Friend tried to hire our nanny without consulting me. What next?
April 19, 2021 3:23 PM   Subscribe

Our wonderful nanny (N) was in the park with my son (S) when our friend F)ran into her. Out of the blue, F asked N—apparently, nearly begged—to hire her. N said she didn’t have time, but F seemed intent on getting N for whatever time she had. More details and questions below.

F has only met N twice, and both for brief periods while I wasn't there. They started speaking because F recognized S and realized N must be his nanny, of whom I often speak highly.

N takes care of S part-time and was not a nanny when we first found her. She is my friend's sister-in-law, who happened to be available during the day because her son just started going to school when we started needing care. We pay her (well) because we think that's fair, but she is by no means a professional nanny, and her main focus is spending quality time with her son when he's out of school. She has told me that she's not looking to make more money or even to continue nannying when S no longer needs care, though I have expressed to her that I will happily help her find more work if she ever wants to do so.

When N told me F approached her, my initial reaction was—wtf? F has been looking for a nanny, and I've tried to help her by introducing her to someone else I met who nannies. Her partner thought this other person was too expensive, so it fell through. F has made no mention that she wants to hire S's nanny, and has not asked me to help her find more options. I speak with F at least twice a week and see her at least once a week.

Another layer: according to N, F claimed that her daughter ( D) wants to learn N and S's shared language (Japanese). This is strange because no one in F's family speaks it, and F has never asked me to speak Japanese with D or mentioned that she wants D to learn it. I do know that F thinks the Japanese have great child- rearing culture, whatever that means, but she's never asked me to help her find a Japanese nanny.

I was taken aback by all this and am seeing F later today. N has said she doesn't have time to take care of D, and that she wouldn't work for the amount F's husband wants to pay a nanny anyway (half the amount we pay and under minimum wage). However, N disclosed that she gave F her number. I don't think N will start working for F, but there's maybe a 5% that she will—especially if F's partner is willing to pay what we pay, since she's proven to be high quality—and I don't know how to feel about that.

Rightly or wrongly, I'm feeling quite upset that F tried to hire N without asking me. It feels like she went behind my back, and it takes away from N's availability, which makes scheduling more difficult for us.

I know F is struggling with being D's almost 24/7 caretaker. Her partner spends maybe 30 minutes per day with them, and F says she has to be there the whole time so she gets no alone time. D used to have a nanny, but F didn't like how she nannied so fired her, and her partner has refused to hire someone else—either because it's too expensive or because they're in some kind of fight about finding high quality childcare. I get that F is stressed and really needs childcare, and I would like to help, but this still feels wrong.

My questions for you are these:
(A) Am I wrong to feel wronged about this?
(B) Rightly or wrongly, I feel upset. How do I address this with F? Should I address it with F? If so, what do I say?
(C) I have half a mind to stop seeing her, as S no longer seems to enjoy playdates with D anyway, but this is the first hiccup our friendship has faced. Is it premature to cut her off?

Thanks in advance for your input.
posted by saltypup to Human Relations (28 answers total)
I think that it was highly inappropriate for her to attempt to poach your nanny, especially for below minimum wage. No suggestions, but your feelings are completely justified.
posted by cyndigo at 3:29 PM on April 19, 2021 [17 favorites]

F is not your friend; she knows that poaching your nanny would destroy your friendship and she doesn't care. It's a major bridge-burning move.

If it were me, I would cut F out of my life immediately.
posted by homodachi at 3:40 PM on April 19, 2021 [17 favorites]

Best answer: Your feelings of dismay and betrayal are very real. Your employee is part of your home and normalcy, and your working relationship with her took effort from you, from your employee, and even from S. She's worth money and consideration.
Sad to say, though, others might want what you built. Do what you can to keep your employee. A raise, praise, gifts... but not referrals.
I learned the hard way not to describe to my demographically similar friends the treasure of my nanny, personal assistant, garden wizard, etc. I lost out to those who could pay more, and each time it hurt, close to teen breaking-up pain.
I wouldn't try to discuss it with F. She will solve her child care needs. Let the friendship go lite for a few months.
posted by evenolderthanshelooks at 3:50 PM on April 19, 2021 [10 favorites]

Best answer: A. No, you're not wrong. I'm not a parent & even I am aware that childcare is both very expensive & very hard to find a good fit. You have a good situation which is worth protecting & F came very close to jeapordizing that, out of selfishness.

B. F I was surprised that N mentioned to me that you asked to hire her. Please let me know in future if you need help finding a nanny, but please don't come between me & N.

C. Stop returning her calls/texts.
posted by bleep at 3:51 PM on April 19, 2021 [6 favorites]

Best answer: It is right to address it and get F's side of the story and give them the opportunity to explain themselves. You can proceed from there with more information. If you cut people out of your life at this stage, you won't have enough people in your life. It's a good time be generous and firm-to say how the situation made you feel and establish the boundary and give F the opportunity to correct their behavior.
posted by Kwine at 3:58 PM on April 19, 2021 [13 favorites]

So, it was not a buddy move to try to poach your nanny, and it's fine to be mad at your friend on those grounds, but I'm a little disturbed by the sense of ownership/entitlement you seem to have over N's career. Even if you "discovered" her, barring an actual contractual arrangement between you, N has a right to work when and for whom she wants. You don't get to decide that. If you want her to care for your child and only your child, you need to make an agreement with her--and pay--accordingly.

(P.S. I don't know if you are or not, but if you're not paying N on the books, you're exploiting her and should stop doing so.)
posted by praemunire at 3:59 PM on April 19, 2021 [64 favorites]

I understand you feeling upset or betrayed in this situation. At the same time you don't "own" your nanny and F is merely giving her more options, should she want them. Given that N is a relative and that F would be paying less I don't think N would prioritize working for F over your family or that F was poaching N.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 4:00 PM on April 19, 2021 [13 favorites]

Best answer: You're right to feel offended, but it's possible there's more going on here than what it appears on the surface, as just a blatant attempt at nanny-poaching. I feel like I should mention it, just in case you'd like to feel things out a bit.

Based on what you describe, I could totally visualize a situation in which F has become so desperate for help that she may be under enough mental stress to do things that she might not otherwise do. If you'd like to explore that possibility, and see what shape your friendship is actually in, you might start a conversation when you see her by asking first how she is doing, and perhaps even how her childcare search is going - give her the chance to open up to you, and you to make further suggestions. If she seems stressed, but does not fess up at that point about talking to N, gently mention her conversation with N, in a not-confrontational way. See how the conversation goes, and especially, that part of the conversation, and then make a decision about whether or not to fade the friendship from there.
posted by stormyteal at 4:07 PM on April 19, 2021 [21 favorites]

F finding your nanny at the park and begging to hire her is poaching and is not OK, especially since you've been trying to help F find available nannies. She'd be leaving your child high and dry and you in a lurch if she was successful and that's not what a friend does, and she knows this because she intentionally did it behind your back. I'd have a firm talk with F about how shitty this was and then would let the friendship drift. Who needs friends who are willing to stab you in the back when they get desperate?
posted by quince at 4:09 PM on April 19, 2021 [3 favorites]

Was she specifically trying to hire her to work the hours she currently works for you (ie. to poach her in a way that means she would no longer work for you), or was she hoping that if she works part time for you, she might also have some spare time to work for her as well?

You say: “F seemed intent on getting N for whatever time she had” which suggests the latter, which seems to me less of a transgression, though a little weird that she didn’t approach you first. Maybe she was trying not to treat her like a chattel by talking to her directly first, rather than discussing her between her employers, and has clumsily made a hash of it in a different way instead?

But it depends whether or not she was trying to poach her in a way that would mean her leaving your employ, or just trying to offer her extra hours on top of the ones she already has with you. You say that it would make scheduling harder for you if she worked for you both, that it would remove her availability, but you don’t own the hours you’re not paying her for. Having her flexibility is great, but not something you have a right to, unless you’re paying her a retainer for those hours she’s not working for you (I mean, that’s academic, she doesn’t want to work for the other family, but it feels a little presumptuous if you feel you have a right to her preserving enough unpaid hours in her schedule to give you the convenience of flexibility.)

tl;dr If your friend was just trying to offer her some extra work in addition to the work she already does for you, that’s something different to straight-out poaching her from your employ.
posted by penguin pie at 4:11 PM on April 19, 2021 [44 favorites]

Best answer: You're perceiving this as a personal slight, but I think it's so much more likely that F is in a terrible situation. Taking care of a young child "almost 24/7"? In a pandemic? With an absent husband who seems to be a bit of a jerk at best, but possibly abusive? I mean, why can't F get a break even when husband is there? Why does he control the financial situation, making it impossible for F to get decent childcare?

I think your friend reached a breaking point. She knows that you don't need N full-time, so she didn't think hiring N would impact you negatively at all. You say it would make scheduling harder...but honestly, if you want hassle-free scheduling you sort of need to pay for a full-time caregiver. Otherwise, it's not unheard of for two or more families to share a nanny.

I think you should take a deep breath, possibly reschedule your meetup so you can cool down, and be kind to your friend. Definitely don't cut her off for something that could legitimately be desperation! You're probably feeling overwhelmed at this awkward situation, and I get it. Try to be patient with your own emotions too, and they'll sort themselves out so you'll know exactly what you want to say when you do see F.

Good luck!
posted by toucan at 4:18 PM on April 19, 2021 [53 favorites]

I find it odd and surprising that nannying is seen in such a different light than other employment arrangements. I personally wouldn't bat an eye at one company poaching an employee from another company. I also don't think workers owe their employers much in the way of loyalty...

In my mind the only unusual aspect of this situation is that Nanny told you about her conversation with Friend. In a normal employment situation, you'd only find this out if/when Nanny decided to leave you and/or use her new offer to negotiate a raise from you.

I think this is likely a desperate act and it says FAR more about Friend's unsupportive marriage than it does about your friendship. I wouldn't be too hard on Friend, who clearly has a way worse family situation than you do.
posted by cranberrymonger at 4:18 PM on April 19, 2021 [20 favorites]

Yeah, based on what you've written, it's not clear to me that F was trying to poach N - it seems totally possible F was just trying to see if N had any free time outside of the time she works for you. I wouldn't considering that a transgression, and like others have pointed out, you don't have the right to expect N to work for you on-call 24/7 unless you're paying her a FT salary.
posted by coffeecat at 4:20 PM on April 19, 2021 [15 favorites]

Best answer: that's right. everyone is right who's saying it's a desperation move, and everyone's right who points out that it is Not Done among friends. It's a much bigger deal than a gardener or housekeeper or painter: the nanny situation directly affects your kid's welfare (and very possibly your career. Take it from me as someone who suffered EXTREME career setback from an imploding nanny situation.)

This lady is in a tough spot: all the more so because she's not your friend any longer. (Unless you agree that it wasn't really a poaching move and she was just trying to find some extra babysitting hours in addition to her work for you.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 4:23 PM on April 19, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I agree that from the way you've presented it, it sounds as if F was trying to find out whether N had additional time for nannying beyond her work for you, and if so, what it would cost to hire her for that time. That part of it doesn't sound like a transgression to me - you don't have a claim on N's time outside working for you, and if she wants to work for anyone else (F or otherwise) in a way that makes her availability less flexible for you, that's between you and N, not you and N's other potential employers.

A lot of this seems totally irrelevant - your nanny's qualifications, whether or not F wants her kid to learn Japanese, etc. don't seem to have any bearing on the actual friendship issue here. But of course it's all tangled up together because friendships are messy. Still, if you can strip out the irrelevant details when/if you talk to F, I think that would be a good idea.

Your issue, at the core of it, seems to be that you think F should have consulted you first. If you'd like to try to save the friendship, that's worth having a conversation about - what was she thinking? Does she see nannying as more like any other employment situation where you would talk to the employee rather than the current employer about making a move? Does she see this as purely an arrangement related to your current nanny's extra time, such that she didn't think it would affect you and would be surprised and sorry if she knew how upset you are? Or is she desperate or uncaring in such a way that she knew it would affect you too and didn't care? Those are all very different and very plausible situations and I think knowing how this all played out in her head would help you to know whether there's a salvageable friendship here.
posted by Stacey at 4:33 PM on April 19, 2021 [7 favorites]

Yeah you can feel however you feel about this but I don't actually think your friend did anything wrong. You employ your nanny part-time. Part time. That means all the rest of her time is up for grabs. She asked for any hours your nanny has available; the hours your nanny has available are the hours in which she's not working for you or doing something else she'd like to be doing.

I can't pretend to know all the emotional valences of a nanny-employer relationship; I'm sure it's different from any old job and I'm sure her being someone from your friend circle only adds to that. But it's up to her whether she takes any additional work (sounds like she isn't inclined!) and it's not anyone's obligation to avoid offering her jobs.

I have expressed to her that I will happily help her find more work if she ever wants to do so.

No man you're her employer in your home, not the boss of her career.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 4:59 PM on April 19, 2021 [31 favorites]

Best answer: I agree that it sounds like F is a bit desperate but also that approaching N without mentioning it to you was not cool. If I were you I would be annoyed as well. When you see her, if she doesn't immediately bring it up--which she might do because she'd be a bit silly to think that N isn't going to mention the conversation to you--it would be a good idea to do so yourself. I wouldn't worry about N giving F her number since she's already busy with you and you pay more and treat her well. She probably just did that out of kindness and besides, as others have pointed out, she has the right to do whatever she wants with the time she's not employed by you.

But, bearing in mind that F sounds like she's under a lot of stress, and has been a decent friend up until now, it would be kind of you to avoid a confrontational tone and bear in mind that she could be at the breaking point. In your shoes I'd say something along the lines of "Hey, N mentioned to me that you approached her about part-time work. I'm surprised you didn't mention it to me first since I've been trying to help you find someone. I know that N has told you she does't have any extra time, but is there anything else we can do to help you find someone?"

To me, this doesn't sound like something worth ending a friendship over, but depending on how she responds when you ask her about it, you might want to back off a bit until you cool down. There are few of us who can't use a little grace in these hard times.
posted by rpfields at 5:09 PM on April 19, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Former nanny here. IMO, F was waaaay out of line approaching your nanny with a work offer, competing or not, without mentioning it to you. Especially since you were already helping her in her own nanny search, and because of your personal relationship with N. F doesn't need your permission to hire N, and N doesn't need your permission to take on another job with someone else, but the polite and considerate thing to do would be for F to have asked you first. I agree that you are not the boss of N's career, but the way F has gone about this all has put everyone in an awkward position. I wouldn't get into diagnosing F's relationship or other issues; it's easy enough to start from a neutral position and bring it up to F.

So, (A) No, you're not wrong to feel there is something off
(B) I would address it politely and kindly with F -- she may not have thought she was doing anything wrong. Just say that you were surprised to hear it from N and would have liked to have heard it from F first, and suggest that she do that if similar situations come up in the future.
(C) I wouldn't just end the relationship over this, that seems extreme. This seems like something that can be worked out just with some more open communication.
posted by leticia at 5:14 PM on April 19, 2021 [9 favorites]

I agree that friend probably is in a desperate situation but it doesn’t excuse her from going behind the OPs back. They’ve obviously talked a lot about her needing extra help so there was ample time for friend to enquire to OP about any extra hours nanny might have had free and that she was thinking of getting in contact. The fact that friend didn’t raise this says volumes.

I would be annoyed too. Not enough to friend dump but enough to raise it in a conversation and probably take a step back from this person for a while.

As leticia above says, open communication would solve this. It’s just a shame that friend doesn’t seem to believe in that so it definitely puts a dampener on the relationship due to no fault of the OP.
posted by Jubey at 5:49 PM on April 19, 2021 [1 favorite]

Yes, there is a chance that N could change her mind and want to nanny other children and/or command higher rates. It's her right to do so, but she has given you every indication that this is not the case so... I don't mean to sound dismissive but I am really not sure why this is generating such a nuclear reaction. Especially if this is the first time you've ever felt upset with her or questioned her motives.

I do think that it would have been more polite for your friend to ask you about your nanny first, but I am struggling to find this to be nefarious -- to me it sounds very much like a spur of the moment ask.
posted by sm1tten at 6:06 PM on April 19, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I'm giving F's husband a much hairier eyeball than I'm giving F.

Like, urticating hairs.
posted by away for regrooving at 6:50 PM on April 19, 2021 [15 favorites]

It feels like she went behind my back, and it takes away from N's availability, which makes scheduling more difficult for us.

Unless you are 100% sure that F knew this and still said "don't care, screw OP" then I think you're seeing enough grey area in the comments that it's premature to be so peeved. F made a softish ask to see if N might like more hours. Plenty of people need extra cash right now.
posted by nakedmolerats at 6:51 PM on April 19, 2021 [8 favorites]

it takes away from N's availability, which makes scheduling more difficult for us.

I'm disturbed by this attitude. You want to pay your nanny part-time wages, but also want her to be available at your convenience?

If she wants to take a second job in the time you're not paying her for, that's her right. Maybe it's inconsiderate for a friend to offer her a second job without talking to you first, I guess it is a personal relationship and some warning is nice, but ... like .... she's not yours and you're not entitled to the world treating her as yours. She's not some territory you've staked out.

If you want her to be on call, if you don't want her to take a second job, pay her to be on call.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 6:53 PM on April 19, 2021 [36 favorites]

Best answer: My 2¢:

F probably just spontaneously came out with her plea for N to help her. From what you describe it doesn't seem like a planned move, but rather a spur-of-the-moment idea which was likely prompted by the occasion of meeting combined with F's desperation

As N's cultural background (I'm guessing) differs from F's, N possibly interpreted F's plea as something more forceful than it was. That is, I suspect F was expressing how much she would love N's help, which N interpreted as pressurized "begging"

A. Your feeling that something is off may be basically true, but it's probably much less off than you feel
B. You should raise the issue with F, but just to clear the air without blaming
C. If your friendship with F means anything to you, be kind to F as she seems to be suffering

And just to pile on: I think your feeling of ownership of N is inappropriate
posted by anadem at 7:28 PM on April 19, 2021 [8 favorites]

As an employee I would be extremely pissed if a potential employer went behind my back to talk to my current employer about my availability, wages, or anything else.

An employment agreement is between the person paying the wages and the person doing the work, and not any third party.

(This actually has happened to me where a potential employer discussed my current wage with a then current employer. As I was being grossly underpaid at the time it meant that the potential employer had the gall to feel insulted when I asked for a market wage!)

Just because a person is employed in your home and not an office does not give you any entitlement as a boss to prevent OR grant permission for their being employed any place else. Regardless of how that may impact your household business.

Would you be pissed if the coffee shop where you were friendly with the owner offered N a barista job and she took it because she used to be a barista before taking on nanny duties for your family?

The infantilizing of/desire for control over people who work in homes astonishes me.

Especially in light of this employee being a woman of color.

Your friendship with the other parent is a red herring. Your nanny does not owe you two weeks’ notice, does not owe you continued employment, and is free to go work for lower wages at another home if that’s what she wants to do. And I promise you she caught on to your negative reaction to her telling you of her conversation with the other parent.
posted by bilabial at 7:40 PM on April 19, 2021 [19 favorites]

You can't "poach" an autonomous and independent human being who has agency. The degradation of care work, "woman's work" as something that belongs to other people, that the employer has the right to grant or deny to other people, is appalling. The friendly thing to do would be to discuss this with you or tell you she planned to do this, but you don't own your nanny and no one needs to ask you for permission to offer her employment.

F's partner also sucks.
posted by Mavri at 8:00 PM on April 19, 2021 [11 favorites]

Response by poster: Just an update: I appreciate every comment here and did indeed talk (gently) with my friend about the situation. Turns out she was asking N to give D Japanese lessons a couple times a week because she thinks her partner will pay for lessons but not a nanny. Her partner is indeed awful and the relationship is horrifyingly unbalanced; I have been trying to help (in myriad ways including a drop-off playdate where I take care of D for a few hours each week) but have been feeling used and fed up with her for other reasons.

To those who say they’re alarmed by my sense of entitlement to N, I appreciate the extra pause you gave me and will continue meditating on that. I do think there’s some missing context—when I said “She has told me that she's not looking to make more money or even to continue nannying when S no longer needs care, though I have expressed to her that I will happily help her find more work if she ever wants to do so,” I was referring to a conversation we had when we had to leave the area for a long while. I asked her whether she’d like me to introduce her to our Japanese friends who were looking for nannies, and she said no, she liked helping me out and was not looking to make money as a professional nanny. (The focus on the Japanese thing is because she’s expressed that she specifically likes Japanese kids). Though we pay her through the appropriate channels, she is resistant to being called an employee and often refers to N as family.

If N was, say, searching on Facebook for nanny jobs and decided to be a nanny for someone else, that would obviously be her prerogative—and in this instance, if she wants to give Japanese lessons, that’s also obviously up to her. Here I was reacting to a friend doing something that seemed socially inappropriate (enough that N brought it up with us and seemed to think there was something off) and feeling fearful at the prospect that we could suddenly lose our childcare situation, even if the chance seemed small. It took us months to find N, S is extremely attached to N, and my husband and I are hanging on in our jobs by a thread with the part-time care we can afford. This fear came out as possessiveness, and that’s something I’ll think about as we continue our relationship with N.

In case anyone cares, I will continue my relationship with F. Thanks to your comments, I simmered down and was able to see more clearly that she was just trying to come up with a solution to get some relief from her shitty situation.

Again, I appreciate all the food for thought.
posted by saltypup at 11:29 PM on April 19, 2021 [21 favorites]

Just going to chime in as a former childcare worker that I fucking hate the "poached" language being thrown about in this thread. It's demeaning to any employee (and don't tell me that corporate America uses it, as if that justifies anything), and is particularly problematic given the power issues often in play in parent/childcare worker relationships.

You. Do. Not. Own. Your. Employees.
posted by Jaclyn at 4:07 PM on April 20, 2021 [5 favorites]

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