With each day bringing a brand new list of precautions, cancellations, and body counts, the world we live in is one I believe no one saw coming — especially, those who make their living as caregivers.
If you are a full-time nanny or a part-time sitter: I am sure by this point, wherever you are, you are sweating bullets.
Breathe. You are not alone. This is not the time to live and plan in fear. It is a time to pause, to think smart and figure out what you need. It is time to think outside the box.
DISCLAIMER: While I am not a virus expert, a financial counselor, or a PR person working for UrbanSitter or SitterCity, etc. I am a fellow caretaker, a nanny who has worked for many private families for a little over a decade and has experience navigating this fulfilling gig where sometimes contracts exist (or don’t), conversations need to be started (if you haven’t started one already), and pandemics need to be planned for (hopefully never again after this). So let’s begin….
Let’s state the obvious: finances. I am not going to pretend that every nanny/sitter/caregiver situation is a carbon copy: that’s what makes this part a little complicated. What I do understand is that if you are like most caregivers (I am especially speaking to those who do not have a contract or have an oral agreement), a pandemic wasn’t necessarily something on your mind.
So how does one go about stating their needs without overstepping? While also considering what the parent needs from you? But in a way that also guarantees your own job security and also maybe allows you to be paid in advance for what you normally do but can’t currently do because you are socially isolating?
I got you!
First things first, reach out to your family or families if you haven’t already and ask to start a conversation about how as a unit you will plan for this. This will signal to your families a few things:
- that you are open to hearing their perspective, thoughts, and needs
- you are taking this national emergency seriously and expect them to do the same
- you are beginning an ethical conversation about everyone’s health and safety
Odds are, parents will be working from home and will need even more assistance with homeschooling along with working while also keeping the house running. But before tackling those issues, the most important one? How you will get to work.
At the end of the day, you as a caregiver come first. I know, I know, that is the opposite of what we are told in this profession. It’s the families, right? But I am a firm believer that you cannot give from an empty tank. And especially with the COVID-19 pandemic, caregivers should be guarded when it comes to putting their own health, comfort, and personal lives on the line to care for another family.
So how can you set your boundaries while also keeping your job? First, talk about transportation. Are you within walking distance of your family’s home? Do you normally take public transportation? Or do you rely on ride-sharing companies? If you are not in a shelter-in-place area, it may be a good idea to consider driving your own car or even renting a car to get to your family’s home to limit exposure to infected people throughout your area.
Or maybe you feel you should stay home and self-isolate because you or someone you know has an auto-immune disease. Does this mean you will be paid your full rate or a portion? Is there a way for you to contribute from a distance? Or maybe your family wants you to move in temporarily. What does that look like?
While this part of the conversation may be uncomfortable, it is important (and I cannot stress this enough) to state your needs graciously to your employer while sharing how this is an odd position for most people. Remember to acknowledge the needs of the parents and emphasize how you want to find a way to make it work in a way where both sides are walking away feeling like winners.
Once you are at work, you may want to tackle the following questions with your families:
- Who will be homeschooling the children? Will the parents take turns along with the caregiver or will they be working full-time? What does a balanced daily schedule look like for all parties involved so no toes are stepped on and everything runs smoothly?
- How will parents be respecting their personal lives? Will they continue to self-isolate and limit their social circles to keep everyone safe? On the same hand, what does this look like for you as the caregiver?
- If the employers are considered essential employees, such as doctors, firefighters, police officers, etc., how will the keep the space safe as the risk exposure is higher?
Parents are the ones who ultimately are the ones in charge of their children as well as the household and disruption and inconvenience to daily life are inevitable.
That being said, both parties are also processing this pandemic the best they can with the light they have to see by.
I hope the above points get the conversation started while offering both sides some solace and stability during these insane times.
With a background in the creative and educational fields, Amelia Finefrock is freelance writer, singer-songwriter and nanny based in Chicago.