Breaking Up with Your Nanny
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Lessen the angst of the inevitable departure
The people who care for our kids can often hold a place in our hearts as near and dear as a family member. So what happens when it’s time to let go of that relationship—and you, the Solo Mom, are the one who has to do it? With some planning, you can make this potentially traumatic transition less painful.
Making the decision
This is probably the toughest part. Unless your nanny has done something harmful to the children, this decision can take some time and thought. Take this helpful quiz from Quibblo to see if your current situation is working or not.
There are legitimate reasons to let your nanny go: Sometimes we want a caregiver who has a more educational approach as our kids grow older; other times we have our hours cut at work and need to find a more affordable child-care plan; perhaps your child finally got a spot in a coveted preschool and your child-care needs are now minimal; and, occasionally, nannies and kids grow bored with one another or things in the relationship just don’t seem to be working.
Whatever your reason, once you make the decision to terminate your nanny’s services, it is essential to have a clear plan to minimize the disruption.
Approaching the nanny
Many of us dread confrontation of this sort. Unless your nanny has committed some type of egregious behavior resulting in immediate dismissal, discussing the terms of parting should be friendly and, most important, clear.
Decide beforehand exactly what you are going to say. Do you want to maintain contact? If so, on what level? Is there a possibility that you might want to call for occasional babysitting? Write out what you are going to say and practice it once or twice to make sure you have all your bases covered. In addition, you should have a hard-copy reference letter ready. This will help as the nanny begins to search for a new job.
What do I tell the kids?
You want to make transitions of this nature as seamless as possible for the children. Let the kids know the nanny will be leaving. Keep your explanation uncomplicated. Comfort your children during this conversation. Solo Moms report that it helps if the kids know they can still contact their caregiver by writing letters or sending drawings. Communication makes the exit less abrupt.
After the nanny departs, do everything possible to maintain a similar routine and structure to the kids’ day. Try not to introduce anything new during this time.
Is two weeks’ notice enough?
Notice depends on the situation. You need to reference your contract. Typically, notice is two weeks along with two weeks of severance pay. If you know earlier that you will not be needing the nanny’s services, you should give notice as soon as possible so the nanny can begin looking for a new job. The worry here is that the Solo Mom will be left with a gap in child care. This might happen, but you need to have empathy for your nanny. This job is the nanny’s income, and in the case of a live-in nanny, it is also a home. A nanny will welcome any additional time to make new arrangements. And more than likely, you will be able to work out child care during the transition.
Some Solo Moms prefer paying their long-term nannies one week’s full pay for every year they worked together rather than the standard two weeks’ pay. Of course, this, too, depends on the circumstances surrounding the farewell.
You just didn’t click
This is the cleanest break of all. You and your nanny, or your nanny and your child, just never felt that special bond. And it doesn’t appear that it will happen any time soon. In these cases, it’s best to tell your nanny, very simply, that things do not seem to be working out. Chances are, the nanny already has an idea this is coming. Give the person at least two weeks’ notice, and offer to be a reference. In these situations, it helps to supplement pay a bit as a parting gift.
The slow parting
If your nanny has been with you a long time and you have made the decision to part ways, a reduction in hours can be the easiest path. Be up front about your plans to cut back. Tell the nanny you can offer certain hours each week, and be open to the nanny looking for new full-time employment. This can be a slow transition, but it works best when there is a true bond between your child and the nanny. It gives both of them time to adjust to a new schedule and adapt to more time apart.
After the break
What do nannies cherish from their previous employers? The gift most often mentioned was a keepsake made by the child, in many cases a scrapbook or collage of memorable events the nanny and the child shared together. Cards and drawings also held a special place for former nannies.
Most important, be sure to communicate how much you valued your family’s relationship with the nanny. Letting go of a trusted and loved caregiver can be tough for everyone involved, but it is also a learning experience for your child. Your child will follow your lead, and saying goodbye with grace is a lesson we practice all through our lives.
Curious how other Solo Moms handle particular child-care issues? Sister Chat is a great forum in which to ask questions in a confidential community.
Anne Spollen lives happily as a Solo Mom to three kids and works as an author, a writer, and a college teacher.
Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.
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