Murky WatersOctober 21, 2013
As a woman who has nannied professionally for years and also has an educational background in Social Work and Early Childhood Development, I have worked with children, families, and caregivers in a variety of ways. I am privy to the nanny’s perspective, the family’s perspective and what my own experiences have taught me.
So, what have I learned? First and foremost, that the relationship between nanny and child is often rewarding, loving, happy and enjoyable; the relationship between nanny and parent/employer, on the other hand can sometimes be, well, strained. I have heard heart-wrenching stories from both sides, and as a bipartisan observer, I truly believe the majority of the unhappy feelings could easily be resolved or avoided with 5 simple steps:
1. Communicate: Create “safe times” to communicate with your nanny and employer. Avoid “on-the-fly” communication, and be sure to set-up times to talk and discuss concerns/questions on a regular basis. This makes more sensitive topics easier and more comfortable to broach and ensures everyone is on the same page.
2. Set Expectations: As the parents, setting expectations for your nanny will make her a more confident caregiver and task manager. As a nanny, it is important to agree to your role and duties, instead of simply saying “yes” and being resentful later. If it turns out you’re not comfortable with the parents’ expectations talk about it. Try to discover a common ground, but if not, it is better to know now so both can find a better fit. Setting expectations creates good boundaries and limits those gray areas that can lead to strained parent/nanny relationships. It keeps all parties accountable and responsible!
3. Treat each other with respect: Respect is the key to a strong nanny/employer relationship; equally important is remembering that respect is a two way street. For example, both parties need to respect each other’s time. If you, the nanny, are running late, give the parents a heads up; or if you are are unhappy about something on the job, address it with the parents, but do so politely and considerately. Likewise, if you, the parents, are running late after a long day at work, let your nanny know in advance- just like you expect from her. Unhappy with something she’s been doing on the job? Set up time to talk to her, and make sure that conversation is done away from the kids. Respecting each other creates a positive environment for everyone.
4. Empower your nanny; empower your family: When a nanny feels empowered, so do the kids! When the nanny feels like a doormat, the environment changes and resentment builds. It’s critical to build morale in your relationship with your caregiver. Tell her… and show her that you trust her as a professional and appreciate her instincts on the job. Of course, both parties should have a clear understanding of expectations, but it’s also important to give your nanny the space and the opportunity to “show her stuff.” Say for instance, you, the parent set up a play date, but while you are at work, the play date cancels with your nanny. In most cases, your nanny should be able to come up with a “plan B” without having to call you for permission. And she should be able to “sell” this new plan to your kids so that she can ease any disappointment and minimize what could have been a tough transition. But this can only happen if you’ve empowered your nanny to make decisions and if you don’t continuously call her decisions into question. Empower your nanny and everyone wins!
5. Acknowledge and Appreciate each other: parents, say thank you. Be generous and be grateful. Most nannies are very grateful to their employers and want to exceed their expectations. A kind word, gesture, even a small gift (a cup of Coffee, cupcake, hand made craft from one of the kids, or a gift certificate for a mani pedi is always an unexpected way to make her feel appreciated. Always remember her birthday and other special holidays she celebrates! Believe me, it goes a long way in creating a positive work relationship. And nannies- when the family gives you unexpected paid time off, or you get to leave a hour early one evening etc.- let them know you appreciate it- either with a simple thank you or even a hand written note. Bottom line, everyone likes to be acknowledged and appreciated.
For more information or an in depth look at these steps, please email me at ali.sheppard@
-Ali Sheppard, Nanny Care Coordinator and author of our our brand new series, the Chronicles of Modern Mary Poppins! We hope you enjoyed!