Dangerous gifts

Joey Garcia

I’m 16 years old and working as a nanny. The woman I work for owes me money. This is what happened: One day she came home with a bunch of supercute clothes from her boutique and asked if I wanted to try something on. I tried on a romper, a tank top and some shorts. She told me I could keep all three. I was so happy until my paycheck came. It was very small. She said she deducted the clothing as agreed. I didn’t agree. She told me it was a gift! She got mad when I brought this up and said she sold me the clothes at cost. I don’t want to tell my mom because she’ll make me quit. Do you have any ideas about how I can handle this situation?

It’s scary to be a teen confronting an adult, but no human being matures until they stand up for themselves. The first task is to pick the best possible moment. Ask to speak with your employer when she arrives home after work. That way if it doesn’t go well, you can leave immediately and go home. The second task is to prep the kids. Tell them you need a few uninterrupted minutes with their mother and ask for their cooperation. If your employer says she’s too busy, say the convo will take five minutes. Say this: “I know we disagree about whether the clothing was a gift or a discounted purchase. I want to be certain I communicate clearly from here forward. I expect to be paid in full for any hours I work for you. If you wish to sell me something, I will pay you for those items out of the money I receive from you. If you withdraw money from my paycheck again without my permission for any reason, I will stop working for you.” If she argues, blames, accuses or engages in any other style of intimidating conversation, say: “I just wanted to clear the air and be certain we understand each other.” Give her a minute to apologize (although I doubt she will), and then leave her home. Do something special for yourself afterward to celebrate your willingness to speak up for yourself.

OK, I fulfilled your request for a solution to your problem. I also want you to know that you are being exploited. Your employer does not have your best interests at heart. She will likely pull a similar stunt in the near future. Maybe she will charge you for your lunches or insist that you bring your own lunch to work. She might suggest an outing but only provide enough money for her kids. It’s also unlikely that she is employing you in accordance with the law. Yes, you probably should quit. After all, how can you trust your employer when she pulled a scam? You should definitely tell your mama about your employer’s behavior.

One last thing: I’m not a fan of teenagers labeling themselves as nannies. It just makes the people you work for appear wealthy. Instead, list this job on your resume as “child care provider.” Describe your responsibilities like this: “Provided child care for three children, ages 4-10, organizing recreation activities, managing meals and supervising their daily routine.” Bam! That’s so much more powerful than saying you’re a babysitter or nanny and it will get you a (much-deserved) new gig.

Meditation of the week
“The benefit of being a mature, well-educated woman is that you are not afraid of expletives. And you have no fear of putting a fool in his place. That’s the power of language and experience,” said Judi Dench, actress. How does your education reveal itself in your attitude?

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