I’ve been wanting to write an article on this for a while, but to be honest, I was hesitant to do so because I was worried about how the readers would receive it. The majority of Nanny Counsel’s following is made up of nannies, which makes sense, since it is a Nanny Advocacy Blog. However, I am also a family advocate and I certainly do not believe that nannies can do no wrong. Both sides are capable of taking advantage and being unreasonable in the nanny-family relationship.
So, let’s talk about entitled nannies. The term “entitled” has probably already put a bunch of nannies on the defense. No one wants to be called entitled. But the reality is, I regularly witness what I like to call “entitled nannies”. These nannies are so “above” everything, that they cannot be bothered to do ANYTHING outside of their job description, or my favorite, they want the benefits of guaranteed hours, but then complain when actually having to work all of those hours. Now you might say… “Wait a minute, aren’t you always telling us to be careful of job creep and to explicitly detail all job roles/expectations in a nanny contract?” Yes, I absolutely do say this and still stand by this, however, like everything in life, this cannot be accepted as a hard and fast rule. By that I mean, there is a difference between helping out to be nice and being taken advantage of. For some people, walking that fine line between helping out while also having firm boundaries so as to not get taken advantage of, is difficult. In fact, it was at one time very difficult for me. This is a skill I have learned over time and it required a lot of practice. In my experience, I have found that the best nannies have mastered the art of walking this fine line.
So without further ado, these are the most common ways I see nannies acting entitled:
- GUARANTEED HOURS. Nannies are the first to point out when parents misunderstand guaranteed hours, but I consistently encounter nanny after nanny who do not understand how guaranteed hours actually work. Oftentimes nannies want all of the benefits without any of the responsibilities. In exchange for receiving guaranteed hours, nannies MUST offer guaranteed availability. This means, if a nanny has guaranteed hours and their nanny family goes out of town and chooses not to take them with, unless the family explicitly states the nanny has the week off and is free to do what they want (which, in my experience, happens more often than not), the nanny should be prepared to work. All too often I see nannies complaining about how it’s not fair they still have to work, even though their nanny family is out of town. The reality is, it doesn’t matter if the family is out of town and there are no kids to care for, there are still things a nanny may be asked to do in order to fulfill the hours that they are guaranteed to be paid for. Basically, anything that falls under the nanny’s normal contracted job description and within the nanny's normal work hours, is fair game. These tasks most commonly include (note: I said "most commonly". This does not mean every nanny has agreed to the following responsibilities in their contract): child laundry, grocery shopping, organizing kid closets/drawers, sorting through old clothes/toys and posting online to sell, organizing the playroom, disinfecting all the toys in the house, deep cleaning the car seat or high chair, etc. In addition to a nanny's normal responsibilities, it is not unreasonable for a family to ask a few other things from their nanny outside their typical child-related job roles, such as bringing in the mail, taking care of the pet (if staying overnight or if expected to provide care outside of the nanny's normally scheduled hours, there should be additional pay for this), and taking out the trash/recycling. These small extras for when a family is out of town should only be expected if they were discussed upon hire and agreed to in the contract. Some nannies may balk at agreeing to do small, one time tasks that fall outside their job description as a nanny, but in my professional and personal opinion, helping out with stuff like this and being flexible within reason, is a part of the give and take that is essential in a successful nanny-family relationship.
- GETTING OFF EARLY. I cannot tell you how many times I see nannies complaining about their boss getting home early, but then not relieving them. Unless the parents told you that you would be getting off early, I do not understand why so many nannies complain about this. You are scheduled until a certain time, and a parent coming home early shouldn’t change that. Sometimes nannies do get to go home early; and it’s nice when parents can surprise their nanny with this, because nannies work long days. However, nannies should not expect to get off early just because the parents arrive home before their scheduled end time. Maybe a parent wants to relax after their long day at work, before getting back to work taking care of their kids. Maybe a parent came home early so they could get dinner going, while their nanny keeps the kids occupied. Is it really so hard to work the schedule you agreed to (and are paid to work)? I also see nannies complain when their boss comes home and has shopping bags in tow or is sporting a fresh pedicure. *GASP* How dare they get off work early and pamper themselves while I’m stuck here doing the job I am paid to do! For some reason nannies often think that instead of going to the mall or getting a pedicure, their boss should have come home to relieve them and let them go home early. What?! As nannies, we have no say in how parents choose to spend the time they are PAYING us for. The only real issue I see with parents coming home early and not relieving their nanny, is if parents habitually arrive home early, and then disrupt the nanny’s day by doing so (i.e., they consistently interfere with and undermine the nanny’s routine, the kids start throwing tantrums because mommy is home, etc). When this frequently happens, nannies can get frustrated, and rightfully so. But if that’s not the case and it’s simply a matter of the parent getting home early and sitting in their car talking on the phone for 30 minutes before coming inside, then so be it.
- THAT’S NOT IN MY JOB DESCRIPTION. Nannies, there is a big difference between helping out to be nice and being taken advantage of. By this I mean, I occasionally do things outside of my job description (i.e., dinner dishes from the night before. Also, keyword: occasionally. I'm not talking about being some "I never sit down and take a break" supernanny. Please take breaks -- you need them otherwise you will burn out. In fact, read THIS article which details just how much I think nannies deserve to rest). I also treat my nanny family’s home as if it were my own. For example, even though it’s not in my job description, if the dog has an accident while I’m on the clock, you bet I clean it up (unless it is a very consistent, recurring issue — then I would speak with my employers about hiring a dog trainer). I would never dream of leaving something like that for my employers to take care of when they get home. I would also never dream of allowing their rug to get stained/ruined simply because this task is outside my job description. I take as much pride in the home I work in, if not more, as my nanny family does. I recently learned about a nanny who refused to bring packages inside when it was raining, because it was not in her job description. When the family confronted her about it (because the packages got ruined), she stood firm that it’s not her responsibility to bring in packages, and since no one asked her to do it, she chose to leave them outside. She was fired. That may sound like a harsh consequence, but I honestly don’t think it was. By purposely not bringing in the packages, she very clearly let her nanny family know that she will literally never do anything extra, even if it means allowing their personal property to get damaged. Families are looking for a nanny who can pitch in when needed.
When I pitch in with extras, I do it to be nice — I firmly believe there is a natural give and take in a healthy nanny-family relationship. I’m not worried about being taken advantage of, because I have clear and healthy communication with my nanny family. This is something I take ownership of. It does not matter if my nanny family is good at communicating or not — as my own advocate, I have practiced and prioritized learning how to communicate well (even when it has caused me anxiety). I make it a point to not allow a nanny family take advantage of my kindness. For example, my job roles are very clearly listed in my contract, but if I choose to do something outside of my contracted job responsibilities and suddenly job creep occurs and my nanny family expects me to always do it (aka, I feel the "give and take" in our relationship has become unbalanced), I simply address it with them. This is something so many nannies struggle with. I often hear nannies say they don’t want to “stir the pot”. Here’s a helpful tip: professionally advocating for yourself is not stirring the pot. If your contract (even if just a verbal contract) doesn't state certain responsibilities, yet your nanny family has come to expect you to do them without compensating fairly for those additional responsibilities, you bringing it up will make them aware and most likely they will make changes so they don't lose you! Nannies always assume if they speak up, there will be a negative outcome, such as losing their job or something. I have NEVER lost a job when speaking up about these kinds of things — the families were much more worried about losing me if they didn't quickly make changes on their end to reflect the contract/job we agreed upon, or they realized this was a task they needed me to take on and thus we renegotiated our contract. I understand confrontation is uncomfortable and that there is a risk of getting fired, but more often than not, getting terminated is not the outcome of professionally communicating with your employers. Furthermore, if a family does let you go for professionally and respectfully communicating with them, it says a lot about their character and the type of employers they are, and they are likely not people you want to work for anyway. As nannies, most of us are our own HR Department, so it is imperative we to learn how to communicate with our employers and advocate for ourselves.
- I’M A NEW NANNY, BUT YOU BETTER BELIEVE I CHARGE TOP DOLLAR. Okay, so this one is a major pet peeve of mine and since Nanny Counsel does nanny placements, I see this sort of thing all the time. There are far too many nannies out there who only have babysitting experience or only have a couple years of nanny experience under their belt, yet expect to be paid $20-$25+/hour. I understand that $20/hour may be standard for babysitters in some markets, but generally speaking, making over $20/hour in a nanny position, is considered a professional rate. To all the “nannies” out there who only have teenage babysitting experience — why are you applying to agencies stating your rate is $25/hour? Nannying is just like any other career — you start at the bottom and work your way up — you don’t just waltz in and make over $20/hour. If you’re new to nannying and only have babysitting experience (even if you have 10 years of babysitting experience!), research the going rates in your area and expect to be paid on the low end. In fact, in order to secure your first official nanny job, you may even need to take a job for a couple dollars below the going rate. Does it suck? Ya. But if you work hard and really take pride in being a nanny, it is possible to move up the ladder very quickly. I know this from personal experience because after just 5 years of nannying, I more than doubled my income.
So what’s the takeaway? Basically, don’t be an entitled nanny. Be a hard worker and learn to advocate for yourself. Don’t complain about having to do the job you signed up to do. Be flexible and reasonable. Know your worth and charge rates that are commensurate with your experience and qualifications. And most importantly be the kind of nanny you would want to hire for your own family.