I was very happy to see the article about Nanny Transitions in the New York Times this past week. The focus of the article dealt with the underestimated emotional reactions that children may have as they transition from being with their nannies to attending school. But there is even more emotional fall out than mentioned here. The end of what could have been a three to five year relationship is not just wrenching for the child and the family.
Three years ago I wrote the following:
The end of summer is a time of transition for many families. Some young children are now going off to school for the first time. I know there will be many tearful moms not quite believing that their babies are old enough for full time school. We see another side of this transitional process in our office. We see nannies tearful that “their” babies are off to school—and now they may be looking for new jobs. While sad, it is heart warming to hear how deeply these caregivers feel about their charges. Many of them are truly despondent at the thought of not seeing “their” kids everyday.
We keep a big box of Kleenex handy as we meet with nannies who are looking to find new employment because the children that they cared for have aged out of their services. There is real loss felt by these nannies who have spent 10 hours a day, 50 hours a week with “their babies.” There is no job quite like this one. The emotional investment cannot be understated.
My advice to parents is to communicate with their nannies if their job is coming to and end or the hours are going to be cut drastically. As much as most nannies want to stay in their jobs, most nannies can’t afford the luxury of part time pay. Every nanny knows that when the children they care for are going to school full or part time, their hours may be cut. It would be much better to discuss how their employment is going to be handled in advance instead of just handing out a pink slip.
If a nanny is interested and capable, she may be able to keep her job by becoming a family assistant or nanny manager. If that job description change isn’t an option, the end of the relationship deserves some formal kind of acknowledgement. As the author of the Times article suggested, all parties should work together. The children should be part of this transition. The nanny’s departure should not be a big surprise to anyone. The children can be part of the transition by planning a goodbye party or a special outing. While I don’t think a card is enough, some art therapy may be a good thing. Children also need to understand that they did nothing wrong to precipitate the nanny leaving. They are doing their part by growing up and the nanny can continue to be a part of their lives even though they won’t see each other every day.