Monday Problem: Mom comes home trashed at night

Disclaimer: all emails are abbreviated and edited for clarity. When you submit to The Nanny Time Bomb please note that there will be edits. All names and info kept confidential. 

Dear Nanny X,

I work for a newly divorced mom who is highly successful. She runs a top PR agency. She takes good care of her body (juices, exercises) and for the most part is a responsible lady and mom, besides one thing. She comes home wasted. 

Maybe once or twice a week I babysit late as she goes out for ‘work’ functions. Her kids are ages 12m and 3 years. They are always in bed because it’s normally around midnight. 

Okay so how drunk is drunk? When she comes home she staggers in, sometimes stumbling into the wall. She can’t talk properly. I’ve left her snoring on the sofa or face down fully-clothed on her bed too many times to count. I always double-lock the front door as she often just leaves it open behind her. 

This is not once in a while. This is like once a week. I feel bad for her as I know she is upset over her divorce (which was particularly nasty) and she works real hard. But I’m getting to the point where I am seriously concerned about the kids. What if the baby wakes in the night or the toddler sleepwalks? I feel connected enough to the family to say something. 

Should I?

Sheila O’N

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Dear Sheila,

thanks for your email. It’s not easy navigating the lines between what is the family’s right to privacy and what is in the child’s best interests. As childcare workers our responsibility is primarily about safety. If the children we care for were being beaten or neglected in some other way we would feel compelled to say something. This is no different. What – G*d forbid – if there were a fire? Or some other emergency? How would your employer be able to act effectively if she were still inebriated?

It does sound like she is under a lot of pressure. She’s a single parent, engaged full-time in a demanding career and processing a divorce. She clearly needs some extra support and that doesn’t come at the bottom of a bottle. But it won’t be easy raising the matter with her. 

The bottom line is this is a conversation you will have to have with her. Evidently it can’t be done once she comes home unless it’s a night she is less intoxicated. Be prepared for some defensiveness as no one likes to appear foolish in front of employees or co-workers. But stay firm while compassionate. 

Let her know that you don’t condemn her but that you are only acting in the children’s best interests. In the unlikely event your employer becomes unreasonable or continues to exhibit irresponsible behavior, you may have no other option than to take matters to the children’s father. Yes, this would be a last resort but you would never forgive yourself if something happened to the children after you had clocked off. 

Nanny X