When families hire a nanny, they often find themselves navigating a whole new world with unspoken rules, expectations and dynamics. Tasha Blaine, the author of Just Like Family: Inside The Lives of Nannies, the Parents They Work for, and the Children They Love, followed nannies on the job for several years to give parents the inside scoop on what really happens when they go out the door every morning. Here is a list of her best tips on finding a great nanny and maintaining a healthy working relationship.
DON’T freak out when your child calls the nanny “Mommy.” No mother wants to hear her child call another woman Mommy, but breathe deeply and think it through before taking it out on the nanny. This is a normal phase for children and a great sign of your child’s bond with the nanny. When called Mommy, a good nanny will use the opportunity to correct the child, talk about when Mommy is coming home, suggest drawing a picture for Mommy or giving her a call.
DON’T install a nanny cam. If you are suspicious, approach your nanny with your concerns instead of going straight for the nanny cam. If you don’t get the response you’re looking for, then this probably isn’t the right woman for you anyway. Another option is to drop in on your nanny and child unexpectedly to get a sense of their day. Surprisingly, many nannies say they would not mind a nanny cam if told it was there in advance. Ideally, you would bring this up during the hiring process so your nanny understands it’s a condition of the job.
DON’T treat your nanny like family – unless you also treat her like a treasured employee. The longer a nanny is with your family, the more she becomes part of the fabric of your life. While a great relationship boosts a nanny’s self-esteem and commitment, many prioritize professional respect over intimacy.
DON’T ask her to scrub your toilet. While most nannies will cook, clean and do laundry for the children, they resent being asked to broaden those housekeeping duties. There is a clear status line in your home between housekeeper and nanny. Think carefully before you cross it. If you want to add to your nanny’s list of responsibilities, do it openly and directly, explaining your reasoning – maybe your child is now in school most of the day – so you don’t insult her.
DO expect to feel jealous. It’s perfectly normal to feel jealous of the nanny if you are a first-time parent who has gone back to work. Once you see that no one can replace you, it will get easier. Meanwhile, see if there are ways the nanny can help you see your child more often. Maybe she can meet you for lunch with the baby or call you at a certain time every day. Let her know that it’s because you want to stay connected, and not because you want to control her.
DON’T cut your nanny’s salary when you go broke. In tough times, avoid putting your nanny’s pay on your list of things to cut. She may take the news gracefully. However, she will also pick up on contradictions. When you got raises, stock options and bonuses, did your nanny receive increases, too? On a practical level, make sure your nanny can live on her new salary. While cuts in your income may result in fewer trips to Whole Foods, she might have trouble covering basic expenses.
DO nail down the basics. Address as many concrete employment issues as you can at the start of the relationship. Discuss when your nanny can take vacation (many families offer it only when they take their own) and back-up options should she get sick. Also know her after-work schedule. Will she be able to stay late at the last minute and will you pay overtime?
DO have a full refrigerator. Whether you stock your own kitchen or your nanny does the shopping, make sure there is food that she likes. Full-time nannies don’t bring lunch to work. They expect to eat what you’ve got in the house. Don’t let her go hungry!