Dear Miriam | Backtracking Nanny Leaves Family in Predicament

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Dear Miriam,

Three weeks ago, we hired a nanny based on glowing reviews from her references. We drafted and all signed an agreement that suggested four weeks’ notice before quitting, and we paid for her background checks. A couple of days ago — two weeks before she was scheduled to start — she told us that she would not be able to work for us.

The email mentioned that her grandmother needed care, but it reeks to us as if she found another position or, possibly, that she went back to her position from which she’d previously told us she was furloughed. The email did not apologize for any inconvenience this caused us. We feel incredibly burned and are now having a really hard time even lining up interviews with new nanny candidates.

Do I call her references back and let them know? How can I ensure this doesn’t happen again, especially with such a severe nanny shortage right now?


Still Looking For a Nanny (Again)

Dear Looking,

The child care crisis of the moment is all around a complete and total travesty for families, and while your situation is terrible, it is, sadly, not unique. I realize how little that does to help your family right now, but you have my sincerest empathy and, if you ask around, I’m sure you’ll hear a lot of stories that would resonate.

I don’t imagine that telling her references will accomplish anything other than releasing a little bit of the rage that you so understandably have built up over this situation. Telling her references will not bring you back the child care you’d thought you’d secured and, in this environment (and especially if she’s leaving you for another position), it will not prevent her from finding another nannying job. I wish there were a way for you to get back the money you’d spent on her background checks, but that’s not realistic either.

If you thought there was a possibility that any of her references might have additional babysitting suggestions, you could reach out in the context of, “The person you were a reference for ended up leaving us before she’d even started, and I wondered if you might know of anyone else looking for a nanny position.” I only recommend this if you think there’s a real possibility of a recommendation and not just as a thinly veiled excuse to vent.

I know how tempting it is to look for fault in a situation like this, and it sounds like she’s handled the situation badly. However, there is a real chance that her grandmother does need care. Even if she also was going to, or back to, another position, maybe it’s one with more flexible hours or closer to where her grandmother lives. Once you start digging a little beneath the surface, the depth of everyone’s particular pandemic-related crises are so complicated and multifaceted that it’s a wonder any of us are functioning at all.

One of the hardest parts of these pandemic times is that nothing is certain. I can’t possibly tell you how to avoid having this happen again. I can’t assure you that you’ll find another nanny at all. I wish I could. Go back to where you started asking around and posting in groups and all the things one needs to do to find a nanny, and hope for the best. Hang in there. It’s all any of us can do.

Be well,



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