BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DO
Finding the right nanny for your family isn’t easy. Breaking up with your nanny isn’t any easier. I’ve listened to many families and nannies over the years describe the dissolution of their relationships. I keep a big box of Kleenex on my desk. Sometimes I want to reach for a tissue myself.
A nanny job— taking care of someone’s children for 50 hours a week –is like no other. All that intensity and then— it’s over. It’s a loss felt intensely by nanny and child. As the parent and employer, how do you best handle the break-up? There are many situations that result in the end to the nanny’s employment.
In some cases, the child has just aged out of the arrangement. He or she is going to school and there is no longer a need for full time care. If the family and nanny can’t work out ways to continue the relationship, the nanny will have to move on. In this situation, there is no fault or blame. The best way to deal here is for both parties to sit down and talk about the obvious—the kids are going to be in school all day in the fall—and talk about a departure date. The family should offer to write a letter reference and give the caregiver as much time as possible to find a new position. Fortunately, either in the beginning or end of summer there is turn-over in the market and a reasonable time frame for the nanny to do her job search.
I understand that may people worry about the lame-duck status of someone working in their house with their children once the job is over. Fortunately, I have never heard of a caregiver taking out the sad news on the child or children. Obviously, if the relationship takes a turn for the worse, the end will need to come sooner.
What happens if the relationship just isn’t working out, but you’ve been together a long time? There were many good years to be thankful for. Again, talk about moving on, give a reasonable departure time (two to four weeks), and write a letter of reference. If at all possible, try not to end on a bad note. Take the high road even if you feel your caregiver is falling down on the job now. There were many good years in the past. It’s just time.
Recently I’ve had two families part company: one after 7 years and another after 2. Neither departure was good. In the first instance, the caregiver whose job was winding down, answered a child’s question in an incredibly insensitive, may I say, stupid way. (Note to nannies: politics and religion should be left to the parents.) After a week of being given the silent treatment by the offended mom, the nanny quit. After 7 years! The youngest child lost her best friend, and the family feels terrible that the relationship ended so badly. I encouraged the nanny to call and talk to them. I am hoping both parties will come to an understanding and be able to develop some perspective.
The other nanny was summarily dismissed. As a live-in nanny, losing her job meant losing her income and the roof over her head. No one should be put out on the street unless something egregious was done. In this case, both nanny and parent had a litany of gripes and needed to break up. It was just the HOW that disturbed me. No matter how angry or how much you disagree with decisions, actions, or statements that were made, throwing someone out of your house is extreme. Relieve them of their duties, but allow them time to respond with their point of view (even if you don’t care) and give them time to find a place to go. If there is an egregious incident, then immediate dismissal is in order.
Taking the high road is always my advice. Give your nanny severance. Most caregivers live pay check to pay check. Hopefully, you will have the amount spelled out in your contract. Two weeks is basic and standard. But if someone has been in your employ a long time or if you know that two weeks salary is too little to tide them over until they find a new job, more severance would certainly be helpful. Provide a letter of reference which includes dates of employment and job description. I don’t advise anyone to lie in the letter or be overly positive if you aren’t feeling that way. On the other hand, there are probably a myriad of positive things you can list when thinking back over the years. I realize it may be hard to have a warm fuzzy perspective when you are really ready to move on. Breaking up with your nanny is an emotional experience no matter why the break-up is happening. Everyone feels some loss. Try to take the high road.