You’ve met with the family. The interview went great and they want you to be their nanny. You would be paid well and the job seems easy. While you’re negotiating the contract, they state that they need you to commit for 2 years.
“I don’t know if I’ll even want to live in this area for two years” you think to yourself. It’s a great job, but you’re struggling to say “Yes” or “No.”
This is just an example of a situation many nannies find themselves in when looking for new families.
- How should you handle commitment to families?
- How long should you set up a contract for?
We’ll take a look at these questions today.
Potential Pitfalls to Long Term Contracts
“They’re germaphobes.” “Their expectations are unreasonable.” “They just let the kid run and scream all day.” “The parents constantly micromanage every aspect of our day.” “She asked me to wear scrubs anytime I’m at their house.” “The whole family is unbelievably rude.”
When you rush into a working relationship with a family, often you learn things over time that weren’t apparent when you signed up for the job. The examples above are not made up. You can proactively protect yourself from these situations by having a good screening process in place while interviewing families.
As part of this process, it’s essential that you have a trial period. During this time, you better get to know the family and them, you. If either of you realize that this relationship is going to be more trouble than it’s worth, you can simply end the contract there and move on to a better fitting job. You really should have no less than two-weeks for trial period. I would recommend giving your trial a whole month. Sometimes, these discrepancies can take time to reveal themselves.
Even with a good screening process, however, things can go awry.
If you’re locked into a two year contract, getting out won’t always be easy. Not that you can’t give your two-weeks notice, but many nannies struggle with ending their commitments early. Many also have the fear that this will make them look bad. The reality is that you ending a contract early won’t likely ruin your reputation as a nanny (more on that later).
Even if things go rather smoothly, these long term contracts can put a lot of pressure on you. Many nannies are young. We don’t always know what we want to do with our lives.
“Where will I want to live in one or two years?”
“What if I get a better job offer?”
“What if I want to change my schedule?”
When you commit, you lose some control over your long-term schedule.
How Long Should I Commit to a Family?
In our opening example, the family wanted the nanny to sign on to a two year contract. While this is not the norm, it certainly does happen. Why?
Children, and their parents, love stability. It’s how most of us are wired. The process of searching for, interviewing and hiring a new nanny is stressful. Doing that every few months is unreasonable in most circumstances. This stability is also good for children’s development. A long term nanny can be that child’s source of stability.
It’s also more fun to have a long term nanny. The longer the family/nanny relationship lasts, the better it can be built up. This means they’ll trust you more. You will be able to do activities and go places with the kids a new nanny wouldn’t. You also become a part of the family, intimately integrated into their lives. That’s something that only comes with time.
As great as that is, you can still feel a lot of pressure if you’re not sure where you want to be in the next few years. If you cave into that pressure and only take on temporary jobs, or frequently end your contracts early, the “perfect” families may be weary about hiring you.
Questions to Think about
How long you commit to a family is ultimately up to you. In order for you to make a good decision, you need to think about what you want.
“Do I want to be a career nanny?”
If so, you may want to take on jobs that will allow you to build a strong rapport with the family to give you raving reviews in the future. If you consistently end contracts early, your job references may not do you much good. If any of your references are disappointed in how the relationship ended, getting the job you want may prove difficult. If this is the direction you want to go, aim towards the kinds of jobs that aid that goal – long term nanny contracts.
It’s also good to remember that being good at your job is more important than showing an exhaustive work history. If you have several good quality references already, but also some short term “duds”, share the references you’re proud to display. In other professions, a person’s portfolio never includes everything they’ve ever done, only a highly curated selection of previous work makes it into the portfolio. Often, they curate their portfolio specifically towards the client they are trying to obtain. You don’t need to treat your work any differently than other professionals treat theirs.
“Do I just want to nanny as a side job?”
Nannying can be a fulltime career, but that’s not what everyone wants. Many are just nannying their way through college. There is nothing wrong with this and many people go this route in life. If you like nannying, but have your eyes set on something else, big commitments may not be a good choice for you. Don’t say yes to a job that you know you will have to quit early. Doing that will leave a sour taste in the family’s mouth. Make sure families know what you’re looking for. Look for short term jobs. You could even list that on your profile or tell those who ask what you’re looking for.
Be an advocate for yourself.
“Am I going to be making any big changes within the next couple years?”
If you haven’t already, sit down and think about your goals. What do you want to do in the next few years? Will a two year contract get in the way of that? Will a two year contract aid that goal? On the one hand, maybe you love where you live and couldn’t imagine moving away. On the other hand, perhaps you picture yourself buying a one-way ticket to Europe next summer.
Ask yourself questions. These types of exercises can relieve a lot of the stress of commitment. After you’ve figured out what you want, know that you can stand up for yourself. Nannies don’t need to be employees. I’ve worked as an independent contractor for years as a nanny. When you work as a contractor, you’re not submitting a job application. You have a say in what you want out of the relationship. This means you can commit on your own terms: three months, six months, a year, three years. To a very large degree, the choice is up to you. If you have good quality references and are a skilled nanny, most parents will be willing to take you on a shorter-term contract.