Monday, May 23, 2011

The Elephant in the Room by Glenda Propst

We have talked a lot on this blog about the difficult transition of leaving a family but one of the most difficult transitions that we have not really addressed fully is the transition of leaving a family after you have been there long term.

As professional nannies, we have all heard parents make these statements “You are so wonderful, we are going to keep you forever” “We want you to stay till the kids go to college” “Please don’t ever leave us”

Now when parents make statements like these, at the time they make them, they mean it with all their heart but crying babies grow to be toddlers, toddlers grow to be preschoolers, preschoolers become school age kids and in what seems like the blink of an eye, your charges are in school full time and you morph into a household manager, errand runner, jack of all trades kind of nanny who does a little bit of everything.

If you want to stay with a family long term, you have to roll with the punches and you have to redefine your job description as you grow with the children.
Many nannies (myself included) have been fortunate enough to grow with a family, and as you stay with a family for 7-10 years there comes a time when you all realize that this relationship is important, and valuable, and lifelong. You realize that in all the ups and downs of life, you will always find ways to work together to overcome the challenges that life throws at you.When this happens it is “Nanny Magic” If you are fortunate enough to have experienced this at least once in your career, you know what I am talking about.

The problem with this kind of relationship is that once the kids graduate from High School you have to face the reality that you might have to re think this relationship and the reality that this job will not last forever.When this happens you realize that this family will always be a part of your life, you will always be a part of what the children do, but you have to think about what is next for you.

It is easy to stay safe and cozy and often times the parents don’t even want to talk about the elephant in the room, but for your sanity ….you have to.

So what do you do to protect yourself when you go through this transition?

*If you are smart, you will have an ongoing dialogue with your employers from the beginning of your job about how they envision you growing with the family.

*If you are smart you will be saving and planning and getting ready for the next phase gradually by easing into other things. Maybe you take come college courses, maybe you take on a part time job teaching preschool or even working in a retail store for a change of pace.

*No matter what it is, you should always have a plan for what the next step is going to be.

*If you haven’t made a plan yet, you need to make one now and if you haven’t had that “talk” with your employers, you need to do that.

If you make the decision to have this conversation with your employer it does a couple of things. The first thing it does is it puts you in control of your situation, the other thing that it does is open the door to communication. That doesn’t mean that in one conversation you and your employer will make all the decisions about this transition but at least you can start to talk about it and share your thoughts about how to work it through.
The worst thing that you can do is to ignore it, thinking that if you don’t bring it up neither will they because sooner or later you have to deal with the future and the future comes way too soon.