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Nanny - do I change?

(40 Posts)
flyingcloud Fri 02-Nov-12 11:35:42

A nanny dilemma.

I have had a nanny for nearly a year now. We were left high and dry at short notice and found her quickly, and in the most part it has worked out great.
However a few of the things that we specified in the interview have not been adhered to.
1. Cooking - she is really rubbish at it and the DDs' diets are fairly monotonous. I have bought her a cookery book for children but she hasn't opened it once...
2. Flexibility - the ability to work weekends, stay overnight, etc, keeping within her working hours and affording her the same flexibility in return.

After six months she said she wouldn't work weekends, or stay overnight (I suspect her boyfriend won't 'let' her, but I have no proof of this).

And her general tidiness and organisation is fairly rubbish too. I have to ring her in the evenings sometimes to double check DDs meal times, sleep times, and what they've eaten because she hasn't written it down. She lets their laundry slide until it piles up and she doesn't keep their bedroom as clean as it should be.

This is slightly controversial for here, but she also won't do general housework. My experience of all my friends' nannies (here in France) is that they do a large portion of the housework. I have read a lot on here on MN that this is not the norm, but for my experience it is (so am open-minded about this).

In saying all that, she is fantastic with the DDs. She spends a lot of time doing activities with them (mainly indoor, as she's not an outdoorsy type). She never shouts, she is strict without being mean. And DD1 (2.8) adores her. Her timekeeping is impeccable. I have no worries for their care and well-being.

The flexibility issue is a big one and I have found someone who fills the first three criteria (she has filled in at weekends already) and is flexible and willing to work.

However, I really don't know what to do. Current nanny really is good with the girls, but doesn't make my life a lot easier. I find myself stressed with cooking, washing and cleaning on my days off. I rarely know what my working hours are going to be a week in advance, which constantly leaves me struggling to find last minute help. Having a nanny was supposed to solve a lot of those issues for me.

Do I change? Would appreciate your opinions, please.

HolyAutumnGoldBatman Fri 02-Nov-12 11:53:57

You shouldn't sack someone because you've found someone better/different unless you've been through the proper grievance procedures.

Have you sat down and spoken to her about these problems? Have you given her a verbal and/or written warning, have you followed the procedures in your contract?

The cooking she should be working to improve, but have you specified this is a big problem for you? Maybe give her recipes for a week, make sure you have the ingredients in the cupboard and ask her to cook those things, see how she gets on.

With flexibility it really depends on what you have in your contract and what you said at interview. If you made it clear she needed to be flexible and now she is refusing then you are right to be annoyed and need tell her she either does it or you'll find someone else. If you didn't make it clear and are expecting it on the the grounds 'my friends nannies do it' then you are being quite unreasonable to be annoyed that she doesn't want to do it.

Organisation, laundry and bedroom cleaning should all be better, but warrants a firm chat and not a sacking imo.

I wouldn't do general cleaning. Do you want her to reduce the amount of activities she does with your children/time she spends with them to clean your house? Again, if you specified in the contract/at interview that she needed to do this and now she refuses you're right to be annoyed, if you didn't.....

Maybe you need a housekeeper?

flyingcloud Fri 02-Nov-12 12:08:58

Hi, sorry, my posts are never as articulate as other people's, but yes I made EVERYTHING clear to her in the interview. And I have spoken to her all about all these things at least once. She reacts very well to the criticism and makes an effort, but it often peters out after a couple of weeks.

I struggle with the fact that she has fun with my children and yet when I have (a rare) day off I have to do all the housework and don't get to do the fun things. I do have a cleaner too, but still have to do quite a lot.

I used my templates of friends and their nannies when hiring (after all we don't have a lot to go on when we start out hiring a nanny, it's a big leap into the unknown for most people!) and used their job descriptions, and now they all think I am bit of a mug. I am talking about a fairly wide selection of friends here, both French, and expat, all of whom seem to have good working relationships with their nannies.

Funnylittleturkishdelight Fri 02-Nov-12 12:13:19

I would change over the lack of flexibility.

HolyAutumnGoldBatman Fri 02-Nov-12 12:17:57

In that case you're right to be annoyed she isn't doing what she's been emplyed to do. Whether it annoys you enough to replace her, only you can answer.

The cleaning thing is difficult, because as you said it's not something done in the UK. If I went to an interview and they said 'full-time care of (I assume) 2 DC's, 2.8 years and (I assume) a younger one, all their cooking, laundry, clean/tidy their bedroom/play areas.....and do the general household cleaning' I'd say 'no, thank you' and leave. My sympathy with you having to clean up your own mess is extremely limited tbh. The nanny is doing the kids stuff and you have a cleaner, there can't be that much left over?!

AndBingoWasHisNameOh Fri 02-Nov-12 12:20:33

Do be sure to check out the employment law position before letting her go (if that is what you decide) to make sure you don't end up with a heap of trouble.

CelineMcBean Fri 02-Nov-12 12:26:12

I think, on balance, that because she is good with the children and you have found someone else to do the less social hours I wouldn't let her go. But I would look to get in a cleaner/housekeeper for 2-4 hours a week to do cleaning, laundry and prepare a few meals if I could afford it. If I couldn't then maybe negotiate a change to her hours to allow for this or give her notice.

However my view is very coloured by the fact I would never expect my nanny to do household cleaning and all my nannies have been fairly rubbish at cooking.

flyingcloud Fri 02-Nov-12 12:34:54

Thanks for all your replies.

You can have limited sympathy for me. I certainly don't deserve anyone's sympathy. I don't ask her to clean up my own mess, but like anyone who spends a lot of time in the house, I expect her to tidy as she goes. It just seems normal.

drjohnsonscat Fri 02-Nov-12 12:35:25

I think you either get nannies who do household cleaning (because they are at home all day and unless they have hundreds of children to care for, there simply IS time to put a wash on, put the hoover round etc) or nannies who don't do that but do do loads of activities and crafts and spend time thinking about that.

I want my nanny to do what I would do if I were at home which is care for the children and keep the house under control. I couldn't care less about craft and stuff. My children have had the same nanny for 6 years and she does the odd bit of craft with them but mostly they are just hanging out together, chatting, drawing, playing in the garden. There is plenty of downtime for a quick tidy up.

I ruled out any nannies who said things like "I will hang out DC's washing but not yours" or "I will put my cup in the dishwasher but not yours" on the grounds that I can't be arsed with that. Obviously I do clean up after myself and don't leave cups out for someone else to tidy up! But I want someone I'm paying to be at home all day to take the role I would have if I was at home. My house is always reasonably tidy but my nanny just pitches in. It's not on if you are spending all your time sorting and organising.

Maybe that just gives away my prejudice against "heuristic play" whatever that is!

flyingcloud Fri 02-Nov-12 12:39:17

Thanks Celine. We've already done what you've suggested. I cut her hours and got in a cleaner, and my life is a bit easier, but not a whole lot.

HolyAutumnGoldBatman Fri 02-Nov-12 12:41:31

'I expect her to tidy as she goes'

That is perfectly reasonable, but it's not general household cleaning. You should come home to the house as you left it, i.e. she tidies up behind herself and the kids. General household cleaning would cover hoovering, for example, your bedroom, which she hasn't been in and hasn't contributed to the the mess in.

ChippingInLovesAutumn Fri 02-Nov-12 12:43:52

So many things here it's hard to know where to start.

Flexibility - If you don't know what your hours are from week to week then neither does your nanny - it's a bit hard on her to expect her not to have any social life/plans 'in case' she needs to work 24/7. Why not use someone else as a babysitter if she doesn't want to do the over nights or weekends, I'm sure there will be plenty of takers for those additional hours.

Cooking - your children are very small, most small childrens diets are fairly monotonous - it really doesn't matter, you can make them 'different' things when you cook. As long as the meals she is making are nutritious and edible then surely that's fine. She's a nanny not a gourmet chef.

Housework - she has two small children all day, how many hours per day do you want them sat in front of the TV or whatever while she picks up the slack between you and the cleaner - why not just employ the cleaner to do what needs to be done instead of only some of it.

Childrens' laundry - she needs to stay on top of this, but not everyone agrees on what that means, you only have to read the laundry threads on MN to see that! Just tell her exactly what you want.

Childrens' rooms - does you cleaner not clean them?

Days off - I find myself stressed with cooking, washing and cleaning on my days off - what exactly do you expect her to do, to change this, on your days off (which I assume are also her days off).

In saying all that, she is fantastic with the DDs. She spends a lot of time doing activities with them (mainly indoor, as she's not an outdoorsy type). She never shouts, she is strict without being mean. And DD1 (2.8) adores her. Her timekeeping is impeccable. I have no worries for their care and well-being

Frankly - ^^ is the important thing is it not?

I get the impression that this I struggle with the fact that she has fun with my children is the real issue sad and something you need to think about.

flyingcloud Fri 02-Nov-12 12:44:11

Oh, thank you Dr Johnson! That is exactly what I've been failing to articulate. My nanny is filling my role when I working.

ChippingInLovesAutumn Fri 02-Nov-12 12:47:14

DrJ - that's it though isn't it - accepting you can't have it all - you either have a nanny that gets stuff done while they play by themselves or you have a nanny that's full on with the children but doesn't do much else.

That said, no matter what - they should be cleaning up after themselves.

CelineMcBean Fri 02-Nov-12 12:49:56

In that case you have two choices (depending on laws of the land). You either manage her to get what you want or you give her notice. Obviously there are pros and cons to each option and possibly legal implications but when your nanny (or any employee) stops making your life easier it's time to either get a new nanny or manage the performance to an acceptable level.

From personal experience I have found it very hard to coach a nanny, even though I am a good, experienced manager at work, and the period of things not working out has almost always coincided with some other need like my dc's need for more socialisation or speech work.

It is hard though because there are emotions involved and it's so much more personal than dealing with Andy from Accounts who you see once a week or Michelle in your team of ten employees.

So long as you are fair, honest and give her every opportunity to improve and obey the law everything else is down to her.

flyingcloud Fri 02-Nov-12 13:02:52

Chippingin - the children don't have to play by themselves though. She can do things while chatting to them, singing songs, etc.

Part of the problem is that my DH set up his own business a year ago and it has exploded. He is working 13 hour days to keep on top of things and is not very present in the home. He is generally up to his fair share of house-work, but he just doesn't have the time or energy at the moment.

DD2 is eight months and I went back to work when she was 3 months old (standard french maternity leave), and I have found the last five months fairly hectic and sleep deprived, so excuse me if I see things in a slightly distorted way wink. I cut my hours to fit in with having a nanny, and have seen my work-load double, due to increased responsibility.

Celine you are so right. I feel so emotional about this, because I am tired, because they are my children, because I adore my job, have worked so hard to get where I am, and can't afford to lose it under any circumstances and because I don't want to make a mistake.

HolyAutumnGoldBatman Fri 02-Nov-12 13:10:01

I think drj has got it right, there are two different types of nannies.

Nanny/Housekeeper - will cook, clean, do the laundry and other household bits and will ensure the DC's are safe, supervise play, pick-up/drop-off from school/nursery etc. Won't do art/craft, days out, playdates, trips to the the library/swimming pool, reading, 'hands-on' childcare.

Nanny - will feed DC's and look after their clothes/rooms/toys etc, will tidy up after herself, will spend majority of the time doing 'hands on' childcare (days out, playdates, reading, craft, creative play, messy play, singing etc etc etc).

I know what I'd rather have for 2 children under 3 years old (particularly if they're going to be with the nanny the majority of the time).

Welovecouscous Fri 02-Nov-12 13:16:17

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

flyingcloud Fri 02-Nov-12 13:19:24

It's not possible to do both, ever? Surely there's a balance (just curious). The second type of schedule sounds like a busy one for a 2yo. There are no organised acitivities for children here in France anyway, no tumbletots, no baby gym, etc.

CelineMcBean Fri 02-Nov-12 13:21:37

Please don't feel you need to justify yourself. You had a need, recruited for that need, got something different and now you are looking for ways to resolve the issue. Never feel you need to justify a decision to buy in help. Running yourself into the ground of being a martyr is not the more honourable option.

drjohnsonscat Fri 02-Nov-12 13:33:59

Holy actually my nanny does do quite a bit of the things on your two lists.

She takes them on trips. They go to the library. She takes them to their clubs. She does drawing with them and reading and singing. Supervises playdates. I would absolutely expect all this as a minimum.

But she also does housework for me. Specifically she puts the washing on and hangs it out to dry and puts away DCs clothes (I do mine). She keeps the dishwasher loaded and emptied. She puts the hoover round once a week and keeps the kitchen tidy (this is where we spend all our days and she sweeps and cleans it every day).

My children are 6 & 3 so its easier now but she has always done this.

She doesn't do much in the way of cooking (because she is not good at it so I do that in order to ensure dinners are more than rice with ham mixed in!) and she doesn't do general errands (she would although I don't ask her).

What she doesn't do is loads of messy and creative play or take them out on big adventures to build a den in the woods or whatever. That stuff is not important for me - so I would rather have the balance as I have it now. I don't think the OP is asking too much - if her life is full of stress then maybe she is simply saying that she would like a nanny to contribute more to the household. Particularly with a baby in the mix - they don't do that much creative play anyway do they? I remember getting all the bloody paints out for the DCs and then putting them all away again after 5 minutes because that was all the attention-span they had! I do think you can over engineer things for little ones.

Don't let this become about you OP - the fact that you "should" be having fun with your children more. This age is tough anyway and it sounds like you would just like more help at home - perfectly reasonable - without the solution being you "should" find a way for you to be at home more.

HolyAutumnGoldBatman Fri 02-Nov-12 13:35:15

'It's not possible to do both, ever?'

It's physically impossible to be at home hoovering and in the park with the DC's at the same time.

It's up to you how much time you want the DC's to entertain themselves while she cleans. I imagine they already play at home/by themselves while she does the laundry, prepares and then cleans up after breakfast, lunch and dinner and cleans and tidies their rooms. The older one must also wait for the baby to be fed/changed/dressed etc. I assume the nanny has an hour to sit and eat her lunch while the DC's sleep.

To me this doesn't leave an excess of time for activities. A trip out in the morning and the some craft/creative play in the afternoon. Maybe things are different in France, but that really doesn't sound to me like an overly busy day for a nearly 3-year old.

You are, of course,well within your rights to ask her not to bother with the trip out in the morning, but to clean your bathroom instead. You'd probably be better defining the role as nanny/housekeeper though.

HolyAutumnGoldBatman Fri 02-Nov-12 13:41:40

'But she also does housework for me. Specifically she puts the washing on and hangs it out to dry and puts away DCs clothes (I do mine). She keeps the dishwasher loaded and emptied. She puts the hoover round once a week and keeps the kitchen tidy (this is where we spend all our days and she sweeps and cleans it every day).'

Apart from the hoovering, this is all well within the normal duties for a nanny and should of course be done in addition to the 'hands-on' childcare I mentioned. I look after 4 children, keep the kitchen tidy, load the dishwasher, do the children's laundry (no ironing though) and do all the play/trips out as well.

What the OP said was 'My experience of all my friends' nannies (here in France) is that they do a large portion of the housework'.

I wouldn't describe a bit of laundry and sweeping the kitchen as 'a large portion of the housework'.

ChippingInLovesAutumn Fri 02-Nov-12 13:47:05

DrJ - I think you have a very good balance with your nanny. I feel that FC is expecting her nanny to do a lot more than that though and there are only so many hours in the day.

FC - I think you are expecting too much - from your nanny and from life with 2 small children. Most Mums, of 2 small children, who work (outside the house) are tired, especially if their DH isn't able to do much domestically. I don't know if your nanny is pulling her weight when she's there or not <I'm not there> but from what you have written it sounds as if you expect her to have it all done in advance so that your days off you can just spend playing with the children and that's not really going to happen unless you buy in a bit more help. Get the cleaner in twice a week, ask if she wants to do some batch cooking for you, DH & the children for your days off. It feels like you and DH are both stretched work wise and expect the nanny to magically make everything else 'easy' for you - even when she's not there. You don't need to know their everymove when you aren't there, you don't need to know exactly how long they slept for or what they are - or whatever else you have her documenting. Let her get on with her job while you are getting on with yours and maybe instead she can do a couple of other bits around the house to make life easier.

However, if you don't want to pay the cleaner for more hours and don't think your nanny is doing enough in the hours she's there - then you need to change something. Maybe have a think about it on your next day/s off (on yor own without DH around) and see how much you get done in a day, how much time you spend with the children and reassess what is reasonable for her, reasses what you want her daily balance to be then see if she can meet that.

Don't throw away the baby with the bathwater x

drjohnsonscat Fri 02-Nov-12 13:49:19

maybe I have lower standards of housework then! The net result is I don't have much housework to do because the nanny has kept the house clean and tidy throughout the week and has done all the laundry bar putting away my clothes.

The only additional bit of housework I can see that I haven't mentioned is cleaning the bathroom - which to be fair we do between us. She gives it a bit of a clean when she's giving the DCs a bath and I do the same when I do.

I think it's an attitude thing. Some nannies want to be nannies. Fair enough but I can't afford to pay for someone who wants to do that.

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