When Your Holiday Gift or Bonus Doesn’t Live Up to Expectations

This time of year can be especially hard for nannies who didn’t receive the bonus or gift they expected or feel they earned. Because the nanny / employer relationship is a unique hybrid of personal and professional, there aren’t any black and white rules for how to deal with the bonus / gift issue.  So every year, social media is filled with nannies basking in the glow of the wonderful generosity of their employers and nannies bitter about the Grinchness of theirs. These emotions run deep and often affect the long term successful of the employment relationship.


The “You Shouldn’t Expect a Gift” Theory
Even though nannies know intellectually they shouldn’t expect a gift, the reality is that emotionally almost all do. Not out of a sense of greed but out of hope for recognition and appreciation. Most nannies go above and beyond all year long. They don’t just provide childcare, they pour their hearts and souls into loving and caring for “their kids” and supporting the parents. Not getting a meaningful gift or bonus often feels like the parents don’t value the important part the nanny plays in their child’s life and they don’t appreciate all the hard work she puts into her job throughout the year.


The “All Bonuses Are Created Equal” Theory
You got a $25 bonus? You should be happy you got a bonus at all. Yeah, again it’s a good theory but doesn’t always hold up in the real world. Although a family’s financial situation shouldn’t matter, it does. If a family cuts corners to pay their nanny a competitive wage, the nanny is happy and grateful for a modest bonus. However if a family spends generously on other things, the nanny expects her bonus to be in line with that level of spending. In other words, if the family regularly spends $350 on a Friday night out with the kids, a $500 end-of-year bonus won’t make the nanny very happy.


Your Next Step
If you’re feeling angry, sad, hurt, or disappointed by your employers this holiday season, you’re not alone. And you’re also not stuck in this feeling place.

Remind yourself that the lack of a meaningful gift or bonus doesn’t necessarily mean your bosses don’t value you. It’s easy to get stuck in the “How could they do this?” phase but remember your employers have a completely different set of life experiences, perceptions, and ways of being in relationship with others. So what seems like a natural thing to you may not even be on their radar.

I often remind myself of the second of the four agreements: don’t take anything personally. Don Miguel Ruiz said “Whatever happens around you, don’t take it personally… Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves.”

Keep things in perspective. If you find yourself suddenly questioning your whole employment relationship, remember this is only one piece of a much bigger puzzle. Look back over the past year and evaluate your nanny / family relationship as a whole. Often you’ll find that this experience, as painful as it is, doesn’t line up with how your family treats you overall.

Don’t let your feelings about your employers ruin your time with the kids. Kids are what make the holidays so wonderful. Stay present and enjoy your time together.

If you find yourself ruminating about your gift or bonus, give yourself some time to be angry, sad, hurt, or disappointed, but don’t get stuck there. Don’t let someone else’s actions or lack of action determine how merry your Christmas or how happy your Hanukah will be. Even if you can’t immediately let it go, put it on the back burner and promise yourself to unpack that emotional bundle after the holidays. This is the time for joy.