Pregnant nanny.
July 31, 2009 8:31 PM   Subscribe

Our nanny, who is otherwise *perfect*, just informed us that she is pregnant. She would like to continue working through the pregnancy and after her child is born. Is this a good idea?

She's only been working for us for a few weeks, but she's wonderful. We found her through a workmate and she came very highly recommended, having just finished caring for 2 children from the age of 3 months old until they went to school. It was very important to her old family that they find her a great new family to work for. No agency involved (ie she's inexpensive), she's reliable, flexible, very nice, no immigration issues, and our three month old son *loves* her.

I have good reason to say I believe her when she says this was unplanned and she had no idea she was pregnant when she agreed to start working for us. It was very emotional for her when she broke the news to us and she feels awful about this.

She's made it clear that she needs to continue to work as a nanny throughout the pregnancy and needs to do so after her child is born, whether it is for us or for someone else. She says her family will be able to care for her baby after he/she's born and she won't need to bring him/her to our house.

Here's where things get complicated. We hired her with the understanding that we would enter into a nanny share situation with some good friends of ours in 3 months' time. We simply can't afford what we're paying now indefinitely. She asked for $12 an hour for a single child, and $14 for the nanny share. Because this is lower than the going rate and we really liked her, we agreed to pay the $14 for these first three months by ourselves and to continue $14 for the share down the road.

Here's the issues:
1. We don't think our friends will agree to a nanny share with a pregnant woman, nor do we think she'll be able to keep up nannying for 2 infants with her own newborn at home, despite what she says. We can't afford $14 an hour by ourselves long term. By restructuring some debt, we *probably* could stretch and afford $12 an hour, so we'll be asking her to take a pay cut.

2. Assuming no complications in the pregnancy (*big* assumption I know), I do think she'll be able to keep up with one child, but frankly we feel a little weird about her abandoning her own infant to come take care of ours. I know if she's not doing this for our child, she'll do it for someone else's, but still. We were going to offer to have her bring her baby to our house on some days, but does this entitle us to ask for a lower rate? And would this be weird?

3. If things go well, we'll still have about six weeks postpartum without her. I think we can swing this with our family filling in, or with day care, but it's still an issue.

4. We feel like we hit the jackpot with her. It would not be easy to find someone as trustworthy without an agency involved which would really jack up the cost. Day care options for us (we have weird work schedules, no facilities near our house) are very suboptimal which is how we ended up with a nanny in the first place.

5. She's a really nice person and we'd like to support her in any way possible without sacrificing our child's welfare. I think she will have significant problems setting up another employer while pregnant or with a new baby, particularly a family that is as easy going and understanding as we are.

So, you can tell, we are leaning towards trying to make this work out if we can, but are there any other issues or pitfalls we should consider? Have you ever had a nanny go through a pregnancy or have children of her own, and how did that go?
posted by anonymous to Society & Culture (36 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My thoughts:

1. Be honest with her about the nanny share not working out, and about how much you can pay her in that case and see what she's willing to work out.

2. Anticipate that she will very likely be able to care for your baby during her pregnancy, and do a fine job of it, especially if you do not expect a lot of housework from her, or are comfortable with her, for instance, taking a nap from time to time when the baby does if she needs to.

3. Six week gap in childcare is annoying, but if she's a great nanny and a good fit for your family, it will be a minor blip in possibly a years-long relationship like the one she had with her previous employer.

4. It is not uncommon where I am for women with babies or toddlers of their own to take in a baby to care for for extra money. In your shoes, if she's really that great, I'd be cool with her bringing her own baby along more than occasionally; you might even ask her if it would be worth it for her to take a pay cut if she could have her own baby with her as well. How well this would work out, of course, depends on things like the temperaments of the two babies (it would be easier with "easy" babies, for sure) but it should not be too tough for an experienced nanny/mom to care for a toddler and an infant at the same time. You might not be comfortable with that, but I would offer her the option to bring her own baby full-time (probably with a pay cut) once her maternity leave ended.
posted by not that girl at 8:50 PM on July 31, 2009 [2 favorites]

Please keep in mind that six weeks is only HALF of the amount of maternity leave legally required of corporations/companies in the United States (and an even smaller fraction if you're in a lot of other countries). It may be inconvenient to you to not have her working for you for six weeks, but she is still a human being who deserves to have a baby without anyone even thinking to question whether she planned her pregnancy.
posted by so_gracefully at 9:01 PM on July 31, 2009 [33 favorites]

but frankly we feel a little weird about her abandoning her own infant to come take care of ours.

How is this different from the fact that you presumably go to work all day and require a nanny for your own child?

Offering to allow her to bring her own child into your home is a kind gesture, I think. She may refuse, but I'm sure she will appreciate the offer anyway, especially if she might need to take advantage when her regularly planned childcare might be unavailable for some reason.
posted by chiababe at 9:09 PM on July 31, 2009 [14 favorites]

You don't say where you are. Isn't it illegal in most places to fire someone because she's pregnant? In any case, let her continue doing her job. If she's unable to do it well, fire her for being a bad nanny. Until she's not doing it well it's unethical and probably illegal to fire her because you assume (based on a prohibitted grounds for discrimination) that she won't be able to do it well at some point in the future.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 9:16 PM on July 31, 2009 [7 favorites]

In my circle of mommy friends, it is not unusual for the baby to come along with caretaker. A under-a-year age difference isn't easy, but if it works out, yahtzee!
posted by k8t at 9:18 PM on July 31, 2009

You don't say where you are. Isn't it illegal in most places to fire someone because she's pregnant? In any case, let her continue doing her job.

Hmm, According to this that applies to companies with more then 15 people in the U.S. There could be state law issues as well. IANAL, obviously.
posted by delmoi at 10:17 PM on July 31, 2009

Mod note: This is a response from the anonymous asker.
Please keep in mind that six weeks is only HALF of the amount of maternity leave legally required of corporations/companies in the United States (and an even smaller fraction if you're in a lot of other countries). It may be inconvenient to you to not have her working for you for six weeks, but she is still a human being who deserves to have a baby without anyone even thinking to question whether she planned her pregnancy.

Of course. She presented this to us as "I understand that this will create problems for you and I understand if you feel you need to find someone who can be available continuously for the next three years." Additionally, she says she only wants 4 weeks for maternity leave; we are trying to make realistic plans. Honesty and trust are huge deals when you hand your 3 month old to a stranger and some might worry that she wasn't being upfront about her availability when she signed a contract with us. We've been nothing but happy, supportive, and willing to work with her on this. What exactly gave you the impression we don't consider her a human being?
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:22 PM on July 31, 2009

I just don't see how any other employer has the moral right to fire someone because they are pregnant.

If pregnancy is the only issue here (the potential problems you are predicting here have not happened yet, and you have no idea they will happen), you do not have the moral authority to fire her.

We're talking about basic human and labour rights that workers in other sectors enjoy.

If your friends do not agree to share the nanny with you for $14/hr (despite their previous promise), you have the moral obligation to work with the nanny to find a solution.

You need to focus on doing what's right.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:26 PM on July 31, 2009 [4 favorites]

I don't really think the pregnancy is what is at issue here. Assuming she has a healthy normal pregnancy, she will be able to care for your child just fine - as you are aware.

The issue is the money and post-partum. The other family that was going to nanny share with you may not have any issues with having a pregnant nanny. It's really the after-the-fact that's a concern. You (and the other family) will need to find childcare for when your nanny is on maternity leave. Assuming that your nanny now is 3 months along (probably less), your 3 month old child will be 9 months old when she has her baby. Finding temporary childcare might not be very difficult, but I would take concern with the upheaval that could cause and the fact that your child has bonded with a particular person and now has to start all over with someone else only to have the regular nanny return from maternity leave and then have to re-bond with her. I like consistency and stability.

As for the money aspect. Perhaps ask her if there's any one else that you could nanny share with? I really don't know how it all works, but maybe she has some ideas. If there is no one to take the place of the family that you originally planned to share her with, then broach the subject of a pay reduction.

Now, post-partum - I think it's a great idea if she brings her baby along with her when she works. It will give your child a little buddy to at least interact with (albeit at first they won't do more than look at each other). But really, if your nanny is as great as she sounds and you want to keep her around, perhaps your child and her child will form a great friendship - growing up together! I think this scenario works to your advantage. If she does agree to bringing her baby - request a pay reduction. It would probably be worth it to her to be able to bring her baby.

What it comes down to is this - do what's right for your child and what works for your family. If having a 6-12 week post-partum maternity leave, potentially sharing your nanny between two, possibly three, infants, and the cost of it all is not what is best for your child and your family, then you need to reconsider your nanny. Talk with your nanny about all of this. See if you can brainstorm together to figure it all out. She may have some great ideas too!

It sounds like you are a conscientious and caring person that's trying to do the best thing here. There are a lot of variables - the nanny, your family, your child, the other family, etc. to think about. In this difficult scenario, I doubt it'll be easy to please everyone. But, do the best you can. Most of all, do what's best for your son.
posted by Sassyfras at 11:04 PM on July 31, 2009 [2 favorites]

We don't think our friends will agree to a nanny share with a pregnant woman, nor do we think she'll be able to keep up nannying for 2 infants with her own newborn at home, despite what she says.

Uh, do you think you could give her a bit of credit here? She's been looking after kids for at least 6 years, and you've had one for 3 months! She's probably reasonably aware of her own abilities, and it is certainly not superhuman to look after more than one baby. My mother had four kids under six at one stage. My brother's wife had three kids under five. They both managed on their own. And sure, two babies so close to each other is a little harder, but would you have two nannies if you'd had twins? I mean, you considered putting the bub in daycare! That has a 4:1 baby:carer ratio! (varies by state etc).

It is definitely a good thing that you are thinking through possible failures in the plan, but bear in mind that women have been caring for multiple children forever, and this woman in particular has been caring for children for many years. And you should always have a backup plan for kid care anyway, you're even getting warning this time. It would be trickier if she rang from the hospital to say she'd been in a car accident.
posted by jacalata at 11:16 PM on July 31, 2009 [12 favorites]

I always sense a 'third rail' level of touchiness about the issue of pregnancy and work. It makes sense, but it does make it hard to discuss it. Because to even address it to really clarify the issue of what is legal, moral, 'right', etc. (which varies based on state/federal law, personal values, etc.) can open you up to all sorts of accusations of being unfair, engaging in discrimination, and so on.

Beyond clarifying the legal aspects, etc., and what everyone else said, I think it's really helpful to have some sort of regular check in with each other (or even with yourself every 2 weeks) about if and how she is doing her job, (including if her pregnancy is affecting her ability to do her job), and then, I suppose in this case, in terms of how the dynamic changes when she begins to bring her own child.

Just be clear about what your expectations are, and be honest if she isn't meeting them anymore to an extent that you don't think you can live with.

Good on you for making the effort to do right by everyone.
posted by anitanita at 12:33 AM on August 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think, from your post, that you're well-disposed to her, as well as thinking she does a good job. You'll feel better having her nanny for you than otherwise, so work out a deal. Personally I wouldn't think of asking someone to take a paycut for bringing their child along, because a larger "family" makes things easier, even with babies.
posted by anadem at 12:58 AM on August 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

The issue isn't that she's pregnant, and everyone saying "be moral, you can't fire her because she's pregnant" are way off track; please don't let them derail you. Obviously you wouldn't be firing the nanny because she was pregnant; if you were to end your services with this nanny, it would be because she was no longer able to do the job she was hired for at the level of quality you need. Whether this is because she's pregnant or for any other reason is really irrelevant.

It sounds like you'd really like to keep the nanny, assuming that she can continue to care for your baby as previously expected. You really have no reason to believe she can't, as her past experience indicates that she can. Regular old housewives have been taking excellent care of multiple children while pregnant for ages. A double standard is often applied to nannies (presumably because they are paid) but it's really a little silly. Really, a pregnant woman can take care of another child (or even two) through her pregnancy. I can think of thousands of examples where this has worked fine.

It also sounds like you don't want her to do a nanny share while she has her own child. You indicated that your friends probably wouldn't want to, but you need to check with what they want first--they are counting on her for nanny services, too. Even if they don't, someone else very well might want to. Because she is counting on $14 an hour, she probably isn't going to want to take a pay cut without some benefit. I think letting her bring along her own child for a pay cut is very fair, but again, she really might decide to look elsewhere if she needs $14 an hour. She will need money even more with an infant, so don't be surprised if she's the one who ends up leaving rather than being let go.

She may have some difficulty getting a job when she's pregnant, but obviously she'd be straight up about the pregnancy while interviewing. A lot of other families, like you, are looking for an experienced nanny with lower rates and could easily arrange for a baby to be cared for by family for 4 weeks while the nanny is on maternity leave. After she has the baby she will have no problem getting work; she does not need to disclose that she has children, and even if she does, most people I know have no problem with this and would even let her bring the baby along, seeing it as a positive for socializing their baby earlier.
posted by Polychrome at 3:26 AM on August 1, 2009

Well, thank goodness she feels terrible about this. It's ridiculous that she became pregnant -- that is not putting the job first in her life, and so it's not what's best for her employer. Hopefully she's telling the truth, and this was a complete accident. You would think that for $14/hour, she'd be much more careful.

And of course you feel weird about her abandoning her child to work! When will mothers learn that they need to stay home and tend to the children instead of working? Mothers, especially mothers of newborn babies, are simply not able to do a good job at work.

What exactly gave you the impression we don't consider her a human being?

Oh, right.

I was being sarcastic up there, but I hope it illustrated something to you. I hope you felt a little riled up, and took it a little personally. How would you feel if your boss had those attitudes, and said those types of things about you when you got pregnant?

These are the points I'd bring up with your friends who wanted to share the nanny cost with you:

- Until she proves that she can't do the job, why worry about it?

- And if she can do her job with her own baby by her side, why worry about it?

- Surely you and the other family can recognize that another working mother should be given the opportunity to do her job and kept or fired based on the merits and quality of her work, not suppositions about what might occur.

- Many pregnant women work. Many mothers work. Women can do this, whether in a high-powered or high-stress job in an office, or in your home looking after your child. If you don't believe this to be true, why are you working?

- If you put your child in daycare, it will be watched usually by either mothers or teenagers. Then it will go to school, where it will be watched primarily by working mothers. And of course, your child has a working mother itself. So the difference here is only that your coworker has vetted her so you know she can do an excellent job for less money than any of your other options.

I'd work pretty hard to bring these points to the other family (and other families, if the first family decides to not go in with you on the cost). Because, if you ask a woman to take a pay cut because she's pregnant (and that's what it's boiling down to), then she'd be smart to leave, and that would leave you in a terrible bind -- a teenager or another working mother, who may charge more, have less experience, be less convenient, and not be as good at her job.
posted by Houstonian at 4:42 AM on August 1, 2009 [21 favorites]

I'd urge you to let her bring her baby to work with her if she wants to and to not cut her pay. You say you're already getting this terrific nanny to work for you for less than the going rate, $12 or even $14 an hour really isn't a lot of money to live on, and now she has a child to support. And I think your child will benefit from having a playmate.
posted by orange swan at 4:54 AM on August 1, 2009 [4 favorites]

"If she does agree to bringing her baby - request a pay reduction. It would probably be worth it to her to be able to bring her baby. "

She says her family will be able to watch her baby. She might not be willing/be able to take a pay cut even if it means having the baby with her.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 5:00 AM on August 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

My daughter worked as a nanny while pregnant-in this case she was allowed to bring her two year old to work with her (she was nannying a toddler so they played together.)

So working while pregnant, at least, should not be an issue.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:11 AM on August 1, 2009

(btw I cared for my own three children-2 1/2, 1 and newborn-and survived. It's doable!)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:14 AM on August 1, 2009

My niece and nephews' wonderful nanny had a baby while caring for them. She took 10 weeks' paid maternity leave -- my sister-in-law has retired parents who filled in during this time -- and then came back to work, without her son, unless he was sick and so couldn't go to daycare. I remember my brother saying now and then that it was unfortunate that she wasn't available for later evenings, as she used to be, but: (1) the children still all love her, years after they all started school and don't need her to care for them anymore; (2) her son and my younger nephew are best friends and do frequent sleep-overs; (3) she still takes care of the children when my brother and sister-in-law take the occasional weekend away.

This little glitch comes early in your relationship with her, which I think is making it harder for you to see the long view here. In my mind, it is far, far more important that you found a good, caring, conscientious, engaged person to care for your son than that you may have to juggle other childcare options for several weeks, 6 months from now. And (this is just my personal opinion) I think nannying is a better option for an under-one-year-old than daycare, so I wouldn't switch from her to daycare for your son's sake.
posted by palliser at 5:53 AM on August 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

I know this is not going to go well, but I disagree with those who say you have a moral obligation to continue to employ her regardless of her pregnancy.

First, before I get crucified for that, let me tell you that I was pregnant in 2007-8, had a child, took a short maternity leave, and then my child became ill with (and died from) cancer, requiring me to move to Memphis and be with her at St. Jude. My employer (small corporation) was INCREDIBLY kind, patient and understanding - no pay cut, no reduction in my advancement opportunities, etc. They went well above-and-beyond the norm, and I am eternally thankful for that because otherwise I would have missed irreplaceable time with my wonderful daughter during the short 9 months between her birth and death. I absolutely agree that pregnancy discrimination in most cases is wrong, and can only imagine how horrible my life would be had I not been treated so well.

THAT SAID, we've established that this family is not legally bound by pregnancy-discrimination laws, and the question is whether they are ethically bound. I believe that boils down to whether they feel the nanny, pregnant and after her child's birth, can continue to care for their child in the manner agreed to. Whether they feel there will be enough energy, responsibility, etc. Whether they are concerned that an unplanned unavailability due to pregnancy complications, bed rest, has a strong likelihood of being disastrous for their family. Absolutely they should carefully consider not discriminating, but they also have to carefully consider what their family can and cannot manage, financially and otherwise, and the well-being of their own child. I am not ashamed at all to say that in their shoes, I would put MY CHILD and their needs first over another adult's needs.

Furthermore, the tone of the question asked makes me quite confident that this family IS carefully considering the needs of their nanny, and being quite thoughtful about how to treat her fairly, within their capabilities. They are a family, and not, it sounds, a wealthy one. They do not have an obligation to bankrupt themselves (or even to restructure debt) or otherwise accept childcare different than they contracted for. If the other families will not do the nanny-share, then the nanny they hired can no longer keep her end of the contract. They are thinking about whether they are able to pay her anyway, and that's admirable, but not, IMHO, necessary.

Here are my thoughts:

1. Stop ASSUMING the other families in the nanny share won't do it, just ask them! Alternately, see if you can find different families that may wish to participate. Do you know any families with a 10ish year old child who would want to do "second chair" nannying very cheap during the post-partum period to get some babysitting experience - might be a cheap way to compromise?

2. I vote for floating out to her the idea that she brings her child with her, for a slightly reduced fee. I.E. if she was expecting $14/hr through the nanny share but the other families in fact say no, suggest she brings her child for $10-$12/hr (depending on the going rates in your area).

I don't think there is much reason she can't do this while pregnant. Although, I don't know the age of your child (someone upthread said 3 months but I didn't get that impression from your post). Maybe find some nannying forums or friends who have nannied and see if you can find out how possible it really is? Have a candid discussion with her. It seems to me you really WANT to make this work out for you and for her, and so the criticisms you are getting bother me. You are not acting as if she is sub-human, a childcare robot who is now broken, you seem to me to be weighing your family's needs against her ability to meet them, which is a changed circumstance since she signed the contract! Reasonable!

I do have a friend who nannied while pregnant, and who is DESPERATE to find a nanny job where she can bring her 1 year old with her for a reduced rate. So, it's not unheard of, and may be a GREAT compromise, especially if your nanny is thinking realistically about her chances of finding a new family while pregnant or post-partum.
posted by bunnycup at 6:42 AM on August 1, 2009 [4 favorites]

the criticisms you are getting bother me.

I think the criticism is because the OP seems to be employing a double standard. S/he (they, actually) seem to be working, in need of the services of a nanny for a 3-month old, and perfectly okay with this situation. Yet they question whether the nanny can effectively accomplish the same arrangement of her personal and professional life.

As to this:

some might worry that she wasn't being upfront about her availability when she signed a contract with us

Who cares? It does not matter if the pregnancy was an accident or not. What if she'd been trying to get pregnant for years, and just succeeded? Should she not have sought employment during the trying period? Ought she to disclose this personal information to a potential employer? That's ridiculous.

It's nice that she apologized and told you it was an accident (I guess?? I would think that would be TMI for a lot of employers, but it's clear you have a friendly relationship). But pregnancy is a possibility with any (fertile, sexually active) working woman. Potential parenthood is a possibility with ANY employee of a certain age. It's just, you know, one of the hazards of employing another adult who has his or her own life.

OP, while I understand that this development is disruptive to the next few months of your life--you're overthinking it. Talk to the other family, and take the nanny's part, as Houstonian suggested. Stick with the nanny, and give her a chance. If things don't work out, you can make other arrangements later. Your child is still years away from the time he will even remember his caretakers, and in the meantime you have high-quality care at a reasonable price. This is not something you want to throw away on the mere chance that things might not work out in the future.
posted by torticat at 7:49 AM on August 1, 2009 [5 favorites]

Even though I think bringing up FMLA was beside the point in regard to your question, I'd like to point out that six weeks would not be half of what's legally required for a large company. If this woman were working at a large company, she'd run a good chance of not even being eligible because she very possibly would not have been working there a full year before taking her leave. Required also struck me as the wrong word to use, since employees can decide to take only two weeks if they are so inclined.

Actual verbiage below for reference:
The Federal Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) protects workers’ job security during leave taken for the employee’s own disability or illness (including pregnancy and childbirth); the care of the employee’s newly born, adopted, or fostered child; or to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition. The FMLA applies to employees who work 20 or more weeks in a year and have worked at least 12 months for their current employer and who work for a firm employing at least 50 workers. This federal policy ensures that eligible employees receive:
• up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave annually (leave may be taken all at once or intermittently, and for part or all of a day);
• continued health insurance benefits (if ordinarily provided by the employer); and
• a guarantee of return to the same, or an equivalent, job.
posted by smalls at 8:06 AM on August 1, 2009

I would LOVE to find a nanny who would bring her own child that was close to my child's age over to be in my home. Seriously. How awesome! Currently, my daughter is an only kid. We've had wonderful part-time sitters, but none of them have networks to arrange for playdates. And interacting with other children is so wonderful for child development. Meeting up randomly on the playground is really not the same thing. (Says the mom who works in Education.)

My sister-in-law trades hours with a friend and so her daughter and the other person's daughter have been raised together between two households. The kids are so well-adjusted, so calm around other kids, and are very best buddies. It's a delightful arrangement, actually.
posted by jeanmari at 9:38 AM on August 1, 2009

You both work full-time with a baby at home - why can't she?
posted by jb at 11:08 AM on August 1, 2009

Since you really like her, I'd try to exercise some moral leadership with your nanny-share friends and/or act like it's not a big deal, rather than present it as "I know this is probably not something you're going to be okay with." They may take their cues from you.

Finding someone else for six weeks seems like a minor hassle compared to the amazing benefits of having a woman you trust, whom your son loves, who comes highly recommended, and who charges less than the going rate.
posted by salvia at 11:28 AM on August 1, 2009

I don't think the issue here is whether she is pregnant and going to have her own infant to take care of or not, it is that the OP assumes or fears that this means she will no longer be able to do her job. And that the sharing family seems to think she can't. THAT is what is really is at fault here. You are thinking of not using her because of the chance that she might fail to live up to her job expectations in the future.

Anything is possible, but this presumption is ridiculous. I have twins, I took care of them in infancy entirely on my own. (I'm a single mom). She won't even have each kid together that much if she has her baby in other care. Also, I have a woman who babysits my kids for a few hours every week that brings her three children with her (or takes mine to her house). It has been great for my kids. They have new friends, they have had to learn to share and negotiate, they get to experience a lot of things with kids of different ages. It has been great for them. Her having a kid that she can bring to work eventually might be a value-added thing.

It doesn't seem fair on the surface to cut her pay if she brings her kid. She is doing the exact same job for your kid, no?

Anyway, even if the employment laws don't cover you specifically, I think it is wrong to fire someone for your fear of them not doing their job in the future, not anything she has actually done up to this point.
posted by Bueller at 12:05 PM on August 1, 2009

Mod note: This is another followup from the asker.
I only included this information:

"I have good reason to say I believe her when she says this was unplanned and she had no idea she was pregnant when she agreed to start working for us. It was very emotional for her when she broke the news to us and she feels awful about this."

to highlight the fact that she understands this news is psychologically jarring news to her new employers, who are themselves brand new parents and have all the normal neuroses surrounding their child's welfare, and that she too really wants to make this relationship work. We genuinely feel happy for her and have only shown support to her. Yes, we should have been more cognizant that she might get pregnant, that she might move away, that she might get into a car crash, but we're rolling with it and that's really not the issue here. As part of my job, I deal with the local laws governing employment and pregnancy every day and I wasn't asking about this, but thank you very much. We even know what we think is morally the right thing to do and I stated as much in my question. What I was really asking for was advice from people who have been in this situation on how we might make this work out, looking back I worded my initial question very poorly. Many answers here have been very helpful, thank you so much.

I admit to being presumptuous about our friends' reaction to nanny sharing with a pregnant woman but now they are looking at finding 6 weeks' child care coverage only 2 months' after starting with her. I also admit to being presumptuous about her ability to care for 2 infants with her own newborn, but I think it's a pretty rational argument that caring for 3 babies is a lot different than caring for 2.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:16 PM on August 1, 2009

I don't understand the reasons behind paying her less if she brings her child with her. Is this because she is paying for that privilege (which you are not required to offer)? Is it because she will not provide the same level of care for your child if her own child is with her?

As someone mentioned up-thread, it seems like she's already made alternative plans for free childcare, and so would opt to keep the current pay-rate anyway.

I'm not sure I agree with some of the others' who suggest you have a moral obligation to help find another family to share with (assuming the other family really will care about her being pregnant/having her own kid). It would be nice of you; and might be practical, since you say you can't afford her rate without another family pitching in.
posted by purpletangerine at 1:19 PM on August 1, 2009

When I lived in Sweden I tutored English for a family with an au pair. The au pair got pregnant, but they decided to keep her on anyway. It seemed to work out well. This isn't like she's bringing in an older child who might behave badly, but a newborn who will probably benefit from being in a good environment. The au pair system in Sweden is partially designed to help poor immigrant women integrate anyway. Look at it as more socially responsible an organic fair trade nanny.

I don't understand the reasons behind paying her less if she brings her child with her. Is this because she is paying for that privilege (which you are not required to offer)? Is it because she will not provide the same level of care for your child if her own child is with her?

I think people suggested that because they thought maybe the nanny would be saving money on daycare, but in this instance it wouldn't apply since the alternative is not daycare, but staying with the parents.
posted by melissam at 1:35 PM on August 1, 2009

Small point here, but important - I didn't get the sense the OP was suggesting a pay cut because her nanny was pregnant, which makes it sound like she's penalizing her because of pregnancy.

The OP is stating that there is a certain amount that she is able to afford herself without a nanny share. This would be the same situation if the nanny wasn't pregnant, but the other family pulled out.

I also don't think the OP asking about the etiquette around the nanny bringing her child is unreasonable, particularly since once again, the primary motivation isn't about punishing the nanny for being pregnant. From childcare to hospital care to say, a gym trainer, the issue of expert to participant ratio is important around the issue of quality of care, and also of cost. The assumption being that the larger the number of participants, the less personal attention (and possibly quality) and the less one pays. Perhaps the question could have been, how many kids under 2 can one person really watch? But like bunnycup, I don't get the sense that the OP's goal is to disrespect her nanny.

(full disclosure. My family had a nanny/maid on and off for several years. And as a kid, it was sort of weird knowing that I wanted my parents, because I felt like they were missing out on my life, but instead had a nanny. And remember wondering if my nanny's kids felt the way I did.

We all do the best we can, but the unspoken irony that many of us live in societies where we make choices (and choices are made for us) where for one reason or another we, or close family members, do not have the chance to care for our children/elderly, and that can be unsettling. I find it unsettling. So is the OP's statement about it feeling weird hypocritical? Eh, maybe. But, more full disclosure - I also worked as a maid for a period of time - and I've got to say, on both sides of the class paradigm, I've felt weird. So I would hope we'd not just nail the OP to the wall as an individual, but throw in a little language of appreciation about the economic and societal forces that causes all this to happen in the first place, and how sometimes it's difficult to navigate the ethics and feelings well.)
posted by anitanita at 1:57 PM on August 1, 2009

Uh, I was able to watch combinations of children including 2 babies, 2 toddlers, a baby and a toddler, a baby and a child, and a toddler and a child with no problems when I was in high school. My mom did home daycare and used to care for 2 babies and two toddlers at one time in our home all day, plus my sister and I when we got home from school each day. Certainly a professional nanny can handle two babies, or at most three at one time. You're really underestimating her abilities.

Also, she'll leave her kid at home with someone else while she works? Well, so do you.
posted by ishotjr at 5:25 PM on August 1, 2009

Perhaps the OP is ok with the nanny watching 2 children - OP's child and the nanny's child, or OP's child and the friend's child, but MAYBE with having the nanny watch 3 children - OP's child, nanny's child, friend's child - is going into territory that the OP wasn't prepared or even willing to go into. Perhaps the OP is not wanting to share the nanny's attention between more than 2 children at a given time. Of course the nanny is able to to watch 3 (4, 5, 6) children at a time. But MAYBE that's not what the OP wanted for her son. Maybe she wanted more of an intimate relationship between her son and nanny. If she wanted a single person watching that many children at a time, why not save on some major money and send her child to a daycare situation - in home or some facility? I think a major benefit of having a nanny is that you are getting that one-on-one that you don't necessarily get in a child care situation.
posted by Sassyfras at 6:02 PM on August 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

FWIW, three children under 2 years of age cared for by a single adult wouldn't even be legal in Ontario. On the other hand, a 3 to 1 ratio for infants to adults is the recommended ratio in a number of other jurisdictions, so it's not like one adult caring for three infants is entirely out to lunch.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:39 PM on August 1, 2009

OP, I wanted to add to my post -- in which I noted that my brother's children's nanny did not bring her newborn with her when she returned to work -- that I agree with you that three infants would be an extremely difficult situation. It would likely mean, for instance, that your son would spend almost all his time in the home, rather than being taken on little trips during the day, to libraries, play spaces, etc. It would be too difficult to find a couple of hours where no one needed to be fed, no one needed to be changed, no one needed to take a nap.

Three infants under one is just not a typical situation for a single caregiver, such as an at-home mother. It's very, very different to have 3 under 5 than to have 3 under 1, including a newborn. It would mean having twins, and then another baby within the year.

Also, a day-care ratio of 3:1, with several caregivers, is different from a single caregiver with three infants, in the same way that having 2 bathrooms for 6 people, or 2 bank tellers for 6 people in line, is much more efficient than 1 bathroom for 3 people, or 1 bank teller for 3 people in line.

I wouldn't offer to have her bring her newborn, if it means caring for 3 infants under one.
posted by palliser at 6:33 AM on August 2, 2009

You should cut her loose because nobody should have to put up with this crap.
And by nobody I mean her.

She says her family will be able to care for her baby after he/she's born and she won't need to bring him/her to our house.
She has no intention of bringing her child to work. It was your idea that she should - for a pay cut... What was the reasoning behind why she would be capable of this work (that you've repeatedly insisted she couldn't possibly be) - unless you were paying her $10 for it?? Now how does that work exactly?

psychologically jarring.
What.the.fuck? You can't be serious! Please.. just get a grip already.
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 8:15 AM on August 3, 2009

I disagree with those who are attacking you for various reasons. You seem pretty reasonable to me, and anxious to do the right thing. I wanted to say that before I get to my points, so that you don't think that I think you're being terrible and evil. I think you have good intentions. So:

1. Consider this - you are already paying her less than the going rate for a nanny. Now she is going to have a child to support, and you're considering paying her even less. To me, the fact that you are paying her less to begin with would automatically cover some extras, like bringing her own child to work, if she wanted to. (Which she may not.) She's being nice by charging you less to begin with; you should be nice by letting her bring her child with her. And as someone else pointed out, your child would have a built in playmate. Way back when I was a nanny, both the parents and the children I was caring for insisted that I bring my daughter to their house to play after she got out of school. They considered her a bonus. Yes, maybe in the first year or so, they won't be socializing much, but as they both get older, this will be a wonderful thing for everyone.

2. It may not be terribly hard to find someone else to nanny share with you if your current arrangement falls through. After all, they'd only be paying $7/hr for a wonderful nanny, and that's a hard deal to beat. However, if you can't find someone to nanny-share with, then do talk to her about reducing her rate, as the reason the other family would be dropping out would be because of her situation, and not because of anything your family did. So in this instance, it's not unreasonable. However, she may not be able to afford a pay cut, and therefore may need to find other employment.

3. Do be prepared for the fact that your nanny may be extremely tired for the first 3 months after her baby is born. As you undoubtedly remember, newborn babies tend not to sleep through the night. Cut her some slack during this time, and remember that you are all looking at this as a long term arrangement.

Good luck to all of you, and keep in mind that a wonderful nanny is very, very hard to find. I don't think you should put yourselves into debt to have your nanny, but at the same time, this is simply one of the expenses of having children. Some people may spend a little more than they're comfortable with to provide their child with organic food, or with a pediatrician they like, or they may choose to buy the more expensive car seat because they feel it's safer. This is similar, except that you are employing someone who will be shaping your child's life: who may very well be spending more time with them than you do.
posted by MexicanYenta at 11:04 AM on May 21, 2010

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