Saying Goodbye: A Nanny's Perspective


As a nanny, saying goodbye to a family is one of the most stressful and difficult things to do. Because the nanny-family relationship is both professional and personal, it's emotionally very hard to give notice. It can even be difficult when the nanny has every right to quit due to mistreatment and/or being taken advantage of. I say this with personal experience. Quitting my nanny jobs has NEVER been easy and I've cried just about every time I've done it.

This article is not going to be about how to properly give notice (we will cover that in the near future though), but rather, what it feels like for the nanny when giving this notice and how the parents' responses to this notice can either positively or negatively impact everyone involved.

In my many years as a nanny, I've had more positive experiences than negative when giving notice. That's not to say the positive experiences weren't difficult, but through the tears, I maintained a close relationship with both the parents and the kids for years to come. That being said, I've had other experiences that are quite the opposite. Experiences where the family was so devastated to lose me, that they took it out on me AND more importantly, their children. You see, when you ban your nanny from ever being a part of your life simply because they quit, you are not only hurting your nanny, but you are hurting your kids. Not letting your kids say goodbye? Not letting your nanny say goodbye? It's cruel. And it's not healthy. Wouldn't it be better for your kids to learn that sometimes people have to move on, but it doesn't change how much that person loves them? That they aren't being abandoned? Because what else are your kids to feel when suddenly, without warning or any real reason, their nanny never contacts them again? They feel abandoned. Sure, a nanny might have to leave due to a variety of reasons, but the kids aren't one of them. The kids should NEVER be punished for a nanny moving on to another chapter in their life.

If I'm being honest, I'm mostly shocked when this happens with healthy parent-nanny relationships. Or at least ones I thought were decently healthy. It usually goes like this:

I give my notice and explain why I'm moving on (usually it's due to a life change or sometimes, a career opportunity I can't turn down). I always give at least one month's notice so I make sure I do things properly on my end. I sit down with the family and have the difficult conversation. There are tears. The family searches and begs to find a way to keep me. I'm heartbroken. Even if I'm leaving due to mistreatment, I am still heartbroken because I'm attached to the kids. But I have to move on. I'm moving to another state or I've decided to start grad school or the job just isn't the right fit -- so I'm firm that this is my one month's notice and I will do everything I can to help them find a new nanny and train them. I then go home after having a very emotional meeting with my nanny family. The next day I go into work (before the kids are up) and am told to turn in my keys, credit card, zoo pass, etc. I am told I am no longer needed and to go home. What? A minute ago you were begging me to stay  because that's how much you value me, and now you want nothing to do with me? I gave you my all for 2 years and became a part of your family, and this is it? I gave you proper notice and adhered to everything in our contract, but that's not good enough? Suddenly it's all professional and not personal at all? I understand you are hurt, but is this really the best way to handle this situation -- by hurting someone else, including your kids? I then call my mom crying and say "But they were like my second family! I can't believe this is happening. I feel sick."

This, sadly, is just one example of many. I was prompted to write this article because I've witnessed a lot of nannies lately getting treated like this after properly giving notice. The family is so offended that their nanny would even dream of leaving, that they toss them to the curb, acting like there's no personal relationship there whatsoever. Sometimes a family even refuses to pay their nanny for the month's notice they gave, and the nanny suddenly has no income. It is absolutely devastating to a nanny when this happens. And if I'm being completely honest, one of the reasons it's so stressful to give notice to a family is because of this very reason. Sure, I'm stressed because I know it's going to be a shock and I know they love me and will want to keep me, but mostly I'm stressed because I have no idea how they are going to take it. Will this relationship we have continue or will it immediately cease to exist simply because it was time for me to move on?  Will I still get to see the kids I love so dearly or will I not even get to say goodbye after 3 long years of raising them and helping them reach milestones? Will I be able to use the family as a reference or will there be a gap in my employment that I have to explain because even though I wasn't fired, in fact I was begged to stay, the parents refuse to have contact with me and give me a reference. Out of spite. Out of resentment. Out of hurt.

I understand that losing a good nanny is very difficult and can evoke a lot of hurt and resentment. That's okay and normal. It's important, however, to really think before you act and make sure you're not acting out of that hurt and resentment. It's important to recognize that just like you, your nanny may need to move on, even if it's just for a different nanny job with significantly higher pay which you cannot match. While upsetting, you should be happy for your nanny! You should be happy that your nanny is moving up in the world and achieving their goals. Just like you would be happy if one day your kids got a promotion or were offered a better opportunity with another company. As nannies we are here for you and your family, but we also have to think about ourselves. That's not selfish -- it's smart and it's healthy. And I'm sure it's exactly how you want your kids to be when they grow up and enter the workforce.

PS. - Thank you to all the families I've worked for who have supported and continue to support my dreams and aspirations. To those who have encouraged me to take that higher paying job or to move out of state because it's an exciting opportunity for me. And to my current nanny family who is so supportive of this blog that they have reduced my hours so I have the time to really run with Nanny Counsel and see where it goes. Thank you to all of you for believing in me and for loving me enough to let me go.