The Catch-22 Of A Pregnant Nanny
For some women, supporting a nanny through her pregnancy with the hopes that she’ll return is so important, they’re willing to readjust their own work schedules to make it happen. That was the case with Cincinnati-based Sandi Straetker, a PR professional and mother of two. As soon as her nanny, Patty, shared news that she was pregnant, the women devised a plan: Patty would take a two-month, unpaid maternity leave and then come back to work â€“ along with her baby.
For Sandi, this meant enrolling her son Matthew, then 18 months old, in a daycare center. At the time, she worked three days a week at a PR agency and spent the other two days at home with her son. It was a challenge to find a daycare center that would take her child on a part-time basis and, when she finally did, it made more financial sense to have him there two days a week rather than three. So Sandi got creative. She presented a written plan to her boss that showed how she could work two longer days rather than three shorter ones on a temporary basis (until her nanny returned). Her boss was game.
“I won’t say it was fabulous. It was a challenge and it screwed up my world,” admits Sandi. “But I had months to plan for it, prepare my child and get all my ducks in a row. I was upfront with everyone involved, including my boss, my clients, my child and, of course, our nanny.”
Things went smoothly during Patty’s mat leave. Matthew did well at daycare and Sandi and her husband would often pick him up at the end of the work day and go for dinner together to avoid rush-hour traffic, which made for some nice and unexpected family bonding time. Eight weeks later Patty returned to work, baby in tow, and it was business as usual.
Until it wasn’t. Two months after returning to work, Patty quit. “By then I had gone back to my original work schedule and so when she told me she was leaving I thought, ‘No! Really?’ It was disappointing,” says Sandi.
More than 11 years have passed since then â€“ Sandi went on to have another child, this time a daughter â€“ and she remembers Patty with fondness. “If you had talked to me at the time, I would have been very frustrated and upset. Childcare is so difficult and challenging. But in retrospect, it all worked out fine. I was fortunate,” she says. “I had a great employer who was willing to accommodate me when I needed it most â€“ and that’s what it’s all about, give and take. Patty was my go-to gal and I knew I could trust her. She went the extra mile for me, and so I did the same for her.” [tagbox tag=”nanny”]
Pregnancy or not, ask any woman who has ever employed a nanny and she’ll tell you this: The relationship is a complex one. On the surface, it would appear similar to any employer/employee relationship â€“ one that involves a salary, benefits, time off, professionalism, maybe some camaraderie. If only that were the case!
In reality, a mother-nanny relationship is fraught with emotions. Here’s a woman that’s caring for your kids while you’re off at work or the grocery store or, in some cases like Kimberly’s, even in the same house. She becomes like family. She is family. And yet she’s your employee. It’s complicated, to say the least, especially when there’s a pregnancy involved.
Candi Wingate, president of Nannies4Hire â€“ a nanny placement agency â€“ says it’s vital to acknowledge your mixed feelings about the situation. “It’s normal for you to feel happy for your nanny but concerned about how you and your children will be affected,” she says.
Wingate also recommends telling your nanny that she’s a treasured employee whom you don’t want to lose. “Ensure that she knows that you and your children will miss her while she’s on maternity leave, but that you’re happy for her because you know what an exciting time this is for her,” she says. “Be respectful of her right to have a life outside of her employment with you.”