DO NOT ENTER: the realm of privacy

It is funny how inspiration hits sometimes. I had a situation yesterday at work where one child was running around in their underwear and the other was locked in his room and I couldn’t get in. Then, the wonderful carliedash from Superhero of Imperfection left me this note:

 I have been thinking a lot lately about a topic I am interested in hearing your opinion on- Privacy. As a babysitter/nanny it is our job to keep children safe. But sometimes, older kids want (or should we say need) privacy. What do you do when what you think is right conflicts with the child. A four year old wants to bathe alone? A three year old refuses help wiping? Or what about the other way around? Have you ever been in a situation with an older child where you thought they needed privacy but they asked for your presence? I realize I am being vague, but I am mostly talking about bathtime, potty time, and dressing. It’s a gray area because we need to keep children safe, but we also need to show them that we respect them! What are your thoughts?

Let me start off by saying there is a difference between privacy, independence and rights. Your parent’s stopped watching you go to the bathroom probably by the time you were four or five years old right? One, they knew you were independent enough to do your business, wipe and flush. Second, around the age of four is when children start wanting to be left alone. Children want to test the boundaries of what they can and can’t do by themselves, it is a natural process of learning. Fast forward to when you are say..13. Now you are independent and have earned privacy but you have an attitude. Did your parent’s ever take the door to your room off because you slammed it one too many times? You lost  your right to have a door as a consequence of your actions. Ok so now that we have that situated, what is the line between safety and privacy.

Different age groups have different levels of privacy, independence and rights. Toddlers for example are still heavily reliant on parents to complete daily tasks. As a babysitter/nanny, you are taking the place of the parent and thus have the same responsibilities. Carliedash asked at what age is it appropriate for children to shower alone/without supervision. I don’t think there is a defined age but this is what I do. I watch a three and five year old on Thursday nights. One of my duties is to make sure they are showered and put in bed. We created a called scuba time. The kids (little boy and girl) wear their swim suit in the bath. (this solves the awkward nakedness and keeps bathtime fun).  Since they want their ‘independence’ I put the curtain up (which is pretty shear so I can see their outlines) so they can splash about and have fun with a sense of privacy. I sit next to the tub and listen to what they are doing. I never leave them alone. It is pretty apparent if they are doing something they shouldn’t like jumping or fighting. At that point I can easily intervene. This was our compromise. Now I also have charges that are eight and ten years old. They can shower by themselves with the door closed as long as it remains unlocked. Unlocked you ask? My worst fear would be that they slip and fall in the shower and get knocked unconscious. If that ever happened, it would be vital that you be able to get into the bathroom to help them. At that point, nakedness, self-esteem issues, etc are thrown out the window. They will understand. Again this was the compromise between privacy and safety. They know I won’t enter if the door is closed and I know that I can still do my job, should an emergency occur.

As a nanny, your bathroom duties don’t end there. (no pun intended). When it comes to potty training, toddlers will insist they can “do it”. However, we all know sometimes they can’t reach or get it all. Most parents will tell you it is all part of the learning process and I agree. One of the little boys I watch wouldn’t even let his mom help him wipe (let alone me) but he learned quickly that he needed help when he started getting sore back there. If your little munchkin is refusing help, reiterate that if they miss any, they will have a sore bum and that’s no fun! Always be positive when dealing with a new potty trainer. “Good job buddy, you went potty like a big boy. Don’t forget to wipe like one” Then follow-up with “can you show me what a big boy( or girl) you are?” You don’t have to watch like a hawk, just stand by the door and listen to what is happening. If you hear the toilet paper roll spinning, that is a good sign.

I think there is a misconception that babysitters/nannies shouldn’t see their charges naked out of fear. This is a sticky area all around. Parent’s may feel uncomfortable with the vulnerability of their children naked (let’s face it, even babysitters can be perverts unfortunately). Nannies feel uncomfortable with the possibility of being accused of molestation/inappropriate behavior. And kids just feel embarrassed with strangers looking at their body, especially if you grew up like I did where my mom reinforced “only mommy, daddy and the doctor should see your body..”. So with all this walking on eggshells, it is reasonable to understand why nannies do not want to see their charges naked. STOP! the parent’s are intrusting you with their most precious possessions. You are the parent in their absence. SO!! be sensitive to the child’s privacy but don’t fear accusations. There are cases where you gotta do what you gotta do. Let me repeat: Please don’t let a fear impair your job or the safety of the children you watch. Perfect example. I had a friend who was watching a toddler for the first time. She had to get him dressed for a playdate at the park. However, neither the child or the babysitter felt comfortable with her clothing the child. So she let him close his door, pick out clothes and change by himself while she went through the house to clean up. What toddler do you know that can do ALL of that?? I don’t know any who can pick out their own outfit! As he went to pull out a tall drawer to get pants out of the dresser, it fell out and on top of him. The babysitter walked in on a pinned down, hysterical, NAKED, two year old. My point with this is, sometimes, out of the safety of the child, you need to stay in the room and assist. So that was obviously the wrong way to handle the situation.. This is what I do. I pick out three outfits, underwear and all and sit it on the bed (or floor). Then I tell the child they can pick one of those outfits. I tell them I will stand right outside in case they need help but they can be a big boy (or girl) and get dressed. Now, pants might not get zipped, buttons may be misaligned, they may have their shoes on the wrong feet, BUT they were safely independent and have a sense of self accomplishment. Bonus! you didn’t have to be in the room when they were naked.

I started my nanny job with the 8 and 10 year old about 10 months ago. It was my responsibility to make sure the kids looked appropriate for school. When I started, the kids were very adamant about me not seeing them naked or in their underwear, so I would wake them up and wait downstairs for the morning fashion show. They would come down in the outfit they chose and show me for approval. If it didn’t work, they would go change. Now, since we have been together for so long, sometimes they will walk around in their underwear or ask me to help pick out their clothes for the day. One time Jo Jo was in the shower and forgot a towel so she asked me to give her one, since I am a girl with girl parts like her and it was less awkward than having her brother do it. Out of respect I didn’t look at her as I handed her the towel.

Respect for children is so key to building a relationship with them. With that said, each child is different. Some are very independent, some are very clingy. Some don’t mind nakedness and others are very shy about their body privacy. Bottom line, you need to keep them safe. If you have to walk in on a shower or while they are using the bathroom, explain that it isn’t a breach of privacy, it is because it is your job. If you have a situation where the child is naked, don’t stare or make them feel uncomfortable. Never touch them inappropriately.

Have you ever been in a situation where privacy and safety conflict? Tell me about it!

Advertisements

Big News!!

 

images (57)I blogged a few days ago about how excited I was to have been contacted by the Nanny Magazine and how the kids I watched were as excited if not more. This morning while eating breakfast Jay-who now wants his alias to be Jar-Bear (pronounced jAre bear)- asked if he could help me with my blog. I thought WHAT A GREAT IDEA! I’ve seen blogs with mom’s perspectives and nanny perspectives but never a kid perspective. He even took it one step further by picking out names for his entries and topics. So here it goes, I am pleased to announce my guest blog writer, Jar Bear’s, upcoming topics!

Monday Munchies: A look at his favorite after school snacks

Tuesday Tips: His perspective on Babysitters and Nannies, and what we could do better

Wacky Activity Wednesday: Activities, Games and places to go that he recommends or wants to try out

Thursday Treats: A review on cookies, cakes and other tasty treats

Fun Day Friday: Jokes, stories and other random fun stuff!

Can you believe a 10 year old came up with that?? All by himself! I am so proud of him and happy we can share a love of story telling and writing.

Happy Day!

~Proud Nanny 🙂

 

 

The Television

The television is a gathering area for families, a kid magnet, a distraction from homework and a nanny’s easy way out of activities. We all know kids will sit in front of the tv for hours watching Spongebob and other equally mind numbing shows. But if it comes down to tv or a tantrum…most nannies give in to the tv. I am here to say STOP!!! There are a 100 other things to do besides sitting down and watching television! There are 3 reasons why I hate when kids watch tv excessively.

1) tv promotes bad behavior. Lets face it, watching good kids follow the rules would be boring..Hollywood knows that. Disney channel has kids sneaking out of their house at night, Nickelodeon has shows about pranks and being bossy. You make it harder on yourself if you let kids sit and absorb those behaviors. They are notorious for mimicking! The longer you let them watch, the more difficut it will be to break them of the habits. I know you aren’t the parent, so talk with the parent’s and come up with a tv plan.

2) Research shows that 2 or more hours watching the tv idly per day increases obesity chances. The time that kids spend on tv, videogames and other electronic devices cuts into the time they should spend outside and playing. Without that vital play time, kids become couch potatoes. The more lazy they get, the more difficult chores, tasks and willingness to play outside will become.

3)TV is a huge distraction! when the tv is on, the kids I nanny for completely zone me out. Simple tasks become huge chores because they don’t listen. Kids procrastinate homework, hanging out with friends and even eating for television!

Now I’m not saying you can’t do the occasional movie night and you need to cut off tv all together, BUT limit the kids’ tv time and monitor what they are watching. Talk to parents about what programs are appropriate for their kids.

Hope you all have a fabulous Friday!

The Nanny Contract

Before you hire a nanny or take a job as a nanny, MAKE A CONTRACT! So many times I have seen nannies get into jobs without a contract and “stuff” goes wrong. Now, some families will have a lawyer binding contract, but I have never needed it. Both parties are under the agreement that they will honor the commitments seen in the contract and it has never been a problem for any of my families.

Contracts are important for the employer for many reasons. One, it explains what is specifically expected from the nanny. This includes certifications that must be met, car insurance policies, sick days, vacation days, overtime agreements. Two, it holds the nanny responsible for what she says she can do. Breech of contract gives the employer reason for firing.  Three, it gives the employer and nanny a chance to discuss everything prior to starting a job. The first time I didn’t make a contract, I got stuck doing laundry. I hate laundry..especially other people’s laundry. Had we sat down and discussed what the employer wanted, I would have suggested an alternative service to laundry. I was also with a family who didn’t pay overtime. I have racked up over 30 hours of overtime with no overtime pay. Unfortunately that was my fault, I didn’t bring it up or add it to the contract.

Nannies need contracts! I probably sound repetitive but contracts help the employer and employee settle on hours, payment, duties, number of kids, pay raises, gas allowance etc. Nannies driving kids need to add a clause about not being held liable for injury should their be a car accident. It is always my biggest fear that I will get in an accident while the kids are in the car, then get sued for it.  Nannies are responsible for the well being for their kids but should not be held liable for accidental broken arms.

So, what should be in this contract? The more detailed the better. Take a look at this sample nanny contract template:

Childcare Contract Sample Template

Contract Checklist:

  1. Commitment time ( are you needed for 6 months, 1 year?)
  2. Probation period optional (1 month to feel out if this job is doable for one year. If not, employer and employee can terminate contract without penalty)
  3. Hours and Dates (Approx hours + clause about overtime pay, must give 24 hours for extra time needed)
  4. Compensation (how often, weekly, monthly and yearly income. DONT forget about taxes, again I didn’t realize if you make money, Social Security and IRS come looking for you… Most families will pay 1/2 of Social Security and Medicare tax)
  5. Job Responsibilities (list EVERYTHING from watching the kids brush their teeth to meal preparation to running errands SEE TEMPLATE FOR MORE EXAMPLES)
  6. Vacation and Sick Days (Since I work for a teacher, I get Christmas and Spring Break + two weeks off in the summer..we didn’t need to add any more. I asked for 5 paid sick days as long as I gave 24 hours notice. I luckily haven’t used any in the last 7 months)
  7. Confidentiality (As a nanny, you will hear and see personal family information. It is VERY important to keep it confidential. I write about situations that I have been in with kids on this blog, but I always use alias’ and keep where I am vague.)
  8. Grounds for immediate termination (see list on the CONTRACT TEMPLATE)
  9. Grounds for immediate leaving on the nanny’s part ( I like to include this because it protects the nanny from being in an abusive or unsafe job. This list can include witnessing child abuse-you don’t want to get involved with that, it will mostlikely escalate– if a parent “comes on to you” romantically, if you are hit, cussed at or otherwise threatened by a parent, if the child does any of the above. 
  10. Signed and Dated

 

Nannies PLEASE protect yourself and your job by initiating a contract. Parents, you are the employer, every other job I have been at requires a contract, yours should be no different.

If you know of a contract horror story or think something is missing from my sample contract, feel free to comment. I love getting feedback on my blogs!

 

A Nanny’s Worth: The Guide to Paying your Nanny Fairly

I started my “career” as a babysitter when I was 13. Still a kid myself, I can understand the hesitation parents felt when leaving me alone with their children, simply because of my age. But I was a great date night sitter. Too young to have plans on Friday and Saturday nights, parents often called to just get out of the house for a couple hours. When I first started sitting, I charged $5 an hour, and $1 extra per additional kid. I was CPR certified and had taken a babysitting course, which parents liked and used as a measuring tool to see how dedicated and  responsible I was.

When I started high school, my time was more limited, between school, band, JROTC, and driving lessons. Because I was in higher demand, more mature, and had my own transportation, I raised my going rate to $7-$10 depending on time needed and number of kids. It has never been my goal or intention to get over paid or put a family out so using minimum wage as a gage was fair. I think it is great that parents go out and have fun- kid free time, but it is also expensive. Look at a sample date night for parents:

  • Dinner- $20-$30
  • Movie- $20 + $10 on popcorn and snacks
  • Babysitter for 4 hours- $40! (thats on the cheap side)
  • Thats close to $100 for a night out. I know when I become a mom, that will probably not be in the budget.

Now that I am graduated and nannying is a full time job I have raised my going rate to $15 an hour. While this seems high, the job description for nannying is a little more extensive than babysitting. In a typical day, I have to feed, chauffer, discipline, tutor, and clean up after two kids. I am considered on the low side for what to pay nannies. Since I am new to it this is my starting rate. As experience builds, as with any other job, the pay will go up. Depending on your area, nannies can range from $15-$30 an hour.

In addition to pay, parents often give tips for good service or when they are impressed. If your babysitter goes out of their way to bring craft supplies or make a yummy dinner (something other than the usual mac n cheese) make them feel appreciated with a couple extra dollars. Babysitters, here are 3 easy ways to impress parents:

  1. clean up the house. With little kids running around, the house is probably scattered with toys. It is the last thing parents want to deal with after a romantic night out.
  2. do the dishes- again, after a date night, who wants to clean dishes?
  3. Bring crafts- it doesnt have to be expensive, but holiday themed or cool crafts are always a plus.

Nannies often become additions to the family and many families feel it is appropriate to give their nannies gifts for holidays and birthdays. I was so taken a back when my employer sent me a birthday card and gave me a Christmas bonus. The kids made me Valentine cards too. It was not expected and made me feel like I had done a good job with their family.

So lets recap:

Babysitter age 13-16: $5-7 an hour

Babysitter age 17-20: $7-10 an hour plus a tip if good service

Nanny (young or inexperienced): $15-20 an hour you can negotiate gas and duties + the occasional bonus optional

Nanny (experienced): $20-$40 depending on area, demand, hours, gas, duties, etc.

My final tip: ALWAYS make a contract with nannies laying out exactly what is expected of them. Come back for my article on THE NANNY CONTRACT

How to Say Goodbye

One of the best parts of my job is how attached I become to each child and every family. I have watched kids grow from infants to middle schoolers, listened to how hundreds of days at school went, wiped away tears after a tumble, experienced birthdays, holidays, successes at school spelling bees..The time I spend with each child is a moment I will never forget. Part of the reason for writing this blog is to document some of my most memorable experiences as a babysitter and nanny. But there comes a time when it is time for me to leave a family, whether by choice or because I am no longer needed. It is these times that become the not so fun days for me. Here are a couple scenarios that I have been through and how I dealt with leaving the family.

Aged-out: As with a hermit and his shell, or a family needing a bigger house..a child will eventually grow out of needing a nanny. As they become teenagers and young adults, they will no longer need the constant care that they once relied on you for. Jake was one of the first children I ever watched. He was three years old when I first started watching him. That was nearly 10 years ago. Now he is going into middle school and can stay home by himself.  (Nothing like making you feel old). When his mother and I discussed that I would no longer be needed, I could feel my heart sink to my stomach. No more craft time, no more bed time stories…no more trips to the park or finger painting in the bath tub. I could feel all of these emotions whirling in my head. But I stopped. This wasn’t about me. It was part of the job and I had to deal with it. As I left for the last time as their babysitter, Jake stood in the window trying to hide a tear that had fallen. Now, this story seems a little melodramatic like I never saw the kid again. Luckily he is my neighbor and his older sister and I still hang out occasionally so I see him grow in passing now. Seeing Jake reminds me that the bonds that are established don’t break, they just take a little more effort to keep in place.

Moving on: There may be times where you love the kids you work with but can’t stand the parents or work environment. Maybe you don’t feel safe in the home or suspect there is abuse in the family. Maybe you got a better job offer or are moving for education reasons. In any case GET OUT. There are plenty of nanny jobs around and no job is worth abuse, fearing for your safety, or passing up an opportunity to help your future. I was once with a family who had lots of internal problems and thought that by staying with them I could magically fix all the problems….I was horribly wrong and it wasn’t until I got a piece of advice that I realized, sometimes the best way to fix a problem is by stepping back and letting it work itself out. Leaving the kids was devastating but it was in the best interest for everyone. When saying your goodbyes to the kids, give them a little note saying how much you enjoyed being their nanny, what your favorite memory was and the best thing about the child. The kids I nanny for want to have a special dinner/party on my last day coming up in May. I will bring a little cake, their favorite food and we can watch a movie in our jammies (their favorite friday night activities with me). End your job on a positive note. And smile, don’t get emotional in front of the children, it will make the goodbye that much harder for everyone.

Getting Fired: Luckily I have never had this happen to me, but there are cases where parent’s decide you need to leave. In this case, say good bye to the children and leave it at that. You don’t want the kids to think that their parent’s are mean or bad in any way (even if you have a few choice words about them). Regardless of your feelings, this is a job. If you ever need a reference or work in the future, you don’t want to burn a bridge with any of your parents.

In a future post I will explain how to write a letter of resignation for a nanny job. I found it to be a little more difficult than the average letter because of the attachment and relationships with the families.

9-1-1…am I in the Ghetto?

I fell asleep to the sound of distant sirens last night and was reminded of a time when I had to call 911 on the job. I had recently started a nanny job in an unfamiliar neighborhood for a family with two kids. Jay is ten and Jo is eight. Our day started out like any other. They got up, got dressed, ate breakfast, finished homework from the night before and cleaned their rooms. When it was time to leave for school Jo decided she didn’t want to be the door locker (a job that alternated by day), so Jay volunteered. I don’t remember checking to verify if it was locked or not since Jay was responsible. I took them to school and picked them up. When we got home I made popcorn while they took out their homework and told me about their day. Jay stopped talking and asked if someone was upstairs. All three of us were downstairs and no one was due home until dinnertime. The noise came again from their parent’s bedroom like someone was walking around. Creaking floorboards, jingling jewelry… the noises continued. Not knowing the area very well, I was unsure of crime rates and how common break in’s were. I took the kids to the back yard and called 9-1-1. The operator asked questions and sent a police car immediately. We went through the side gate to the front of the house where we were told to walk down to the mailbox. By now the kids were freaked out but trying to remain calm. The first police man arrived but had to wait for his partner. He talked with the kids and was very gracious when the stereotypical “what’s your favorite donut ’cause all policemen eat donuts” came up. Jay was intrigued with his guns and the car’s computer system. Minutes later the partner arrived. The police searched the home but didn’t find anything. He took the kids through the house to help confirm that everything was ok. They left and we finished homework and started dinner.

Lessons Learned:

  1. Go with your gut, if you don’t feel safe call for help. In this case, since the parents were far away at work and my parents were not close, 911 was my only option. 
  2. Take the kids to a safe area.
  3. Stay calm. Children sense fear and feed on it. If you stay calm, they will too. Reassure the children that calling 911 is just a precaution but they should always ask a grown up before calling 911 themselves.
  4. Keep parents in the know. I called the mom before calling 911 and after the police left to calm her worries and make sure everyone was on the same page.
  5. Know the area you are in. The police man said there had been five break ins in the past year in this particular neighborhood. I would have never known if I didn’t ask. City Halls and police stations have up to date criminal records.. take a look.
  6. Check to make sure all doors and windows are locked before leaving. The door had been locked that morning but it is important to double check.

* just as a side note, a few months later, the house was burglarized, and someone stole items out of the families side yard. Crazy huh? Luckily no one was home.