I am 28 years old from Greece and I came to America a year ago with my five-year-old son because in Athens I lost my job and we could not make ends meet. My mother’s sisters live here and they help me a lot. I immediately found a job babysitting for two young children and get paid very well. But there is something I do not know how to manage. For a month now, the children’s father is approaching me in a way that bothers me. He gives me compliments, asks me details of my personal life, when I divorced, whether I have a relationship with another guy, and other such questions. I am very formal with him, but he does not seem to understand the difficult position he puts me in by asking such questions. Unfortunately, he now returns home before his wife and just before my workday is done, so I have to meet him often. He asked yesterday if I wanted him to take me to a very expensive restaurant in the city where we live. Of course, I refused in a gentle way. I do not know what to do. I do not want to lose my job, I have bonded with the kids and they with me and the truth is that the pay is very good. I do not know if I’ll be able to make ends meet if I change jobs. On the other hand, I feel very bad, because I appreciate his wife very much and I fear that he will become even more aggressive. How do I put him in his place? Should I speak to his wife?
It is indeed difficult and unpleasant for you, because on the one hand you have a job that you love, securing you financially, and you do not want to lose it, while on the other you have to “put in place” the person who pays you and who can fire you.
That’s why it’s very important to be cool and for your behavior to be formal and consistent. First of all, it would be good to avoid engaging with the father of the children. Try to be ready when he returns. Finish with all your child-related duties so that you can ask him if you can leave at that time. In that way, he will understand that you do not want to spend more time with him than necessary. If for some reason you need to stay and he is at home, make sure you stay with the kids and avoid being alone in the same room with him. Also, watch the way you behave or talk to him. Be always very formal, serious, and courteous and avoid smiling or joking with him. If he asks you personal questions, do not give him an answer; tell him kindly that he puts you in a difficult position.
If the children’s father does not get the message with all of the above, you might want to talk to him openly and make your position clear but in an unambiguous and straightforward way. Tell him honestly that he puts you in a very difficult position, that you would like your relationship to be strictly professional, that you are not interested in any other kind of relationship with him, and that if he keeps pushing you will have to leave your job. Tell him that his children love you a lot and are accustomed to you and that he and his wife know that they can feel safe with you, because you love them and watch them as if they were your own children. I’m sure he knows how difficult it is to trust his children to someone outside the family and he would not take the risk of upsetting them or putting them at risk. Talk to him kindly without offending or criticizing him.
You must cut off every hope that he can have a relationship with you and make it clear so he understands that you are not interested at all and not that the fact that he is married is the only problem, because he may misunderstand and continue to harass you hoping that at the end you will give in. But if he understands that there is no way something will happen between you, he will stop bothering you, since he is a reasonable person with some rudimentary dignity.
I do not think it would be right to talk to his wife for many reasons. First of all, he could claim you have misunderstood his human concern, or even worse, that you came on to him, he refused you, and now you want revenge. In this case, it is more likely that his word will weigh more heavily against yours and you will find yourself without work and without a recommendation.
Secondly, even if his wife believes you, you will not gain anything, because the most sensible thing would be to fire you to keep you away from him. And also in this case the result will be you lose your job.
Finally, your employer’s behavior may not be right, but it would not be good to break up a family with two young children. And you do not know how the wife will react if you tell her what has happened.