Monday Problem: Young Nanny Blues

Dear Nanny X,

I’m 19 years old and have been a nanny for a BEAUTIFUL
family (4, soon to be 5, foster children ages 6 months – 9 years) since the
summer and have been absolutely loving it. Last night, the parents went out
with some friends and came home to all children awake (half hour past bedtime,)
urine on the floor, milk spilled all over the kitchen, me chasing kids into bed
and all that dandy goodness that comes along with anti-bedtime kids. It was
just a rough night, this one. Naturally, it took one stern look from the father
and the kids were giggling back to bed. As I was cleaning up the kitchen, the
friend of theirs asked me how it was with a smirk and a wink. I went on about
the shenanigans they were up to this particular night and said, 
“They were wild!” 
And her response was “So… I guess
you EARNED your money…” quite smugly. Her tone took me aback and I was
left feeling insulted, thinking about if maybe the mother talks about me and
how I am with my job. I went home and started thinking about the job I do. I
get paid $12/hr; it started out in the summer as more of a mother’s-helper job
with all kids. Since school started, two are in school and I’ll be left with
either two or three of the youngest ones as mom likes to run errands and has to
eventually pick the kids up.
Lots of visits with their birth
parents too. I’m expected to clean the house, which I find myself doing a lot
of. And come to think of it, I spend more time on the house than I do the
kids… I think I became very wrapped up in the fear of not being sufficient
enough if I don’t fulfill all of her requests, but at the end of the day, I’m a
terrible NANNY! I feel discouraged by this since the comment was made but am
thankful I heard it and started to think. I need a bit of guidance, if you
could, to help me out with what I should/could be doing with the kids. I love
them, and they return that amazing love to me, but I feel like I’ve been
failing them as well as myself so far.
Thank you so much,

Dear TS,

this type of problem generally befalls younger, less experienced nannies. It doesn’t come from a lack of essential skills or the desire to be a good nanny. It arises when employers expect too much from energetic and eager to please caregivers like yourself. 

First of all, you sound very warm and caring. Even though these children are noisy and boisterous, you are connected to them. Secondly, you now feel expected to be the family’s cleaner or housekeeper. Thirdly, due to a careless comment by a family friend, you suspect that the parents are discussing your wages and even duties. Fourthly, you are being underpaid for the services you are currently providing.

It is time to sit down with your employers and define, what exactly your duties are. It is also time to nail your hourly wage. For what you currently do, and the amount of children you care for, I would ask for a higher hourly wage, like $18 an hour. Once you have identified what your daily duties are, either childcare centric or housekeeper centric, you can then concentrate on those. It sounds to me that the children need you more than the parents do for say, cleaning. So draw a definitive line and stick to your strengths, and your hourly rate. 

Speak to your employers about your concerns over discretion regarding your duties and hourly rates, and to whom they discuss them to. This is your right as an employee. 

Nanny X