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Old self harm scars on nanny

(17 Posts)
Twiglet90 Thu 01-Sep-16 23:31:49

Hi there,

I am really hoping for some advice from parents, particularly those that might employ a nanny or a childminder.

I am a nanny myself and have been working for two families for two years and absolutely adore them both. I've had other families prior to them but I have landed on my feet massively with these folk. They have both been very supportive of me during a very difficult time and one of the mothers was the reason I decided to seek help for the long term eating disorder that nearly caused me to leave my job. Both families have known and supported me and asked me to stay when I thought I ought to leave because of my problems and have put complete faith in me as a caregiver which was incredibly flattering.

It was after all this that one of the children noticed some scars on my arm when I was giving them a bath and asked me about them. I hadn't been wearing short sleeves but I had them slightly revealed, thinking that they wouldn't notice as they are very old scars and it isn't an issue anymore. After this, I had to tell the mother because I had no idea what to even say in response and didn't want it being repeated back. As it turned out, this mother was incredibly pro me revealing my arms (I hadn't at that point exposed my arms in public for about twelve years) and her saying that I didn't need to hide them turned out to be the incentive I needed to just go for it.

As soon as I did it, I realised how liberating it was and how pleasant in the summer and so I approached the other mother and said I wanted to wear short sleeves and asked her if she would be okay with it. She was the one who had been very proactive about me finding help for the eating disorder so I felt like I could broach the subject. She was completely okay with it and as with the other mother, we worked out what we would say to the children about it together. I am lucky that these parents have complete trust in me and I have really been able to start conquering the shame I have felt about my scars.

Now unfortunately for me, one of my lovely families is moving to a different area and we are parting ways in terms of employment (though certainly not as friends!) so I have had to find another family to take their place. I was recommended to them by the mother of the family I will be continuing to work for. I have had a wonderfully liberating summer and have really moved forward with my body image issues and I feel like it would be a massive step backwards to start hiding my scars all over again. Obviously when it gets cold, I will do so naturally but I don't want to start having to worry about what I wear and if it will hide things. However, I don't have the same history with this new family. Although they know me through the mother of my other family and have their vote of confidence in me (plus an excellent reference from my leaving family), our relationship is a blank slate. I'd been working for both families over a year before they ever knew anything about the eating disorder and I'd built up a really good, trusting relationship with them by the time the self harm scars came up. I don't even know how to begin tackling this issue with a new family who barely know me. They seem really lovely and open minded and we all hit it off when we met. But I just don't know how to go into this now. Their little boy is four, so wouldn't even know what the scars were but would definitely be aware of them being there. Should I just turn up with short sleeves and go for it like it isn't an issue? Or talk first? I just have no idea how to do this. Any advice from any parents on what they would want someone in my situation to do would be really appreciated. Sorry this is so long. Thanks.

BeingATwatItsABingThing Fri 02-Sep-16 07:01:55

I don't think the scars would bother me, particularly if they are clearly old scars. I would maybe feel uncomfortable to ask you about it though, so you could perhaps bring it up when you feel comfortable to do so.

This family have chosen you are you were recommended. If they had picked you through an agency, they might be slightly more concerned about your general mood and attitude with the children. But there friends have said you are good, so that will help I think.

Good luck with your new job and flowers to you for all of the pain you have been through. I'm so glad you are starting to feel more confident in yourself and your self worth. smile

MrsHulk Fri 02-Sep-16 07:23:57 would concern me to see such scars on a nanny. I don't want to upset or alarm you, but just want to set out how I would react so you can think about how to proceed.

Firstly, I'm not sure I'd be able to tell how old they were. A close friend has multiple scars, some very old and some more recent, and I can't tell the difference without really staring (which obviously I don't want to do in case it upsets her).

As a parent I wouldn't know how recent these issues were, or how well you would be able to cope with a difficult or stressful situation know.

Also, as an employer, I'd be concerned about whether you might end up needing sick leave to deal with mental health issues or even that if you found work too stressful you might make some kind of claim against us.

In a new nanny-parent relationship, where so much depends on trust and feeling comfortable, these ideas would bother me but I would not feel able to bring them up.

The best approach might be to talk to the new parents - along the lines of "I don't know whether family X told you, but X years ago I had treatment for depression/anxiety. During that time I had been self-harming, and I still have some old scars on my arms. I haven't had any problems with self-harm since I had that treatment, but I didn't want you to be concerned when you see the old scars." So assume that your scars will be visible, but reassure them this is an old problem? You could also ask for their views on how they'd like you to handle any questions from their son.

Hope that helps and isn't too blunt.

FoxesSitOnBoxes Fri 02-Sep-16 07:30:21

If I already knew and trusted you it wouldn't be an issue but I do think that it would make me a bit anxious if I noticed on the first day (sorry)

WhatchooGonnaDoAboutIt Fri 02-Sep-16 07:47:00

I've also got very obvious, very old self harm scars on my arms OP. I cover my arms when I interview because I don't trust people not to discriminate, and I also cover them for meeting clients else they're often too busy staring to take me seriously. But anyone who sees me on a day to day basis including colleagues, acquaintances and those I only have a 'nodding' relationship with will see me in short sleeves all summer.

In your position I would cover your arms when meeting the parents for the first time. Once you start work then wear short sleeves and don't give it a second thought. You don't owe anyone an explanation about why/what happened to you, and I would absolutely not use MrsHulk's wording - if you know it won't affect your job then you absolutely do not need a pre-emptive explanation. If the parents bring it up, simply say it was a long time ago and isn't an issue. Id probably lie to the kids if asked and invent a cycling accident or similar - it seems to have been accepted when I use it.

Coconutty Fri 02-Sep-16 07:48:23

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

WhatchooGonnaDoAboutIt Fri 02-Sep-16 07:50:10

Foxes would you feel the same about someone with a scar from surgery or chickenpox? It's really no different. Stigmatism against mental illness still alive and well sad.

Bubblebloodypop Fri 02-Sep-16 07:54:55

I'm really surprised at the comments here. I wouldn't give them a second thought, if they were new (scabbed or very pink) I would hope that you were getting help and offer support. If they were old/faded/white, I wouldn't mention it.

I also feel like talking to them about might make them more comfortable. For some people it would be an elephant in the room.

VanillaSugar Fri 02-Sep-16 08:07:48

First of all, flowers and a (((hug))) for you Twiglet.

My DD went through a very bad time when she was 14/15. Fortunately you can't see her scars, but the issues will always be part of her past.

If this was her thread, then I'd say to her that she needs to talk privately with the new mum. Explain very simply what happened, explain that you've had wonderful support from the previous two families and they were happy for you to wear short sleeves. Tell her how you explained the scars to the previous children and ask the new mum of she's OK with that. If the new mum has any sort of problem with it, you must fully understand that this is HER problem and her attitude.

If you came to me as my new Nanny, I'd think I'd prefer you to wear short sleeves and roll your sleeves up at bathtime. As a mum, I'd be happier seeing your old scars than to worry that you were hiding new ones. I hope that doesn't sound like a criticism or anything - I'd be concerned about your welfare and so I'd be happy knowing that you were happy.

MrsHulk Fri 02-Sep-16 10:14:23

Whatchoo - it's not about stigma against mental illness, it's about a parent feeling confident in their child's carer, and an employer judging the risk of sickness/ a claim. It's not unreasonable to be concerned about whether or not your nanny is well enough for the role.

WhatchooGonnaDoAboutIt Fri 02-Sep-16 13:31:18

MrsHulk - it 100% is I'm afraid. Old scars are just that, old scars. They have no more bearing on someone's ability to perform their job than a scar from surgery after breaking a limb and yet you think automatically that previous self harm = increased likelihood of being a bad employee.

I hope you never have a mental health wobble and spend the rest of your life being judged about it angry.

redredwineandlotsofit Fri 02-Sep-16 13:51:20

My DD self harmed when 15/16 and has a couple of bad scars on her arm. She is still on medication for anxiety but has worked in a nursery for the last 3 years. At first she covered her arms but after speaking to the nursery manager they said they had no problem with her arms being uncovered. Occasionally a child will ask about them, especially if new to the nursery, and DD tells them that she hurt herself years ago but is better now. They accept that. As far as I'm aware no parent has ever discussed them with DD and accept her for who she is.

OP I would explain them first with the new parents and if they do not accept that they are part of your old self then, in my opinion, they would not be parents I would want to work for anyway.

MrsHulk Fri 02-Sep-16 15:00:41

Whatchoo - I have lost three jobs and multiple friends and relationships over "mental health wobbles". Please don't assume that you are the only person on the thread with relevant experience.

As I said up the thread, part of the issue is that I would not be able to tell how old the scars are: most people are not experts on the aging of scars.

If an employee who was looking after my children presented with any physical signs of illness/injury I would want to know whether or not that could be an issue. It's not a case of assuming they will be a bad employee, but of checking whether there is a problem I should be aware of.

To give an example, a former colleague of mine had an unpleasant skin condition - swollen, flaking, cracking skin. Before hiring him for a role changing nappies, preparing food and looking after children, I would have wanted to know whether it was contagious and how he would handle the role if eg frequent hand washing was going to aggravate it.

It's easy to assume that people are prejudiced against mental health problems, and indeed some people are. Equally many people are perfectly "enlightened" (for want of a better word) and are reacting reasonably to concerns about health.

If anything, refusing to discuss self-harm scars risks treating them as though they are something to be ashamed of, which I don't think is the case.

Twiglet90 Fri 02-Sep-16 15:46:25

Hi there,

Thank you so much for the responses. They have all really helped. MrsHulk, I appreciate your honesty and understand where you are coming from and I wanted honest replies so I am not alarmed. Mine are old and luckily the woman is a doctor so would hopefully be able to recognise that but the knowledge that not everyone can tell is quite useful to me. I would very much like this mother to know that they are old and if that means telling her that, so be it.

As some of you pointed out, the fact I have been recommend and by someone who knows about the scars is a massive plus. She may have mentioned it so that would be a good way to broach the subject when I need to. I am glad that so many people would want me not to have to cover them and as Vanilla Sugar pointed out, better to see I am not hiding new ones. In some ways, exposing them demonstrates how much it is in the past.

I think having read the responses, I will probably speak to them because I would like them to be happy with what I will say as a response to their son and my other families have appreciated this. So far, I have been able to respond in a way that doesn't require a lie but doesn't tell them the truth yet and everyone has been happy with that. Both mothers have pointed out that as a role model to the children, it is actually very positive that I am showing them and if they ever go through it themselves, they will know that someone they trust and respect was able to move forward from it. For that reason, I won't lie to them about a cat or a bike or whatever. I say that they are scars from hurting myself long ago and leave it at that. So far, that has been accepted and not questioned further. Honestly, these new parents are so open minded that if they are anything like you guys on here, they will accept me. I think I will face the music and bring it up right from the start. We've met several times already and we've clicked well so I'd like to get it over with, and move forward with my new job and get stuck into the exciting part of looking after a wonderfully intelligent and independent four year old. I might even say that they are welcome to speak to my previous employer and my current one who recommended me if they have any concerns, just to show that I am confident in my ability to care for their child and take it seriously. I don't doubt my competence and nor has anyone else I have worked for, mental health issues and all. Thank you for all the honest and thoughtful responses. I feel a lot better about it seeing your messages. Thank you.

VanillaSugar Fri 02-Sep-16 15:57:27


MrsHulk Fri 02-Sep-16 18:52:55

Twiglet - I hope it goes well - as the new mum is a doctor hopefully she will be understanding!

Danglyweed Fri 02-Sep-16 22:44:14

My dd split her head open, was glued and referred to the city kids hospital plastics team. First nurse looking after us arms were a crisscross of old scars. Makes no difference, be upfront.

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