I've been taking care of Goober & Goobrette since they were four months old. They're turning three next month; this has been the longest I've stayed with one family. We actually haven't started transitioning the kids much -- that starts next week -- because right now their sense of time comes down to "yesterday," "now," and "later." We figure two weeks' worth of "soon" and "in a bit" and "in a few days" should do the trick. But it's definitely something that's been on my mind.
My first nanny gig was just a temporary arrangement, covering the first half of a summer during my university years. The family in question already had a nanny who had been with them since the birth of their first child, nearly five years at that point. She had been live-in for most of that time, but now had her own place and was being "transitioned out" -- to use the mother's words. Flora* was still working a few days a week, but I was also working a few days a week. After about a month of this the family was going to France for a vacation, and when they came back, abracadabra: no more Flora and no more me.
The thing that made this arrangement exquisitely uncomfortable was that the parents had not bothered to tell Flora that she was been "transitioned out". The writing was on the wall, of course, and she knew as well as I did what the deal was -- in fact, we talked about it more than once. But it was an exceedingly poor way to handle that transition, for Flora and for the children. The parents didn't seem to want to risk Flora accepting another job before they had gotten all of their desired use out of her; I believe the plan was to give her notice once they were actually in France. Too, they hadn't told the children anything about Flora leaving, or about why I was there. The youngest had told me many times and in no uncertain terms that "I want Flooooora" -- and this is while we were both in the house, often at the same time. I can only imagine what it would have been like once she'd disappeared entirely.
I think I have more experience with transitions that were handled poorly than the reverse.
The tricky thing with this job is that you always know that it's going to end, but you attach anyway. You have to attach to the children if you're going to be caring for them effectively. You just do. But there's a constant tension there, because the job will end: you'll move or have a child of your own, or they'll move or decide they'd rather use a daycare, or at the very least, eventually the children will grow up a bit and be in school full-time. That's the reality of the job. It just is.
A quick google seach on "how to prepare children for the nanny leaving," however, tells me that while nannies always know this, parents sometimes don't. The articles I find have three dominant tones. First, there are the preventative articles: How to Keep Your Nanny Forever in Ten Easy Steps. Then there are a few fairly balanced pieces acknowledging that yes, these transitions are hard for everyone involved.
And then there are my favourites: the articles that sound something like this:
"Waaaaah! My nanny is leaving and my life will be sooooooo hard now! Why is she soooooooo selfish? Why me? What have I done to deserve this? I can't believe she wants to [take a better job / move / go back to school / have a baby / insert other extraordinary self-centred reason here] -- the cow!!"
Amazingly, this attitude can also be found off the internet. My mother told her of a family she knows of whose nanny just left. There are two children, ages eight and ten. The parents have had to hire people to do the laundry and cut the grass and such, because they just! can't! keep up! without the nanny. (My question: why aren't your capable older children being taught how to do the laundry? My brother and I started washing the dishes every night when we were younger than that.)
This time, there will be a chance to say goodbye.