update: how can we get privacy with a live-in nanny?

Remember the letter from the person grappling with how to get privacy from their live-in nanny? Here’s the update.

Thank you for your initial advice – I thought it was very sound!

 I would like to answer some of the questions that were brought up in the comments. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to be on when your response was initially posted.

COVID Restrictions: We did not force our nanny to stay with us with no interaction with the world. We equipped her with necessary PPE so that she could do the things she wanted when she wanted safely. She was actually the one who preferred living with us. We provided her with transportation to go home on the weekends she wanted to.

The Basement: The space we gave Jane in the basement is not an unfinished storage area, but a fully built-out floor equipped with a kitchenette, eating bar, fireplace, a few sofas, etc. in addition to an en-suite bedroom. It’s actually one of the nicest areas of the home. Our home is on a hill, so the basement is a bright space with an entire wall of windows.

The Kitchen: The kitchen is open to the dining room, so it’s essentially one space. Our informal eating area is also in the kitchen, which is why we often ate in the kitchen.

Here is an update on what happened:

I took your advice and told the nanny firmly that though we really appreciated her willingness to work late, we need her to be finished by 7pm – anything not finished by then, I would be happy to do myself. I had this discussion with her several times, but she simply continued on doing the same as before, saying that she did not mind working late every time I asked her to finish up.

Unfortunately, her presence became more uncomfortable by the day – I felt trapped in a home where I no longer felt comfortable having any conversations.

Over the summer, we had a very limited number of guests from our “pod.” After not seeing these friends for several months, we were all so excited to get together again and catch up over some nice meals. Jane would stand around the table right as we were setting it, making it known to all that she wanted to join for dinner. Most of the time, I didn’t have the heart to exclude her. During these dinners, Jane would listen intently to our conversations, but seldom said a word. Even if she left the dinner table early, she would find some (usually random) task to do right by the dinner table. It never felt like she was focused on her task, but that her main focus was listening to our conversations.

Things got more challenging as time went on. Jane would often ask me prying questions about my friends. Whenever we poured wine in the evening, Jane would stand close by, reminding us that, yes, she would love a pour. When we received food gifts, such as steak or lobster, she would go on and on about how those were her absolute favorite foods and she couldn’t wait to enjoy them. Jane stopped cooking for herself as she said I was a much better cook and she enjoyed eating my food so much more. I normally love sharing, but this felt very different.

Jane eventually started telling me she was in awe of me and my friends. She would share her (unprompted) observations of the guests who visited, often trying to get me to speak more about them. It became clear to me that she was constantly lingering because she was curious about our lives and wanted to learn more. This constant eavesdropping affected her work – despite constantly “working,” most of her tasks remained unfinished.

We ended up letting Jane go. It just got too weird and too uncomfortable.

We have a new live-in nanny now. And she is around all the time. She’s often in the kitchen when we’re eating. But it feels completely different. She is purposeful when she’s around, always lending a hand. We never feel she’s hanging around just to be nosy. It never feels awkward inviting her to join for dinner, and she never makes us feel guilty for sometimes wanting to have dinner alone. She respects our privacy and we feel completely comfortable having conversations in her presence. It’s been a joy sharing space with her.

Previously, because we had never had a live-in before, I felt guilty and awkward about setting boundaries in a shared home. I also wasn’t sure if I was feeling the way I did because I wasn’t used to having someone live with us, but thankfully I now know it was specifically Jane’s presence that made us so uncomfortable.

I have learned in this process that even though the workplace and home are very different, it’s just as important to be clear and direct at home with an employee, so thank you, Alison!

{ 552 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Y’all, if you have resentments against people who can afford nannies, please pass up commenting on this post. I’m not hosting unkind comments here and I will remove comments and ban commenters if it becomes necessary.

  2. Keymaster of Gozer*

    The more detail OP went into, the more I could feel my shoulders creeping up. That’s a textbook clingy/obsessed frame of mind and frankly I hope the ex nanny realises what she did was inappropriate and changes her ways. Because my word is that behaviour concerning.

    I’m glad you got a good nanny now :)

    1. Blackcat*

      I think a lot of it is just bad boundaries. OP wasn’t clear enough “We’re having friends over for dinner tonight, so please make your own plans for the evening.” But also Jane wanted to really be a part of OP’s life… which is a lot!
      Honestly, she sounds like one of those roommates who thinks being a roommate means being a friend. It can be, but doesn’t always.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I’m a bit concerned that short of physically hauling the nanny out of the room and shutting her away there may not have been a way to truly stop her butting in 24/7. But that’s my bias based on knowing a few stalker-ish obsessed people in my time.

        I do think she should have been fired sooner, but hindsight is a fine ideal.

      2. Ray Gillette*

        Jane stopped cooking for herself “because OP was a better cook.” Even for a regular roommate who wasn’t also an employee, that wouldn’t be okay in a way that really shouldn’t need to be explained. I think she wanted to see how much she could get away with. Not out of malice, but because she wanted to see what she could get, then failed to read the room when OP had finally had enough.

        1. Blackcat*

          Oh, I don’t think I was clear–I think Jane was a bad roommate, even separate the nanny situation. Wanting your roommate to always cook for you? Not great!
          But OP wasn’t firm enough with these boundaries. I’ve had a roommate where we did all meals together and took turns cooking and shopping (we planned for meals together each week). I’ve also had one where we did food totally separate.

          1. Ray Gillette*

            I think we mostly agree and are just weighting each person’s actions slightly differently. I’m putting a little more on Jane because I think she knew what she was doing wasn’t cool, but wanted to see if she could get away with it anyway. People who know they’re doing something wrong but bank on other people being too uncomfortable to draw a hard line are a personal bugbear of mine.

            1. allathian*

              Yeah, you put it very well. They’re a bugbear of mine too.

              Luckily, the older I get, the easier it becomes for me to set my boundaries and stick to them. I haven’t had people trying to take advantage of me for years. Perhaps that’s because the people I spend time with don’t take unfair advantage of others, or perhaps they’ve realized that I won’t put up with it.

              I’m glad LW found another nanny who’s much better at respecting boundaries.

          2. Just Another Zebra*

            I think calling Jane a roommate isn’t accurate – she’s an employee who receives housing as part of her compensation. It’s still OP’s home. IMO, it’s worse than a roommate always wanting to eat your food. It’s more akin to an employee hovering around, waiting for the boss to offer half of their sandwich and asking about their personal life.

            1. Blackcat*

              I think we’re saying the same thing. Jane *wasn’t* a roommate. But, even if that’s what she was, she’d be a bad roommate! It’s definitely worse than an intrusive roommate.

            2. Elizabeth*

              I think there was a letter about a boss that was asking for someone’s food and trying to be their friend, showing up at their house (I hope it was the same letter, because multiple bosses like that is a frightening idea). Reversed power dynamic, but still…

        2. Anonymity*

          OP sounds like she did not definitively address these situations when it happened. Nanny’s perspective if she were here may be: she invited and allowed me to eat meals with the family. I didn’t know she didn’t want me there.

        3. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

          That line of “because you’re better at it” is something that I don’t even like in relationships, where you’re supposed to be in each other’s business and act as a unit. If a couple decides that one person does the cooking and the other does something else, that’s fine, but when a person one-sidedly decides, or tries to wheedle, that their spouse or SO will do all of a chore because “you’re so good at it,” it’s really shitty. My old roommate’s husband (perhaps innocently, as men are sometimes wont to do when they weren’t raised to learn to do their own chores) tried to insist he didn’t know how to fold clothes, and my BIL even tried to get me to fold his when I lived with them because “he didn’t know how.”

          There’s also a good reddit thread I once read (with update) of an SO on AITA who never wanted to eat out because his girlfriend could cook better and cheaper than restaurant food, so reasoned (fully one-sidedly) that they should always eat at home, with her cooking. He went on and on about how good her food was, as though praising her made up for all the work he was pushing on to her.

          1. Dove*

            I remember that thread! He was complaining about how she was upset that he got her a sushi making set as a gift…when sushi was one of the few things she *didn’t* know how to make (or have the equipment to make), and so it was one of the few things she could get him to agree to actually go out to a restaurant for – and when he did agree to go out places, he’d take her to the cheapest place possible.

            If I remember right, she ended up breaking up with him because of it (and myriad other things too).

      3. Des*

        The OP did mention having several direct conversations with her, however. So it doesn’t sound like she was uninformed about the expectations.

        1. Brad Fitt*

          Yarp. Jane overstepped for sure (“I love your cooking so I won’t be making my own meals anymore” wtf, and assuming she was always invited for food/wine aren’t great, especially with a group of strangers she didn’t even know) but LW also seemed to set zero boundaries. Telling someone they “don’t need to” work past a certain time isn’t a boundary when the person responds “Oh, I don’t mind!” and then you say nothing. I’m sure it felt very blunt to LW in the moment but … that’s not how it works.

          I’m glad LW found someone who understands the million little hints they rely on instead of having to learn to communicate clearly, I guess.

    2. Anne Elliot*

      I don’t know that I necessarily would find Jane’s behavior obsessive or concerning, but it does to me indicate that she is either genuinely confused about her role in the household or wants it to be different from what it is — she doesn’t want to be paid help, or not JUST paid help, she wants to be family. Especially during a pandemic, it could be that Jane is just lonely. Although that is not the OP’s problem, I would suggest that it might have been not just more effective, but actually kinder, to more directly clarify Jane’s role and position, rather than continue to tolerate her begging for crumbs from a metaphorical social table that the OP knew she was never going to invite Jane to join. I don’t mean that harshly — the OP is entitled to choose her own friends and family. But sometimes directness is kindness.

      1. MK*

        I don’t disagree, but it’s easier said than done. How do you say to someone that they are the help firmly enough that they won’t be able to misinterpret it (especially someone who seems dead set on misinterpreting) without being offensive?

        1. Mary*

          If you haven’t let things go on too long and/or you have one or two small things, you say it in the moment, in a pleasant tone, and don’t act like it’s the end of the world. “Jane, please make your own food in your kitchen” or “Jane, please complete X Y and Z by 7 pm from now on and be out of the upper part of the house by 7 pm every night.”

          If you’ve let things go on too long and/or you have a laundry list, you have a sit-down conversation about “boundaries” and “expectations.” If it helps you can even treat it like you’re discussing a job offer with a totally new candidate, explaining what the position entails and asking if they have any questions or need clarification. For someone like Jane, I would repeatedly emphasize words like “job” and “position” and “as your employer.”

          1. Brad Fitt*

            I think LW probably could have saved themselves a lot of self-imposed personal drama if they’d taken the time to think about how they really wanted this arrangement to work and written out a list of expectations in advance (and I hope they do that now that they’ve—hopefully—learned something from this Jane Incident). Most people do well with boundaries, as long as the boundaries are reasonable and clearly defined.

            1. JustaTech*

              I think this is a good idea, but challenging to do. The vast, vast majority of people have no experience with live-in employees, so they don’t really have any experience to base their expectations on.

              Clearly a thing we can learn is, if you’re going to have live-in employees (nanny or home health aid or whatever), talk to other people who have done it so you have an idea of what normal boundaries are.

        2. Crooked Bird*

          Yeah, the key is in the phrase “Most of the time, we didn’t have the heart to exclude her.” Excluding her was possible, but it would have had to be done utterly directly, in the face of her open request, and followed by the whole pageant of watching her face fall, everyone standing there while she sadly withdrew, then the throat-clearing and trying to pretend nothing just happened and we’re all happy and ready to have a great time… I can see why OP didn’t. It can be quite difficult when a person DOES NOT take a hint.

          Sometimes setting boundaries & setting the desired tone right upfront can nip this kind of thing in the bud before it gets awkward, but it’s too late to try that experiment with Jane.

          1. Just Another Zebra*

            Yes! I commented down thread about her asking for a glass of wine. It’s true that giving in at the moment is not the best move, and possibly should have been addressed later. But I can just imagine OP, standing in her kitchen with her friends, with Jane standing there expectantly waiting for her own glass of wine. Some people might be brash enough to say, in that moment, in front of guests, “Sorry, this isn’t for you, go away.” I’m certainly not (and it sounds like OP isn’t really either).

            1. Kaiko*

              I mean, yes and no. This is sort of like your waiter expecting you to pour a splash of wine for them. Jane is not OP’s friend, or roommate; this is a service-based relationship where the boundaries got blurred. We can do an accounting of why—too much time together? Loneliness? Fascination with how the other half lives? Resentfulness about being excluded when she “does so much” for the family?—but the reality is Jane overstepped, a lot, and the OP was right to let her go. It would have been kinder to do it sooner, but hey: global pandemic, needing help, and that very human hope that if you ignore an awkward situation, it will somehow go away on its own.

              1. Uranus Wars*

                very human hope that if you ignore an awkward situation, it will somehow go away on its own

                Nothing to add here except that I feel like this was the tagline of my life from ages 25-35.

            2. Ellie*

              I’ve been in situations where I’ve been pouring a glass for myself and a good friend, and a total stranger will walk up and say, ‘I’ll have a glass of that!’. It’s really hard to say no. Frankly, I don’t see why the OP needs to put up with that from an employee, in their own home. It sounds like a personality clash to me, and that’s not going to work out for anyone.

        3. MsClaw*

          Yeah. I think there’s so much built-in awkwardness here, and also most of us don’t have a ton of experience with it. Because of how expensive childcare is where I live, a shocking number of people I work with have live-in nannies (shocking to me, since for the first 40 years of my life, I’d literally never known anyone born after 1960 with such an arrangement, and now I know dozens). Most of them did not grow up with live-in nannies. Most of the nannies probably didn’t have live-in help and don’t have a family history of being live-in help. So everyone’s trying to figure out these boundaries, and a lot of what is directness is going to feel like rudeness.

          I mean, there’s really no nice way to tell someone ‘we would like the upper part of our house to ourselves after 7’. That doesn’t mean you can’t tell them that. It’s just going to feel weird to say (and probably be a bit hurtful to hear). But it needs saying. We don’t really live in an upstairs/downstairs world where people have been trained from a young age at how to be, or to treat, ‘the help’. I hear all sorts of stories from my colleagues with nannies about how one was too friendly, one wasn’t friendly enough, one never wanted to hang out with them, one wanted to hang out too much, one did their laundry even though they said not to, one didn’t do the laundry and they were supposed to, etc. So if you are a nanny, the expectations can vary radically from household to household. My advice if you have a live-in would be to be as explicit as possible. And don’t treat the nanny as a roommate or friend — treat them as an employee you are managing, and be a good manager. Set clear expectation. Provide frequent feedback.

          1. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

            Yeah, looking from outside the situation, and living a life that will probably never have me with live in help until I’m very old, it seems like a good idea to start the employment relationship by going “This is a job, so after 7, you should be ‘off-the-clock’ and out of the ‘workplace.'” But even typing that out, saying “get out of my house after 7” feels so awkward.

          2. Anon for this*

            Yes, I’m kind of reading this and retrospectively squirming a little. I was an au pair girl when I was 18, and my employers were quite good about setting boundaries, but it was still difficult to gauge sometimes. They did sometimes offer me a glass of wine or a coffee, or invite me to their parties. And although it was made clear that Saturday was family time, I couldn’t stay in the house without the kids assuming I was on duty, and for the first month or so, I had no idea what to do with myself in a strange city. It got better.

            Looking back, the awkwardness never went anywhere near Jane levels, but I might have difficulty dealing with a Jane because I remember how lonely I was and how weird the dynamic could be, without anyone wanting to make it weird.

            1. MsClaw*

              Indeed. And especially right now, when there are much more limited opportunities to do things outside of the house, meet other people, etc, if can be very unpleasant if you are more or less locking the au pair in the basement in the evenings. Of course no one’s literally doing that (I hope). But it’s not like your au pair can trot down to the pub, or go see a movie with friends, or at least not without a lot of restrictions and some families may not permit that at all. My point is, it’s always awkward to have someone else living in your house, but I think it’s particularly odd right now when the family may be the extent of the nanny’s local social circle, especially if it’s someone from out-of-town or out-of-country.

              I feel bad for some of my coworkers who have struggled to find reliable childcare — but I also have seen a few whose nannies keep bailing, and it most cases it’s because the family cannot be clear about their expectation or are one moment saying ‘help yourself to anything in the kitchen’ and the next saying ‘why did she eat our leftover pasta!’

              1. JustaTech*

                My friend’s au pair went home this summer because everyone agreed it just wasn’t fair to her because they bubbled *very* tightly for medical reasons, so she really couldn’t see anyone. Part of the point of being an au pair is to get to see America (or wherever you go), and right now that’s generally not possible.

          3. Alice's Rabbit*

            You make a good point. I was an au pair for a while, and it was always tricky to navigate the boundaries in a new household. Especially when the employer wasn’t straightforward.
            Reading the Letter Writer’s account of what she said, it was way too ambiguous. I would have understood it as “If you have something planned for the evening, I don’t mind finishing up the work,” instead of “please stop whatever you’re doing at 7 sharp, so we can have some private family time each evening.”

        4. Anonymity*

          You say “your shift ends at 7, and at this time the family enjoys its privacy”. Then enforce it.

        5. c-*

          “Jane, we need to clarify your role in this house. You are an employee, and as such, we expect you to do X, Y, and Z. You must stop doing A and B. The kitchen must be free by ____ o’clock. If you have not implemented these changes consistently by [next week, next month], we’ll be letting you go, effective [deadline + 2-4 weeks depending on how much time you want her to have to move out]. If we let you go you’ll receive X weeks of severance pay.”
          Directness about a serious situation (and anything that affects someone’s livelihood is serious) is not offensive. If someone chooses to take offense to that, that’s a them problem.

          To be fair, I’d have set much firmer boundaries and would have let Jane go much sooner when she failed to respect them, but I understand that it’s awkward for many people to be so assertive.

          1. myra*

            This! There could be details we’re missing, but based on the information in the letter, I don’t think the OP handled this situation well. It sounds like she tried to set some gentle boundaries, but it also sounds like she didn’t ever have the kind of conversation you describe, and she really should have. It is much kinder to have a blunt conversation like this than to have to let someone go when they weren’t expecting it (affecting their livelihood).

      2. Artemesia*

        This. A conversation about ‘we need privacy’ and ‘we entertain sometimes and you need to make your own plans then’ needed to be had. Jane was someone who needed be told — We don’t want you working in our space after 7 and we will invite you to eat with us some days but otherwise you need to use your own kitchen. Then do it ie. invite her to have dinner several times a week and not others.

        1. Deanna Troi*

          She said she told her several times that “she needed to br finished by 7:00” but that it didn’t work. I don’t know how to get more direct than that. The next step would be firing her or physically removing her from the kitchen. Obviously the latter isn’t an option.

          1. Batgirl*

            You’d have to stand there repeatedly saying things like “No, actually, it’s time for you to go. Now.” Or “Well I didnt offer you wine/dinner so you should go see what you have in your kitchenette” and “You may not mind, but I do; Dave and I want privacy” or “I need the kitchen tonight so I need you to go and not come back into the kitchen until tomorrow… What? No, I wasn’t asking if you *wanted* to leave, I was telling you to leave…” But I don’t think the awkwardness of a super direct approach would have paid off. If someone is this oblivious they would have carried on making mistakes which needed strong corrections and daily emotional labour from OP. Also, she was so nosy that she almost certainly would have resented the boundaries. Better to get someone who can read a room.

            1. allathian*

              Yes, this. Jane was a practice run for the LW’s family. Most people don’t have any experience of live-in employees from their childhood, so setting these expectations and boundaries can be hard, especially in a pandemic when there isn’t much the nanny can do in her off-duty hours for fun that would take her out of the house.

            2. Paulina*

              Yes. For a nanny position like this, it’s reasonable to expect someone who can read the room or learn to read it, and doesn’t require to be awkwardly ordered around all the time. Even when the OP was direct, Jane still stayed around far too much and was intrusive, and the difference between Jane and the new nanny shows that it’s a question of attitude, not just “don’t be around.” IMHO Jane was wilfully misunderstanding, especially in the later stages; I think she was attracted by the opportunity to experience the lifestyle and wouldn’t pull back willingly.

          2. Alice's Rabbit*

            No, the next step is saying “Jane, it’s 7 o’clock. Time to knock off for the evening. See you tomorrow!”
            And if she tries to linger, you gently shoo her toward her apartment and repeat “Jane, go enjoy your evening. It’s family time now. Go. Have fun! Bye!”

      3. caradom*

        The reason she is lonely is because she behaves like this. No one likes clingy people who stomp all over basic boundaries. All the person can do is become self-aware.

        1. A*

          I don’t think that’s necessarily true. While I think OP did the best thing and am happy they’ve found a better solution, the only people I know personally that have live-in help have a dynamic similar to what it appears Jane was trying to create. They are ‘extensions of the family’ and have close friendships/pseudo-roommate like relationships with them including socializing with friends, dinner etc.

          Again, I think Jane missed a lot of flags here and OP didn’t owe her anything and didn’t do anything inherently wrong. But I do think it’s a leap to say that Jane’s behavior = why she has no friends = why she’s acting the way she is = ‘clingy’. They were on very different pages.

          1. Brad Fitt*

            I’m skeptical Jane has no friends. What did LW want? Jane to invite her own friends over? During the pandemic? When she cares for children?

            Well, we’ve never seen her friends I guess they don’t exist. Or maybe she was being responsible and isolating but there’s no way to know, real mystery for the ages. O_o

      4. Colleague’s Dog’s Viking Funeral*

        I think OP tried and Jane refused to hear.
        “I told the nanny firmly that though we really appreciated her willingness to work late, we need her to be finished by 7pm – anything not finished by then, I would be happy to do myself. I had this discussion with her several times”
        Jane continued to putz around and just be present after OP told her not to.
        Jane chose to interpret, please finish your work and do your own thing at 7 as “no, I will not.”
        Because it’s not like she finished her work like she was asked and was still hanging around. She didn’t misunderstand “do your own thing, be done for the day” as do whatever she wanted. Jane specifically stayed, pretending or half doing work after OP told her not to.

        1. It's the little things*

          I agree that I think she tried but she didn’t follow through. After that conversation, the first time it hit 7.01 with her in the kitchen OP needed to say, ‘as we discussed I will take it from here’ – if Jane replies, ‘don’t worry I don’t mind’, the response needed to be – ‘it’s not about whether you mind, I mind and would like you out of the kitchen at 7.00 please, which is now’.

          1. Lacey*

            Yeah, Jane needed really firm management. But, I get why that would be frustrating also, so ultimately I think the OP made the right choice and found someone who is a better fit.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          I wonder if the OP phrased this too softly, giving Jane the option to decide she was saying “it’s not necessary for you to keep washing the dishes past 7:00” instead of “please give us some privacy after 7:00.” If so, I think any *reasonable* person would have understood what the OP was saying, but Jane chose to interpret it the way that worked best for her.

          1. Brad Fitt*

            Personally—and I know I’m weird—if I know part of my job/chores/whatever is to wash the dishes after making dinner and I’m still washing dishes past when I’m supposed to and the person in charge is like “You don’t have to finish those, I can do it,” my response is going to be “I don’t mind” because my gran raised me to be polite and finish the things I’m responsible for doing.

            If the person then says “No, I mind. I need you to be done at 7,” then I’m done. Because boundaries! :D

            1. Friendly Canadian*

              Also though washing dished doesn’t take too long. Had Jane at 7 been like oh there are still a bunch of dishes to do I will just finish them and then she works to 7:15 and then leaved I don’t think OP would notice/care.

            2. Alice's Rabbit*

              Yes, this exactly! Saying “I don’t mind taking over” is not the same as saying “Stop working at 7, and leave us alone for the evening unless specifically invited to join us.”
              We’ve seen similar problems from managers who are too gentle with go-getter employees that can’t take a hint about working overtime. Nothing short of “Your shift ends at 7. Stop working at 7, leave, enjoy your evening, and do no more work for us until 9 tomorrow” gets through. Not because they’re a bad employee, but because they’re just trying too hard to please and keep overshooting the mark.

      5. Mr Jingles*

        Would you behave lake Jane did with family? Intruding in every meal, even when friends come over, if it where your mom and you the adult child?
        I made myself scarce even as a teenager when my parents had friends over besides of a nice hello. Why would I sit in with them?
        Right now my husband and I live with his parents and we wouldn’t dream to behave like that against his parents.
        I’m still waiting for any scenario where what Jane did wasn’t inapropriate.
        If she where OP’s very minor child maybe. Age around 5 or 6. But I can’t picture any situation between adults where this would indeed be acceptable behaviour.
        Inviting yourself for dinner every day, listening in on conversations, pretending to work to observe people, following them around, asking for a share of gifts given to them…
        For anybody except small children, that’s stalking.

        1. Tired of Covid-and People*

          Lifetime for sure. I have seen more than a few nanny horror stories on there (yeah I know, mindless guilty pleasure, their movies always have a standard plot).

    3. EventPlannerGal*

      She just sounds very clueless and annoying and perhaps lonely to me, tbh. I wouldn’t consider it terribly concerning or threatening or whatever, just a sign that she obviously wasn’t right for this job.

      1. LunaLena*

        The fact that she was prying into the OP’s friends’ lives as well as the OP’s makes her sound more than just clueless and annoying to me. Having someone who is THAT clueless about boundaries actually living in your home and sharing your space is a huge red flag, apart from her constantly forcing her presence on the OP even after multiple “can you not”s. I’d be worried that she’d see nothing wrong with going through private papers and anything that’s not actually locked up because she’s practically one of the family anyways, right? Honestly, if the OP said she had caught Jane wearing some of her jewelry or “borrowing” her clothes without permission, I wouldn’t have been surprised.

        1. EventPlannerGal*

          Oh, I still disagree! I think that asking these questions about OPs friends is certainly an overstep and not in keeping with the expectations of the job, but again not something I would find threatening or a precursor to theft. It’s interesting how people find these things differently.

          1. Surly*

            Yes, I think it’s possible Jane was just trying to make conversation with the OP and show an interest in the OP’s life, and wasn’t intending to be creepy.

          2. LunaLena*

            I don’t think it’s necessarily a precursor to theft either, but the extreme lack of boundaries (especially since, in the original letter, the OP mentioned that Jane would hover around while OP and her husband were discussing private business like financials) would make me very very wary to trust her with anything, which is not good when a) her job is to take care of a child, and b) she lives in and has access to the entire house. I don’t think Jane was being malicious or looking for dirt or anything like that. I just think that she wouldn’t see anything wrong with reading their documents or going through their stuff while “helpfully” tidying up, and I would definitely not be comfortable having someone like that in my home.

            “Annoying” is singing loudly and off-key or forgetting to put away the vacuum. What Jane was doing is far more intrusive than that.

            1. EventPlannerGal*

              > “if the OP said she had caught Jane wearing some of her jewelry or “borrowing” her clothes without permission, I wouldn’t have been surprised.”
              > “I don’t think it’s necessarily a precursor to theft either”


              Like I said, I still disagree! I like how we get to see so many different views of the same situation on this site and how we don’t all have to agree with one another :)

              1. LunaLena*

                Oh, to clarify that – I don’t think Jane would have outright stolen items. But I don’t think she would have seen anything wrong with wearing the OP’s clothes or jewelry without permission and then returning them. With her extreme lack of boundaries, I can totally picture Jane thinking “OP won’t mind if I borrow her necklace for a bit! After all, we’re practically family and I’ll return it, it’s not like I’m *stealing* it or anything.”

                >”Like I said, I still disagree! I like how we get to see so many different views of the same situation on this site and how we don’t all have to agree with one another :)”

                For sure, that’s why I love reading comments sections on sites like this! It’s always fascinating to see other points of view from people whose experiences are different from mine.

              2. Batgirl*

                I think LunaLena means Jane wouldn’t consider sharing personal belongings without asking to be theft. I have to agree. Jane seems to think “get job as a nanny” means “I have a new sister now”.

          3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            Yeah, to me she sounds a bit starstruck, seeing people much richer than her up close.
            We don’t have a nanny but we have lodgers. There’s a similar dynamic where they’re living in our home, obviously are privy to various things that happen, they meet our friends. There was one who kept asking questions. She got very friendly with our children (who no longer live here). At one point she remarked that our daughter hadn’t come round for a while. My daughter and partner had had an argument. I could have told her that I’d had lunch with my daughter just the other day, but it was none of the lodger’s business. So I just said “mmh” and turned away to make it clear that I wasn’t prepared to discuss it. She picked up the cue and stopped making such remarks. She was then glad of the discretion once she got herself a BF and stayed out all night without having to let us know where she was.

    4. Surly*

      I don’t think that’s a reasonable take at all. It’s possible the nanny was just lonely during isolation because of COVID. There’s no reason to jump to creepy obsessions here when a little compassion would also make sense of her behaviour.

    5. Let's Just Say*

      It sounds like OP has a more lavish lifestyle than Jane, and OP’s life/friends seemed glamorous, so Jane was trying to insinuate herself into that sphere. Very weird and annoying for sure. OP did the right thing, but I don’t think it’s necessarily an irrational obsession so much as…aspirational intrusiveness, maybe.

      1. Crooked Bird*

        Yeah, that’s how it reads to me. She wanted to BE the OP rather than work for her, and it began to show more & more. But she didn’t have an actual “Hand That Rocks The Cradle” plan to replace OP. Or she’d have been less obvious, for one! She just wanted more material for her fantasies.

      2. Lacey*

        Yeah, that was my thought as well. Certainly on Lifetime this would be a prelude to something upsetting, but in life, it’s just annoying.

      3. GammaGirl1908*

        Agree with this. I think Jane had a “girl crush” on LW; she found LW’s life admirable and glamorous and sexy and cool and wanted to learn to emulate her. Jane unfortunately was super awkward with it and couldn’t take a hint about where LW wanted the boundaries of the actual time together and spaces in the house to be.

        A different employer might not have minded the nanny awkwardly trying to make semi-friends with her, but LW did, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It really wasn’t the right match.

    6. Richard Hershberger*

      I am assuming that this all is in the American context. We Americans are bad at this sort of thing. The English, back in the day, were good at this because the English class structure meant that everyone on both sides understood their roles. The American equivalent was ethnic or racial, with the ethnicity/race of the “help” depending on the time and place. We like to pretend that we don’t do that anymore, so the roles get confused. Add to this that we call our bosses by their first names, and yes, the “we are family” culture of many workplaces. Now make this a live-in nanny situation, and we get a complete mess. Yes, Jane was a bad roommate. But even had she acted like a good roommate, that would still have been a problem: she was an employee. And while modern informality and familiarity can (sometimes) work in an office, Jane was there All The Time. I suspect Jane is young. In college we often are very intimate with friends and roommates, living cheek by jowl, hanging out together, and sharing everything. This looks to me like she unconsciously carried that over. I also suspect she hasn’t a clue why she was fired.

      1. Batgirl*

        I have tons of fellow English friends with nannies and awkwardness abounds, I assure you. Even a cleaner for an hour a week seems to provoke faux pas anxiety. Might be because none of these people have an estate..?

      2. armchairexpert*

        I feel like you’re basing this assumption on some re-runs of Upstairs, Downstairs, but I can assure you this hasn’t been true for well over a century – or earlier, but basically since the rise of the middle class. It 100% isn’t true now – English people will anguish about whether one should offer a cup of coffee to the cleaner, and if so, do you sit down and chat during the coffee, what about if you’re paying them by the hour? And if you’re expecting a Brit to deliver a straightforward instruction, rather than hinting and expecting someone to guess based on unspoken norms and body language, maybe you’ve never met one of us.

        Before that, being in service was treated as a career path with an apprenticeship of sorts, so young domestics would be trained by senior staff and risked losing their jobs if they got it wrong. It’s not that their employers were magically great at establishing boundaries.

        I mean, sure, “this wouldn’t have happened on a landed estate in the 18th century” may be true, but this is not a uniquely American dilemma now.

        1. allathian*

          No need to go back to the 18th century, just watch Downton Abbey! And unless I’m completely misremembering, Upstairs, Downstairs was set in the early 20th century, before WWI.

          But I suspect that the English middle class faces much the same problems as Americans do, they haven’t grown up with live-in domestic servants either.

        2. The Other Katie*

          Even at the height of British class distinction, nannies, governesses and tutors existed in a weird grey area of not quite family and not quite staff. It’s an inherently weird position, to be doing something incredibly intimate (taking care of someone’s kids for them!) while still being an employee.

          1. londonedit*

            And let’s not forget that only the seriously wealthy British families would have ever had a full staff with cooks and nannies and all the rest of it. The middle classes would have tried to keep a housekeeper/cook, and a nanny, but it was often a huge financial stretch that put real strain on the family as they tried to make themselves look ‘better’ than their finances actually allowed. Just look at Jane Austen’s novels – they’re full of families like the Bennets who keep on a general cook/housekeeper, but that’s the bare minimum to ensure they’re viewed as a ‘respectable’ family. Everyone knows they don’t have quite as much money as they’d like to, hence Mrs Bennet’s constant attempts at social climbing and desire to marry her daughters off to rich men.

            And yes, nowadays most British people who employ a nanny/cleaner/gardener or similar end up worrying about making a faux pas. You don’t want to treat them as ‘staff’ – because who the hell do you think you are, thinking you’re la-di-dah enough for staff – but at the same time you’re paying them and you don’t want them to take the piss. So, yeah…you offer the cleaner a cup of tea, but do you sit and have a chat? Can you ask the nanny to do the washing-up or is that terribly rude? We’re terrible at things like actually telling the hairdresser when we’re not happy with a haircut, let alone dealing with people we’re paying to do jobs in our own homes. I think most British people, faced with a nanny who had plonked themselves down at the dinner table, in front of a group of their friends, would find it very difficult to say ‘No, Jane, you can’t have a glass of wine. Please go downstairs’.

            1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

              I felt so awkward when we had the cleaner come in when I was home ill. There she’d be doing the hoovering, and there I’d be, lying on the sofa in a dressing gown watching In Plain Sight.

              (Our (UK) approach to the coffee thing was that we bought her favoured brand of instant coffee (none of us drink it) and let her get on with things as she preferred.)

            1. Warm Weighty Wrists*

              I think we can all agree that Mr. Rochester is not the best model of how to treat staff. I was about to say he was the worst, and then I remembered Jane’s cousin and like, ok, the second worst.

          2. JustaTech*

            There’s a BBC series (I think it’s on Prime) called Manor House where modern people (circa 2000) go act as staff and family at a manor house, very a la Downton Abbey, and awkwardness and hijinks ensue. One of the things that comes up is how everyone except the downstairs staff is very lonely (and they’re very tired). The tutor for the school-aged child is particularly excluded because he can’t socialize with the “family” or with the “staff” except maybe the valet or lady’s maid.

        3. Rebecca Stewart*

          It was a dilemma then. Plenty of women married and had NO idea how to keep house themselves or manage a staff of two or three, any more than your average person does today, and so the Good Housekeeping magazine (yes, it started back then) and the homemaking manuals talked about how to manage live-in servants on a regular basis, and the young couple who lived in terror of their cook was a stock figure in comedy. Your average middle class family had a cook, who also did the laundry, a housemaid who waited at table, opened the door to visitors, and did the dusting and sweeping over most of the house, and if you had children you added in a nanny. Housework was much more laborious then because houses were dirtier.

          1. JustaTech*

            The famous household book Mrs Beeton (available free online now) has whole big sections on exactly how to treat your staff depending on their role and how many of them you have (only a maid of all work vs maid and cook vs maids and cook and nanny and footman, etc).

          2. Alice's Rabbit*

            Also because modern conveniences like vacuums and washing machines didn’t exist. Cleaning itself took a lot longer, and then you had to clean the cleaning implements.

      3. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Your impression of we English is off by a mile by the way. Now if you’d said we’ve been obsessed with talking about the weather for hundreds of years you’d be bang on :)

        1. CommanderBanana*

          Or the Tea Water Microwave wars (I’m a tea drinker, and I maintain that tea made with boiled v. microwaved water DOES taste different in some inestimable way).

          1. Lucien Nova*

            It does! Not necessarily a worse taste, in the case of microwaved, but absolutely different. I much prefer boiled unless I’ve not got time to put the kettle on.

    7. Des*

      Same here! This was super creepy, and I would have been going out of my mind. I’m glad you found a professional woman to work for you, OP!

    8. Anonymity*

      OP was afraid to set reasonable boundaries and enforce them and it spiraled out of control. I don’t necessarily think original Nanny was a bad person.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, this. Boundaries are hard to set later if you don’t do it right away. I assume that the OP set proper boundaries before the new nanny moved in.

        Also, an unwillingness to either enforce or respect boundaries doesn’t make someone a bad person necessarily. I’d be willing to settle for a Jane being a bad employee and OP failing as an employer for not setting boundaries. I’m not saying Jane was a bad person for doing what she did, but the OP didn’t set firm boundaries early on as an employer from the start and Jane was willing to take advantage of that.

        1. Brad Fitt*

          I had to scroll way too far down in the comments for this (I started thinking I’m at risk for getting murdered if everyone else can see Jane obviously wanted to take over OP’s life and wear her skin or whatever).

          Fully agree with everything except I don’t think OP necessarily set better boundaries with the new nanny, I think maybe the new nanny is just better suited to interpreting the way OP communicates. I’ve had jobs like that, where I couldn’t do anything right and the manger would never explain what I was doing wrong—and then they’d hire a new person who just got it and I’d realize that manager wasn’t a good manager for me.

          1. Alice's Rabbit*

            Agreed, with the caveat the LW may have been more clear up front about the family’s expectations and need for privacy. Always easier to set boundaries from the beginning, rather than trying to add boundaries later.

  3. Mary*

    The update is a good one, but it doesn’t seem like OP has actually learned how to be clear and direct since the issues went on so long. It just seems like OP reached a breaking point, let Jane go, and hired someone who is more intuitive and innately has actual, professional boundaries.

    If you are having a serious discussion and saying things like “I would be happy to do X Y Z” and the response is that the other person “doesn’t mind at all,” that’s not an actual firm directive to a subordinate. That’s giving a hint and hoping the other person picks up on it.

    1. Caramel & Cheddar*

      Yep, this. Nanny’s behaviour got increasingly weird and creepy, but it doesn’t sound like a hard boundary was ever introduced nor enforced.

      1. Allypopx*

        “I took your advice and told the nanny firmly that though we really appreciated her willingness to work late, we need her to be finished by 7pm…I had this discussion with her several times, but she simply continued on doing the same as before”

        This was a trial boundary that failed. I don’t think this was ever going to be a tenable situation.

        1. lost academic*

          I agree with this. Once someone has ignored firm statement and directions you move on, but in the case of a live in nanny that’s not something that can often happen the very next day/week. A lot of time and planning has to go into finding a replacement and allowing that person to move out, especially in these times. On the bright side, the OP is better able to take action in the future based on this experience, and the new nanny has a better grasp of appropriate boundaries and the working relationship.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            You make an excellent point about the time required to change someone who is actually living with you. During a pandemic no less!

        2. Mary*

          You cut out the part that I was referencing that reinforces my point. The full quote is, “I took your advice and told the nanny firmly that though we really appreciated her willingness to work late, we need her to be finished by 7pm – anything not finished by then, I would be happy to do myself. I had this discussion with her several times, but she simply continued on doing the same as before, saying that she did not mind working late every time I asked her to finish up.”

          Again, including “happy to do myself” even if it’s prefaced with “I need you to do X Y and Z” isn’t an actual boundary.

          1. Surly*

            Yeah, he even said “we appreciated her willingness to work late” which to me as an employee would mean I was doing a great job and they appreciated my willingness to work late. Thus, I would continue to work late.

            1. Myrin*

              Even if that was directly followed by “nevertheless, we need you to be finished by 7 pm”, though?

              1. Brad Fitt*

                If every conversation after that was along the lines of

                OP: “I’d be happy to finish doing those dishes for you!”
                Nanny: “Oh, I don’t mind!”
                OP: …

                then, yeah, I’m going to remember the part where she said she liked it when I worked late—and then let me keep working late instead of saying “No, I can do it, you go watch a movie or something!”

            2. Just Another Zebra*

              I don’t know that I agree with this. It’s akin to a manager saying “I appreciate that you are willing to work overtime, but that isn’t approved so you have to stop.” OP told Jane to stop doing X. Jane kept doing X. The last person I’d want to be harsh with is the one I hired to care for my children, so I imagine OP softened her language (perhaps too much), because of it.

              1. The Rural Juror*

                Right. Seems like Jane has selective hearing: she selected to hear what she wanted to hear.

            3. Claire*

              Really? Even if the sentence immediately continued with a “but”? I’m very bad at social cues, and I do generally need things spelled out explicitly, but to me this reads the same as, “Thank you, but no, I’m not interested,” where it’s very, very clear that the “I appreciate” thing is just added to be polite.

              1. Alice's Rabbit*

                Except the conversation wasn’t “thanks, but no.” It was “thanks, but no, but maybe.” Very indecisive, and open to misinterpretation. Not firm at all.

            4. Artemesia*

              yup — it had to be followed with ‘but we need our privacy in the evenings and so we don’t want you to be working after 7.’ Not joining in when guests are there needs to also be clearly communicated ‘We are having guests tonight so it is particularly important for you to be finished before 6 tonight and make your own evening plans.’

          2. Claire*

            I don’t understand this comment at all! If anything, the “happy to do it myself” thing should make it more clear that Jane needs to be done by 7, in that LW is emphasizing that even if the work isn’t finished, Jane needs to stop, whereas otherwise she might worry, “Oh, it’s 7 and I still have a bunch of stuff to do, I guess I’d better keep working.” I don’t know how LW could have been more clear without being rude.

            1. Mary*

              “I am happy to do it after 7” isn’t the same thing as “Stop at 7.”

              “Happy to do it after 7” is going to be read by a boundary pusher as optional, as in “This is a description of the emotion that I would feel if you hypothetically stopped at 7” rather than “Stop doing it at 7.”

              1. Allypopx*

                But she did say “stop at 7”. “I’m happy to do it myself” references what’s supposed to happen with unfinished tasks. She very much said “you need to stop at 7”.

                1. Rusty Shackelford*

                  But “happy to do it myself” gave Jane the foothold she needed to pretend she was actually doing the LW a favor by continuing to work past 7:00.

                2. Rusty Shackelford*

                  Adding that I’m sure those of us who don’t push against clearly stated boundaries would have known what the LW meant, but the polite softening language allowed Jane to spin it the way she preferred to spin it.

                3. Claire*

                  I don’t know that there’s anything that really is, absolutely, 100% unable to be deliberately misinterpreted if someone wants to misinterpret it, so I don’t think it’s fair to expect LW to close up any possible misinterpretation that could be imagined.

                4. Rusty Shackelford*

                  No, I don’t think think the LW was unclear at all. But I do think that by trying to be polite, she left enough room for Jane to *pretend* she was unclear.

              2. Artemesia*

                can imagine in my early 20s hearing that as ‘working late is super double plus good’ and blithly ‘going the extra mile’ — she obviously didn’t read the room and so needed clearer boundaries.

              3. hbc*

                Honestly, this sounds a lot like the “Oh, you should have more clearly rejected me when I was hitting on you” when you leave the slightest loophole, and of course the person would have “But you didn’t have to be so mean” if you were 100% clear.

                Please don’t blame people for not erecting exactly the right boundary for the Schroedinger’s Boundary Crosser in front of them.

                1. Environmental Compliance*

                  +1000 for “Schroedinger’s Boundary Crosser”

                  I get that we get a lot of letters here that could be solved with people using their words, but it’s really not as black and white as what’s being presented in some of these comments.

                2. Anonymeece*

                  I want to frame this entire comment, because it perfectly encapsulates what I was thinking while reading these replies.

            2. Alice's Rabbit*

              But it doesn’t. “I’m happy to do it myself” is often the polite way of saying “but I really want you to do it.”
              So that takes the message from “Maybe stop at 7ish?” to “I don’t mind doing your work for you, buuuuuut…”

          3. Allypopx*

            I don’t think that reinforces your point at all. She made the boundary portion clear and firm.

          4. Ace in the Hole*

            I disagree. The key part is “I need you to stop X.” That’s crystal clear and not ambiguous – it means exactly what it says with no room for weaseling out or misinterpreting. “I appreciate your willingness” is communicating “I don’t think badly of you for the thing I’m about to correct you on.” “I’m happy to do it myself” means “I won’t get mad at you for the consequences of you following my instructions.” All three parts contribute to the message.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yes, exactly! So well explained.

              Now, if I were coaching someone in the OP’s position, I might say, “It sounds like in this specific case it’ll help to leave absolutely no room for interpretation so don’t use softening statements at all” … but I’m certainly not going to criticize the OP for what she said, since it would have been clear to someone who had the respect for boundaries/understanding of cues that are pretty necessary for this kind of job. Especially considering the point others have made about there being additional impetus to make sure you don’t seem rude to the person who’s caring for your kids.

              1. Surly*

                Sounds like I would have ended fired like Jane then — I find the OP’s communication, as described in the letter, to be really confusing. I appreciate that it’s clear to you, but it just isn’t to me.

                1. Jennifer Strange*

                  What is confusing about “we need [you] to be finished by 7pm”? That’s what the OP said her words were to Jane. I’m sincerely not trying to be snide, but I don’t see how there could be any mistaking what that means. It wasn’t “I would like you to try and be finished by 7pm” or “it would be great if you could be finished by 7pm”; she was specific that it was a need that Jane be finished by 7pm.

                2. Claire*

                  In that case, with respect, you probably aren’t suited to being a live-in nanny. That’s not a bad thing, I am also not suited to being a live-in nanny, but if you need all communications to be spelled out explicitly, then a job that requires a really high level of interpersonal intelligence is not a job that you’re likely to be good at. Jane might be a very nice person who is very good with kids, but it sounds like she, like me, is not suited to this type of work.

                3. Surly*

                  Unfortunately I can’t reply to the folks replying to me — looks like the comment string runs out at some point? Nice to be told I don’t have interpersonal intelligence though! Very kind. Yeesh.

                4. Abyssal*

                  @Surly — That’s pretty much what you just said, though. A big part of interpersonal intelligence is understanding someone even when they don’t word things in the exact perfect way that is optimal for you.

                5. Claire*

                  Sorry, when did anyone say you didn’t have interpersonal intelligence? I said that being a live-in nanny requires a very high level of interpersonal intelligence, and that if you need to have every expectation spelled out explicitly, you’re probably not suited for that job. If you notice, I also said that I’m not either. I’m sorry if that hurts your feelings, but not everyone is cut out for every job.

                6. Surly*

                  This is very frustrating, because I can’t seem to directly reply to anyone — I actually would like to! Jennifer and Claire I’d continue discussing but I think the commenting system here is really throwing me off so it’s hard to make my point. Apologies.

                  (I’m not a regular commenter, I just pop in once in a while so I haven’t been involved in long threads before. Too funny that in a discussion about communication styles I can’t seem to figure out the communication system…)

                7. Jaybeetee*

                  @Surly, it’s late now and I realize you’ve left – but if you do pop back, I’m also genuinely curious about what you find confusing in OP’s statement? I’ve read up and down the comments, and I spotted you saying repeatedly that you found it confusing – but I’m not sure what would be confusing?.

                  “I appreciate your working late, but I need you to finish at 7. I’ll be happy to finish up any tasks you have left” – I’m personally in the camp where I’m not sure how to make it any clearer without getting rude. If someone said that to me, I would perfectly understand that I’m supposed to be done by 7. (I should also mention I’m neurodiverse, and social cues aren’t always my strong point.)

                  Not trying to have a go at you here – just trying to understand.

                8. Brad Fitt*

                  @Jaybeetee | I’m not Surly, but to me the part that’s confusing is the way OP followed up, not the initial conversation. If she said “I’d be happy to finish those dishes for you!” and I said “I don’t mind!” and there was silence after that, I’d finish the dishes.

                  It reminds me of too many other situations where the person was making a fake offer and accepting the fake offer is the wrong thing to do. Don’t make it sound optional or like an offer if it’s supposed to be a clear boundary, I guess is the thing for me.

                9. Amy the Rev*

                  I don’t think Claire meant that as an insult, more just a value-neutral statement about what sorts of skills/intelligences are likely required for the job. If you had great interpersonal intelligence but not as great spatial intelligence, you’d likely be a very well-liked but ineffective park ranger. I have high emotional and spatial intelligence, but not so great executive functioning so while kids love me and find me to be a supportive, fun presence, I could only ever be a ‘date night’ sitter…managing other living beings’ schedules and needs on top of my own would be a recipe for (my own) failure!

                10. Alice's Rabbit*

                  Same. It’s very wishy washy to me. I would get what she’s trying to say, because I am pretty good at reading subtle cues, but to someone who is less adept? This would be very ambiguous.

            2. Mary*

              But just saying “the key part” demonstrates what Jane isn’t able to do, which is to separate ambiguous statements from unambiguous ones, or separate softening language from directives. OP knew this and still used softening language anyway.

              1. Ace in the Hole*

                Yes, but I think it’s reasonable to not want a live-in employee who only responds to completely unambiguous statements with zero softening language. That is a very unusual (and for many people, uncomfortable) way to communicate. It’s not a fair expectation to have for LW in this scenario.

                If Jane can’t hear what LW said and understand she’s supposed to stop work at 7pm, I don’t think she has the social/communication skills necessary to do the job.

          5. TootsNYC*

            that’s not saying, “please go away.” It came across as “I don’t need you to,” and not “I don’t want you to.” That’s why Jane was able to say, “Oh, I don’t mind.”

            OP needed to say, “After 7, we would like to revert to family time, with our own nuclear family. So we’d like you to retreat to your own space then too.”

            OP kept taking the “I’d like a pour of wine” hint instead of passing her up, ande saying, “Well, time for you to be off work, and for us to have family time.”

            1. Batgirl*

              The wine thing is so rude! If you want to share wine with people you live with; (employment dynamic aside) you buy it yourself and offer it in hope of reciprocation. You don’t just start pan handling for it.

        3. MusicWithRocksIn*

          I just wonder if she ever had an direct, in the moment command. “Jane, I wanted to have a private dinner with my husband tonight, now that it’s 7 could you go back to your room like we talked about?” I think that was what was missing – telling her directly in the moment.

          1. Anononon*

            But could you imagine the comments here if that was the case!! “How dare you just dismiss her like that, what is she, your child?!” I would think that one of the qualifications for being a live-in nanny is just having a general understanding of when to be with the family and when not. Not everyone is going to have that qualification, and that’s not a bad/wrong thing.

            1. Abyssal*

              This, holy socks.

              It seems like an obvious BFOQ that a live-in anything needs to be someone socially adept enough to manage living with their employer. Being oblivious to anything but painfully explicit direction is not a good quality for sharing a home with your employer.

              1. Nicotene*

                Yeah, that’s my takeaway. Maybe OP could have been (even) more direct, but ultimately this is a role that requires some degree of reading between the lines, and nobody wants to be paying live in staff that they have to be literally rude to every single night to get the balance right.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Exactly. Especially when this is the person taking care of your kids. It’s reasonable to decide you need someone who doesn’t need every boundary explicitly spelled out and can’t employ someone with below-average skills in that area.

              2. Crooked Bird*

                Right?? I will never ever be the kind of person who could hire a nanny, but this is my nightmare anyhow! Reminds me of a houseguest I had (only for a weekend, thank God.) She hadn’t been invited but (long story) foisted on me along with a group of 4 others on an extremely busy weekend, but she was the only one clueless enough to remain at the table right beside me when my teenage neighbor showed up & I explained that it was time for me to give said neighbor a French lesson. Houseguest interjected friendly comments throughout the lesson. Aaaargh. OP’s description of Jane is so reminiscent of this.

                For a job like this you need boundaries.

                1. AntsOnMyTable*

                  I was seeing someone but it wasn’t something we advertised so most people weren’t aware. After a group dinner he was coming over to my house and a casual-to-the-extent-that-I-barely-know-you acquaintance also decided to invite himself over. After some drinks and convo I just got up and started getting ready for bed. The guy still wasn’t leaving. I finally had to say “I need you to leave. He is not leaving. He is coming to bed with me but you need to leave.”

              3. Lacey*

                Yeah, having to be that explicit would be as bad as her not listening to the less explicit instructions. I’m sure OP would have felt like she was the awful Aunt Jane Eyre, and she really shouldn’t have to feel that way for a perfectly reasonable expectation.

              4. Smithy*

                This reminds me of those professional aptitude tests we got in high school that attempted to essentially say “based on your personality, here are careers that would be good for you!” While I recall them sometimes being a bit too literal (i.e. likes to travel would get you matched with truck driving), I do think there’s a point where to be successful in certain jobs, attributes like being socially adept are just more important.

                The movie Gosford Park has a take on live-in staff where the key attribute is being able to anticipate your employers desires/needs. And while that movie takes it to a rather extreme place, there’s no doubt that so much of that is just having really strong social and soft skills.

              1. Not playing your game anymore*

                Very true. And some people are perfectly happy (eager even) to retire to their own space, read a book, watch a movie, get in touch with friends… Others JUST CAN’T STAND IT. My mom has had several caregivers and the had varying levels of (independence?) for want of a better word. Able to be involved and caring and go home or to their space when work is done. Mom on the other hand? She cannot stand not to be where the action is. (She was raised with 13 siblings maybe that’s part of her deal) We tried, to manage with just part time carers at the beginning of wfh as the pandemic got rolling and it just wasn’t working. So anyway, mom would be tickled with a “Jane” and I’d have to send her packing. It’s all about fit.

                1. James*

                  My grandmother worked as a maid for her priest, and they had the sort of relationship where if she didn’t bring her grandkids over to play when we came to visit he would have been insulted. He came over for family get-togethers, and decorating his house for Christmas was an event that included the entire extended family. (My grandmother was a fantastic maid; that house was large, but every room was SPOTLESS. She could chat with three different people, drink a bottle of wine, and scrub the entire kitchen at the same time.) A quiet, reserved maid that carefully respected professional boundaries would NOT have worked!

                  Like you said, it’s about fit. Jane needs to work on certain other aspects of professionalism, but once she gets past that she could be a good nanny, for someone. Not the LW, though. Which is fine; you can’t get along with everyone.

                2. Anon for this*

                  Yes. The “must be where the action is” is a definite personality type. I have some in my family and my two kids are opposites in this way, which has led to substantial “He won’t play with me!” problems during lockdown.

                  You see it in grownups as well, but I don’t think it is compatible with living in an employer’s house, in any case.

                3. Alice's Rabbit*

                  Yes, Jane sounds like an excellent nanny. Just for some other family. To me, it reads like she’s lonely and overeager, and the LW needs someone more self contained and intuitive.

          2. Alice's Rabbit*

            Yes, exactly! None of LW’s statements were clear or direct. They were all “I don’t mind…” instead of “please stop.”

    2. Momma Bear*

      And two people strongly hinting at each other is just uncomfortable. It may also be that OP feels able to be more direct with the new hire who is more businesslike anyway and therefore everything is better. Everyone knows the expectations.

    3. juliebulie*

      It sounds like OP was pretty direct and clear: “told the nanny firmly that though we really appreciated her willingness to work late, we need her to be finished by 7pm.” Clear and direct.

      It didn’t work, but that wasn’t OP’s failure. It was Jane’s. The only thing OP could have done differently was fire Jane sooner.

      1. Anononon*

        Yeah, and not only was there direct communication, but I think it’s a slightly different situation in this case compared to a standard workplace. If someone’s socially inept (in a non-harmful way) but otherwise does a good job, there’s potentially room for more coaching or perhaps just dealing with the unintended awkwardness.

        But here, Jane lives full time with OP and her family. There’s much less of an obligation for OP to keep Jane employed if she clearly doesn’t mesh well with the family. (In my sentence above, I initially wrote “just living with…”, but then I changed it to “dealing with” because that’s the issue, isn’t it! OP has to live with this employee essentially 24/7.)

      2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I don’t think “be finished [working]” clearly expresses what LW actually wanted, though, which seemed to be closer to “be out of our space”.

        I’ve lived in, and the boundaries of work space and shared space and personal space are not obvious. If the main kitchen is Jane’s workspace until 7pm and then LW’s family’s private space, then LW needed to say so

        And it turns out it wasn’t about that at all, because it’s ok when new nanny inhabits the same spaces in the equivalent time periods, but rather Jane’s other stalky weirdness. That’s a totally separate thing and entirely fair for LW to decide things weren’t working on that basis.

        1. Brad Fitt*

          It took me until this comment to realize all the boundaries LW said she wanted to set and maintain were just a stand-in for the fact that she didn’t seem to like Jane as a person.

          This new nanny is (like you said) walking all over the boundaries LW wanted to set for Jane but it doesn’t matter to LW because she likes interacting with this nanny socially. Glad she got a new nanny!

      3. elsie432*

        When Jane replied “I don’t mind working past 7 pm,” OP should have responded something to the effect of “But I DO mind.”

      4. Mary*

        Honestly, if you’re adding “I’d be happy to finish up anything that’s not done by then” negates the good intentions of the first bit. If I’m that nanny (who seems to be willfully oblivious and unable to read social cues) I don’t see that as an actual boundary, because “I’d be happy to do ___” really isn’t one.

        1. Ace in the Hole*

          I agree “I’m happy to do X” isn’t a boundary on its own. If LW had said “If there’s anything left at 7pm you can stop then, I’m happy to do it myself,” that would be really ambiguous. But as a followup to “I need you to stop doing X” I think it’s reinforcement. For example, “I need you to stop grabbing my bags for me. I’m happy to carry them myself.”

          In this case I see it as necessary to communicate – if she just told Jane “I need you to be done by 7pm,” what’s Jane to do if it’s 6:59 and she has half an hour’s worth of dishes left to do? This removes ambiguity since LW is saying what will happen in that case: Jane still stops at 7 and LW will do the remaining work with no consequences to Jane.

        2. PollyQ*

          Changing the language slightly would’ve made the case better: “If there’s anything that needs doing after then, I’ll do it myself.” Not a willingness to take over, but an explanation that that’s how it will work.

          But it does sound to like Jane’s neediness and boundary-pushing weren’t going to be solved by any sort of firm language. All the stuff with the friends crossed the line so far you couldn’t even see the line anymore.

        3. Alice's Rabbit*

          I agree. That softened the message too much. It’s hard to find the line between jerk and pushover, where one is merely firm.

      5. AlphabetSoupCity*

        Agreed. Clearly stating boundaries is a difficult skill to learn but one the OP seems to have mastered. Perhaps even more difficult is learning how to enforce boundaries when clearly communicated ones have been violated.

        1. MissInMS*

          Once boundaries have been crossed it is very difficult to establish/re-establish them without hurting someone’s feelings. At that point it is often better to find a clean slate l and chalk it up to a learning experience for all involved.

      6. Alice's Rabbit*

        You’re leaving off the “I don’t mind” which immediately followed that supposedly clear statement, and completely muddled the waters. If LW had left it at what you wrote, that might well have worked.
        But she didn’t. She went on to soften her statement, which confused the message.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I think it’s relevant to know that the escalations were over the summer. And her letter to Allison was answered in August. Sounds to me like our letter writer did what she needed to do after she got good advice.

    5. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Nesting fail. Please see my comment below in defense of the letter writer, because she wrote for help in a timely manner. Her letter was published in August.

      1. Anononon*

        This is ridiculous. Being a live-in nanny does NOT mean you get to be 100% involved in your employers’ social lives, which is just one of the issues that Jane had.

        1. OhNoYouDidn't*

          Agreed. I have a friend who was a Nanny and was a valued part of the family. But, when work was done it was done and she knew the family needed time alone. She was happy to give it. Jane’s behavior was beyond the pale. This is not a case of an employer wanting subservient employees.

          1. Caliente*

            Word- I mean everyone is different. I get annoyed when family members are all up in armpits nonstop. I told my 13yo to stop stalking me the other day lol. Come back in an hour!
            If it were an someone I was actually paying I would not be happy.

            1. Caliente*

              All up in my armpits- that’s what I say when I feel like someone is just constantly up on you/in your space/won’t leave you alone

              1. Keymaster of Gozer*

                Absolutely love it! ‘All up in my armpits’ is frankly a great description for most of the last year :)

                1. The Rural Juror*

                  Oh yeah, I like that phrase. It’s bringing to mind how my roommate acted every time I had a Zoom meeting I needed to host from the living room -_-

        2. Former Fed*

          I agree, but it seems Jane got a lot of mixed messages from OP. Getting invited to dinner parties, getting wine poured, OP sharing her steak/lobster/whatever.

          1. Caliente*

            Wow we read that very differently. To me it sounded like the nanny wasn’t “invited” to any of those things, she just ingratiated herself and the OP was too uncomfortable to say anything. People who ingratiate themselves know how to do it and who to do it to, frankly.

            1. Just Another Zebra*

              Yeah, I had a similar reading. If I’m pouring 5 glasses of wine for my friends, and you’re standing there staring at me… I’m going to ask you if you want a glass. Even if I don’t want to give you one, I’ll do it to alleviate the social tension. But it sounds like Jane may have asked, which is even more uncomfortable.

              “Whenever we poured wine in the evening, Jane would stand close by, reminding us that, yes, she would love a pour.”

              1. SomebodyElse*

                “Whenever we poured wine in the evening, Jane would stand close by, reminding us that, yes, she would love a pour.”

                There’s ways to get around this :)

                “Sure Jane, here’s a glass, please enjoy it your private space, since it’s after 7 and private family time. We’ll see you in the morning! G’night”

                1. Three Flowers*

                  Yup. That’s admirably polite and ought to get the point across to anyone with any social sense, especially if done in front of strangers. Either that, or pull her aside quietly and remind her that she’s not part of these events. Giving in clearly didn’t help.

              2. Tired of Covid-and People*

                It might have been more helpful for OP, in the moment, to have said to Jane, “I need to speak to you in the other room” and then have told her that inviting herself into your wine drinking with friends was unacceptable. Jane never really changed her behavior because she received positive reinforcement. She may have had prior employers who didn’t mind her intrusiveness, so her expectations with OP were skewed. It was up to OP to modify them. OP was right to ultimately just let her go, Jane isn’t the devil incarnate for wanting more closeness than OP, but it wasn’t a match.

                1. Claire*

                  I understand your idea here, but I would be mortified if I’d invited myself to spend time with my bosses and their friends and my boss pulled me aside privately to tell me that was unacceptable! Maybe it’s bringing back memories of being called to the principal’s office or something, but that whole scenario sounds awful to me, and I don’t know that I’d ever be comfortable in that position again. I get the resistance to telling her off in public, but it might be better to wait until Jane and LW were alone together more naturally, rather than explicitly saying she needs to speak to her in another room.

                2. Alice's Rabbit*

                  Claire, yeah she might be mortified, but nothing short of that has gotten through. So maybe a little mortification would be good for her.

                3. tired*

                  It’s meant to be a bit awful, as to stop the behavior. Not telling Jane off, or being unnecessarily mean, just being clear and firm.

            2. SomebodyElse*

              It definitely sent mixed messages. I think the OP could have done something like this when setting the expectations (and maybe should going forward, but the current nanny seems to understand).

              “Jane, I know things can get fuzzy being that your work place is my home. So the default will be that Jr. is fed by 6:30pm and dishes and clean up are done by 7. Then the space becomes private for DH, Jr and myself and you are off duty and out of the family parts of the home. There may be times that we invite you to join us for a glass of wine or dinner. But I want to make it clear that you aren’t obligated to join us and the invitations are exceptions”

              I mean, I get it, that was awkward to write and sounds very stern, but if it’s part of a larger conversation that the OP should be having with new live in employees, then it really is no different than setting the expectation that Jr. needs to be given vitamins every morning or no overnight guests without prior approval.

              As for the nanny that was the subject of the first letter and the update, the OP really needed to take a hard line and not blur the expectations by inviting the nanny to join. Some people can’t grasp nuance and exceptions so you just have to be more rigid with them.

            3. Not Pickwick just a dodo*

              Agree with Caliente. Nanny was pushing themselves into situations they were not invited into.
              I had a number of day sitters, not live ins, for the summers. One in particular reminds me of the OPs Nanny. Fished and fished for all kinds of strange and weird things. She was the only one I had to have regular conversations about expectations, punctuality, texting while driving, etc. She would be good for a week and then slide back again. I was never so happy to have a summer end and see the sitter leave.
              She taught me a lot of lessons…on what not to hire.
              As a bonus she played for my musical first grader Pink’s Raise your glass and Red Solo Cup. Nothing better than coming home to your six year old singing those songs.

        3. Sylvan*


          It also doesn’t mean that you work 24/7, have to be friends with your employers’ friends, have to take on their social life along with your own, etc. Seriously, having some boundaries is probably a relief to most people.

          1. allathian*

            I think part of the trouble was that she didn’t have any social life to speak of because of the pandemic, so she tried to make the LW’s social circle her own.

        4. Anonariffic*

          Absolutely. Jane’s behavior was annoying and invasive, full stop.

          Even if you completely remove the employee/employer dynamic this would still be creepy: imagine the Captain Awkward letter when somebody writes in that their sister lost her job in the pandemic so they let her move into their basement apartment, but now she insists on sharing all OP’s conversations/meals/drinks/etc and is constantly hovering in OP’s peripheral vision. Also there’s this constant buzzing noise from the bees that she brought along…

          1. allathian*

            Indeed. The employer/employee relationship makes it sort of easier, in a way, because the employer can fire the employee.

      2. Blackcat*

        I mean, it sounds like there’s essentially an in-law apartment. If that’s the case, I think it’s pretty reasonable to ask a nanny to hang out in her own space/do her own thing after hours. And it’s very reasonable to not want your live in nanny to join your dinner party, just as it’s reasonable to ask a roommate to make other plans for the same (it would be rude to do this all the time, but in all of my own roommate situations, both of us wanted some time with just our friends, so the other would make themself scarce for one weekend night a month or so).

        1. allathian*

          True. But I suspect that the pandemic situation is a part of the reason why the whole thing happened, because doing things socially outside the home is so much more difficult, if not downright impossible.

          I imagine that in non-pandemic times most live-in employees would be happy to spend some time with their friends and get out of the house for a part of the evening when their employers want a date night for themselves or are hosting a dinner party. When there’s no way to socialize with friends safely out of the house, it might be harder to enforce that boundary and make the employee stay in their room after work…

      3. Archaeopteryx*

        This seems like just a dig at OP’s wealth level and not relevant to the contents of the letter. Jane’s behavior is clearly weird/inappropriate and it’s ok for OP to feel uncomfortable with it.

      4. Mary*

        Yes, what monsters OP and her husband are for…

        *checks notes*

        …not wanting their Nanny to repeatedly insert herself in every social conversation with their friends, insist on eating the wife’s cooking instead of cooking for herself, helping herself to food gifts given to her employers, and eavesdropping on their conversations while proclaiming how in awe of them she is.

        OP is truly a stuck-up princess for wanting some boundaries for herself and her husband, and for wanting an employee who does actual work.

      5. Anna Karenina*

        It’s clear from the new nanny that they are very friendly with her and welcome her to be apart of their lives and not because the nanny is professional (and also socially aware).
        Also, and employee who does not take directions is not a good employee.
        It’s even more stressful to have an employee living with you than at work, yet you seem to think they should be less strict with her because she is in her home.

    6. Jennifer*

      Yeah, I get that too. If she was hanging around at dinner and you wanted her to leave, you have to say that. It’s clear Jane doesn’t really pick up on non-verbal cues. It’s good she has a new nanny that seems to get it and I get how uncomfortable it can be when you have to be that blunt with someone, but Jane seems like the kind of person that wouldn’t get it unless it was sad that strongly.

      1. Archaeopteryx*

        There’s a difference, though, between someone clueless and someone being deliberately obtuse in order to not have to cook, butt in, etc. And really even if she is just that impervious to boundaries and cues, that still disqualifies her from a live-in job.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          This. And I think Jane was B. I do think the LW gave her, in an attempt to be kind and polite, just enough wiggle room to pretend she didn’t know what she was doing. But Jane gets all the blame for this, not the LW.

        2. Jennifer*

          You are absolutely right. If you don’t pick up on non-verbal cues, living with a family you don’t know well isn’t for you.

      2. TrainerGirl*

        I know it’s hard to believe, and it seems many want to give Jane the most charitable read, but there are people who will absolutely take advantage of your unwillingness to be “rude” to their face. I once worked with someone who asked for something I was eating, and when I said that I wanted to enjoy it solo replied, “I’m not going to let you make me feel bad about wanting your stuff.”

        Some people just have no issue with taking what they want. They know what they’re doing and they don’t care if you’re uncomfortable. I don’t know if Jane was really clueless and couldn’t read social cues, but it’s possible that she could and just pushed the boundaries anyway.

        1. Batgirl*

          That response is hysterical. I would hope my comeback to that would be “You don’t have to feel bad, you just have to stop hovering”. But really I’d be so gobsmacked that “Ok, fine?” would be the best I could do..

    7. Courageous cat*

      Yeah, goodness. This is a good lesson in: don’t allow yourself to stay in a situation that makes you uncomfortable long after you’ve set those boundaries. Be assertive! You get to do that.

    8. Three Flowers*

      Yes, this. I’m still not persuaded (like many others) that OP ever said something like, “Jane, I’m sorry, but you are not invited to our family time after 7pm or to our social events with friends and family. Your work day ends at that point and we need you to not invade our privacy. These are the terms of your job. If you are not able to get your work done by the end of your workday, we can discuss your workload and time commitments. Otherwise, we expect you to be out of our space by 7. If you cannot do that, we need to revisit your employment.” What OP actually describes is not firm or clear to someone who is a die-hard people-pleasing extrovert, which Jane pretty clearly is. (The pandemic and the fact that Jane seems to lack grown-up friends of her own are complicating factors, but not when it comes to being clear and firm.)

      1. KTB*

        Whether you’re persuaded or not is really beside the point. The OP needed an employee who can read social cues and didn’t need literally every aspect of post-shift interaction spelled out for her. I am not particularly conflict averse and I would be VERY uncomfortable using the script you’ve laid out with a live-in employee.

        1. Brad Fitt*

          I consider myself to be a blunt person but that script is not great. I would never tell someone who lived with me that they need to not “invade my space” or tell them they’re “not invited.”

          I would set clearly defined boundaries (ideally before hire because wtf) that the part of the house they can use is limited to their own apartment after 7pm. That seems like a relevant condition to disclose.

      2. Batgirl*

        I would have to feel really invested in Jane to make a step by step “how to people” speech like that. The problem is that Jane’s nosy attitude takes does not inspire invested feelings.

    9. meyer lemon*

      Negotiating boundaries with people who are determined not to listen is exhausting even if it’s someone you really care about, like a close family member. I can appreciate why the OP wouldn’t want to put in that level of work with Jane, who sounds like she didn’t have a solid enough work/personal divide to succeed in this kind of position.

    10. ele4phant*

      Hmmm, I mean sure the LW could’ve been more direct, but I’d say, even with the qualifiers, she was sufficiently direct for someone willing to take direction.

      Jane just didn’t want to hear it, and ultimately needed to be let go.

  4. elsie432*

    I wonder what transpired in the conversation when Jane was let go. Did OP discuss Jane’s lack of boundaries with her?

      1. Mary*

        Well, generally an employer will give at least some indication of why they’re letting an employee go. I wouldn’t say that a robust “discussion” was in order, but I’m also curious about what OP ended up saying.

      2. Allypopx*

        Jane would benefit, if she’s looking to be successful in this kind of role in another household.

    1. Isabelle*

      I’m curious about this too. I also wonder if OP checked Jane’s references before hiring her. This lack of understanding of discretion and boundaries doesn’t happen overnight.

      1. EventPlannerGal*

        I wonder if it was her first live-in nanny job, or her previous employers had had very different lifestyles (eg they were out all the time or weren’t big on family-only time so this issue never came up)? Jane sounds like such a bad fit for this type of job that it really sounds like she didn’t know how it was supposed to work.

        (Or maybe pandemic cabin fever brought out the worst in her – I know OP says she had transportation and so on but it’s not like there were many places to go in the spring/summer or visiting her family would have been terribly safe. I think a lot of people in shared living situations have had to deal with boundary issues during the pandemic.)

    2. Polly Hedron*

      I too would love an update! In this most difficult of conversations with this slippery employee, what did the OP say?

  5. Cake Wad*

    It’s a shame that someone lost their source of income because their employer was unwilling to be direct.

      1. 2020storm*

        It definitely sounds nasty; I think some others have suggested that the OP could be more direct (I think that would have been difficult based on the employment involving a live-in situation, but others disagree), yet I didn’t feel mad like I do at the comment from Cake Wad.

      2. Save the Hellbender*

        Woah, I agree it was a little harsh but the OP is not a “victim” of anything more than an uncomfortable interaction.

        1. Archaeopteryx*

          Victim-blaming in the sense that the person not creating the problem is being held responsible for it. “Victim” doesn’t have to be that literal. “Recipient-of-bad-behavior-blaming” is pretty cumbersome to type.

          1. Three Flowers*

            But…if OP wasn’t clear, and if we take them at their word it sounds like they weren’t, then this isn’t a clear-cut case of one person being responsible for the problem. OP was a recipient of bad behavior. Jane was a recipient of bad management. We can’t judge whether that’s 50/50 responsibility, but Jane doesn’t appear to be the only one who missed the mark.

            1. Three Flowers*

              Which is, to be clear, not an excuse for Jane’s behavior or a reason OP shouldn’t have ultimately let her go. Jane sounds like a bad match for nannying…even Jane Eyre didn’t insinuate herself into so many private spaces uninvited, and she *literally married the boss*!

            2. Jennifer Strange*

              How was the OP not clear? In her words she told Jane “we need her to be finished by 7pm”. If my boss tells me that she needs me to be finished by 7pm, I take that to mean that she needs me to be finished by 7pm. There is no ambiguity there.

        2. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Victim of people saying it’s OP’s fault that Jane lost her job, hinting that it’s an unfair consequence.
          And yes you can be a victim of feeling trapped in your own space by someone who refuses to give you any space.

      3. nom de plume*

        OP is not a victim here – not by a long shot. She wasn’t harmed, no criminal or moral wrong was done to her. Let’s not misuse labels.

    1. Anna Karenina*

      She could have been more direct, but the nanny’s behavior was quite out of line. She is not professional and seems socially awkward as well. It’s not like “we never told her we didn’t want her to use the downstairs bathroom but she did so we let her go”

    2. Anononon*

      Don’t do this to the OP. It’s always a shame when people get fired, but OP is NOT required to continue to employ a live-in nanny who she does not mesh well with. Jane had a ton of boundary issues that may be she should have been willing to work on.

      1. Mary*

        Jane seems like the sort of person who’s not going to do well in this role at all. Even though I do fault the OP for not being as direct as she could have been, IMO there were just too many problems that Jane demonstrated, the biggest one being the lack of intuition around boundaries and what’s acceptable and isn’t in the workplace. This is OP’s home, but it’s Jane’s *workplace* and she wasn’t treating it like one and probably wasn’t ever going to make that distinction in her head.

          1. SarahKay*

            I’d argue that it wasn’t Jane’s home though. The downstairs apartment was her home. It’d be different if she was just given a bedroom but she had a living area with a kitchenette, a bedroom and en-suite bathroom.

          2. Mary*

            Actually, *Jane’s* home was “a fully built-out floor equipped with a kitchenette, eating bar, fireplace, a few sofas, etc. in addition to an en-suite bedroom.” The *other* areas of the house were Jane’s workplace.

          3. Lil*

            Not really, since she had her own complete space. This is no different than if Jane was living in the pool house with every amenity she needed, and still insisted on being in the main house whenever she wasn’t sleeping. The floor the family lives on is her workspace, the floor she lives on is her home.

          4. Mal*

            No, it wasn’t. Not in the way you are insinuating at least. Jane’s home in this scenario was the basement apartment. That is where she could pour her own wine, talk to her friends, etc. Her workplace was everywhere outside of that and she crossed the lines there.

          5. Just Another Zebra*

            No – Jane received housing as part of her compensation package. She had another home, one OP said she would visit on weekends. It’s probably more accurate to think of her room as private office space.

            It’s a razor-thing distinction, but a necessary one.

          6. Blackcat*

            But even in the case of a truly shared home, Jane would have been out of line. Assuming a roommates wine/steak/lobster is yours, too? Crashing every conversation with their friends?
            Even *if* it was Jane’s home, she was rude.

          7. RagingADHD*

            Jane had a furnished apartment that sounds a lot nicer than your average studio / bedsit. That was her home. The main part of the house was her job.

            Her inability or unwillingness to maintain that distinction was the whole problem.

            If anything, having a completely separate flat should have made it easier to maintain boundaries than a lot of live-in staff who just have a single room or maybe an en-suite to themselves.

          8. Archaeopteryx*

            When you live or lodge or stay with someone, a polite/sensible person is going to be extra sensitive to figuring out the boundaries, not impervious to multiple discussions of boundaries that should be common sense. Jane was being obtuse and borderline creepy.

          9. Esmeralda*

            No, most of the house was Jane’s WORKPLACE.
            The downstairs apartment was her home. The downstairs apartment that she did not want to cook her meals in, hang out in, etc.

          10. KateM*

            No, Jane’s home was, basically, another apartment in the same house. If I asked the retired grandma who lives next door and often has her grandchildren over to come and watch mine, too, it would not mean she is welcome to press herself to our dinner parties or expect us to cook for her (outside her working hours).

      2. New Englander*

        They don’t actually feel badly for Jane, they just dislike OP because she can afford a live in Nanny and 1500 square foot basement.

      3. Crooked Bird*

        Besides, a more professional person has a job now as a result of all this. Perhaps she really needed it. She seems to value it *as* a job more than Jane did (who seemed to value it as an “in” to the lives of the rich and lobster-eating.)

    3. Blackcat*

      It sounds like OP and Jane just had *very* different expectations, and I honestly really doubt better communication would have helped.
      OP wanted a nanny. Jane wanted to be a part of the family.
      Those different expectations mean it’s a bad fit.

      1. Anonariffic*

        Agreed. I’m sure there are nannies out there in the opposite situation that’s just as awkward for them- they’ve been looking after the kids all day and just want to go curl up downstairs with a book and headphones after 7 but the parents are offended when they don’t want to sit down with the family for dinner and hang out with a bottle of wine afterwards.

      2. Salsa Verde*

        This is exactly right – there is a lot of speculation in the comments about the OP’s level of directness and Jane’s intentions, but really, when it comes down to it, this was just not a good fit because of what seems like strongly held implicit expectations.

        1. Blackcat*

          Better communication would have helped this situation resolve faster. But it wasn’t fixable based on what OP wrote.

      3. Kiki*

        Yeah, I have seen nanny-employer relationships that are more like what the nanny was leaning towards AND ones that are more like the LW has now. I think the LW and the original nanny had different ideals for what their relationship would look like. Perhaps LW could have been more direct, but I think ultimately finding someone who has the same boundaries in mind from the get-go will work better and it sounds like the LW found that.

        1. allathian*

          Exactly. I don’t really get why some people are so sore that Jane was fired for being a bad fit.

          Unless I’m misremembering something, Jane was also the LW’s first live-in nanny. It can be hard to set expectations right from the start when you don’t really know what to expect or what you want yourself.

      1. Clarice*

        OP softened the message far too much with “we appreciate your willingness to work late” and ” I don’t mind finishing up” and didn’t seem capable of setting a clear and unambiguous boundary.

        Jane was definitely in the wrong, but OP did not handle this particularly well either. No one covered themselves in glory in this scenario.

        1. Claire*

          I really don’t understand how, “I appreciate you be willing to work late, but you need to be finished at 7, even if there is still work to be done,” in any way is ambiguous about needed to be finished at 7. It’s the same thing as if someone invites you somewhere and you say, “Thank you, but no, I’m not interested.” I guess if you’re determined to cross boundaries, you can read ambiguity into anything, but it’s really not an ambiguous statement.

        2. Esmeralda*

          I dunno, I fear that if the OP had said Be done at 7 pm and then not said anything nice at all, she’d be getting “you’re so rude and mean” comments.
          And really, what did she say after the firm “stop working”? We appreciate your willingness to work late = a polite statement, right? she didn’t say, we appreciate it and so you should keep doing it.
          “I’ll finish it myself” What part of that = no, no, I don’t really mean you Jane should stop working, you should be finishing even though I said I would finish it.

          Nope, this one is on Jane. Sounds to me like OP did the right thing. Not her fault Jane was not getting the very clear message.

          1. Anonymous Nonprofit Lawyer*

            Agree 100%. This is so much different than many work boundaries. The employee is sharing your living space. OP was gracious and generous. I’d imagine that there’s some sort of chemistry (for lack of a better term) that needs to happen even when the employee isn’t a creep like Jane seemed to be. The chemistry doesn’t have to be perfect, but you absolutely can’t have your teeth grinding together every time you deal with them or even think about dealing with them. And this employee deals with the most precious thing to anyone, their children.

            I’m so far from being able to afford a live in nanny, but I’d have fired an occasional babysitter who acted like Jane did.

          2. allathian*

            This. LW was very clear about Jane needing to stop work by 7 pm. She certainly didn’t spell out that “after 7 pm, I need you to stay in your own apartment most nights, and if we’d welcome your company in the evening, we’ll invite you”. To be fair, I totally understand if the LW didn’t feel comfortable spelling it out that clearly to Jane, who obviously wanted to socialize with them.

      2. Laura*

        OP told the nanny to be done working by 7, but it’s easy to see how the nanny could have thought “well if I’m enjoying a glass of wine or eating dinner, then I’m done working, so I’m following the guideline.”

        The disconnect is that OP didn’t just want the nanny no longer working by 7; OP wanted her *out of OP’s space* by 7, and it doesn’t sound like OP communicated that part.

        (All of that being said, it does sound like the nanny just wasn’t a good fit for OP for a number of reasons!)

    4. Abyssal*

      Not everyone is cut out for every career, and frankly, if Jane is that bad at boundaries, being a live-in anything is probably not a good role for her.

      1. LizABit*

        Hard disagree! OP told her on multiple occasions that her work needed to end by 7pm. Jane was just not a good fit for this role and was fired for that reason. I would think having an innate sense of boundaries would be a required skill for a live-in nanny and Jane, obviously, doesn’t have that skill.

        1. Archaeopteryx*

          And even if the first conversation could be (if you try) taken as ambiguous, multiple conversations about the same thing- from your employer!- should be a big neon sign saying “They really mean it!”

        2. Surly*

          How can you disagree with me saying I find something confusing? It’s confusing to me, and it’s confusing to Jane. Just because it’s perfectly clear to you doesn’t change that I struggle to understand what the OP is asking.

          1. Deanna Troi*

            I don’t mean this to sound harsh, but if you worked for me in any context, even an office where we didn’t live there, and you said you were confused by statements I made that said “you need to X,” I would probably let you go if it happened frequently. I don’t have the time or energy to perform the emotional labor to provide an indepth explanation for someone who doesn’t understand what “need” means.

          2. Keymaster of Gozer*

            Self reflection is a key part of life. If you’re constantly misunderstanding things that most people have no problem comprehending then it’s a good tactic to figure out exactly why and how to adapt/ask for adaptions.

            ‘I can’t understand it when you say be done by 7pm but I could understand if you say I have to go to my own room at 7pm’, just throwing up suggestions for internal thought.

            That’s not to say OP did wrong, they didn’t.

            And I’d add that if someone really cannot grasp interpersonal communication then it’s not on the employer to try and accommodate that.

          3. Keymaster of Gozer*

            Added: I’m not saying this from a position of moral superiority. I’ve got more than a couple of incidents in my past where I’ve got way too frustrated because my brain simply doesn’t work like others. The process of realising the world can’t change to follow my mind’s standard operating system has been a decades long process.

      2. Mal*

        Read it again, she definitely did.
        But also, there are some baseline expectations one can have of an employee without needing to spell out for them and Jane ran right over those. Most definitely on purpose.

        1. Surly*

          I read it a few times. What I’m trying to say is that the OP may think she was clear but it’s not clear to everyone.

          What’s more likely — that Jane didn’t understand, or that Jane “ran right over boundaries most definitely on purpose” because…she wanted to be fired? Why would anyone want that?

          1. Just Another Zebra*

            She probably didn’t boundary stomp because she wanted to get fired, but I’m really unwilling to give Jane so little credit as to believe her clueless that “stop working at 7pm” meant… exactly that. I’m also unwilling to put the onus on OP that because she didn’t have pointed, crystal clear language when speaking to someone who lived in her home and took care of her children all day (that could possibly have been read as rude), Jane gets a pass on her own rudeness.

          2. Rusty Shackelford*

            Jane ran over boundaries because she wasn’t stopped, and was in fact rewarded for doing so.

          3. Kaiko*

            I doubt Jane thought that getting fired would be a consequence of failing to listen to her employer; she likely thought that this was a small-stakes issue and that her overall helpfulness would cancel out OP’s discomfort. She gambled by ignoring the instructions from OP to be done and gone by 7, regardless of if there was work to be done (does it help to think of 7 pm as shift change?), and in not listening, she definitely lost.

          4. James*

            “What I’m trying to say is that the OP may think she was clear but it’s not clear to everyone.”

            This alone would be a perfectly valid reason to fire someone. Remember, being fired doesn’t necessarily mean you did something wrong; it could merely mean that you are not a good fit for the workplace. This is especially true when “the workplace” is someone’s home.

            “What’s more likely — that Jane didn’t understand, or that Jane “ran right over boundaries most definitely on purpose” because…”

            Because Jane didn’t think she’d be fired. She’d gotten away with it a few times, and there appears to be an escalation over time. Further, some people simply don’t think there are consequences for their actions. Ask any high school teacher.

            Further, even if Jane didn’t understand it doesn’t matter. It’s her JOB to understand the boundaries. Presumably Jane chose this line of work of her own free will; no one kidnapped her and forced her to become a nanny. It’s reasonable for an employer to expect employees to have a minimum set of standard skills when being hired for a job. I can expect a geologist to know sandstone from schist, I can expect a civil engineer to know how to calculate flow rates through a pipe, I can expect a teacher to know how to manage 30 kids, I can expect a nanny to know how to deal with professional boundaries in my home.

            Whether Jane is merely incompetent or malicious isn’t relevant to the employer. Jane is objectively bad at her job. It therefore is reasonable for the employer to fire her.

            A colleague and I were once talking about our motivations at work. His motivation was “make my boss’s job easier”. That’s how he evaluated his performance internally. (Mine is “Will this get me fired?”) Jane made the boss’s job harder. Regardless of why, that’s not a way to ensure long term employment.

          5. Mal*

            “ she wanted to be fired? Why would anyone want that?”

            A great deal of the letters on here involve people that can be asked this question and are actively doing things to get themselves there.

            The way I see it, it’s not so much that Jane woke up and said “I want to be fired.” It’s that Jane woke up and said “I want to live like my boss, I want to be one of the group, I like these comforts, let’s see how far I can go and how much I can take.” .

            There are people in offices of all industries that will do this. There are always people who will push .

      3. nonnynon*

        “I took your advice and told the nanny firmly that though we really appreciated her willingness to work late, we need her to be finished by 7pm – anything not finished by then, I would be happy to do myself.”

        She said to finish up by 7pm. Jane ignored it. Jane lost her job because of Jane.

    5. llamaswithouthats*

      So I’m all for being clear about boundaries, but Jane seemed to lack total common sense. In the end of the day, you don’t want an employee you can’t trust to do the right thing if it isn’t spelled out for a then every single time. I’ve actually had to cut off a couple of friends because they had a tendency to violate boundaries until someone explicitly called them out for it. Having to do that all the time is exhausting.

      1. Abyssal*

        Right, yeah.

        The big thing I see with all this is that being a live-in employee is something that requires a certain level of social skills. It sounds like Jane either didn’t have or didn’t choose to exercise those skills.

        For me, the LW’s line about “needing the work to be done by 7pm” would constitute a clear boundary; I would hear that and understand it means I must be done by 7pm, not that 7pm is an optional cutoff and I may continue working past it if I really want to. Maybe my social skills are a little higher than Jane’s, or maybe Jane was engaging in wishful thinking — in which case, it wouldn’t matter how explicit the OP was, Jane was only ever going to hear what Jane wanted to hear.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          How many posts are there on this site with ‘my member of staff is unsuitable for their job because of bad behaviour but if I fire them then they’ll be unemployed and struggling for money’? Because it’s probably more than one.

          Sympathy doesn’t need to include just accepting that the bad behaviour can continue because of reasons. It’s a shame anyone is out of work during these hard times but it’s also important to remember that Jane was in the wrong and it’s up to her now how she goes forward.

    6. SentientAmoeba*

      It’s a shame that someone lost their source of income because they didn’t know how to back off and give their employer personal space.

    7. RagingADHD*

      LW said she would ask Jane to finish up and leave the kitchen. That’s pretty direct.

      Jane lost her job because she ignored her employer’s instructions, whether they were direct or not.

      The ability to respect the line between employer and employee, and understand sometimes subtle cues, is an essential job function for a live-in helper. If Jane was uncapable or unwilling to do that, she was in the wrong job.

      1. Mary*

        “Jane lost her job because she ignored her employer’s instructions, whether they were direct or not.”

        I think that this is a really good point to make. I was personally scoffing a bit at how passive OP seemed, but at the end of the day Jane just wasn’t a good fit and an employer isn’t going to keep someone who isn’t a good fit, regardless of how “fair” it is to expect Jane to pick up on her employer’s signals. The OP went out and found herself someone who seems to have a good intuition and actual boundaries.

    8. Mockingjay*

      My daughter is a part-time nanny (afternoons for school age children) and clearly understands boundaries between employer and employee. If she is unclear about daily duties or when to leave, she asks. In her experience, it’s been the employer who isn’t clear on when, where, and what, such as last minute requests to stay late or pick up Suzy’s friend and take them both to dance lesson. Any work relationship, especially with service providers, needs clear and frequent communication on both sides to be successful.

    9. James*

      No. Jane lost her income because she crossed boundaries, full stop. The LW might possibly have salvaged the situation by being more direct early on, but we don’t know that’s the case.

      To put it bluntly, Jane is not the LW’s responsibility. An employer gets to decide how much effort they’re willing to put into correcting problems with an employee. We can argue about how much effort should be expended, but at the end of the day it’s a decision the employer makes based on a large number of factors, most of which we will never know. The last time I sat down and wrote up a pro/con list to determine if someone working under me was worth the effort it took several pages. And remember, this isn’t an office where you can escape; it’s the LW’s home. The stakes are a bit higher, emotionally and psychologically speaking.

      1. Jackalope*

        Yes, this. What the OP said was clear to me as a reader. It’s possible that Jane misunderstood her, in which case I’m sorry for Jane’s sake, but if your employer repeatedly gives you a specific instruction (in this case, stop work at 7 pm) and you repeatedly refuse to follow instructions, then your employer can choose to let you go. OP gets to decide that she wants an employee who understands and listens to “stop work at 7 pm” without regular repetition. She doesn’t have to give the employee living in her house 50 chances to finally get it. She can if she wants to, but as the employer she doesn’t have any requirement to do so.

      2. Empress Matilda*

        This is where I land as well. It’s exhausting to have to enforce boundaries all the time, and OP is well within her rights to decide she’s not up for it.

        Imagine saying to someone “I need you to finish your work by 7pm,” and having that person respond by moving into your physical space and staying there until 6:59 pm. Sure, they’re technically finishing at 7, but now they’ve created a new problem. So now OP has to say “I need you to be finished by 7pm AND not do your work right beside the dinner table.” And Jane stops working right beside the dinner table, but now she’s eyeing up the lobster and commenting how delicious it looks. At each step, she’s doing exactly what she was asked to do, but she’s doing it in such a way that OP has to give more and more instructions in order to get what she needs.

        It’s not on OP for not being clear enough in that case. It’s on Jane, for continually encroaching on OP’s boundaries even after she was asked to stop. The appropriate response to “hey, I need some space over here” is not to respond with “cool, but you didn’t say you need space HERE.”

    10. Bridget*

      No, Jane lost her job because Jane was behaving inappropriately. You don’t crash your employer’s dinner with a bunch of their own friends who are literal strangers to you, and then later proceed to pry into these strangers’ lives by asking intrusive questions about them *to your employer* !!! Why are so many people rushing to infantilize Jane, like she’s some simpleton who has absolutely no idea how employer-employee boundaries work? She was capable enough to interview well and to get this job, and then she started pushing boundaries with her boss which lost her her job. End of story.

    11. Archaeopteryx*

      She lost her source of income because she repeatedly and blatantly overstepped reasonable boundaries. This is 100% on Jane.

    12. L6orac6*

      How many times do you have to be told, to finish up by 7pm and then your time is your own. Not hard to remember! The original nanny lost her job and income all by herself, by not backing off and having a gimme gimme attitude, not nice in anyone.

    13. ele4phant*

      Ehhh – if you are told not to do stop doing something at work repeatedly, over the course of multiple months, it shouldn’t be a surprise if you get let go.

      Yeah, could the LW have removed some qualifiers to be even more clear? Sure. Always room for improvement.

      Do I think she was sufficiently clear? I think so. There were multiple conversations and the firing wasn’t sudden.

      At most – this is a learning opportunity for the LW to cut to the chase faster and to move more quickly if the behavior isn’t resolved quickly. But I don’t really think she’s responsible here for Jane losing her job.

      Sounds like Jane got plenty of time and chances.

    14. boff*

      It’s pretty normal and ok for jobs not to last forever especially when they are a bad fit. A job or job loss is not a stamp on anyone’s moral fiber or personal worth as a human being.
      I’m glad OP found someone they are more comfortable with. I hope Jane also found a family that’s a better fit too.

    15. Starbuck*

      And it’s a shame that Jane lost her source of income because she couldn’t take a hint, nor even an explicit boundary statement!

  6. ScottM*

    Sounds like she wanted to be considered friends or family. It’s hard for people like that to be in a service role.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I hope that she realises that maybe she’s not cut out for this line of work, at least not without some introspection first, and finds something she’s better suited to.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          That too. I’m refraining from suggesting alternatives because I know bugger all about childcare to be honest!

        2. Mal*

          OP noted that this was specifically due to the pandemic. Childcare that doesn’t live in wouldn’t solve that problem for her, I think.

      1. Alsoananny*

        She actually might be a great fit for another family – some employers want that kind of personal closeness. I’m a nanny who does *not* want my personal life mixed up with work, but I’ve had plenty of employers push for more of a friendship. They probably would have loved someone like the original nanny.

        1. allathian*

          Yes, if Jane really wants to continue as a live-in nanny, I hope that she finds an employer who’s a better match for her and who’s willing to bring her into their social circle.

  7. Tobias Funke*

    I feel so bad for Jane. She clearly looked up to and admired you and wanted to feel like she belonged with people she clearly looked up to and admired. Obviously, her methods were inappropriate, but I do feel awful for her. I can totally see myself doing this without even realizing it, particularly when I was younger.

      1. Tobias Funke*

        Yeah, I’m aware of that. I am still Not Great socially and that is why I have such empathy for Jane.

        1. Physics Prof*

          I agree! I think this is a letter when we can have a lot of empathy for Jane and OP, while still agreeing that Jane wasn’t the right person, which I appreciate you saying!
          Seems as if it’s good practice to extend empathy, even if it’s not intuitive.

    1. Mal*

      I suppose I’m more of a cynic because the impression I got of her is that she was well aware of what she’s doing, and was pushing all those boundaries to see what she could get away with and for how long. I can’t imagine not knowing I shouldn’t ask for your wine or rely on you to cook for me. I didn’t read her view of the OP and friends as pure admiration but mores that she saw OP and friends as a spectacle/entertainment.

      But, you make a fair point that some people can be like this without realising, get caught up in world different from their own and lose track. I can accept that.

  8. The Crown*

    I’m pretty shocked by some of the responses here. OP seems to be getting picked on because she has a nanny and seems like she may have money? Not what I would expect from commentariat who professes to be inclusive.

    1. Anononon*

      Seriously. I’ve been sitting on a similar comment that I was debating whether or not to post. I find some of these comments pretty awful.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        Agree with both of you. It’s like saying, “Oh? You have money and can afford to employ someone full-time who might not have employment otherwise? AND you can offer them their own separate apartment within your property for their comfort? Well, you still shouldn’t do it. It makes you look too well-off.”

    2. CateHoward*

      Maybe its my socialism showing, but I got a very specific vibe from this update, namely one of Lucille Bluth waxing poetic the audacity of the help to expect to eat lobster like real people.

      1. Mary*

        So if your boss brought lobster into the office that she had received as a gift, you don’t think it would be rude to go up to her and say, “I just love lobster, it’s my favorite! I can’t wait to eat this?” Because that’s exactly what Jane did.

        1. CateHoward*

          Fair point. I need to figure out why it feels weird to me in that context versus that of the LW.

          1. Willis*

            Maybe because in most cases living with someone implies some sort of closeness or at least pretenses of friendship where it would be typical to share stuff and be social? But this is an employment relationship, and while it’s great to be friendly, the nanny is not a member of the family or a friend. And actually it sounds to me like the OP is being pretty conscientious about developing a good set-up for their employee – a furnished space with a kitchen, clear ‘off’ hours/weekends, transportation, etc.

          2. CupcakeCounter*

            Maybe because it is an in-home situation so feels different from a more typical boss/employee interaction?

          3. Mary*

            It’s probably because they’re in OP’s house, and it’s easy to picture Jane as living in that actual house with them, not having any other options, and always being around, eating from, and cooking in, the same kitchen.

            But according to OP, Jane had “a fully built-out floor equipped with a kitchenette, eating bar, fireplace, a few sofas, etc. in addition to an en-suite bedroom.” Which IMO makes it even weirder that Jane’s constantly eating OP’s food and helping herself to it.

          4. BRR*

            I want to say how great it is to see someone listen and reflect instead of digging their heels in.

            My own two cents is I think it’s easy to classify this situation as working class vs. rich and thereby root for Jane. But the LW isn’t Jeff Bezos hoarding wealth while warehouse workers get underpaid to try and hit unrealistic metrics while not being able to use the restroom. The LW seemed overall decent to Jane and was clear on at least one of Jane’s duties that she needed to change. Jane kind of reminds me Fran and Niles in The Nanny but that type of behavior would never be appropriate in the real world.

          5. Kaiko*

            Because it’s nice to share, and it’s especially part of the social expectations when we’re at home—if I get a delicious chocolate, I’m going to offer some to my husband. But while OP was at home, Jane was at work, and was actively confusing what’s appropriate at work with what’s nice to do at home, because the setting was *a home.*

          6. Jaybeetee*

            I think it’s the difference between “an employee” and “the help”. We generally only refer to people working in domestic settings as “the help”, whereas anywhere else… it’s just a boss and employee.

            If you work at a company everyday, you have zero expectations of your boss sharing their lunch with you. When you put it in a “the help” context, suddenly there’s this image of some rich snob wondering at the audacity of their servant wanting the rich-people food.

        2. Caliente*

          Yes- even saying Please be finished working by 7pm.
          I mean, yes she could’ve added – and then be in your apartment until morning. But that seems rude.
          Now if my boss said, be finished working by X, I would leave and go home, not follow her home. That’s what Jane is doing, basically.
          So this is a dynamic of someone maybe not being a good candidate for living in where they work.

        3. meyer lemon*

          Yeah, I think a lot of these comments reflect a general discomfort with the idea of live-in nannies generally, rather than the basics of the employer/employee relationship. If Jane behaved this way in an office job (hovering around her boss’s office, listening in on private phone calls, asking for meeting invites and catered lunches she wasn’t a part of) the reaction would be pretty different. And sure, boundaries are a bit more blurred in a home setting, but I think it’s totally reasonable to want an employee who doesn’t need a bunch of explicit coaching on boundaries.

        1. Crooked Bird*

          I agree. In my heart of hearts I would like us all to go back to the land on farm plots perfectly equal in value, but this story still didn’t read that way to me. In fact I got the vibe “the lobster was a gift, something I’m very excited about & normally wouldn’t splurge on for myself, and now I’ll only get half what I would’ve gotten b/c I have to share it…”

          I may be projecting in the other direction! I’m sure OP actually can afford lobster.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes. As a socialist my ex BF was uncomfortable with the fact that I had a cleaner in 2x per month to clean my flat. I explained to him that I work very hard at my job and have more money than I have time (although I’m definitely not wealthy by most standards). I would infinitely prefer and can afford not to spend my weekend polishing the mantelpiece and dusting the aspidistra. So I pay someone to do that job for me and she does a much better job of it than I could.

          I don’t keep the cleaner locked in the cupboard under the stairs, nor do I beat her with a broom handle. I treat her respectfully, make her a cup of tea and thank her for her work and give her good reviews. She gets paid the London living wage and uses the money to pay for care for her grandmother in Bulgaria.

          I pay her to do a job, not to be my friend and view it as the same as when I get the boiler serviced or the lounge repainted. I would make them tea and thank them and give them good reviews. They’re all services I am paying someone else to provide for me. So it’s a professional and not a personal relationship in my view and there are differences.

          1. Ace in the Hole*

            I generally agree with your perspective, but also struggle with irrational discomfort about it. As long as I treat people respectfully (including paying them a good living wage), why should there be anything wrong with hiring people to do things I’m not good at, don’t have time for, or dislike doing? I hire someone else to fix my car, I pay people to cook food for me if I go to a restaurant – but for whatever reason housekeepers, gardeners, nannys, even personal trainers feel very different. I think the feeling comes from very deep rooted cultural ideas about class and work.

            1. James*

              I’m pretty close to a Libertarian and I have that problem. I was raised by people who did housework themselves–everything from mowing the lawn to remodeling, even one time building an “extension” that was larger than the footprint of the house. My wife and I hired a lawn service, and I felt guilty about it for a long time. My wife reminded me that I was working away from home most weeks, so only got weekends with the kids, and that family time was more important than mowing a lawn myself. Further, she pointed out that in our area lawn care is a safety thing–long grass attracts ticks, snakes, and the like. We have kids. Not an option.

              I have a deep respect for our lawn guy. He has a deep knowledge of his chosen field. And really what he’s doing isn’t much different from what I do–it’s just that he deals with clean dirt and residential contracts, while I deal with contaminated dirt and industrial contracts. I certainly don’t expect my clients to invite me to company picnics or family outings or the like! They expect me to do the job, and that’s what I do. Why should a contractor I hire be any different?

            2. Pidgeot*

              I suspect from your comment and James’s below that there may be a gender role expectation coming in to play here? For example, a woman whose mother traditionally did all the cleaning feels guilty employing a housekeeper because there’s the idea of not conforming to the gender role of “women do the cleaning, and part of being a good female homeowner is cleaning your house”. Similarly to James’s example, if a man grows up with a father who always mows the lawn, perhaps they feel bad employing a lawn service because of the gender role they saw modeled as: “men mow the lawn, and part of being a good male homeowner is mowing your lawn”.

              I wonder if of the folks who feel uncomfortable with nannies, they had a parents who did all the childcare and in some way they see it as an abdication of duty for a mother or father to employ someone to do that job.

              1. James*

                That was definitely part of it in my case.

                Another part is classism. I grew up poor; we did things ourselves because we didn’t have money to pay someone to do them for us. And when you’re in that situation you take pride in your ability to do it. It’s the whole “We may not have much on the table, but the table will be clean” mentality. I’m squarely in the middle class now, touching on upper middle, so it’s more acceptable to hire people. We got our lawn guy’s name from the parents of one of our children’s friends, when we attended a birthday party. That’s the sort of thing that only happened on TV where I grew up.

                For my part, I find this line of thinking somewhat absurd, even while I’m doing it. The lawn guy is a business owner, with a dozen employees, and makes more than I do a year. He’s in the job because he loves it, he’s good at it, and he’s getting rich doing it. It’s sort of hard to feel like I’m violating his human dignity when by any reasonable measure he’s doing better in life than I am! :D

              2. JR*

                THIS. In our society, many people are reluctant to outsource “women’s work” because “good” women are supposed to be good at and enjoy cooking, cleaning, and childcare, and of course that’s not “real” work that could be a career for people who do it. (Of course, there’s also history of taking advantage of women who do that work on a paid basis, but the attitude doesn’t change when the hourly paid and working conditions are appropriate.) We don’t judge people for outsourcing work on their car – or even washing their car – because men’s work is valued as worth paying for.

                1. Sandan Librarian*

                  This is a very thoughtful observation. I know it’s going to stick with me a long time. I’m glad you made it.

                2. James*

                  It’s more complicated than that, though.

                  In many cases men do look down on others who outsource “men’s work”. Like I said, it took a while to get over that when hiring a lawn care service. I remember Dad discussing people who had others change their oil, and it wasn’t in a kind manner. Even today this holds true. There was a commercial about some football star being told about a visitor, at which point he starts mowing the field. The grounds crew said they could do it and the football star said “No, a man should mow his own lawn.” It’s played for laughs, but it’s a common enough trope that the ad company could rely on most people getting it.

                  Also, a lot of advancements in housework have focused on mechanization in the past century or so. The washing machine, the drier, the dishwasher, the vacuum cleaner, the microwave were all designed to facilitate housework, and cumulatively save a few thousand hours a year, as well as hundreds of lives (getting water used to kill a LOT of women). And that was the intent. The companies knew that if they found ways to make life easier on housewives they’d make millions while making the lives of those housewives easier (thus ensuring repeat business). So in a lot of ways we DID outsource women’s work, it’s just that we outsourced it to machines instead of people.

                  Then there’s the rise of Instagram and other social media. Now it’s not enough to have a birthday party, you have to have The Greatest Party Ever. Baking cookies with the kids isn’t something you can just do, you have to make them worthy of a Food Network production. This, combined with the views on what constitutes women’s work, creates an unrealistic standard that can’t be lived up to.

                  To be clear, I’m not saying that you are wrong, or that what you’re saying isn’t a major part of it. I’m just saying that it’s not the whole picture.

                3. Ace in the Hole*

                  That’s not the whole picture, although I’m sure it contributes and I generally agree about how our society devalues women’s work. But I’m similarly uncomfortable about the idea of hiring people to do my gardening, painting, washing my car, polishing my shoes, and other traditionally masculine work. Since it’s relevant, I should mention I’m a woman living in an all-female house.

                  At least in my cultural microcosm, I think it has more to do with ideas of household independence and class. These are typically things that an average person/household could theoretically do for themselves without a huge investment of tools or learning… as opposed to things like fixing a car. There’s a feeling of “If you CAN do it for yourself, you SHOULD do it for yourself… and if you don’t, you’re lazy/incompetent.” Logically that makes no sense. But emotions seldom do!

              3. nanny employer*

                So the person I’m hiring as a nanny actually used to be a working professional who had nannies of their won. They got a divorce, hit covid-related times, and now they are looking to work as a nanny. It made me feel a little bit strange, but in the end, I figure it’s a job, not a ‘class’, so surely there shouldn’t be a problem? And we work very hard and there’s a good reason we are getting a nanny (schools closed!). It’s not like we are sitting around sipping champagne and having the riff raff do our work. We can’t do our jobs and childcare at the high level we would like without additional help.

            3. raccoon*

              I think there can be subconscious conflicts about paying someone to do the “dirty work” of cleaning your house or tending your garden. However, I think that if you’re paying someone fairly, spending money on something that will give you time back is a good thing to invest in.

            4. GS*

              This might help a little bit. As someone who worked as a housecleaner for awhile (bad on the lungs, most should charge more than they do because of the long-term ramifications) and gardener (if I could make enough money to retire doing this job I would have done it forever, it makes me SO HAPPY) I just want to say that some folks are indeed pretty happy to be able to trade those jobs for money.

              Seriously, if folks let me trim trees and set up veggie gardens for them while paying a living wage (and maybe with someone else handling client screening and billing) I’d have arrived at my dream job.

              1. booksbooksmorebooks*

                Agreed! My aunt ended up doing that as a ‘second’ career and retired early from her first – she LOVES her gardening and now she does it professionally and spends her winters puttering about and planning out the cities gardens for the next year. Physically not the easiest job, but now she’s getting older and doing more planning it’s worked out really well, despite some strange class judgement from my grandmother/her mother initially.

              2. Self Employed*

                I have a friend who is a Land Manager for the city park department and that’s basically her job–with civil service benefits and no client wrangling.

      2. yokozbornak*

        You are making the OP the villian in your own made-up fiction. Jane was hired to do a job, not to become a member of the OP’s family.

      3. llamaswithouthats*

        I’m also a socialist. Socialists have bigger fish to fry than getting annoyed for someone eating lobster.

      4. Oaktree*

        It’s not your socialism, it’s your unwillingness to disentangle your discomfort with moneyed people hiring live-in nannies from an employee displaying a total lack of boundaries.

        (I too am uncomfortable with live-in nanny stuff. But it is an employment relationship, and it’s reasonable to expect professionalism from both parties.)

        1. New Englander*

          How is contracting out child care any different than contracting out oil changes or plumbing work? Sometimes we all need help with things.

          Agreed about the first thing though.

          1. Crooked Bird*

            Just to answer your question quite literally, childcare is more personal. There are a lot of complex dynamics that result from this, like bonds that the children form with adults and the question of what values and attitudes the children are taught. There’s not that many ways to do an oil change, but a myriad of ways to raise a child, and no-one has weird feelings about their car being more used to someone else’s care.

            These effects get stronger the more childcare time you contract out. Short babysitting is a clear NBD; seeing quite little of your child because someone else does all their actual care (the extreme other end of the spectrum) is something that would give most people pause. The middle is complicated. But yes, there’s a difference.

            1. New Englander*

              I suppose, though if you ask gearheads, they’d have an issue with folks working on their cars.

              The live-in nanny relationship is more intimate than traditional daycare, but looking down on those who use it in place of daycare because they have a career seems like low key shaming of women (though I am not saying you necessarily fall into this category). I think it is unfair to ask parents to give up their careers and a live in nanny can be a more stable and healthy option than daycare.

              1. Balloon*

                People who have a problem with hiring a nanny usually have that attitude. There’s an underlying judgment that you’re a bad mother if you’re okay with someone else “raising” your child for you. It’s as if, to them, being a mom means that you should be sacrificing every part of your life and identity for your child or you aren’t doing enough. And noticeably, that sentiment is rarely directed towards men because it’s taken as a given that they’ll continue their career.

              2. Self Employed*

                I am a gearhead and it would cost way too much to pay someone I trust with my car to change the oil (like $185/hr vs. $30 for a fast oil change place). The fast oil change places are part of why the engine died prematurely on my previous car.

                And I don’t think it’s wrong to have someone else care for children so the parents can both have careers. It takes me a couple of hours a few times a year to do my oil, but childcare is 24/7 and if parents can outsource 40hr/wk then good on them. The advantage of having a nanny is that you have more supervision of what’s happening. If the nanny is, say, teaching P!nk songs about drinking to your kids, you’re more likely to find this out at home when you go to ask them to turn it down during your Zoom call than if it’s at a day care center. You won’t have to worry “how long was THAT going on?” when it turns out another kid was bullying yours and the staff was laughing it off.

            2. Director of Alpaca Exams*

              The bonds that children form with adults are really central to these questions. A friend of mine babysat our child regularly for a year, was adored by all of us, and then abruptly started canceling appointments and being unavailable and dodging us at social events. They’re now dating another close friend who sometimes says “M says they really miss your family!” and I always have the same reply: M will be welcome in our home once they apologize to our child for vanishing out of their life. I don’t need M to apologize to me. But I won’t accept abandoning a child that way.

              Firing a nanny or regular sitter means cutting off a relationship that may have been deeply important to your child. It’s not something you can ever do lightly. I’ve had to do it and it was dreadful. It makes all these hiring decisions really, really fraught—and that’s just the nanny-child relationship, never mind the nanny-parent relationship.

      5. Joielle*

        I mean, I think the OP only mentioned steak and lobster specifically because of how fancy/expensive they are – like, it’s kind of presumptuous to invite yourself to dinner anytime, but it’s particularly rude to invite yourself to eat someone’s expensive special occasion food. And it’s not like a casserole or salad where everyone can take a smaller portion to accommodate another person – in my experience you’d usually get one lobster or steak per person, and if she wasn’t counted for purposes of the gift then it might be kind of hard/awkward to share.

        I think it’s just that the OP thought of Jane primarily as an employee, and Jane wanted to be more like a close friend or family member. With a live-in nanny, either mode can work, but everyone has to want the same level of closeness. And if someone doesn’t think of you as a close friend, you can’t will that relationship to exist by hanging around all the time. Living in someone’s house as an employee requires a seriously high level of social skills and emotional intelligence – I can imagine not everyone’s cut out for it. I certainly would not be good at it!

        1. Just Another Zebra*

          I think this is it exactly. Jane asking for a burger and potato salad at a BBQ has significantly different connotations than wanting to join a plated dinner party uninvited. You’re absolutely right that everyone needed to be on the same page, and they just weren’t in this case.

        2. MK*

          Eh, I think even in cases where a live-in employee is part of the family, this is how the relationship evolved, possibly over years. You don’t hire someone or accept a job with the understanding you/they will be family.

          1. UKDancer*

            Definitely. When I was a child my mother had a cleaner every Thursday. Over the 20 years the lady worked for us she became closer to us and even now she’s retired we still have her over for coffee at intervals.

            But it takes time for that sort of relationship to evolve. You can’t expect to become someone ‘s friend or family overnight.

            1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

              Yeah. The cleaner my grandmother hired kept on working for her until the end of both their lives, when she was helping my grandmother with a house that was smaller than hers, and it was honestly just a chance for coffee and a natter about the grandkids.

            2. Marillenbaum*

              That’s a good point. My parents have cleaners and they are friends–they have hosted each other for dinner/the cleaner’s kid gets presents from my folks, etc. but that relationship exists now that they have known each other for a couple of years.

      6. Tequila & Oxford Commas*

        It wouldn’t be appropriate for my boss to insert herself into my personal life, ask intrusive questions about my friends, and assume she’d get a share of gifts I received. I’m not oblivious to the power differential here, believe me, but those standards and those boundaries apply in both directions. (And it sounds like Jane could afford her own lobster!)

        I’m also a socialist, but I have two kids and I know how incredibly expensive decent childcare is. Even families in upper income brackets can struggle to find options that don’t cancel out one parent’s income, especially if one of the working parents has the audacity to be a teacher, social worker, or other job that’s undervalued by society.

      7. Mal*

        People have mentioned the lobster scenario, but if it helps, consider the other things that happened. The prying into the friends bit.

        If we got a boss writing in that their report likes to eavesdrop on their conversations, gossip about their personal life and try to discuss that with them we would all have stern words for the report.

    3. CupcakeCounter*

      For real!
      I know a couple families with live-in nannies and they definitely aren’t rolling in it. Having the nanny live in sometimes reduces the cash cost since the nanny has reduced expenses since housing is included. It’s just a reality of their jobs that they need childcare at irregular times (cop and nurse who regularly work swing shifts, a single mother who rotates on-call, etc…).

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes. One of my cousins has 3 children under 6 and they have a nanny and they’re not ridiculously wealthy. Good nurseries are also quite expensive in London. It’s actually better value and works better for them to pay a nanny for the children than it is to send them to nursery while the parents are working.

      2. llamaswithouthats*

        This is a good point. I think sometimes we forget that housecleaning and childcare are full time jobs, which is why some parents (usually the mom) choose to be stay at home parents. If both parents have other jobs, then between the two of them, they are splitting 3 jobs. Outsourcing some of that work is necessary. (Im making assumptions about family structure here.)

      3. Carol*

        Yeah, I think people who are not paying contemporary day care prices don’t really get it. Our current day care bill for one kid nearly matches our mortgage (and we’re not even at a fancy one), and once we have a second kid we are going to have to eat our savings to afford an almost double bill. Once it’s closer to the time I plan to explore whether a nanny might be more of a value at that time, because at least then I don’t have to worry about dropoff/pickup and my kid getting sent home every time he has a runny nose, and then there’s the benefit of individual attention for the kiddos.

        Seriously, though, day care for one kid costs roughly the amount of a year of private college. It’s bananas. If you’re already at that level, then yeah, it’s not much further to go for a nanny with all the benefits to the kids that brings.

        1. Peanut*

          YEP. Where I live (upper Midwest) a nanny was cheaper for us than daycare for our first kid. My the time we got to the second, I was working nights so we don’t have to pay for childcare at all, but if we did, there’s no way we wouldn’t go the nanny route again because it would be so much cheaper.

        2. 'Tis Me*

          We are so lucky to have a preschool in our village that only charges around £5 an hour and takes kidlets from 2. Drawback: they’re only open 25 hours a week… But we’ve been able to make it work thus far (although I need to decide what’s happening with Baby No. 3 in March, when maternity leave finishes… The pandemic does make everything a bit more interesting!)

        3. Uranus Wars*

          Yes! This was my thinking…3 days a week at a moderate daycare in my area for 2 kids is around $21,500K per year. Plus if you need a 4th day you have to pay extra, if you need to pick your kid up at 6:05 you pay extra, they are closed on holidays even if the parent is working, etc. Need the daycare to cover lunch that day because you left the brown bag on the counter by accident? That’s additional cost too.

          With room and board factored in, employing a full-time nanny who offers more flexibility can often end up being “cheaper” once you tally up the $21.5K and the additional expenses throughout the year.

      4. nanny employer*

        Exactly, strong agree. We have a nanny and I feel uncomfortable posting here because of some people, but it’s a really tough situation to navigate. Covid means schools are still closed, but our kids are too young to study independently (or be focused in remote school meetings). We work really hard ourselves, and without our nanny both our kids and work get neglected.

      5. Starbuck*

        Sure, but there’s an important part here – if you have the real estate space to host an extra live-in staff person, especially in their own housing unit (not just a room) that’s pretty dang wealthy, a lot more than most people will ever have. Especially in expensive housing markets (aka, most cities).

    4. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      If OP was a boss in an office and Jane was her administrative assistant, the commentariat here would be calling for her to be fired immediately – helping herself to the boss’ food? Hanging around eavesdropping on private conversations? Refusing pretty clear instructions on when and where to complete her work? The consensus would have been to get rid of her immediately and hire someone with professional boundaries.

      But because OP is a working mom who can afford to hire domestic help, all the sudden it’s unreasonable for her to expect an employee with reasonable professional judgement and basic social skills.

  9. Jennifer*

    I wish I’d known more of this when the first letter came in. The first letter came off a bit elitist and felt a bit sorry for the nanny but this definitely paints the picture of feeling trapped in your own home and I feel a lot of compassion for the OP.

    1. Arya Snark*

      Yes – especially the part about having her own floor with kitchenette, etc. Jane had a choice of where to spend her evenings and she chose to be invasive.

      1. MicroManagered*

        I remember picturing Jane locked in a basement Cinderella-style when I read the original.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      That’s how I feel too. The first letter read like OP and her husband were Jane’s only option for adult human company, but it turns out she could go home on weekends? and it gets progressively more weird from there. Jane’s behavior would’ve made me feel trapped too.

    3. Cake or Death?*

      See I didn’t feel that way at all with the first letter. This update was exactly how I was picturing the situation. I was actually quite surprised at the tone of the comments on the original letter, which basically painted OP as treating Jane as an indentured servant that she wanted to keep locked in a basement storage area and not let her have contact with the outside world.

        1. Cake or Death?*

          I think it was related to the message you had to post at the top of these comments: perceived elitism of having a live-in nanny.

          1. PollyQ*

            And probably frustration by many parents who are having to balance working from home with caring for their kids who would otherwise be in daycare or school without any paid assistance. I suspect the letter would’ve landed quite differently in 2019 than it did in 2020.

            1. llamaswithouthats*

              I do think the pandemic context darkened my interpretation of the first letter. Seeing how many people were acting like jerks during the start of the pandemic made me so cynical. But relevant info was missing as well I think.

              1. boff*

                No, people made up their own fantasies based on no evidence, and then criticized the OP for acting like an unrealistic villain – being kind goes towards everyone and not jumping to the worst conclusion
                It’s frustrating because I have a nanny and I think people have a lot of weird baggage they bring to this situation

        2. SentientAmoeba*

          I saw it the same as Cake. Maybe I have a different perspective because I have a close relative who has been live in help for a family for over 25 years. (Started as a live in nanny, and they kept her on as a housekeeper since the kids moved out). Even now, she still frequently refers to them as her “employer” and while she is living full time with them, she does her own thing. She is often invited to spend time with them for meals, casual time, events etc. but outside of that, she does her own thing on her time. Since COVID, they follow strict protocols in the home, so they spend more time together, but it is still a professional relationship to her.

      1. Myrin*

        Yeah, same. I don’t think I commented on the original letter but I remember that I read through the comments with astonishment.

      2. Jennifer*

        I didn’t think it was that bad lol (I know you’re exaggerating) but it did seem that the nanny didn’t have many options for socialization besides the OP and her spouse, that the OP wasn’t clear with her about there being a hard ending time at 7 pm, and I didn’t know that she had her own apartment. That changes things dramatically.

        I also didn’t think the comments on the first letter were all that harsh. There were a few bad ones that got deleted if I’m remembering correctly, but in the times we live in it’s not surprising that people want to make sure a household employee is being treated fairly. I’m always going to be biased toward the person that seems more powerless in these kinds of situations. I just wish I’d known that Jane had a bit more independence and power in this situation.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think the key thing is that we didn’t know either way how much independence Jane had, but a lot of commenters decided (a) they did know and (b) that amount was close to zero, and then proceeded to lay into the OP as if those things were established fact.

          1. Myrin*

            I also think that there can be a tendency on this site to read an OP in the worst possible light.

            As an example regarding this particular letter: I read “She has an entire separate 1500 square foot floor to herself in our home, so it’s not because she has nowhere to go.” and immediately thought to myself “Ah, so she has her own separated flat in OP’s house.”; I thought that both because that is an architectural setup that I’m familiar with and because it makes close to no sense for OP to mention this if these were just 1500 square feet of empty concrete where she could park Jane for the night.
            Additionally, I’ve found that there’s often a lack of taking into consideration the overall tone of a letter. This OP came across as considerate, unsure of how to handle boundaries with a live-in employee (and maybe even a little timid in that regard), and as someone who’d very much like to do the right thing without offending or hurting the other party. That doesn’t really suggest a person who coldly denies a poor, neglected servant her only social outlet and then only doesn’t lock her in the basement because it would be frowned upon. (This is hyperbole, of course, but many comments on many letters read in that vein.)

            I don’t know where this willingness to read letters so uncharitably comes from, especially regarding the explicit site rules against it. Of course one needs to note that for every person thinking the worst of a letter writer, there’s another one defending the OP, but it still comes up surprisingly often and not rarely regarding issues I never even would’ve thought of.

            1. New Englander*

              I think people didn’t really care about Jane and saw the opportunity to tear into the “bourgeois” and took it.

            2. Willis*

              Yes, there is a tendency for comments to skew to an extreme interpretation and then snowball, sometimes inventing ideas about the OP and the characters in their letter. Sure there’s some human tendency to fill in blanks based on your own experience, but also sometimes people just seem to decide who the “bad guy” is and then create the rest of the store to fit that interpretation.

            3. Lacey*

              Yes, that surprised me as well. I’ve had townhomes smaller than Jane’s personal space in that home!
              Actually… my standalone house is only 100 some sq. ft. larger!

              And yeah, the OP read as a reasonable person to me. She happens to have much, much more money than I do, but that’s not a reason to assume she’s a monster.

              Although, you’re right, people do that all the time. They’re really rooting for all the OPs to be the ones who are actually in the wrong, even though its a small handful who are and it’s easy to tell based on their own account.

              1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                Mine is 300 sq ft smaller (though with a half-finished basement) and there were initially three of us living in it and there was enough room. Oh, Jane, Jane :)

                1. 123Rew*

                  That floor is significantly bigger than the house where I grew up as there were 5 of us and it was (and still is) considered a decent sized family home :D

            4. 123Rew*

              Whenever I read internet comments I feel like it is either very uncharitable or there is needing to be overly understanding and not allowed to ask/question anything. It’s very weird. I feel like interner and neutrality/offering different views is somehow wrong.

            5. Jaybeetee*

              I think the tendency, with a lot of advice columns and interpersonal conflict, is to try to parse out “the other side of the story.” Yes, there are monsters and horrible people out there, but most of us are trying to get through life relatively reasonably. So based on the OP’s perspective, we start going, “Okay, are there any potentially-sane reasons for Jane to be acting this way?”

              Unfortunately, that can mix with the idea that most OPs will paint themselves in a favourable light. And in this case, mixed with a general resentment towards the wealthy (see: current events with Wall Street), with a dash of the well-worn trope of “snobby rich person mistreats The Help”. Oh, and in top of all *that*, suppose pandemic stuff has a lot of people snippier than usual.

              TLDR, I don’t think people are being uncharitable on purpose. I think people get overzealous in their attempts to be “balanced”. I think a lot of people are stressed right now. And quite a few want to “eat the rich”.

          2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            I confess that I was going by the experience of exactly one person I knew who worked as a live-in nanny. And she really did have close to zero independence (no car in a non-walkable neighborhood, extremely limited time off, had to sleep with the baby monitor in her room, so a 24/7 job which is not ideal for a woman in her 60s… she could not cook her own food and *had* to have meals with her employers at the same time when they had meals with them at their dinner table – and most of what they cooked did not agree with her and made her physically sick). But my nanny friend’s situation was different – first of all, everyone in my story came from my home country’s immigrant community – back in the home country, we were all one step above poverty and some of us came into a lot of money very fast when we came to the US, due to some of our jobs being highly paid and in demand – we do not have any established culture on how to treat live-in help, and people just fly by the seat of their pants I suppose? and some of them are just not intuitively good at guessing how to do it right.

          3. Jaybeetee*

            I hope I didn’t say anything particularly harsh about OP at the time, but I remember also wondering if, in context of the pandemic, Jane was getting any social interaction outside the children, and if her early behaviour was just her going stir-crazy during a lockdown (as many of us could probably relate to). And while I understand 1500 square feet to be a large space (larger than my apartment!), I was also unsure if Jane had her own kitchen or laundry, as those were two tasks OP had mentioned her doing in the main part of the house in the first letter, and OP didn’t seem put out by it.

            Regarding that latter point – while I’m not interested in picking on OP’s phrasing to see if she could have been theoretically clearer without being rude – I do wonder if OP engaged Jane on the cooking/laundry in the main part of the house, if Jane had her own facilities? In OP’s scenario, I’d probably ask on the spot, at least to make sure Jane’s appliances were actually working! (And to send an initial subtle “do this in your space not ours” message.) I’d have to think Jane was bringing food and clothing up from the basement then, which makes it even weirder!

        2. llamaswithouthats*

          Same. If I remember correctly, there was a lot of relevant context missing in the first letter (like needing to be done by 7pm and having her own kitchen and whatnot). I was comparing the situation to if Jane were a boarder/roommate and didn’t have an English basement type situation. Surely she would be entitled to use the kitchen and other common areas? In the first letter, Jane seemed to be behaving pretty normally and the OPs discomfort didn’t make sense to me.

        3. Claire*

          I wonder if some of the trouble was that not everyone knows how large 1500 square feet is? I read the original letter saying that Jane had a 1500 square foot floor to herself and understood that that’s a lot of space, like, if you rented out a 3 bedroom apartment that was 1500 square feet that would be a totally reasonable size, which made some of the less-than-kind comments confusing to me, but I guess if you either missed that line or didn’t realize how big that space is, you might have felt differently.

          1. Claire*

            To be clear–I probably wouldn’t have realized how big that space is either if I hadn’t been searching for an apartment at the time of the previous letter, I think that square feet is not a measurement that many people are good at picturing.

            1. SarahKay*

              And 1500 square feet really is huge. My current flat is about 650 sq foot, and was built in the late forties as a starter home for a young family. Kitchen, bathroom, 1 small and 1 good-sized bedroom, and a reasonable-sized living / dining room. Granted, I’m in the UK so compared to non-city US homes it’d probably be considered small but having spent almost all of my time in it for the last ten months, it still feels like it’s a very comfy space indeed.

              1. Self Employed*

                A friend of mine had a 1500 sqft basement apartment in San Francisco that was really nice–the homeowners had built out the garage as a “granite countertops” kind of apartment during the dot-com boom. I currently live in a studio apartment 1/3 that size, and the largest place I’ve ever lived was 900 sqft for a 3bd 1.5ba townhome.

                If anyone wants to add laundry facilities to a suite with a bathroom or kitchenette, you can get half-size washing machines for under $300 that use a regular sink for water and drainage. They’re a great size for one person–you can do a week’s worth of clothing or bedding, and hang it on a rack. I recommend the wheeled base very strongly so you can roll it into the corner with the laundry basket. This would be a great way to resolve traffic jams with roommates in a laundry room, too.

          2. Myrin*

            Is it not common for people to know how big their own living space is? And then to extrapolate from there?
            As in, we use square metres where I’m from, so “1500 square feet” really doesn’t tell me anything at first, but I went and translated it and found out that that’s about 140 m^2. I also know that my flat, where I live with two other adults, is only 90 m^2, which is about 970 sqft, so, I mean, I just have to view these numbers in relation to one another to at least loosely gauge how big Jane’s area is.

            1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

              A lot of people know that they have, say, two bedrooms, one bathroom, a living room, and a large kitchen, but couldn’t tell you how many square feet, or square meters, that is. House/apartment ads tend to talk mostly about the number of rooms, and I’m more likely to think “my kitchen is a lot bigger than my friend’s” or “this kitchen is a lot bigger than the one in our old apartment” rather than in terms of area.

              Especially if people aren’t entirely comfortable with math and numbers, they might not think about the area of a room unless they’re buying a rug.

              1. Myrin*

                Ah, okay, that must be a regional/country-specific thing, then – any talk about houses/flats where I live basically always involves the relevant square metres so I would assume that most people have at least an inkling of how big their living space is. It does make a lot of sense to not have that if the specific size is rarely mentioned, though!

            2. Roci*

              I did that too. Spouse and I would be so lucky to have our next apartment be 60-70sq m or 600-700 sq ft. I can’t imagine feeling trapped or isolated in twice that (pandemic aside).

              But some people were just very excited to signal that they are better than spoiled rich people…shrug.

            3. Starbuck*

              It’s almost always known if you’re buying a house, or even renting a SFH, but in my experience it’s often not included in rental apartment listings, especially if they’re not high-end (so it’s not a number to brag about). No idea what my current apartment square footage is, I just know that it’s quite small.

    4. llamaswithouthats*

      Same. I came down hard on the OP in the comments of the first letter. I imagine having a stranger cleaning your house would be awkward even if they were competent. Jane was like the worst case scenario.

    5. micklethwaite*

      Yes, I remember the first one well and this clarifies a lot for me – based on this I would definitely feel intruded on by Jane as well, whereas in the first letter I wasn’t at all sure whether Jane had any other options at all for company, anywhere to cook for herself etc.

    6. Salt & Vinegar Chips*

      Yes, learning that the nanny had a kitchenette area and a living room area changes everything for me. The original post said something along they would feed the nanny, that I concluded that the kitchen on the main floor was the only one.

      1. Myrin*

        The “feeding” comment in the original post referred to OP and her partner feeding their daughter, not them feeding the nanny.

  10. Budgie Buddy*

    Sounds like the personalities just did not mesh well in this situation. Glad OP was able to hire a person who integrated better into the family dynamic without all the weirdness. Hopefully Jane’s next situation will be a better fit too.

    1. LizABit*

      No, this isn’t about personalities. Jane was an employee who did not have the required skills to do the job.

        1. Sleepy*

          I agree with Budgie here. I’ve heard the opposite stories from friends who were live-in nannies–their employers wanted them to be around and available 24/7. They might have been okay with this situation.

  11. staceyizme*

    I’m sorry that you had to go through such an ordeal because your employee was just not a reasonable person. In future, ANY service provider (whether it’s a nanny or your psychiatrist) who fails to adjust their conduct after a single conversation should be terminated. It’s the unfortunate nature of personal services of all kinds that the impact from missteps and even intentional breaches of normal boundaries have greater impact. Your current nanny sounds like a keeper!
    I can’t help but be curious- in the case of your former live-in, did you have a trial working interview, where she came for a weekend (paid, of course) to see if the position was a fit on both sides? That’s often the final litmus test before a hire in this field.

    1. Lunchtime caller*

      This is how I feel too! So many comments are talking about extensive coaching, but this is a deeply personal context where she lives in your home. This is a problem to be fixed in the hiring process, NOT extensive coaching like in an office. I work in a relationship based industry where styles meshing is top priority for client care, and while they usually wouldn’t part ways with us after just one conversation, two or three would absolutely do it depending on the severity. The client needs come first and it’s not realistic to expect someone to change their personality—instead you now know better when you go looking for the next person.

  12. Pretzelgirl*

    I have a friend or 2 in my life that def would have acted like Jane when they were in their early 20s. They were often slow to grasp boundaries. They were (are) some of the sweetest, caring people I know. Now that they are in their 30s they def have grown out of that phase of their lives. Luckily I was close enough them that I could tell them “ok, party is over time to leave”, or ” hey I am going at this time and cant stay later”. I cant remember if Jane’s age was mentioned, but it could be a maturity thing. or may she just wasn’t a fit for the family. Just like in a more professional setting, not everyone is the right fit for every job.

  13. lapgiraffe*

    This is all reminding me of a great New Yorker article about a school in I think Switzerland where rich people (women) can go learn how to be rich, specifically things like learning how to hire, talk to, and manage staff. As ridiculous as that may sound, obviously from this LW alone one can see that it’s not exactly second nature to know how to have someone live in your house and take care of some of the most personal things in your life and maintain the kind of professional distance necessary for it to work for both employee and employer.

    Just found it “Lessons from the Last Swiss Finishing School.” Definitely worth the read!

    1. Ray Gillette*

      That’s really interesting. I never expect to be in the position of hiring and managing household staff, but I might check it out just for a window in how to have those conversations.

    2. Jennifer*

      I actually think this is a great idea. I’m sure anyone that admitted to reading it would be mocked but there’s no training manual on how to manage household employees (that I know of). You have sometimes fairly young people managing a full staff of people with no idea of how to be a fair but firm boss.

    3. Nicotene*

      I think this used to be *the* job of high-born ladies, and I think modern people tend to underestimate how much work it was to run large households back then. They weren’t just swanning around in ballgowns on fainting couches!

      1. James*

        In the Middle Ages the woman of a noble house was expected to run the household, as the lord was expected to be away for significant periods of time (nobility started out as the core of the military, and the men owed their lords a certain period of service each year). This carried over until very recently. I’ve read some published letters from the 1800s sea captains to their spouses where this relationship obviously held true.

        Back then it wasn’t a matter of keeping the house clean. “Running the household” included things like managing the farmlands, shepherds, cowherds, and the like; running the dairy and poultry; seeing to the kitchens (which often contained the most valuable items the family owned, including tea and spices); managing the finances; seeing to the children’s education; and a host of other activities that we simply don’t think of these days. “Managing a household” was akin to running a small town. Plus, remember that all chores were done by hand–from the sweeping to the cooking to the washing to the milking. If you had more than a handful of people in the house you didn’t have TIME to do all of it yourself!

        There certainly were silly women, just as there were silly men. But by and large the image of the careless noblewoman who only thought about dresses and balls is a myth. The women were the equivalent of a CFO or a CEO in any moderately well-run household.

        Sorry, this just touches on two of the periods of human history I find interesting: the Middle Ages and the Napoleonic Wars.

        1. Jaybeetee*

          Adding onto this, having some kind of “servant” in your home was actually pretty standard for most European/North American homes prior to about the 20th century, unless you were quite poor. Even middle-class and sort-of-poor families tended to have some kind of housekeeper – because, as you say, it was actually pretty labour intensive and time-consuming to get it all done back in the day! This doesn’t even go into relatively poor farming families who would still have farmhands living on the property somewhere.

          It’s only really since WWII that we’ve internalized having live-in help as a privilege of the 1%.

          1. Self Employed*

            My mother grew up between the Great Depression and WWII in a small Midwestern town and her family had a housekeeper/cook (probably not live-in) because her mother ran a small furniture store. Her father ran the gravel quarry (at least till he died when my mom was 11), but I doubt they were “gravel millionnaires” or anything because when I looked up their family home on Google Maps, it was TINY. Like “how did they have 6 kids in that house?” tiny–I think it was under 1000 sq ft, let alone 1500. I honestly suspect that Grandma had a furniture store as an excuse to have a housekeeper and not stay home with her kids because she hated kids but they were Catholic so kids happened.

          2. UKDancer*

            Definitely. My maternal great aunt was in domestic service and she was really proud of the fact she was a parlour maid and when she died her husband put it on her death certificate as her occupation because she was that proud. She felt it gave her more status than my grandmother had working as a sewing machinist in a factory even though factory work paid very slightly better. Housework was very labour intensive so you needed more staff to do it than you do now. I think wages were also much lower than they would be nowadays.

            My paternal grandfather had a much more middle class upbringing and they had a maid when he was growing up in the 1930s. You didn’t have to be excessively wealthy to have one, it was just the thing people did in middle class homes.

          3. Marillenbaum*

            I read Ruth Goodman’s “How to Be a Tudor”, she mentions that in the 15th and 16th centuries, young people from many social strata spent time in service from their mid-teens to mid-20’s; it was sort of an apprenticeship for running one’s own home and a chance to earn money to marry and establish a household.

      2. Stabbity Tuesday*

        There’s a really good documentary on youtube called Servants: the True Story of Life Below Stairs that covers England’s domestic staff from the late 1800s down through the tech advancements in the 40s-60s that ended that custom, as well as the difference between big country homes and smaller households. Highly recommend.

      1. Roci*

        She didn’t really have a chance to, though, did she? She was not born rich and stuff started happening as soon as she moved in with Mr. de Winter.

  14. Ginger*

    OP – learning to navigate a live-in employee, during a pandemic is HARD. I think it was totally natural that were would be some questions on what boundaries should look like.

    And you wanted to be nice, this is the person taking care of your children, during a pandemic, in your home.

    It’s natural that not every nanny/parent relationship works out – personalities sometimes just do not work and that’s ok. It sounds like she lacked some basic boundaries and a level of professionalism that didn’t work for you (and wouldn’t have for me, either).

    What is important is that you figured out what works for you and your family and what you need to communicate to get there.

    1. anon for this*

      My parents hired a nanny who was like this. She was clingy with my parents, and cold with me. It felt like a huge wedge. When she violated two boundaries, my parents fired her. I do hope she found employment elsewhere, but I didn’t miss her once.

  15. I'm just here for the cats*

    Did anyone else get weird Lifetime movie Killer nanny vibes from the OPs update?

    I don’t think Jane was well fit for the live in nanny role.

    1. Mary*

      I think that, especially when you’re young, you can have a hard time navigating the workplace and reading social cues. On top of that it can be tough to see those boundaries when you’re not an intuitive person and you live with your employer. I say that not to excuse Jane’s behavior (I’ve been quite hard on her upthread because she’s been super inappropriate) but just to say that there are probably other explanations than Jane being a serial killer/psycho.

      1. Claire*

        Yeah, it sounds like Jane might be a potential serial killer, but it’s more likely that she’s just not be suited to a live-in position, which by nature has to involve more social skills than a typical job where you don’t share a house with your employer. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, I think that I would also not be able to navigate that situation very well, but something she ought to know about herself.

        1. Abyssal*


          There are certain jobs where you’re going to have a very intimate access to people’s lives. Being good at those jobs means you have to have good people skills and be sensitive to how you interact with those forced intimacies.

          Jane’s job as a live-in nanny is one. My job as a financial planner is another. It’s not incumbent upon my clients to tell me with perfectly clear and unambiguous language if I’m treading upon their discomforts; it’s incumbent on me to read the room and handle those delicate areas with appropriate sensitivity.

    2. EventPlannerGal*

      I think that’s a bit mean, to be honest. Jane absolutely strikes me as clueless, annoying and generally a PITA to manage or live with, but I think all the comments implying that she’s a psycho/horror movie character/Single White Female/etc seem quite unkind. I know a lot of comments have pointed out the pile-on on the OP in the original post but there’s no need to suddenly do the same to Jane because we all like the OP now.

      1. I'm just here for the cats*

        I was just joking! I didn’t actually think that Jane was malicious or anything. It just reminds me of those stupid tv movies where the nanny or housekeeper or whatever wants to become the wife.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Nahh, I did not get the killer nanny vibes at all, not even in the update. Here’s what I did get though. It looks like Jane might have read a few too many romance novels where a nanny meets a single friend or relative of the owners’, they fall in love, nanny marries way up and lives with him in his mansion happily ever after. This popped into my head right away as a likely explanation of why Jane was so hellbent on meeting everyone in OP’s circle and getting information about them from the OP. It was a weird form of networking with the possible intention to what existed in Jane’s head as moving up.

      1. GammaGirl1908*

        Ha. I have commented only semi-jokingly that if ever I have live-in help of the sex my spouse is attracted to, even if I love and trust my spouse, that person still will be ANCIENT and HIDEOUS. (I currently have neither children nor a spouse.)

        Obviously we don’t know much about Jane’s background, but it’s not a huge leap to think LW’s lifestyle was very aspirational for her. I don’t think Jane was gunning for LW’s husband here; that doesn’t come across at all. But it seems she would have loved to have been included in LW’s glamorous-to-her social circle, and she thought hanging around LW and her friends was a way to get there. And note, she was excluded from being closer to LW primarily because of the employer / employee relationship boundary, but also at least in part because of her inability to fit in with LW’s communication and cues, which are a large part of how we get along with our friends. Jane’s inability to hide her thirstiness or take a hint or know when she wasn’t welcome were a big part of the problem. Even if LW had met Jane elsewhere, LW still wouldn’t have wanted to be buddies with her (which is very much LW’s prerogative).

      2. Polly Hedron*

        I Wrote This in the Bathroom has the best comment yet: Jane must be reading romance novels! That explains everything.

  16. Delta Delta*

    It seems like this wasn’t a situation that could be fixed. I feel like OP wasn’t direct enough, and by the time she tried to make boundaries with Jane it was too late. And because of the initial way things went, Jane likely didn’t think the boundaries were real. And honestly, as I’m reading this, it’s not entirely clear that the boundaries were clearly enforced. Regardless, it sounds to me like OP did the right thing by letting her go, starting fresh, and setting actual expectations with the new nanny.

    1. SomebodyElse*

      This summed it up for me too.

      The OP’s approach would probably work for most people, as evidenced by the replacement nanny, but was never going to work with Jane. Jane is one of those people who you have to be crystal clear on expectations and not waver from them after stating them. This happens in non-home workplaces too.

      1. Claire*

        I might argue that someone who needs absolutely crystal clear boundaries is not someone who’s suited to being a live-in nanny. That’s a job that requires a lot of interpersonal and emotional intelligence, which is not something everyone’s capable of. I personally don’t think I would be suited for that type of position because I know I’m a bit bad with that sort of thing, which is fine, not everyone is suited for every type of job. OP’s approach would indeed work for most people, and honestly, the people for whom it would not work are probably not right for the job.

        1. Self Employed*

          I would also be concerned about them modeling poor boundaries around my kids, which is different than a regular workplace. Well, mostly different. If you had interns at a regular office, would you want to constantly explain that just because management is putting up with Jane doing XYZ things wrong, they shouldn’t do that? (For example, Jane butts into conference rooms to listen to news about company financials and beg for free food. Jane hangs out in your office after 5 because she’s lonely at home and invites herself to client meetings.)

  17. Mx*

    She makes me think a little bit of the crazy nanny Louise, in the French movie The Perfect Nanny. Glad you get rid of her.

    1. Jo*

      This reminded me exactly of the book! The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani, didn’t know there was a movie!

  18. Boundaries*

    I agree with a lot of other commenters saying that OP still didn’t seem to nail actual directness. The fact the responses were ‘I’m happy to do it’/’I don’t mind’ strongly suggest that OP was still just making suggestions/framing the boundaries as for Jane’s benefit instead of framing them as required for the job.

    I’m glad OP has a new nanny who is a lot more intuitive and aware of appropriate boundaries though

    1. James*

      My wife and I had this problem early in our relationship (still crops up, but at least we’re aware of it now). I grew up in an environment where “I’m happy to do it” was a pretty firm “I’m doing it, leave me alone”. My wife grew up in an environment where “I don’t mind doing X” means you don’t care one way or another, or even that you don’t enjoy it, but you’re willing to do it. There were a number of times when she thought I was indirect, and I was very confused because I thought I’d made it clear.

      This sort of communication disconnect is significant in a relationship. In a romantic relationship you can work it out. When it comes to communicating with employees, though, it may not. It doesn’t necessarily mean that either party is wrong (Jane was wrong for other reasons); it just means that working together is more trouble than it’s worth, usually for both people.

    2. Claire*

      The thing is that she didn’t just say, “I’m happy to do any work after 7,” she said, “You need to stop working at 7, I’m happy to do anything that’s not done.” The first statement could be a suggestion; the second really isn’t.

      1. Joielle*

        Yeah – maybe the OP could have said “you need to stop working at 7, I *will* do anything that’s not done,” but once you’re getting to that level of language nitpicking, I think it’s just not a good fit for live-in staff. If you have an employee living in your home, you don’t want to have to carefully choose your words every day to be not TOO vague but not TOO harsh, direct but not rude, etc. You really just need someone who understands you a little more intuitively.

        1. Self Employed*

          I agree even though I know I am not very good at picking up indirect orders. That’s a good example of why this job would’ve been a terrible fit for me.

      2. armchairexpert*

        And to me, the second part strengthens the first. It’s effectively: “You need to be done at 7 EVEN if something isn’t finished. I will finish it.”

  19. Robin Ellacott*

    I agree there was still more room to be more specific with Jane about expectations, but the fact that with the new nanny things immediately felt much more comfortable shows that Jane really wasn’t a good fit.

    Actually, there is a bit of a Talented Mr. Ripley vibe here. I have sympathy for Jane, who clearly doesn’t have great emotional radar and didn’t process hints, but it looks like she wanted to be part of her employers’ circle and lifestyle in a way that wasn’t natural or appropriate.

  20. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

    A long time ago, my mother rented the flat we used to live at to a live-in nanny. Their employers had the same problem OP had, and the solution they found was help her rent, acting as guarantors and providing some spare furniture they didn’t need. The neighborhood is not nice (at least not compared to where I live now), but it’s convenient. She worked and slept at her employers from Monday to Friday, and spent Saturday, Sunday and her vacations at the flat. The arrangement worked, the family that employed her had their privacy and the nanny had a space to herself. My mother said she was the most responsible tennant she ever had.

  21. Abyssal*

    The insistence on perfectly-worded, explicitly crystal clear no room for even the most bad-faith misunderstanding boundary statements baffles me.

    Y’all. If Jane was genuinely that bad at comprehending anything but the most explicitly spoken statements as action items, she would not have been weaseling around the OP’s social engagements sighing “oh, how I would like a glass of wine!” or “oh, look how much I love lobster, just like that lobster you have there” when she in fact wanted to partake in wine and lobster. She was playing oblivious when it suited her, but clearly perfectly adept at indirect communication when she wanted to be.

    1. Dr. Rebecca*

      I don’t think people are saying Jane was bad at comprehending what the OP wanted, I think they’re saying that the OP’s language left Jane a lot of wiggle room in getting what *she* wanted.

      It’s the difference between swerving when Jane hints about wine, or asks about friendships, or talks about the lobster, and saying, clearly, but professionally/politely, “Jane, we’ve talked about this, and we hired you to nanny, not to be a companion for the adults in the family. We appreciate the work you do, but you cannot drink with us/eat with us/inquire after our friends any longer. After 7pm is family time, and we need you to find somewhere else to be.”

      1. Abyssal*

        My problem with that is that it puts the entire burden on the OP to craft an absolutely picture-perfect message and none of the burden on Jane to actually act in good faith.

        If someone is determined to act in bad faith, there is no magical combination of words that is going to change them.

        1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

          You’ve perfectly articulated the thought bouncing around in my mind as I read these comments. Yes, I suppose it’s theoretically possible for the OP to craft a message that is simultaneously unambiguous, precise, and polite (because god forbid she be seen as rude to her household staff) but the fact is that Jane is either intentionally choosing, or simply unable, to grasp the bigger picture of what OP is trying to communicate.

        2. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Dealt with a staff member once who would say they needed very clear instructions…but would then rules lawyer around every. single. one.

          ‘You can’t stay in the office past 7pm anymore’
          Then he wouldn’t show up for work the next day and he’d send a text like ‘9am is after 7pm so I guess I can’t be in the office? :) ‘

          Absolutely exhausting and definitely the reason our senior boss fired this guy.

      2. raccoon*

        I’m not getting the vibe at all that even if OP had told her to stop a hundred times in crystal clear language, that she would’ve stopped. I feel like we’ve all met someone like Jane before, that person who, no matter how explicitly you say “no, I’ll do XYZ myself” will respond with “but I’d be happy to!” and completely ignore what you want. It’s OP’s home, I don’t think she should have to explicitly tell Jane “it’s time to leave us alone” every time she wants privacy, asks about friends, etc. I don’t think anyone would want someone so nosy living with them. And if it’s not nosiness, I don’t think anyone would want someone around who is so lacking in self awareness.

        1. Dr. Rebecca*

          I agree with you that she wouldn’t have stopped. What she would have been is fired a LOT quicker.

      3. Esmeralda*

        But that’s not the OP’s fault. People are really whacking at the OP for not being extra super duper explicit and direct and for being, you know, polite. It’s awfully easy after the fact to take exception to other people’s words that they have to come up with in the moment, in response to extremely uncomfortable and weird behavior.

        OP was not direct enough AT FIRST. Then she was. Multiple times. Jane not only didn’t get it, she got worse.

        And she was still taking care of the OP’s children, which has to complicate the situation.

        1. Just Another Zebra*

          Exactly. If I’m going to be extra super duper nice to someone, it’s going to be the person watching my children.

          1. Dr. Rebecca*

            I’m going to be super duper polite and professional to whomever works for me; not necessarily nice. And if someone harms or is mean to a person’s child because they were being dealt with professionally instead of nicely, then they’re not the person for the job anyway.

            1. Can't risk it*

              >> if someone harms or is mean to a person’s child because they were being dealt with professionally instead of nicely, then they’re not the person for the job anyway.

              Doesn’t quite work that way with child care, though. If office-employee-Jane-who-can’t-seem-to-follow-pleasantly-worded-instructions-for-whatever-reason doesn’t like my “professional” language and grumpily messes up on the data entry or designs an ugly website for me, then it’s oh well, too bad it didn’t work out.

              I can’t risk learning only AFTER she hurts my child that, whoops, looks like childcare-employee-Jane and I have different definitions of what counts as “professional,” guess she’s not right for the job.

              If parent and caregiver communication is so different that the parent can’t trust caregiver’s judgment and has to start talking in a way that makes the parent nervous about the caregiver’s reaction, then the relationship needs to end. There’s no room to experiment here.

              1. Dr. Rebecca*

                “I can’t risk learning only AFTER she hurts my child…”

                Right, which is why the uber-professional communication should start *right at the beginning of the relationship* so one doesn’t hire people who don’t work that way. Defining the working relationship is…you know, kind of the duty of people who hire other people?

  22. Tired of Tech*

    I feel like a point a lot of people are making about passivity is that the OP has this person working in her house, with her children….24/7. I find it extremely unlikely that the vast majority of us would not soften our language in that scenario. She has access to your entire house, AND your children! Of course you are going to be a little kinder and more gentle than you would be in another situation.

    1. londonedit*

      I agree. Can people here honestly say that if they had friends over for dinner, and Jane came and sat down at the table and asked for a glass of wine, they’d really actually say ‘No, Jane, this is a dinner for us and our friends. Please go downstairs to your own space’? I think I’d find that incredibly difficult – how would that look in front of your friends? And I think Jane knows that. Same with all the ‘Oh, steak is my absolute favourite, I can’t wait to eat it!’ – she’s making it difficult for OP to say no. Because OP is going to feel like a horrible person if they actually have to come out and say ‘Sorry, Jane, but this steak is just for me and my husband. You’ll need to make something else for dinner’. Or I would, anyway. I know that’s a perfectly reasonable thing for OP to say, but still, Jane’s putting them in a situation where it’s hugely awkward and where OP is going to feel like some kind of ogre banishing Jane to her room and not letting her have something nice for dinner.

    2. Roci*

      I agree. I deeply suspect that many people talk a big game here and elsewhere online about their clever comebacks and icy clear communication, but in real life they use a ton of softening language, indirect communication, and let things slide all the time.

  23. raccoon*

    Oops what I responding to was removed. But Jane definitely deserved to be let go. Her lack of boundaries is startling. She was obviously eavesdropping every chance she could and that’s a big violation of privacy (like in the first letter when she sat with OP and her husband during a serious financial discussion, only someone with no boundaries would join something like that!). It also seems she was escalating by stopping cooking her own food and asking about OP’s friends (which it sounds like she did multiple times). I couldn’t trust someone like that to live in my home and I wouldn’t be surprised if she snooped through their things. It sounds like Jane liked how OP and her family live and thought she could strong arm herself into the benefits of being a member of their family (having OP cook for her, eating their gifts, dinner with their friends) while being a paid employee.

    1. RagingADHD*

      I’ve been in jobs that required handling the boss’s personal info or the opportunity to eavesdrop on sensitive conversations.

      The ethical implications of snooping or eavesdropping are one issue, but they aren’t really what matters when it comes to doing your job well, or keeping your job.

      What matters is making sure your boss doesn’t know. You keep that stuff to yourself! It’s called discretion. Or just plain good manners.

      And if you lack it, people will not trust you in a sensitive position — rightfully so.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      OMG HAHAHAHA I just saw it a few weeks ago OH GOD
      But nahhh (I’ve been saying it a lot in this comment section), the characters in the movie all knew very well what they were doing. Jane seemed to be living in a fantasy world where she had no idea what was happening, how she was being perceived, and what her duties were in reality.

    1. Maggie*

      Well, most people don’t during pandemics. I think we all know how readers here would react if Jane were going out multiple times a week to bars and parties.

  24. Jo*

    This sounds like the start of a psychological thriller… I recommend The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani.

  25. Mental Lentil*

    It is really hard to set boundaries with someone who is living in your house, whether they are an employee or not. I really feel for OP. The situation with Jane doesn’t sound in retrospect like something that could have been fixed.

    For people who are bitter and/or angry about OP being able to afford a nanny, they should direct their bitterness and/or anger at the inequities that are built in to our economic system.

    1. Self Employed*

      And if we had the kind of childcare system some places do, everyone would have trustworthy affordable daycare and after school care. Plenty of people have posted either here or the original letter that if you have 2 kids who need daycare at the same time, it’s typically cheaper and easier to have a nanny. You don’t have to navigate all the hassles of daycare, either, and you can set the hours if the parents don’t work 9-5.

  26. Rusty Shackelford*

    You know, even if I were staying at my own parents’ house, if someone brought them a gift of steak or lobster I would not assume I’d be sharing it.

  27. MissDisplaced*

    Oh my! That is indeed… Awkward.
    It sounds like Jane was overall a decent person, but just couldn’t or wouldn’t set any boundaries for herself here. Perhaps she was lonely and meant well, but she was also being deliberately obtuse. What a shame, but you did the right thing by letting Jane go because honestly SHE made this way more awkward than it needed to be.

  28. Alex*

    It sounds like this was more of a personality mismatch than anything else. Having a nanny in your home is such a personal thing, and it’s OK to let them go if you are just not comfortable with them, same as any person you hire where comfort is important–like a doctor, a therapist, etc.

    I was a nanny, although I didn’t live in, and the family I worked for and I had the same kind of weird humor and personality traits. We got along really well and I was all up in their lives in all kinds of ways. I remember often thinking “it’s a good thing you hired me and not a normal person!”

    I had a different job before that, for a short time, where there was a personality mismatch and it was uncomfortable for everyone. Doesn’t mean anyone was doing anything wrong, it just was a bad fit.

  29. 'Tis Me*

    I would like to think that I would be able to pivot and have gracious but firm conversations like:

    Employer: Are you cooking for yourself tonight, Jane..?
    Jane: Nah, you’re a much better cook than me!
    Employer: That’s so sweet of you! But the only reason I’m a good cook now is that I practiced, asked questions, read cooking blogs, and so forth. I can send you a link to the recipe I’m making tonight if you like? Pop downstairs and let me know if you need to borrow any ingredients to make it for yourself, if it’s something you fancy. Then tomorrow, please do let me know what you thought!

    Reality is I’d probably say I was actually planning on slobbing out and eating Pringles and a tub of houmous rather than cooking, or start with the odd food combinations (baked beans with cheese, sultanas and black pepper. One pot meal! Bonus points for eating it out of the measuring jug you microwaved it in)…

    And if I tried to ask somebody in advance what their plans for a set day was because I had people coming over and they responded how great that sounded and that they were looking forward to it, I’m not convinced I’d find in the moment anything much between “Oh, I haven’t actually spoken to Suzie properly for ages and I think there’s some stuff she may want to talk about that she’d rather not discuss with somebody she doesn’t know there…” and “Ah, no, I meant ‘what plans that involve you being elsewhere otherwise occupied do you have’ – I’m happy to lend you a book, or if there’s a movie you want to see, seeing if it’s available via whatever service..?” in terms of directness…

    1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      Except I don’t think an employer should be expected to (nor is it advisable) to provide their employee recipes or books or movies. Unless the job is line cook and then only the first item. That’s way overstepping boundaries on the employer’s part the way you describe your ideal imagined conversations. And would be kinda condescending too.

  30. Taxachusetts*

    Okay you shouldn’t make fun of this employer I get it for the context of this blog. But it’s okay for lots of people to post comments about this employee being a crazy stalker? It seems a bit classist to me. I don’t begrudge the employer from firing her. But it’s not like she truly did anything criminal or even reprehensible. She was not great at her job, she was a little awkward and she was fairly let go. Jane being in awe of what is clearly a lot of privilege is understandable and we shouldn’t also be demonizing her.

    1. Mr Jingles*

      I think you hit the nail right on the head! You’ve never lived with roomies have you?
      Her behaviour was very intrusive and harmful and it’s in no way classicist to acknowledge that! You can’t live like that. It’s highly disrespectful and stalkerish behaviour that did harm OP. I once lived with a roomie like this who wouldn’t accept boundaries and inserted herself in every single thing I did. It means you are under constant scrutiny, you can never unwind and have no privacy. It sets you on edge after a while and is absolutely harmful behaviour that can not be tolerated.
      Live in situations of any kind need boundaries and what she did wouldn’t even be acceptable if she where OP’s spouse or close friend.
      If you think otherwhise imagine having a person from your work around you who just wouldn’t leave you alone. Always following you, even after hours, tagging along every meal and every private meeting. Then tell me you’d not gonuts after a while. Then imagine your friend doing that. Can you even imagine that happening? Would you do it? With a friend? A sibling? Even your spouse? Would you insist on sitting with your spouse each and every time they meet a friend? Why not? Because it’s inappropriate and harmful and will surely destroy every relationship. So how on earth can that be appropriate behaviour towards your boss?

      1. MCMonkeybean*

        This seems really exaggerated with the information given. What harm was done to the OP? It doesn’t sound like they ever asked her to stop any of the behaviors that made them uncomfortable, so how is Jane supposed to know? Jane can’t respect the OP’s boundaries if the OP never tells her what they are.

        1. James*

          If it was just working past 7 pm, you may have a point. Jane may have needed time to get used to the routines of working in the place she lives. And there could be some give-and-take–if Jane was in the middle of the dishes at 7, it makes sense to let her finish sometimes, for example.

          But Jane exhibited a pattern of egregiously unprofessional behavior, including inviting herself to lunch with her boss, asking inappropriate questions about the boss’s friends, she was more interested in the entertainment value than doing her work, etc. These aren’t things that an employer–especially in a situation like this–is obliged to put tremendous effort into fixing. These are a failure to meet the minimum standard requirements. The employer can opt to train the employee more, but each employer has to decide how much time/effort/discomfort they’re willing to put into training someone.

          Imagine this behavior in any other field. How long do you think the average employer would put up with this? The first time I invite myself to a lunch my boss is hosting I’d be fired–and I actually have legitimate reasons to expect to be included. If I made creepy comments about my boss’s friends I’d be fired on the second offense. If I was so in awe about the place I worked I couldn’t get work done (and believe me, it would be really easy given some of the places I work) I wouldn’t last long. And no one here would have anything but sympathy for my manager for being in the situation where she had to fire me. Certainly few people would say “Well, you just need to explain the requirements better and train him better”. We’d expect the employee to know these things without being told.

    2. EventPlannerGal*

      I agree. Jane didn’t behave appropriately and obviously was not the right fit for this job, but there are a lot of really rude and unkind things being said about her. People on here are so willing to come up with the most unlikely explanations for all kinds of bad behaviour if the person in question happens to tick whatever boxes make them sympathetic! But if not then they’re a psycho and a serial killer and a Single White Female and probably a thief and maybe a danger to the children, and the OP is a victim who suffered an ordeal. Maybe they are just an employer and an employee in a working relationship that went badly.

  31. Taxachusetts*

    What are the rich learning from these classes? To actually be a respectful and open employer who treats people with dignity? Or to appease the servants enough so they don’t steal or harm their overlords?

  32. Petunia*

    I think people are being a bit harsh on Jane. OP says she directly told her to finish at 7pm but softened the message with she was happy to do anything Jane didn’t finish instead of addressing the real issue that she wanted to have time alone with her family/friends. Obviously I wasn’t there for the coversation but it reminds me so much of my generally awesome but conflict avoident mother. She really thinks she has been direct but was actually so busy trying not to hurt anyone’s feelings that the “direct” message is lost. I am a little skeptical that OP was as direct as she thinks.

    For what is worth, I don’t think OP or Jane are bad people – it is simply mismatched personalies and expectations. It is good OP has found someone who is a better match.

    1. boff*

      Yes exactly. Relationships (including job relationships) can not work out without anyone being a bad person or a failure. And most of the time it’s best just to end the relationship and move on than to keep trying to patch something up that really just is a bad fit. Yes I do think Jane’s described behavior is a bit boundary pushing but it doesn’t mean jane is evil just needs to work on that. (it doesn’t help that a bunch of horror movies start with this premise though)

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      A friend of mine shared a Twitter thread the other day about how in the US, the white and specifically the WASP culture, to quote the thread, “does not have the cultural concept of real talk”. People are using coded, softened phrases that someone who hasn’t been immersed in the culture long enough is likely to understand the wrong way. E.g., I’ve been working in corporate America, interacting with my sons’ classmates’ parents and teachers when they were in school, etc for over 20 years, so I know that, when somebody tells me “I really appreciate your willingness to work late, but we need you to be finished by 7pm – anything not finished by then, I would be happy to do myself”, that what this really means is “your arse has to be out of this kitchen by 7 pm, because after 7pm is our time”. But 20 years ago, I would’ve read this as “omg we love it that you work extra hours, I mean you really don’t have to and I’ll pick up the undone work if you don’t, but it’s great that you do” – or even “all your cleaning, cooking, etc need to be completed by 7pm no matter what” – and past me would’ve probably have doubled down on staying in that kitchen past 7 as a result. So, while I think most of the fault is on Jane for acting like she’s OP’s family friend instead of employee, there may have been cultural misunderstandings in the mix as well. Admittedly I do not know the cultures OP and Jane belong to, but both OP’s wording, and people’s wildly differing reactions to it in the comments (“she told it to her like it is!” – “no she didn’t”), are certainly familiar to me.

  33. Mr Jingles*

    People tend to infuse such situations with their own biases.
    Being an in house nanny doesn’t change a thing about the relationship between OP as an employer and Jane as the employee.
    Just because they’re also roomies, OP has no more obligations to Jane, neither has Jane any more obligations to OP than in any other setting when it comes to a relationship between them. During worktime and after they both have the demand of professional boundaries. The only additional obligations OP has are those of a landlord. This means providing proper housing.
    There are no obligations to point out common curtesy or natural boundaries. Those are just the same than they would be in every other interaction between adults. Jane’s behaviour was innapropriate in any setting, not just between employer and employee but litterally any shared living situation except maybe between parent and child.
    But honestly? I couldn’t even picture an adult child inserting themselves this way into their parent’s lives! OP isn’t Janes mom. She isn’t even Janes friend. She’s Jane’s boss and landlord. It’s completely on Jane to behave professional just the way she would behave with any other boss and any other landlord.
    If she can’t do that OP is entitled to fire her and hire somebody who behaves professional. OP is in no position to discipline another adult in a way you would dicipline a child and that’s what would have been neccessary to resolve this situation from OP’s side. Jane overstepped boundaries in a way that would have baffled me too and I would have been just as helpless as OP was due to this level of unprofessionalism.
    I wonder why somehow peoe are so willing to demand so much more from a private employment than what they’d expect from a company.
    Honestly people. Both is just a business contract! There is no difference.
    And I’m saying this from Janes position since I made my way through shool as a private cook and cleaning lady, not because I’ve ever employed anybody.
    I’d never expected families to invite me to the meals they paid me to cook for them. I understood that people who have to work full time pay people like me to have family time they’d otherwise have to spend cooking and cleaning or get groceries. They of course don’t want me around for that, that would totally destroy the goal they have when employing nannies, cooks or cleaners. So you do what you agreed to do for the money they owe you and then you go home to your own life. In Janes case: the very nice sounding basement. Honestly: I’d murdered for such a place to live in during my time as a student. I had a small room in a shared living arrangement and honestly? Even in that situation Jane’s behaviour would have been inapropriate!
    But in the end it was just a job and it’s silly to expect more from your employer just because you work in their homes.

  34. Good Vibes Steve*

    This reminds me of the summer when I worked as a live-in nanny/au pair. When I first arrived, my employers insisted that anyone working for them was considered family. “You’re one of ours,” ” we see you as another family member,” “the girls consider your their big sister,” etc. I was young and inexperienced, so I assumed what they said was what they meant. After 4 or 5 weeks, it became clear that they saw me as an employee, and I adjusted my behavior to match that… but before that happened, I definitely had a few missteps.
    I can’t say that I would have gone as far as Jane did, if only for the fact that I very much like my alone-time and would want to escape busy dinners at all costs, but I have a little bit of sympathy for her.

  35. So Much To Think About!*

    Allison’s DEI posts earlier this week are very much on my mind, and it made me wonder whether the first nanny might have been from a different racial/ethnic/cultural group than the OP, and the second nanny from the same group as the OP. That situation could have added to the awkwardness of the situation in all kinds of unconscious ways, such as if the first nanny’s culture includes more family closeness than the second one, and the second one “looks more like family” to the family.

    This site always gives me so much to think about!

    1. fri_day*

      That’s the thing though, Jane isn’t part of OP’s family, she’s their employee. Even if there are different cultural attitudes towards family spending time together, Jane should’ve respected OP’s family’s boundaries. I don’t know of any culture in which you assume you’re entitled to a gift your manager gets or to join their social life. Imagine if Jane was an employee in an office, it would be completely inappropriate for her to eat part of her manager’s lunch, or to randomly join her manager’s meetings with other people when she felt like it. I think your second point of the new nanny “looking” more like family comes very close to accusing OP of racism. It also assumes that OP and her husband are the same race/ethnic/cultural group. From her description, they enjoy their new nanny more because she is far more professional and has appropriate boundaries.

      1. James*

        “I think your second point of the new nanny “looking” more like family comes very close to accusing OP of racism.”

        I didn’t read it that way. The way I read it is that there are many ways to do this job. Some–for example, my grandmother–do the job by integrating into the family. The paycheck is nice, and the work needs done, but ultimately it’s secondary to the companionship and community. Grandma’s employer was part of our lives as much as any uncle or cousin was. That’s “looking like family” (in this case he was family, due to a quirk in how my family makes that determination). The LW obviously did NOT want that–she wanted a more distant relationship, more akin to mine with my lawn guy. Professional, courteous, but with clear boundaries. He’s not invited to my kids’ birthday parties. That’s very much not “looking like family”. Neither is wrong; it depends on what you’re looking for.

        This gets to what I said in the DEI thread. There has to be a culture in any workplace. Within certain limits, any option you choose is going to be fine–formal attire vs. informal isn’t going to affect the quality of work in most cases, for example. My hair style is irrelevant as long as I can fit my head into my hardhat. But you need to pick one, and the fact that one person doesn’t fit with the work culture doesn’t necessarily mean that the culture needs to change. Sometimes you’re just a bad fit.

        I will say that I think most people agree that many of Jane’s actions are egregious. Those are so obviously wrong as to not be worth discussing; we can take it as given that stealing your boss’s food and imposing yourself on your boss’s friends is bad, for example. That’s not interesting to discuss, nor is it really useful to think about in terms of improving our skills as managers and people. The edge cases are more interesting.

  36. MCMonkeybean*

    These details about the setup of the basement were the main piece I felt was missing from the previous letter to really judge whether it was reasonable to expect Jane to spent most of her time there. It does sound now like that would be a reasonable ask.

    While it does seem like ultimately Jane was maybe not the best fit… I think you jumped to firing way too quickly which is really unfair. It doesn’t sound like you ever spoke directly to her about any of your concerns. If you saying “please be finished by 7” is followed by her saying “I don’t mind working late” and you never said directly “we don’t want you in this part of the house after 7” then you never gave her a chance to improve her behavior. If you were so uncomfortable setting boundaries that you decided just firing her was easier, that is pretty crappy.

  37. Gypsy, Acid Queen*

    I think if anything, OP had a really bad employee experience with Jane and learned what to do when she hired her new employee. I’d assume OP probably set huge boundaries in the beginning and figured out ways to clearly delineate more with the shared spaces and make rules before the new nanny started. I’m sure even with live-in employees, you’d want a set schedule, maybe some hard no’s, roommate/rental agreements, and honestly the Jane situation was just a situation that happened from circumstances/COVID and we learn. It maybe wasn’t hostile or intentional, but it wasn’t going to work.

  38. Nonke John*

    I grew up in the American class that Paul Fussell called “mid-proletarian” and love me a game of “trash the bougies for mistreating the service people”…but I don’t get how commenters are seeing that as an issue here. “We need you to be finished by 7 p.m.” is pretty clearly the main point of the talk the LW described. The “I’m happy to finish what you don’t” part is far more reasonably interpreted as “I won’t be angry if everything’s not done by 7:00, and I won’t leave the mess to greet you when you start work again in the morning” than as “I secretly hope you’ll keep working until all hours.” If Jane kept working later, and the LW *kept bringing it up*, that should have been a strong signal that she wasn’t doing what the boss wanted.

    I’m not with those who think Jane sounds like a stalker, mind. If you grew up without money and suddenly find yourself among people with beautiful, comfortable, plentiful, well-tended food and dry goods, and the ability to relax with no seeming worries about the next paycheck, it’s easy to get kind of swoony. But the LW seems to have put up graciously in the moment with Jane’s pushy angling for invitations, food and drink, and access to private conversations, while explaining as politely as possible later that she expected different behavior. Not sure what she (the LW) could have done better, and glad the situation is better now.

  39. Fran*

    OP to me the takeaway here is that there was a definite personality mismatch and you now have an employee that works better for you. I can definitely see how Jane’s personality would suit some families, but equally understand how it would be horrible for others.

    Your new employee does many of the things that you initially said was the problem with Jane, and you’ve extended to new employee the friendship and adult interaction you didn’t want to have with Jane. That to me says this was always more about the fact that you just didn’t gel with Jane but do gel with new employee.

    I expect you have also been more upfront and direct with new employee than you were with Jane. This definitely helps the relationship. Chances are you also have a much clearer idea about what you want out of your live in nanny than you did when you hired Jane.

    I think many comments were right that you didn’t manage to be consistently clear and direct with Jane. You felt heartless saying no, so wound back the directness, or said one thing but acted differently. Having started out vague, this never got the message across. Personally I get that, I’d struggle to supervise staff that were as much flatmate as employee (and since she lived in, even with her own space, she was also part flatmate), and would struggle to say you aren’t welcome to join us for dinner, especially when they’re asking!

    Jane sounded in awe of your life, and navigating a social culture that was alien to her. She definitely sounded out of her depth and missing clues, but many of those clues are cultural and class based. I know plenty of people who would never exclude someone in the house from dinner or a social event, even if they are staff. Neither way is right or wrong, but it does create a mismatch if there are different expectations. Hopefully Jane will find a family that gels well with her.

  40. Elizabeth West*

    Oof. I went back and read the original letter before reading this update. It seems like Jane became enamored of the OP’s lifestyle for whatever reason and really wanted to be in on it. Some people have a hard time with boundaries, and I can see where a nanny position, in that the job depends on interaction with the family, could blur that line even further.

    I don’t know what her background or personal life is like, and although I feel a bit sorry for her, you did the right thing by letting her go. She wasn’t doing the job you hired her to do within the parameters you set. Hopefully she’ll find another situation where she’s a better fit.

  41. Anonymeece*

    There are a lot of people who are saying that OP wasn’t direct, but quite frankly, I think that’s a little beside the point. As many have mentioned, being a live-in nanny probably requires a high level of social intelligence and discretion, one would assume, and Jane appears to not have those.

    But quite frankly, it just sounds like it wasn’t good chemistry, and that’s a valid reason for OP to fire her. In an office context, it’s easier to say, “I don’t care for Jane’s personality, but I mostly do my own thing, so it doesn’t bother me, and I can go home and forget about her.”

    Live-in nanny is different in that she’s working with OP’s kids, and it’s completely within her rights to be like, “You know what? This lady gives me the creeps, and I don’t want her helping with my kids”, and that the job requires a lot of interaction. If I were hiring a caregiver or companion for a loved one, I would definitely consider chemistry and personality in hiring versus it might be lower on the list for a data analyst.

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