She couldn't understand, she had gone through six babysitters in six months with each of them never lasting very long. What was going on?
She knew if she wanted to figure out the problem, she'd have to be rather shrewd and sneaky. Anything for her children, after all.
Bridget Elks was a single mom struggling to juggle both her professional career and being a mother.
She was long since divorced and worked full time to make sure her children had a bright future. But now she knew she needed some help.
She found someone who she thought would be perfect. She would be able to look after Marie - 6 years old and Kirk - 1 year old.
Lisa was hired and she thought that her problems were over. She felt that for the first time in a while she could finally rest. But problems arose.
Everything Was Going Well
Bridget quickly considered Lisa a part of her family as she looked after her children so well. But soon things would change drastically.
Lisa was a huge help and finally, Bridget could focus on her work. Lisa would take her kids to preschool and playdates. It felt like a blessing.
But after just three weeks Lisa would send a text message telling Bridget to get her final paycheck ready, she was quitting. What could have changed her mind?
When Bridget got home Lisa left with her paycheck without so much as a goodbye. Bridget was stunned.
High And Dry
Later on, Lisa would tell Bridget that she quit because of her daughter - Marie. She didn't think her daughter could have been the problem.
She felt obligated to defend her bundle of joy. How could Lisa be unprofessional enough to give up on a child? She knew it wasn't easy raising kids, but she was being paid for it.
After six nannies had walked through the door Bridget was at a loss. She couldn't understand how two children could be such a hassle.
Surely it wasn't her kids that was the problem. Why were nannies rotating every month?
Getting To The Bottom Of It
Meg was the seventh nanny but this time would be different. She installed a few cameras around the house to get to the bottom of everything.
Marie couldn't be the problem, could she? It must have been the nannies, she didn't want to believe that her daughter could have been the real reason behind the nannies quiting.
Everything happened like clockwork. Just like the previous times she’d hired a new nanny, things seemed to go well in the beginning. But, sure enough, Bridget received the seventh nanny’s resignation just two weeks later.
But, this time, Bridget would be able to see exactly what had happened for herself. But when she watched the footage, she was horrified.
Bridget’s eyes grew wider the more she watched. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing. Marie never acted this way around her, so she had no reason to believe all the babysitters’ vague allegations.
In the first week, Marie was a little angel. But, toward the end, Bridget didn’t even recognize her own daughter.
A Bad Attitude
Bridget watched Meg politely ask Marie to hand her the baby’s diaper bag because her hands were full. “You can’t tell me what to do!” the little girl screeched, “I’m the boss of you!”
Every time Meg asked Marie to do something -- like wash her hands before lunch or get ready for school -- Marie would refuse. Bridget was furious.
The Day She Quit
The last straw for Meg had been the day she had resigned. She had asked Marie, who was running around and making a noise, to please quieten down because her baby brother had just fallen asleep.
“I’m the boss of you! I’ll get you fired!” Marie screamed in the babysitter’s face. Bridget watched as Meg tried to de-escalate the situation, then she reached for her phone.
A Little Talk
Bridget sat Marie down and explained that she had to respect her babysitter. She showed her the evidence that she’d been acting out and tried to talk to her calmly. She asked the 6-year-old if she thought her behavior was acceptable.
But Marie’s response left her absolutely floored. “We pay her. I’m her boss,” Marie snapped back. Where was this behavior coming from?
While Bridget scrambled to try and find a replacement nanny, there was no one to take Marie to her swimming lessons. When the little girl complained, Bridget pointed out that she was to blame.
“She is the reason that her sitter quit and until I can find someone new, she won’t get to do the fun activities that her sitter took her to,” the furious mom vented on parenting group on Facebook. But was that punishment enough?
A Suitable Punishment?
“I was furious with my daughter and let her have it. She had several things taken away from her and she didn’t do anything remotely fun until recently.”
Bridget continued: “I also stopped arranging playdates for her and the friend who treated her nanny terribly (they don’t go to the same school), so they don’t see each other at all anymore.” But what did other parents think?
“Her actions impacted someone enough to make them quit a job they were being paid to do. She has soiled her reputation as word spreads fast within the babysitter community if a child treats their caregiver like that,” one mom wrote on the original post.
“I imagine this wasn’t three isolated events but more like it was happening way more frequently but those three times were when the babysitter was at her last straw.” Then, other babysitters leveled their opinion of the whole situation.
Other Babysitters Speak Out
“I babysit some kids in the rich part of town, and they have friends like Ops kids friends. In the beginning, the kids tried to treat me like that. I had a chat with the parents and said they can deal with it on their end but if they wanted me to keep watching the kids I'd be dealing with it on my end too,” one user replied.
“I was lucky that the parents supported my punishments. It defiantly helps when the problem is tackled on both sides as a United force, but kids will be kids and what works for one defiantly doesn't work for all.” Then, a professional chimed in.
“It sounds to me like she was unhappy with the situation, the fact she had a sitter in the first place,” Vicki Broadbent, founder of the parent’s blog Honest Mum, wrote.
“Maybe she wasn’t feeling like her needs were being met (e.g. she might have felt she wasn’t being listened to, had lost all autonomy over even the smallest of decisions, clashed with her personality-wise, or most likely, was feeling a little abandoned by her parents in this scenario).” So, could Bridget have handled the whole situation differently?
A Bigger Issue
Vicki pointed out that, while most single moms need help with childcare and are not “abandoning” their children when they get help, it may have been understandable for Marie to have felt let down by her mom.
Vicki pointed out that Marie might have felt especially resentful about the whole situation when the reasons for needing a sitter were not explained to her properly by her mom.
Insights Into Marie’s Behavior
Vicki said that it’s so important for parents to always explain the “why” behind decisions and scenarios - and this is especially true when they might affect them emotionally.
Instead of just expecting Marie to accept a babysitter, she needed to be told exactly why Bridget had to hire one. So Bridget should have told Marie that she needed a babysitter because she had to work hard to be able to pay for Marie’s dolls, swimming lessons, food, etc. And the reasoning behind this?
Making Children Feel Emotionally Safe
“Reminding them how emotionally safe and loved they are, is key too… I personally hated having a nanny and later babysitters as a young child,” Vicki explained.
“I wanted to be with my parents at all times which is completely normal and natural, and although it was explained to me that they needed to work therefore I needed sitters, it didn’t make life that much easier for me.”
Marie Felt Hurt
According to Vicki, Marie may have felt hurt or like her feelings weren’t being considered - which caused her to act out. Marie was trying to tell her mother that she didn’t want a sitter and her acting out was a cry for help.
Does that mean Vicki thought Marie had behaved appropriately and that Bridget was in the wrong?
Listening To Them
“Yes, teaching children that they can’t be rude is crucial but so is listening,” Vicki said.
“…and I mean really listening to them (to the unspoken as well as the spoken cues) and empathizing with their behavior while explaining better ways to express themselves so as not to hurt others.” But Vicki noticed something else about Marie’s behavior that indicated the scenario wasn’t quite as cut-and-dry as it seemed…
Bridget was right to tell Marie that she had been hurtful, but she should have also tried to understand why Marie was acting out in the first place.
“If they can’t describe why (it’s hard even for adults to self-reflect and psychoanalyze themselves), then it’s your job as a parent to put in the detective work and ensure they feel more supported,” Vicki said. So who else was in the wrong here?
“Furthermore, in this scenario, an adult must have at some point told the girl that she was the boss of her sitter, either in jest or in all seriousness as age 6 is quite young to understand the complexities of money and the power that might give someone,” Vicki concluded.
For Bridget, it had been a real eye opener. Also, after looking up “How to get your child ready for a nanny or babysitter” she realized some crucial steps she had missed. The first one made her feel particularly foolish.
In general, it’s important to build a solid bond and lines of communication – and not just the night before the new addition arrives. Give a child at least a week to process the new information. And, as mentioned before, tell them why. This eliminates as many unknowns as possible.
Here are more super-useful tips for any family and kids of any age.
Invite the new babysitter or nanny over for dinner a few days before her real shift starts.
This acts as a steppingstone and let’s the child get used to the idea of having a new person in their life. It goes a long way to easing most tensions. However, the meetup doesn’t end just because the plates are cleared.
After dinner, bring out one of the kiddo’s favorite game or activities.
This not only lets the nanny and child bone a little, but it also allows the parents to see how the two interact and communicate with each other. The next step is a “duo day.”
One Day Together
When it comes to successful transitions, there’s no such thing as over-communicating.
Have the nanny or babysitter come over and spend time going through the day or evening’s events, rituals, and necessities. Go about your day like you normally would, but have the new helper take part in everything from snack prep to getting them into bed.
Next, believe it or not, involves a special trick with toys.
Kids don’t like inconsistency. It doesn’t foster a sense of security. If the child knows what’s coming, they can handle it with flying colors. Parents can add another layer of confidence in their kids by doing one simple thing…
Just add the child’s favorite toys in the mix while doing everyday tasks.
Give them a usual toy when you go for a walk. Bring out their preferred book during bedtime. This lets them know that things aren’t really that different. They haven’t lost anything. The next one, however, might be a little more challenging.
A Fine Line
Having the kids feel in charge in some way can help by leaps and bounds.
This can be done by bringing them along when the nanny or babysitter comes by for their first visit. Let them show their “new friend” around the house or take out the snacks they enjoy. But, there is one thing you have to be really careful with.
Not The Boss
While it’s important for them to feel safe, maybe even empowered, they can’t go around acting like a little maniac boss – like Marie did.
They need to know that the new person is the one in charge – without them feeling dominated. The house rules, such as homework and chores, remains intact. The final tip might be the hardest to navigate.
While it might be impossible to imagine someone else escorting your child to the “time out” corner while their crying like the world is about to end.
However, the nanny or babysitter needs to be able to correct unwanted behavior and remain in charge. This is where the parent’s communication is key.
Talk It Out
Moms and Dads must clearly outline what the nanny or babysitter is allowed to do and how they should go about it – maybe even take notes or send messages when it happens so parents can talk about it when they get home.
Well, there you have it! Simple tips and tricks to help any family – so they don’t have a situation like poor Bridget had to endure.