked if I have other plans I may need to attend to after work. I often am unsure when I will be done working for the day, as lack of communication continues it causes these issues.” 

Lucy shares another story “I was hired in the beginning of the summer for an hourly rate that we both agreed on. Three months later and one week before school started, the parents told me they were decreasing my pay by $3.00 an hour because the older child would be at school part of the day. I was extremely disappointed that they waited so long to have this conversation with me. It gave me no time to decide if I needed to find another job that paid me what I needed to financially support myself. This decrease in pay was never discussed in the hiring process; I was blindsided by it.”   

Amy* mentions poor communication from her boss is downright rude “There are many, many times that my mother-boss will tell me she will be home at 5 pm. 5:05 comes around and she texts me saying she will be here at 6pm. No notice ahead of time and honestly no question if it's possible for me to stay. I'm just forced to say yes and I do. I also get no warning if she doesn't need me a certain day until basically 15 minutes before the allotted time I am supposed to be there! After I already have gotten ready, packed my things and was headed out the door!”

Amy’s story is too common. Time and time again I hear a nanny say that her bosses are running late. Day after day. As long as a nanny has notice they usually don’t mind staying an extra hour or two, especially if they are paid hourly. It is the last minute notice – which assumes the nanny does not have plans after work. In almost any other job if you are asked to stay late but have a doctor’s appointment you can generally say no and leave. As a nanny if the parent texts you that they are running late you have to stay, you are literally stuck at the mercy of the parents schedule.

Another big issue among nannies is RESPECTing the position of a nanny as a professional job. Nannies are not hired help, babysitters, or a family member who is doing you a favor. Nannies are professionals with a slightly unconventional office. But it is an office. Jane mentioned in her article that a parent felt trapped "she knew that we needed her more than she needed us". This is something that both the employer and employee feel. As much as the parent may be afraid to communicate or not offer a benefit because they need a nanny - the nanny is just as hesitant to communicate and ask for benefits for fear of being fired. Nanny Lucy compares a big difference from a corporate world to a  nanny world when dealing with disagreements "as nannies, we are often put in uncomfortable and awkward positions, as there is no HR to go to if we need to discuss any issues. We must decide what to do all on our own".

In the article "The Rise of the Diva Nanny" the one thing that rand really clear was that the parents/bosses were not feeling appreciated for what they were offering to  the nanny/potential  nanny. No matter what field of work a person is in, APPRECIATION is the motivation to keep great relationships.

Myra*, part-time nanny, tells us her story: "often, nannies find these types of situations difficult: a mom hovering over everything, little freedom to do your job, and babies that make you feel crazy at times. The difference for me was that I had incredible bosses. They recognized the value of having someone qualified and dedicated to care for the children they wanted to badly, and they never took me for granted. Most importantly, they knew what a great, often frustrating, and sometimes downright hard task it is to raise children. The had no misconceptions that they could do it alone and were gracious beyond expectations toward those who joined the "village" by which their children were supported. And it made me a netter nanny. Not only did I feel appreciated, I knew it, and it drove me to be the best nanny I could be for them. Yes, I was an employee, but I was valued and cared for. I was firm in my expectations for fair compensation, and was rewarded with so much more".

Myra comment to me "I just think it is important to remember that there are bosses out there who properly value their nannies and diva free situations exits". When articles like Jane's are published and the nanny proffesion is belittled it hard for us to not want to back lash. Myra hits it right on the head, diva free situations can and do exist - more often than not. These situations require that both nanny and parent have mutual respect and appreciation for the difference roles they play in their children's lives. Communication must be open, honest, and clear - without fear of immediate firing or quitting happening.

Instead of having articles that pit parent against nanny - we need to post and publish articles that share how great and wonderful the parent/nanny relationship can be when well cared for.

*All names have been changed to protect the identity of the nanny.

ceconner© 4.16.2015

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