Breakup Etiquette for Families to their Nanny

Sometimes as much as you try, there’s just not a perfect match between families and their nannies. Just like in a relationship, in these cases sometimes terminating their employment is the best option for everyone. There are several reasons why families might need to end the relationship with their nannies. We’ll go over some of them here, and explain why it might be necessary for families to part ways with their nannies. The language you use with your nanny in these conversations is very important to get right. Remember that ultimately you’re an employer who is responsible for someone’s income and professional life, so it’s important to take extra care amidst conversations surrounding termination of employment. There’s a whole professional field dedicated to navigating conversations such as these, and it’s called Human Resources. Without the benefit of having a human resources department for your family, you’ll be tasked with figuring out on your own what is the best way to frame such conversations. But don’t worry, we’re here to help. Armed with our specialized knowledge of childcare services, there’s nothing you can’t do. Once you conduct this conversation professionally, you’ll be free to make a fresh start with a new nanny, and can brush up on ways to approach your nanny search so that you’re equipped to find the perfect fit for your family’s needs. 

It’s a last resort

Before getting into some of the best tips and practices to use when approaching a termination conversation, let’s go over some of the reasons why you might be feeling like your nanny is no longer a good fit. Keep in mind that as an employer, it’s important to think about how “breaking up” with your nanny does equate to firing them from their source of income, so make sure to only take these steps if you’ve tried to address the issue or lack of fit with creative solutions, or talking directly to your nanny about their job performance and ways to improve. For instance, if your nanny is consistently late, they might have issues with their transportation. There might be a creative solution to this, for instance leasing a car for the nanny to use for work purposes, especially if they’re traveling long distances to be with your family and are looking to cut down time on their commute. Even if you don’t have a lot of experience managing employees, remember that you’re essentially doing that while having household staff – therefore taking professional, creative approaches with direct but positive conversation can go a long way in avoiding having to part ways with your nanny. However, if you’ve done all you can and the nanny still doesn’t feel like a good fit for your family, it might be time to have the hard but necessary conversation. In every U.S. state except Montana, nannies are considered “at-will” employees. This means that both the employer and employee are able to terminate the employment contract at any time for any reason. It is important to realize with at-will employees that the agreement can go both ways: the employee is responsible for doing their job to the best of their ability to avoid termination just as much as the employer (families, in this case) are responsible for creating a safe and healthy work environment that is attractive to good employees so that they don’t want to leave. That said, here are some of the reasons why a nanny might not be a good fit for your family:

Unsafe Environment

A major reason why it might be a good idea to terminate the employment contract with your nanny is if they’re creating an unsafe environment for your children. If, for example, part of your nanny’s responsibility is to pick up or drop off your children and they’re driving in an unsafe way, that could be a major concern for your family for obvious reasons. You’ll need to speak to the nanny directly about how their driving makes you uncomfortable because your children’s safety is of the utmost importance. If the unsafe driving continues after you’ve already spoken to them about it, this is definitely grounds for termination of an employee whose primary responsibility is looking after the safety of your child or children. The same goes for any unsafe condition your child might be exposed to under the supervision of a nanny. For instance, children should be watched carefully in places where large animals or dogs are present, such as the park, or in any environment where danger can occur, such as a pool. If your nanny is not watching the child carefully while exposing them to dangerous situations, it’s extremely understandable why you would feel uncomfortable having them under your employ. 

Inappropriate Conduct 

In any job, employees should conduct themselves in an appropriate manner to make sure they’re upholding the professionalism that everyone deserves to have in their work environment. This is especially true when the employee’s work environment is also your family’s home, as there is an added level of closeness that is unavoidable. Children need to have a safe and healthy environment to feel secure as they develop, and a major part of that is making sure that the adults that are around them are appropriate, well-meaning people. Unfortunately, as much as we would like to imagine that everyone conducts themselves in an appropriate, well-meaning way in both their personal and professional lives, that might not always be the case. Say, for instance, that your nanny is prone to taking personal calls in the presence of your child in which the subjects discussed are inappropriate for children to hear or the nanny uses language that is inappropriate. This needs to be addressed immediately and is a behavior that cannot continue while the nanny should be focused on his or her primary responsibilities, which is the health and safety of your child. Another example would be if the nanny is exposing your child to inappropriate content on the television. Again, your child deserves to grow up in an environment where they can trust that the adults in their lives have their best interest in mind, and this includes hiring nannies that are able to use discretion about what television programs are appropriate for children to watch. Though inappropriate content is a bit more subjective and hard to define than a clearly unsafe environment for your child, it’s also extremely important to address directly with your nanny to make sure your child is surrounded by trustworthy adults. If you find yourself with a nanny that is conducting themselves inappropriately in their work environment, which also happens to be your home and the safe space that your child is growing and developing, it is totally appropriate to have a conversation with your nanny that terminates their employment. 

Other reasons 

Finally, there are rare cases in which you might have to let go of your nanny for reasons beyond their control. For instance your family might be facing a bit of financial hardship, or perhaps you’re moving to a different place. These reasons are a bit more straightforward and any reasonable person, despite being a bit disappointed, should understand the reasons why you must terminate their employment. 

Approaching the conversation 

While it might be a tough conversation to have, in cases where the nanny is truly not a good fit for your family – such as some of the reasons listed above – it’s important that you address the “breakup,” or termination of employment head-on with clear and professional language. Remember that once you’re able to go your separate ways with your current nanny, that there’s a plethora of talented and experienced childcare professionals that will be a better fit for your family’s needs, so don’t lose hope! When you’re ready to embark on a new nanny search, check out some interview tips that will help you make sure to ask the right questions and make the best assessment so that the decision will be easy and made with confidence. 

When parting ways with your current nanny, however, make sure to clearly state the reasons why this might not be a great fit as professionally as possible so that the nanny can be sure to bring that knowledge into their next job and make adjustments to the way in which they show up at work. Hopefully the next family can benefit from your clarity with your nanny, as you tried everything you could to point out the seriousness of the situation by having a conversation or two with the nanny prior to having this final conversation (see the section of this blog post entitled “It’s a last resort”). If you try to keep things vague by saying something like “it’s just not working out,” remember that your current nanny might ask why, and so it’s important to have a reason ready that you’re able to explain professionally, and without making anything too personal. Remember, you’re the employer in this situation, therefore you hold a bit more power – so it’s important to understand that you have a responsibility to guide the tone of the conversation and keep things professional. As scary as it might be to have your child exposed to an unsafe environment, for instance, it’s important to remain calm and professional even if you must part ways with your child’s caretaker. 


Depending on your situation, you might also want to be clear with your nanny that you’re parting ways with if you intend on being a job reference for them for future employers and/or families. Remember that this might be their main source of income and that they likely take their job seriously, so if you’re having to end your employment contract with them for reasons beyond their control, it might soften the blow to stress your willingness to be a positive reference for them. If they’re a fantastic nanny and you’re just not able to keep them for whatever reason, it also might be kind of you to take some initiative and help find leads on families for them that might need a nanny, or write a letter of reference. Of course, if you had a bad experience with your nanny, it might not be a good idea for them to list you as a reference. 

At the end of the day the most important thing is that your child or children are safe and secure. It’s also very important that you’re a fair and reasonable employer. We here at A Perfect Fit Nanny are ready to help you hire talented and highly-recommended childcare professionals as soon as possible if you feel overwhelmed. Remember, your perfect fit nanny could be just around the corner!

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