Have You Ever Felt Like You Were Burning-Out at Your Job?

Anonymous Nanny Asks for Advice

Anonymous Nanny Asks:
This is my first live-in nanny job. Although I work for a nice family and pay me well I typically work a 70-hour week and recently the parents have started asking me to babysit on the weekends which I am supposed to have off. Since I live with them they see I am home doing nothing else anyway. My friends and family say I need to tell the parents that I am “burning-out.” Can you describe what burn-out is for me? How should I bring up the topic with the parents?

The condition called “burnout” was first recognized among caregivers in “helping” professions. Dedicated workers who pushed too hard for too long suffered physical ills, depression, anger, exhaustion, and hostility. They felt like giving up and withdrawing.

Most times helping others makes us feel good. But burn-out can happen to anyone. Taking on too much is not healthy, either for you or the person you are helping. In spite of your good intentions, you feel lousy instead of good and can suffer a prolonged state of stress and exhaustion and become resentful of those you are helping.

Here are some suggestions for preventing burn-out:
Excerpt from The Healthy Mind Healthy Body Handbook by David S. Sobel and Robert Ornstein, PhD

Monitor Yourself: Watch out for feelings of being overwhelmed by the needs of another person. They can make you feel helpless, out of control, resentful, guilty, and stressed. These are signs of burnout.

Pay Attention to Your Own Needs: Take a break when you need it, eat nutritious foods, get adequate rest and exercise, and have fun yourself.

Recognize Your Limits: Learn to set boundaries on your availability.

Pace Yourself: Don’t try to do everything. Have realistic expectations.

Learn to Say “No:” You don’t have to go into detail if you cannot work overtime or help someone out if you haven’t the time, energy, or resources. (see how to say “No” below)

Nannies are helpful by nature and want to be helpful to the parents that employ them, making it hard from some nannies to say, “No” to their employers. When working in a private home with no human resources department nannies need to stand up for themselves, since no one else will do it for them. But, that doesn’t mean in-home childcare providers should be disrespectful.

Parents never have the right walk all over their in-home employees. Overworked and unappreciated nannies that cannot communicate openly with their employers are not happy employees.

Saying “No” is easier for some people than others. The key to saying “No” is to be prepared, respectful, calm, and kind when standing up for yourself.

Saying”No” to Your Boss:

Be Prepared: Anticipate questions you might be asked and practice how you would like to answer them. Role-play saying “No” to your boss with a trusted friend, spouse, or family member. Rehearsing the conversation with your boss out loud can help build confidence before the real conversation. If you know every weekend the family goes to the shore and will be asking you to walk their dog without compensation, practice saying you cannot walk the dog, long before they ask you to walk the dog.

Be Honest: Tell your boss why you have to say “No” to the request. Assuming that you have a legitimate reason for saying no, (you are too tired, you are busy, the request will interfere with proper childcare, or you haven’t the skills necessary), you have no reason to lie. Saying “No” comes easier when you value yourself and know you have to say “No” sometimes to take care of yourself.

Choose the Right Time and Place to Speak with Your Boss: Figure out the best time to contact your employer. Is she a morning person or is it easier to talk when she comes home from work? Is it easiest to text, email, or chat on the phone while the baby is napping?

Pay Your Boss a Compliment while Denying the Request: If your boss is asking you to take on more responsibility of being the housekeeper as well as the nanny, that shows you that she has faith in your ability to do the job. Acknowledge that it means a lot to you that she trusts you to do the cleaning job before telling her that you feel you cannot be both housekeeper and nanny.

Try a Compromise: Perhaps you can’t do exactly what your boss asks of you, but it might be possible for you to do some of it. For example, if your vacation time corresponds with the family’s vacation time but they ask you to care for their dog while they are away, you can offer to care for the dog for the two-days, but then ask your employers to hire a dog-sitter to care for the pet for the rest of your vacation time.

What is the Worst that Can Happen? Do you really think you will get fired if you say “No” or stand up for yourself? Put yourself in another nanny’s shoes and consider what advice you would give her in the same situation. Consider your employer’s viewpoint as well. If you really think you will be risking your job by simply saying “No” perhaps you are in the wrong job and deserve to work with more compassionate parents.

You Have to Communicate Too: It isn’t fair to your boss to complain to your friends and family about your job without trying to communicate your issues with the parents. It may not be obvious to the parents that you have an issue with what they ask you to do. They may assume you can always say “No” if you don’t want to do it. You respect yourself and your employers more by being honest and saying “No” sometimes.

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