Searching for the perfect nanny to fit in with your growing family? Or looking to strengthen the bond with the one you already have. Keep reading for our top tips on how to have the best nanny family relationship.
The prospect of finding and keeping an excellent nanny can be daunting. This is, after all, the woman who will be seeing you early in the morning, on sick days and stressed days, after fights with your partner and on days you wish you could erase from history. She will be there through birthdays, anniversaries, and awkward family in town. And most importantly, she will be the one you are trusting to oversee the daily safekeeping, care, adventures and rearing of the most precious people in your life. You don’t want her to be just anyone! But don’t worry, if you are just beginning this journey, we have some easy tips for you to smooth out the start of your relationship!
- Written contracts are a must – This should include the duties your nanny agreed to perform, any non-disclosure or privacy agreements, rate of pay, bonuses, reimbursements (for gas, lunches, entertainment costs), expectations, schedule, travel needs, paid and unpaid vacation days, sick days, healthcare reimbursements, uniform stipend, and any other special situations your family may have. These should be agreed on and signed before the first day of work.
- Start with a three-month trial – Sometimes a person who you absolutely love simply doesn’t work out, it can happen for any number of reasons and sometimes even plain pressure can kill a good relationship. Starting slow and knowing that there will be no hard feelings from anyone if it doesn’t work out can help build a healthier, long-term relationship. During the three-month trial is also when you should bring up issues such as unreliability, specifics on duties and discipline. Conversations like these go much easier when no one feels “stuck”.
- Know what kind of nanny you hired – There is a vast difference between a professional nanny and a high-school student who drops by for four hours, three afternoons a week. While both women can be excellent solutions for different families, a career nanny will more independent and an amazing source of information and advice, though she may not take to being micromanaged as well as a newbie nanny. A career nanny will be more expensive, but better at making her job look easy and creating a more stable and healthy environment. Happily for you, she has made all her mistakes on someone else’s children (don’t leave baby in the bath alone… Check! Feed kids a balanced diet… Check! Dealing with tantrums in the library… Check!) The point is, if you have a professional, don’t treat them like an amateur and if you have an amateur, adjust your expectations accordingly. Both options can be wonderful members of your family team!
- Lots of communication – This is imperative in all new relationships. Don’t neglect it in this one. For example, you will be disappointed if you have a sink full of dirty dishes every evening if it clearly states in your contract that “nanny will do dishes daily.” BUT, she may also have interpreted that to mean she would clean the dishes once per day or if she has come to work every Monday morning to a weekends worth of dishes, forcing her clean them before she can even start breakfast for the children. Then by her reading of the contract she has fulfilled that part by 7:30 every morning, and by rights, the rest of the dishes are not her responsibility. It would be sad to lose out on a good nanny due to a misunderstanding. Also, make sure to have these big conversations early on, nobody likes to find out they have been doing it wrong for six months.
- Love is a bond that cannot be broken – Know that your children are going to bond with her and talk about her and depending on their ages say insane things like “I wish you would go away so that nanny could be here”. Sometimes they will love her and sometimes hate her and tell you to fire her. That is fine and natural. If this is your first nanny, they may not understand why you have brought a stranger in to take care of them. If they don’t love her right away, don’t be alarmed. Likewise, if you had a nanny already and she is gone, it may take your children a while to grieve her loss. This can make it difficult for them to love the new nanny, so again. Give it time. And remember, you are the parent and children are fickle creatures, so youneed to make the best decisions for yourfamily and “she is mean” is not a reason to fire nanny. If your child is not liking the new nanny then make sure to take the time and have some casual conversations. Because, “she’s mean and hits me” is a perfect reason to fire nanny and possibly report her. But, “she’s mean and she makes me eat my vegetables” sounds like possibly a completely excellent nanny.
- A fully stocked kitchen – Ensure there is food in the house for your nanny to eat. This one can be huge. If nannies do not get to eat the food they make for your children, then they end up having to prepare six meals a day. Which when added to a standard ten-hour workday, can be pretty exhausting. A nanny already doesn’t get breaks; they don’t even get a safe, quiet bathroom break all day. If you expect her to manage her own food separate from your children’s it will end up simply pulling her attention away from your children and reinforcing class differences in your children’s minds. Besides, having a focused, not hungry nanny during sit-down meals means better manners and eating habits!
For those of you who have your perfect nanny and want to keep her forever, we sat down with a couple of nannies, Evie and Asha. They have a book coming out on this exact topic later this year, called How to Keep Her (look for their book), read on for their excellent advice.
What would you say is most important for a good relationship?
Evie: Communication. This one seems easy, but in the fast moving world of work and kids, communication can quickly be lost. Always schedule at least a 15 minute sit down with your nanny at the end of the week before her shift ends. Try and have your partner home and taking care of the kids to avoid interruptions. If this meeting runs long, make sure you pay her for her extra time. You can always schedule extra meetings if you need to. It is important to ask her how she is doing in the job and if she has any ideas to help the family to run more smoothly. Sometimes something as small as an extra car seat, so she doesn’t have to swap it out twice a day (those things are heavy!!) can make a big difference in the life of your nanny.
Asha: Respect, I think it is important to realize that your nanny also has goals and dreams that extend beyond helping to raise your beautiful children. Some jobs are all about last minute flexibility and if you need that as a family, then make sure that is made clear during your job search. If you don’t and you are frequently late getting home, she will very quickly realize you do not respect her outside commitments. I missed several appointments because some clients got back five hours later than they said they would and I quit within a week. It wasn’t the only reason I quit, but it was definitely the final straw. Nannies have lives. We have friends, classes, dates, tickets, flights, and appointments. If a job starts destroying our other lives too much we will get really unhappy, really fast.
What do you think all nannies want?
Evie: More money than she expected to make. Little bonuses here and there make a huge difference. Did you get home 20 minutes late? Give her $20 in cash. Did she work exceptionally hard during the birthday party? Give her $100 extra at the end of the day. Avoid the temptation of offering to buy her specific things such as helping her pay monthly payments on a new car or rent on an apartment that may feel like you are trying to control her or manipulate her into staying. If you simply pay her more then she can make her own decisions about what she needs and what makes her most happy. And if you don’t have a lot of extra money then get creative. Does she wish she could cook? Do you know a chef or baker? Maybe they would be willing to teach her some stuff. Does she love art? Maybe you know a gallery owner who can give her access to a prestigious art fair. You can pass on gift cards you get through work, I had a family who offered me tickets to the yearly Fireman’s Calendar photoshoot after my boyfriend and I broke up, it was a hilarious way to for them to say they cared that I was going through a rough time.
What do nannies wish families knew?
Evie: That we truly do LOVE your child. If you have a good nanny and she is with your child for over three months and she is planning on staying for a while, then she is going to let go and truly bond with your child. And your child is going to LOVE her back. And that is going to be okay. It won’t get in the way of your relationship. Your child won’t love her more, and they won’t get confused about which one is their parent. So don’t be jealous of your nanny. Be happy that your child gets to have an additional person in their life to love, trust and confide in for years to come. Children have an endless capacity to love. Nanny relationships don’t have to end when the job ends either. I have stayed at former employer’s homes for short times when I pass through their area; I have gone on vacation with them years after the position ended. I have helped them mediate difficult situations and I have followed their child’s life from afar and cried because I cannot hug them when they are going through a rough time. When you love a child, they stick with you forever.
Asha: That your toddlers are picking up on way more than you realize. It is worth investing in good, reliable, long term, and competent help during these incredibly formative years. What looks like silly play is actually really integral to their development and future interpersonal skills. The 30 Million Word Book is a compelling argument that an intelligent and intentional caregiver might have more to do with your toddler’s future success than the next 12 years of tutors and excellent teachers. If your nanny leaves, make sure you ask her to come back often for visits and play dates. It is perfectly fine to ask her to babysit here and there (pay her of course). It is terrible for children to have a beloved nanny ripped out of their lives without warning; it can cause all sorts of trust and bonding issues. And a nanny who loves your child doesn’t leave lightly. Because like Evie said, it is impossible to spend a lot of time with a child and not seriously start to love them!
What makes your life as a nanny more difficult?
Evie: A lack of consistency. Don’t ask your nanny to fight battles that you aren’t willing to fight. Yes, it is my job to raise your children according to your instructions. But, if I am following your instructions and keeping screen time at a bare 15 minutes a day while you allow a free-for-all whenever I am gone, then your children are going to seriously hate me, because when I say “no, your parents don’t want you to have too much screen time” they believe I am lying because you always give them unlimited screen time. Same concept with discipline. If you have a method that you like, then follow it. Enforcing time-outs is way harder if the kids haven’t had consequences for anything all weekend. It is discouraging as a nanny to fight hard Monday and Tuesday to have your little toddlers lining up to get their little faces washed and saying their pleases and thank-yous, seeing them remembering mostly by Wednesday, be pretty good on Thursday and be perfect on Friday, only to have it ruined over the weekend.
Asha: Failing to recognize that your nanny is an expert on children. While your six year-old might be the first six year-old you have raised, for a good nanny, this might be her 4th or even 10th. If she feels like there is an issue that needs more intervention, she is very likely right, it can be tough as a nanny to know that there are solutions for issues a child may be facing, but your employers don’t take your advice seriously. As an infant specialist I have had babies with acid reflux, and I have told the parents, “Hey this is serious, your baby is in pain, you should discuss putting them on medication with their Doctor.” Only to have the parents forget or put it off or second guess me. Which is all well within their rights, but it is also frustrating and sad because I am holding a baby who is screaming in pain, and I don’t have a lot of options for helping and part of me just wants to shake the parents and be like “How many babies have you had? One? Because I have had over 60. Why did you hire me if you didn’t want my experience?”
What do you love about being a nanny?
Evie: I love working with little kids! They just have such amazing little minds and they are so excited about life!! The way they run and play, living so much in their own funny world. Oh my, and when they start to care about you and get old enough to understand humor and they try and make you laugh or start practicing how to be taken seriously. I love teaching them new things and figuring out ways of making learning an adventure that they can carry with them for the rest of their lives. It makes my day when we are driving home from an outing and we are talking about something and then they just go quiet for a little bit and I realize that they are thinking seriously deep thoughts. Then suddenly, they will pop out with something incredibly profound, or something totally wacky, either way, it fills my heart all the way up with joy!!
Asha: I love supporting families and helping new parents to get their bearings. I work with newborns so I come into my client’s lives during a really fragile, terrifying, exciting, and happy time. All of which is turned up to 11 by hormones, pain, and exhaustion. It really impresses me how most families are extremely similar for the first few weeks. It is this sort of basic humanness that spans cultures, age, and class. But then, after three or four weeks, they start morphing back into whoever they were before they got trounced by a baby or two or three. At the same time, their delicate bird-like newborn becomes this bouncy little creature that is just soaking up everything around it, learning to become a person, learning how to navigate this alien planet that they somehow crashed into. And it is like the whole family wakes up and starts to build a new sort of life that resembles the old one, but one that will also never be the same. And I always feel so honored to have such an intimate look into this tiny little moment in their lives that will change them forever.