Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Emotional Attachment for Nannies in the Middle of the Sandwich Generation

"Just Like a Member of the Family"

When parents introduce their nannies to friends they often say their nanny is, "Just like a member of the family." And most nannies are likely to feel the same about their part in the family dynamic.

But, in a sandwich generation family, where parents are responsible not only for their growing children but also for their elderly parents, the nannies the parents employ may feel an extra burden to also help with elder care. The extra financial and scheduling pressure on the employers/parents often affects in-home childcare providers responsibilities because the nannies are already trusted and considered a member of the family.

Many nannies and au pairs do not know how to say "No" when asked to do extra to help their employer's family. By nature nannies are loving and caring. Nannies and au pairs are eager to assist anyone in the household, especially someone who is frail. Nannies and au pairs want to be helpful, caring, and patient and do not typically refuse to assist their boss's wishes. They typically do not want to confront their employer's to insist on extra compensation for extra work.
These emotions can be complex for nannies and au pairs. Many love their charges and like being part of a family dynamic but they are an employee, not a family member. Plus, many have moved into another family's home and are a little lonely and a little homesick.

It is to the parents (nanny employers) financial advantage to shift nanny and au pair work duties to include caring for the elderly family member. This makes sense on many levels to the parents especially since nannies are already trusted caregivers that are caring, reliable, and available.

But, this arrangement can create much resentment for nannies and au pairs. Working outside of their field of expertise (childcare), working harder, and working for little (or no) extra money is not such a great deal for in-home childcare providers. Nannies and au pairs want to oblige but they must know when and how to set limits and say "No".

Nannies are typically calm and assertive when dealing with children; but learning to assert themselves when establishing workloads or boundaries with their employers is more difficult. In taking care of themselves caregivers must learn to be assertive, ask for more money when workload is increased, and be willing to say "No" when they do not wish to take on new job responsibilities. The concept of taking care of themselves includes signing a pre-employment work contract that defines job responsibilities, and that both parties adhere to the terms. Any additional work must include extra money for nannies.

Are you resentful of any added responsibilities without increased compensation at work? Or, do you have any advice for other nannies on how to assert themselves in such situations?


Anonymous said...

The problem I am having is that this is the parent,s house not the Grandmother's house. Of course the Grandmother should be respected but she does not respect how the parents and I have been raising the kids. She is affecting my relationship negatively with the children. She thinks they should eat a certain way, be punished a certian way and overall a nosey opinionated control-freak. When I started this job I worked for a nice family with two nice kids. Now I have to deal with an opinionated Grandmother. I am looking for a new job.

Anonymous said...

nannies and au pairs are child care providers. Elder care home health aides should be hired to care for the elderly and child caregivers for the children. I feel strongly parents should not allow the extra burden on their child caregivers.
Lauren, Prof Nanny, New York, NY

Anonymous said...

Every nanny should use a reputable nanny agency because agencies can help the nanny and parents create a comprehensive work agreement. It is vital to be very specific about the work in the agreement. Try not to eliminate anything.

For example, sometimes nannies resent having to load and unload the dishwasher of the parents' dishes (they clean up the children's dishes with no complaint). But if the chore is discussed before signing the work agreement and the contract lists the responsibility the nanny cannot gripe after signing the work agreement stating she will load and unload the dishwasher.

Obviously no nanny is going to agree to respite care of elderly family members on their original contract so nannies must pull out their contracts when someone new moves into the home.

Nannies are compensated 10% more per week with a newborn so why not with a new husband or a grandparent enters into the work environment.

Meanwhile, there are strict laws prohibiting au pairs to work overtime and clean beyond the needs of the child. It is illegal to ask au pairs to care for an elder.

Fionea, San Diego