Dear Dr. Yael,
I always read your column and appreciate your balanced responses.
There is an important issue I think needs to be addressed and I hope you will agree with me: sitters and nannies and neglect.
One of the most difficult parts of running a business is dealing with employees. Employees can be very demanding: increases, vacations, expenses, conflicts and more. When I deal with these issues, I think of paying employees on time: “A worker’s wages will not stay overnight with you until the morning” (Vayikra 19:13). The Torah also commands us not to take advantage of our employees: You shall not defraud a poor and destitute servant, whether one of your brethren or a proselyte in your land” (Devarim 24:14). This taught me to always treat employees with equality and fairness. I applied an absolute level of justice regarding the payment of salaries of employees and other issues. My business does not differentiate based on race, age, gender, religion or color.
Now let’s relate this to babysitting: Do you pay your sitter on time? Are you considerate of her time and when she has to go and pick up your kids in freezing weather? Are you trying to make it easier for her or harder? Are you taking advantage?
I think showing respect is not only treating someone nice and joking with her here and there; you really show respect by the way you pay someone, compensate someone for any times that you canceled, etc.
I personally feel I was mistreated when I worked as a nanny in a frum home and am now willing to work for non-Jewish families, as the pay is higher and the workload less. I would much prefer to work for a frum family for the obvious reasons of kashrus, holidays, schedules, etc., but feel that most of them mistreat their workers.
I am saddened to hear that you felt mistreated by a frum family. We must treat everyone we work with and who works for us with the utmost respect. The Torah does indeed, have many halachos regarding paying workers on time and treating workers with derech eretz.
I think part of the problem lies with how overwhelmed mothers are today. Many work full time and have very little time to take care of household chores. That is why they hire help. I would imagine that in many non-Jewish homes, nannies are not doing housework; they probably just take care of the kids. However, the typical frum family is very large and if there would be cleaning help in addition to a nanny, the costs could be astronomical.
It is important to make sure that you and your employer have the same expectations in regards to your role in the home. Clear expectations on both sides can lead to a better relationship. If you have a conversation, in advance, about your exact jobs and then more is thrown on you, I can understand you feeling that you were taken advantage of. However, if you never had the conversation…
Remember, just because you had one difficult situation does not mean that you will find the same experience in another home.
I find that most of the time difficulties in any relationship are due to misunderstandings. This is why communication is so important! If you ever feel taken advantage of, it’s important to speak up in a respectful manner. I hope that you find what you are
looking for and that you and your next employer have a more respectful relationship. Hatzlocha!