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By Nanny X 2013,
With all the genuine concerns around abusive nannies, I thought it might be useful to run an article about bad employers. Statistics show that the majority of nannies perform a good job, and that cases like the Krim double homicide are extremely rare. Yet still, we hear constantly about trust and betrayal by nannies in the media.
What is often over-looked is a more common form of abuse: bad employers. It takes a beating or even a rape before this kind of violation makes the headlines. The fact is, most nannies at one point in their careers comes across an abusive employer. This is because childcare remains the one service industry that is unregulated. As such it also invites the types of people who have a disdain for those whom they consider beneath them socially.
Words are also powerful conveyors of worth. For example, in general, nannies are routinely called 'sitters' as though they are hired simply to prevent little Jack from electrocuting himself. The fact is we do not 'sit' around all day. We take very good care of the children daily entrusted to us. We endure being social pariahs and making $15 an hour without much protection federally because we love what we do. Without us, even those amongst us without papers, Americans would not be able to work.
While it is important for parents to thoroughly screen prospective nannies by running rigorous background checks involving the Police and credit history, or by speaking to previous employers, etc, the same is not true for nannies. Nannies attend each interview in blind faith. Nannies are rarely told why a former nanny left. Nannies are not assured that a new employer will treat them courteously and will not take liberties. Finally, nannies are never offered evidence that a new employer can afford to keep them for as long as they say. A nanny's most private information, on the other hand, is presented often to multiple viewers.
With this in mind nannies can be alert to the indicators of a bad employer. They = prospective employers.
- They are cool and indifferent on an interview. They talk over you, make no eye contact or interrupt you when you talk about your experience. They peer at you suspiciously when you raise the question of compensation and/or further evidence your qualifications. This demonstrates that you are merely a formality and not a human being worthy of a genuine interaction. Expect to be ruled rather than employed.
- They are late or have cancelled your initial meeting a few times because "something came up". They are demonstrating clearly that your time is not as valuable as their own. This may pan out on a job to one too many 'late' nights that remain uncompensated.
- They discuss a former employee in derogatory terms. It's always someone else's fault that things haven't worked out. This is one of the clearest warning signs of a troublesome personality. This prospect is probably a serial nanny user.
- You are asked to do a trial without any offer of compensation. During the trial you are asked if you are 'flexible' over which errands you are willing to run. Read: cheap. Your time and service is of value. You should always expect to be fairly paid. If a parent tells you they need a cleaner as much as they need a nanny - run! You will end up doing everything and probably for a very low rate.
- During the interview you are grilled within an inch of your life. Your references are called multiple times and are asked all manner of inappropriate and private information about you. You are subjected to a second or even a third interview, and are critiqued during a trial. This screams: control freaks. This type will make your job a living hell. They have no true concept of what out-sourcing childcare actually means.
- You meet a couple who immediately want to be your friend. The interview is overly casual. You may be offered a beer or a glass of wine. The apartment is a wreck. The parents are 'artsy' types who talk a great deal about social injustice and animal welfare. In the backdrop a scruffy kid with a weird sounding name is on a rampage. He rifles through your handbag and calls his mom by her first name. Warning, this family is a bunch of flakes. They will pontificate about boundaries but ultimately they are looking to outsource parenting. If you don't want to be co-opted by Trust Fund hippies, stay well away.
- On this interview, you will sit opposite two people who seem completely distracted by their I-phones or Blackberries. They are either partners for a law firm or in finance, the point is, they're big wigs in their respective careers. The four children - you are casually informed - are 'normal, boisterous kind of quirky kids that need some special attention'. This actually translates into ADHD, mild spectrum autism and other associate disorders involving boundary issues. You will learn that everyone is in a million different classes, or therapy groups, even on weekends, and that you are expected to chaperon them around. Add to this, individual diet requests and an insistence you travel with them during vacations, and what you have is a peculiar form of modern American slavery. These types will also try to nickle and dime you. You'll be asked to 'straighten-up' or 'walk the dog' or 'organize the kid's weekend travel bags' or plan 'fun activities over the school holidays' for no extra cash.
- Meet Mr. Creep and Mrs. Denial, probably the most odious form of employer you can find. At the interview he's checking out your breasts and cracking jokes. She'll be uptight. Your resume will be picked apart in a friendly manner because she likes to act passive aggressively. She will like to interrupt him as he offers you the world. In this family, the dad will be a domineering jerk. He may be a heavy drinker, coming home late at night and paying you while his wife shoots off to bed. Mr. Creep will use this time and transaction to make suggestive even vulgar remarks to you. Mrs. Denial, consumed with jealousy, may actively sabotage your work and position. All in all, you will not want to be in the middle of a bad marriage.
- The apartment will be luxury, either a penthouse or townhouse. They have old-fashioned sounding names (Blue-Bloods). Yet this couple will cry poverty and will lecture you about not 'paying above market rates'. Even though you are applying for a full-time position, they will not offer you a contract or any benefits. If you are a foreign born worker they won't ask you for your papers. They really don't care where you came from. One of the parents, generally the mother, will be a stay at home mom but you or the children will rarely see her. When this family goes on vacation or over the holidays, you will simply be told you're not needed. There will no discussion around holiday pay because you will be considered 'freelance'. Rarely have I come across more penny pinching tactics than those utilized by the elite. They can be the most heartless, mean people you will ever come across. Not worth it!
- This person or persons has remained nameless until the big day. The agency that screened you operated more like the CIA. But the compensation package is too tempting for you to be deterred by a battery of interviews and blood tests. You have signed a non-disclosure form. Finally you get to meet them. They are an A or B Hollywood star, or some big muckity muck in the media. During the interview they just never shut up. They talk all over you. They take calls. They grill you a dozen different ways. They'd like to know why you are not a vegan? Mr. or Ms. Ego are giving you a taste of what that $100k is buying them. They will own you during your contract. You will be expected to be on-call 24-7. You may be required to be screamed at, condescended to or generally micro-managed, and that's just by the kids.
Do you have a horror story you want to share?
How can you represent and advocate for yourself? Tomorrow we look at a few simple ways nannies can be in control of their careers.