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When You Don’t Get the Gift You Hoped For

In a world where we often view our worth to our employers in terms of our paycheck, our raises and our bonuses, it should be no surprise that for some nannies, this holiday season could make them feel really valued or really undervalued.

For nannies, we often anticipate what our holiday gift or bonus will be. Most nannies know that it is “industry standard” to give one to two week’s pay as a holiday bonus and more the longer the nanny has been with a family. This information in hand, nannies eagerly wait for their last paycheck of the year desperately hoping it’s filled with the extra money that they have been hoping for. We also tend to expect a holiday gift – something special crafted by the children or an item picked out from a store we would never be able to shop at on our own.

While you may expect neither a gift nor bonus, in my 15 plus years of being in the nanny world, I’ve found that most nannies, me included, have shared these holiday expectations at one time or another.

So how do you handle it when your bonus or gift doesn’t live up to your expectations?

1. Consider how you are valued year round.

Is it really fair to base how much your employer values you by looking only at your bonus or gift? If your family constantly tells you that they appreciate you, reminds you of how much you enrich their family life and thanks you for providing the best care for their children, those things needs to be remembered as well.

2. It is the thought that counts.

Families celebrate the holidays differently. Some families aren’t big on giving holiday gifts or more accurately giving money for holiday gifts. Others don’t receive a holiday bonus from their employers, so don’t see the need of giving one to their employee. Keep in mind that holiday bonuses and gifts aren’t automatic or merit rated (unless your contract states otherwise) so any gesture should be appreciated.

3. Try not to judge.

It can be so tempting to think that your employer could have done more, but don’t. How much your employer makes or has in her bank is irrelevant. You can’t view your bonus or pay based on what you think your employer can afford. That’s not how it works. Your pay should be based on your skills, experience, education, market demand, etc., and your holiday bonus or gift is based on what your employer wants to give you.

4. Reevaluate your expectations.

If you were working for most any other type of employer, would it be fair to expect a new pair of Uggs then to be disappointed when they weren’t under the tree? Just because you want a gift or had one in mind, is it fair to be disappointed you didn’t receive it? Are your expectations based on what your nanny friends are getting rather than on your employer’s gift giving traditions? Is it fair to expect anything over and above your weekly paycheck?

The nanny and employer relationship is a funny. We are part of the family, but we are not. The holidays magnify this unique aspect of our relationship. Just as we often think our employer treating us like family when it benefits them, we must also ask ourselves if we are expecting our employers to treat us like family when it benefits us?

If you’ve worked for a family for years and your gift or bonus is less extravagant than in years past, it can be hard to swallow. If you don’t receive anything, it can be even harder. While we like to think we know everything that is going on behind the scenes in the family (and we often do!) sometimes quite honestly, we don’t.

I’ve worked for families where I’ve received everything from a tube of facial cleanser to a huge pair of diamond earrings. Funny enough, the family I would have expected to get the diamond earrings from got me the facial cleanser. Was I disappointed? Yes. Did I feel jaded? Yes. Hurt? Yes. Was my disappointment fair? Not really.

Just like we teach our charges, “You get what you get and you don’t get upset.” When it comes to holiday gift giving, this has to be our attitude. If it’s not, we risk resenting our employers, which if not resolved, can negatively affect the working relationship.

And while it can be tempting to compare bonuses and gifts with your nanny friends, don’t. One nanny may be completely thrilled with her holiday gift, until she learns that another nanny in the neighborhood got much more. That nanny could be you!

So, before you exchange gifts or open your last paycheck of December, take a deep breath, consider your value to the family and remind yourself it is the thought that counts.

If you truly feel like the gift your received (or didn’t) is a true reflection of how you are valued, it’s up to you whether or not you choose to broach the subject with your employer. Should you choose to address it, think very carefully about what you will say and how you will say it.


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