Why do nannies quit?
We cannot seem to keep a nanny more than six months before they leave for another job. What can we do to get more stability?
Why do some families seem to have one nanny after another, and another family might have the same nanny for five or more years? Is it poor screening, poor supervision and communication, horrible kids, or some combination of these factors?
Top Ten Reasons Nannies Quit
10. ISOLATION: This can be a problem for both live in and live out nannies – however the nature of the problem can be different. Occasionally a family hires a nanny and either outright forbids the nanny to leave the home with the child or will only approve on a case by case basis. Some will even refuse to allow a walk with the stroller around the neighborhood. A nanny who is required to spend 8 – 10 hours a day inside the family’s home will not stay long. Nannies look forward to taking a walk with the baby on a nice day, perhaps walking with another neighborhood nanny or at-home mom, chatting, enjoying the interaction. Toddlers look forward to spending an hour exploring the local playground. Criminals get sentenced to house arrest – please don’t do this to your child’s caregiver.
A live in nanny, especially one who has relocated for the job, must have the opportunity and means (transportation) to establish a social life outside the home. Generally a live in nanny who does not have reliable access to a vehicle in the evenings and weekends will not stay long.
9. LACK OF RECOGNITION: Nanny spends long hours with your children, with little interaction with other adults. The weekly cleaning crew many be the only other adults she sees in a work day, and they don’t speak the same language. Parents who are so preoccupied with the demands of their own careers and lives that they forget to express appreciation for the nanny often find themselves without a nanny unexpectedly. Words really do matter.
8. FAMILY DYSFUNCTION: Where to start? Parents constantly fighting in front of the kids and nanny. Dad makes sexually inappropriate comments to nanny. Junior runs wild and Mom refuses to allow time outs, loss of privileges, or any other age-appropriate discipline – “Kids will be kids.” Alcohol abuse, physical abuse, emotional instability… any and all of these in a household can cause a nanny to quit.
7. MICRO MANAGEMENT: (SAHM and WAHM) When one or both parents spend a considerable amount of time at home while nanny is on duty problems often develop unless steps are taken up front to establish boundaries. Nanny may be reluctant to act with authority (“Nap time, Junior. Let’s pick up the toys and wash up and we can read a story before you take your nap”) when a reluctant Junior runs whining to Mom in her home-office. Nanny may resent micro management – “I always wash the breakfast dishes before getting Junior in his clothes for the day” (Does it really matter?) or nanny cuts the sandwich in triangles and Mom suggests square quarters are preferred (Huh?).
6. EXPENSES: These fall into 3 broad categories – petty cash, transportation, and travel.
Nanny receives $20 petty cash each week. Junior buys school lunch and needs $2 a day. The field trip costs $5. Then there is no milk in the fridge and Junior asks for toaster waffles for tomorrow’s breakfast so nanny runs to the market while he is at school. The paperboy is collecting and needs $15 for the month. Before she knows it nanny has spent $20 of her own money for her boss.
Nanny is told that Junior is starting pre-school three mornings a week and needs to be dropped off and picked up – a 12 mile a day round trip. Nanny has a her own car and is expected to use it. No mention is made of mileage reimbursement. Nanny asks family for reimbursement and they offer her $10 a week for gas – or worse, nothing!
Family is taking a vacation and nanny is to come and help. The destination is wonderful. Beaches, soft breezes, oh and nanny is working (or must be available) every day from the time the kiddos wake up until they nod off to sleep. Nanny is sharing the room with the kiddos – if she wants her own room she needs to pay for it. And family generally takes the children for meals, leaving nanny to her own devices (and cost). Let’s see – longer hours, no days off, and the expense of resort meals. This doesn’t sound like such a treat to the nanny!
5. TAXES: Nanny is hired for $500 per week. The first pay day she receives $460. She asks and you explain that you talked to your accountant and are deducting taxes. Oh. And then at the end of the year nanny gets her W-2 form and has her taxes done. She finds out she owes $1500 in income taxes and comes to you with questions. “You said you were deducting taxes – why do I owe so much to the IRS? Why does my W-2 say that you deducted no income taxes?” You explain that you were only deducting Social Security taxes because that is all your accountant told you was needed. You are both upset. You are both right! Employers, take the time to discuss wages and tax issues SPECIFICALLY at the very beginning and memorialize this in your Work Agreement. Consider giving the nanny a breakdown of the tax deductions from her paycheck with her first payment, and any time there is a change to her compensation. Consult a nanny tax specialist for assistance.
4. POOR COMMUNICATION: Many of the same characteristics that make a “good” nanny may also result in a person with poor communication skills, a non-confrontational person, or both. Nanny is a peace keeper. She is a pleaser. She loves the hugs and cuddles she receives from her charges. She is not competitive and gladly lets her charge win at checkers. Add to this an analytic employer, climbing his/her career ladder, who is perpetually busy, giving nanny a quick hello and good bye at the beginning and end of each day, and you have a recipe for disaster. The employer must make the time to establish regular communication with the nanny. Find 15 minutes once a week to just sit down and talk over the relationship and how things are going. Give the nanny the opportunity to ask for the two days vacation she is afraid to approach you about. Explain to nanny when you aren’t feeling snippy that while you appreciate her working with your toddler to decorate holiday cookies, the mess in the kitchen including the sugar on the floor really needed to be cleaned up too. Consider requiring a Nanny Log and actually look at it every 24 hours, jotting a note to nanny every few days with recognition, suggestions, or just the information that you might be a few minutes late on Thursday.
3. NON-COMPETITIVE COMPENSATION: Susie is a 19 year old high school graduate from South Dakota and has never nannied before. She finds this great family in Boston who needs a live in nanny and offers her $250 a week plus room and board. Susie arrives and finds that the family expects her to be on duty from 7 until 7, and she has all household laundry and housecleaning in addition to taking care of the 2 year old twins. She meets some other nannies at the park and they clue her in – no one else works for less than $400 per week and most work 50 hour weeks, not 60 hours. She hears of a nanny leaving a job a few blocks away and applies to that family. She is offered a $100/week raise, a 10 hour day, and no family housecleaning or laundry. Adios family #1.
2. DUTIES ADDED ONE BY ONE: Nanny is hired to care for two pre-schoolers, with responsibility for their safety, laundry, and meal prep while on duty. She negotiates an hourly rate that she agrees is fair for the duties described. Two weeks after she started she is asked “Could you add our sheets and towels to the weekly laundry – we really appreciate it.” Then the day before dinner guests are expected she is asked to dust and vacuum the living room and dining room and deal with the clutter that has collected on the dining room table. Then the morning after she comes to work and all the dinner dishes and pots and pans are piled in the sink, on the counter and on the stove. She has to do the dishes just to find room to make the kiddos breakfast. Then summer arrives and the employer, who is the non-custodial father of an 8 year old daughter, tells nanny that daughter will be arriving next week for a 6 week stay. They missed the camp sign up so employer hopes nanny can dream up activities to keep all three children happy. There is never a mention of a change to her compensation, despite the creep in job duties.
1. SCHEDULES THAT GROW, GROW, GROW: The nanny is hired to work Monday through Friday from 8 AM until 6 PM. Then Mom complains about traffic and decides she needs to leave for work at 7:30 – can nanny start coming in at 7:15? Then there was this really important meeting she needed to stay for and she doesn’t get home until 6:45 – and was too busy to call and let nanny know. Nanny misses her 7:30 class at the community college. When nanny asks about overtime on pay day (she worked 4.5 extra hours after all), Mom is startled and states “But we pay you a salary!”