My Employers are Divorcing!
Divorce is an emotional process, and it can really take a toll on families and their nannies. Most nannies don't walk into their jobs expecting to support a family through such a difficult time. I know that I did not. My employers had been married for only 3 years when I met them. They had just had their first baby and were excited to be first time parents. I have now worked with the same family for 5 years and they have been nothing but awesome to me. They have treated me like a member of their family and I feel love from them every day. But nearly a year ago, the decision to divorce was made and there began a process that put us all in a new and very unfamiliar territory.
I wish that I could tell you that there was an easy way to cope with it all- it all seemed to be a work in progress for everyone. While both parents probably start off with the intentions of keeping things civil and amicable, it doesn't always turn out that way. But in all cases, communication is key. Without communication, you can find yourself in some awkward or volatile situations. This communication must happen between all three of you. Here are my tips for effective communication while working with a divorcing family:
- Parents and nanny should sit down together and talk about what is happening and what is going to happen. I believe this is an important step. My employers and I did not do this and it is for that reason that I think we are not always on the same page. Sitting down with each other and knowing that everyone has been involved in the discussion makes a difference. I realize this may not be possible with both parents in every situation, so try to open the lines of communication as much as possible on your end.
- If parents are going to be living apart, discuss visitation schedule and rules.
- Be clear about which parent you are to take instruction from and at which times. It can be very frustrating to be given conflicting instructions from two different people. When in doubt, ask for clarification in writing.
- Speak up if you are ever uncomfortable in a conversation with one parent about the other. Nannies can easily become the one to whom parents vent about the process.
- Set up a neutral space to share information pertaining to your charge. We use Cozi Calendar and it works wonderfully. Everything from daily activities, doctor's appointments, school events, etc., are kept on the calendar. Both parents and I can see, add, or change events. Each week, we have an agenda emailed to everyone so we can all see the week ahead.
- If at some point, you are brought into the process and questioned, tell the truth. The truth may not always be pretty and it could paint one or both of the parents in a bad light, but it is important to be truthful about any questions asked. I was very nervous about this but my MomBoss assured me that answering truthfully would not change our relationship in any way. She understood that the only side that I was taking in this process was her child's side. Take a moment to reflect on the situation and the questions asked and write down your thoughts before responding too.
This is a good time to pull out your work contract and update it with the newest details. In cases where the divorce may not have been amicable, you need to make sure you have clear instructions on how to handle certain situations. You should revisit the question about from whom you will take instruction. Make sure the rules are clear so that there is no confusion. If there is a legal custody/visitation order involving your charge, it should be included in or attached to your work contract or placed in your "personnel file.” If you have heard of such an order but have not actually seen it, speak up and ask for a copy!
This can easily become a very stressful time for a nanny. Managing that stress is important because it can seep into your work. It canbegin to affect your attitude and mood. A happy nanny means a happy charge! Here are a couple of ways to help deal with the stress of it all:
- Leave it at work. I know this is a hard one but it is key. Because of the intimate nature of our work, it is not easy to just turn it off but it is very important that you don't take your employers' issues home with you.
- Talk to your employer. If there is something in particular that is bothering you, talk to your employer about it. Sometimes it helps just to get it out.
- Stay focused on your charge. If you are stressed, the parents are likely stressed too, and your charge is most likely picking up on the fact that all of the adults are worried. The proverbial slogan "Keep Calm and Carry On" applies here - business should continue as much as normal. Even if there are schedule changes, do your best to help your charge feel like these changes are normal. Exude a positive attitude and encourage your charge to focus on the happy things in his or her life.
A divorcing family is no fun during the process but eventually it will end and there will be a new normal. Divorced families can be strong, healthy, and happy and good work environments, so don’t be dismayed!