Is My Nanny Employment Relationship Abusive?

Every nanny employment relationship is unique.  The quality of each relationship is dependent on many factors including the emotional IQ, communication skills, and personality of the parents and caregiver along with the terms of the contract.  When nannies find themselves in a difficult relationship and have done what they can to fix the situation with no success they wonder “Are my employers just bad employers or has this become emotionally abusive?”  That’s a serious question that’s not easy to answer however, on social media the knee jerk reaction from others is too often “They’re abusive!”.  That rush to judgement is a disservice to those relationships that live in the grey area; not always healthy yet not abusive either.  Relationships that can be improved if both the parents and the nanny are willing to invest the time and energy needed.  (Honestly, most relationships fall in the grey area some or most of the time.) 

I created this comparison to give nannies help in deciding where their relationship falls and what their next step should be.  Nannies that are in abusive relationship need our support in leaving their position and healing from the trauma.  Of course, a nanny doesn’t have to be in an abusive relationship to leave their job.  A bad employer is enough of a reason.  However, the language we use as a community when talking about this subject does matter. 

This information has been taken from a variety of resources on abuse.  I’ve summarized it and given examples common to the nanny community.  I am not a mental health care professional and are not labeling any individual relationship.  That’s a decision only the nanny involved can make.

Healthy Nanny / Parent Relationship

Potential Abusive Relationship

your employer understands it’s normal for you to sometimes have a different opinion and that doesn’t make you bad, wrong, or stupid

your employer refuses to accept your differing opinion as reasonable or valid, the only acceptable opinion or idea is your employer’s

your employer accepts responsibility for their words, actions, and their part in difficult situations

your employer fully blames you for all the difficult situations that come up with their child and in your employment relationship

your employers genuinely listens to your needs, wants, ideas, and perceptions with the goal of understanding you better

your employer dismisses outright your needs, wants, ideas, and perceptions as invalid or unreasonable

your employer genuinely listens to your concerns, shares their thoughts in response, and engages in problem solving conversations to find a solution that works for both of you

your employer dismisses any concerns you might have as baseless or inappropriate and often labels you “too sensitive”, “overreacting”, or “expecting too much”

your employer understands and respects your role and doesn’t make unreasonable demands on you

your employer consistently makes unreasonable demands of you and rejects or dismisses any objections you might have

if your employer finds their needs expanding, they discuss an expansion of your job description and an increase in your wages with you

your employer consistently demands more and more of you with no regard for your agreed on job description, your physical or mental health or your work / life balance

your employer respects your professional boundaries, even when doing so is inconvenient or creates a difficult situation for them

your employer accuses you of being uncaring, selfish, needy, or all about the money when you attempt to set professional boundaries

even when your employer is upset, they remain respectful in their communication with you

when they’re upset, your employer yells at you, calls you names, and refuses to listen to anything you have to say

your employer may go through stressful times when they are “off” however, they’re transparent about their behavior and keep you in the loop until things return to normal

your employer consistently behaves unpredictably, often making confusing and contradictory statements, arguing for the sake of arguing, all while making it seem like their behavior is normal and you simply fail to understand them

when dissatisfied with your work, your employer provides you with compassionate, helpful feedback, clear, reachable goals, detailed instructions, and a supportive work environment to give you the best chance of success

your employer is consistently dissatisfied with your work yet fails to provide anything that would help you succeed, instead, only criticizes, belittles, insults, and shames you

your employers recognizes and values the work you do as a nanny professional and treats you kindly and respectfully

your employer consistently devalues the work you do, makes fun of you, makes jokes at your expense, talks down to you, treats you as “lesser than”

if your employer is consistently unhappy with your performance or they feel you’re no longer a good fit for their family, they provide you with notice as outlined in your contract and a reference that honestly reflects the quality of work you did for them

your employer often threatens you with firing, a bad reference, or lying about you in the community to keep control over you

If you believe you’re in an emotionally abuse employment relationship, please get the help you need to leave your job ASAP.  You can find informal (not professional) support in the facebook group Nanny Care Cadre.

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