Breaking Up is Hard to Do: How to Gracefully Move on From Your Nanny Family
My last day with my “nanny family” of 9 months was so emotionally exhausting that I went home and slept for 12 straight hours. I’m sure I cried at least 20 times throughout the day, and probably would have cried even more if my son Simon, 3 years old at the time, hadn’t been with me. It’s always hard to leave a nanny position, but it’s 1,000 times harder to leave a position that you LOVE.
As nannies, we sometimes talk about finding our “Unicorn Family”- a family that is so perfect, it’s hard to believe that they actually exist. The “L” Family was my Unicorn Family. Not only did they respect my career choice, but they respected my time and my “work space” as well. They NEVER came home late, and not once did I walk into a sink full of dishes from the night before, toys all over the floor, or piles of laundry stacked up for me to tackle. In fact, I didn’t even do Baby D’s laundry- my “mom boss” (MB) preferred to do it herself. From day one, I was treated as a professional AND as part of the family, and there is no better feeling than that for a nanny!
When I started with the “L” Family, Dawson* was not yet crawling. From the very first day, I knew that we were going to get along splendidly. His sweet smile melted my heart, and his little coos and babbles were irresistible. He was, by far, the easiest baby I’ve ever cared for in my 17 years as a nanny: perfect sleep schedule, great eater and happy 95% of the day. We barely noticed when he was teething, as he never complained (unless he was hungry). He loved being held and snuggled, but was also able to play independently for long stretches of time. We went on adventures together all over the city. His favorite thing to do when we were out was to stare at people on the bus/train until they looked at him, and then flash his gummy smile that lit up his bright blue eyes and melted strangers’ hearts. I can’t even count the number of times I heard “What a beautiful/sweet/calm baby. You are so blessed”.
And even though he wasn’t mine, I’d say “Thank you!” because he truly was such a blessing in my life.
As a nanny, when you’re with a child one-on-one for 30+ hours per week, there’s really no way to avoid becoming attached. You are there for every moment: every tear, every smile, every laugh, and every tantrum. You kiss boo-boos and wipe noses, give baths and serve meals, and you teach and teach and teach and watch them learn and grow and become little people right before your eyes. You read them stories and tuck them in at naptime (and sometimes bedtime), and you kiss their cheeks and say “I love you”- because you do. You love them, and they love you right back! “Cause in the end, all you really have is memories”
No nanny position can last forever. This is the nature of our profession: kids grow up and no longer need constant care, and nannies move on to new families. We go into each position knowing that we will only have a limited time with each family. If you are lucky enough to find a wonderful family that you’d like to stay in touch with, there are a few tips that I’d like to share to improve the chances that your Nanny Family will be open to this possibility after you leave.
Tip #1: Give plenty of notice!!
Finding a suitable nanny takes time. The average family will search for 2-6 weeks to find the right nanny for their family. Whenever possible, give AT LEAST two weeks’ notice to your NF (in the past, I have given as much as 5 weeks’ notice), or at least the minimum amount of time is in your contract. Keep in mind, however, that the more notice you give, the more time you may have that you are out of a job if your NF hires someone quickly and decides to let you go earlier than your proposed end date.
Tip #2: If you are willing and able, offer to help find (and train) your replacement
This is something that I have always done for my NF’s, regardless of the circumstances surrounding my departure. Why do I do this? It’s simple: I want the best for my nanny kids! Leaving is hard enough without having to worry about “your” kids after you leave. I want my NK’s to be in the most capable hands possible when I leave, and if that means I have to pre-screen 100 nannies, then that’s what I do. I realize that not every nanny has the time (or desire) to help in this way. If you can’t help during the hiring process, ask if you can help train the new nanny. Many families will have the new nanny come for a few hours and “shadow” the current nanny to see how a typical day runs. This can be very beneficial for the new nanny (and also for the exiting nanny, since she will be able to see the new nanny in action and know her NKs are in good hands before she leaves).
Tip #3: Write a formal letter of resignation, and hand it to your NF (no texting or emailing your resignation, please!)
I simply cannot stress this enough: DO NOT TEXT OR EMAIL YOUR RESIGNATION! This is extremely unprofessional and is akin to getting a breakup text from a boyfriend/girlfriend. Just don’t do it! Put on your big girl (or boy) pants and break up with your NF face to face.
Will it be hard? Yup.
Will there be crying? More than likely.
Regardless, speaking with your Nanny Family in person is the right thing to do. The formal letter of resignation is necessary so that everything is (literally) spelled out in black and white: end date, reason(s) for leaving, if you’re willing to find/train your replacement, etc. Since these conversations can have a tendency to become emotional, it’s best to write everything out that you want to say ahead of time so that you don’t leave out anything important during your face-to-face conversation.
Tip #4: Be honest, but not TOO honest…
The type of relationship you have with your NF will probably determine the type of resignation letter you write, but the majority of these letters have similar styles. In your letter, you should:
- Thank them for the opportunity to work with their family
- Give a clear (unemotional) reason for leaving
- State your end date
- Express your desire to work with the family to ensure a smooth transition for the child(ren), and
- If you’d like to keep in touch, say so!
Even if you hated your job, try to find at least one thing to express gratitude for. This is not the time to air grievances or place blame- it is important to remain professional and tactful, and to resist the urge to be “TOO honest”.
P.S. If you’d like a quick glimpse into what being “TOO honest” looks like, check out this article that includes a resignation letter that starts “Dear Nanny Family: I HATE YOU”: http://www.thefunnynanny.com/tfns-diary-last-words-to-my-ex-nanny-family/
Tip #5: Prepare a Nanny Book/Family Manual
One of the last (and most appreciated) things I do before leaving a NF is to put together a “manual” for the new nanny. This book includes all the details the new nanny will need to ensure the days go smoothly. Typically, a Nanny Book will include things like a typical daily schedule, a list of the child(ren)’s likes/dislikes, important phone numbers (include playmate’s numbers so that the children can continue to see their friends), meal plans and recipes, and a list of local activities (both indoor and outdoor). Make sure to include your contact information so that the new nanny can reach out to you with any questions.
Nanny Know How Tip: Always speak with your NF first before putting together a Nanny Book. The family may want to do this themselves (or may deem it unnecessary), so before you put any effort into this project, ask first!
Leaving a nanny family is always hard, no matter how you go about it. Hopefully, if you follow this advice, you may be able to make things a little easier on yourself, your employers, and the children in your care.
Nannies– how many of these tips have you followed in the past when giving notice? Do you think this list is reasonable? Why/why not?
Parents– have you ever had a nanny resign? How did s/he go about it? Was there anything you wish s/he would have done differently?
Please share your experiences!
*Names have been changed
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