Insider Tips From The Nanny's Perspective
More and more parents are working from home with a nanny as a direct result of the Pandemic. Many parents prefer (or simply can't avoid) this arrangement. There are many perks: convenience, safety and ability to maintain proximity to children. While ideal/necessary for many parents, this can be very stressful for nannies! In fact, many nannies will not accept these types of positions because it often makes their days "more difficult". As a recruiter, one of the first questions I'm asked is "Do the parents work from home?". Although this presents a set of unique challenges, it can be a very positive experience! When approached with open communication, clear expectations and boundaries, working from home with a nanny can lead to amazing partnerships!
The below advice is written for parents to help them see their nanny’s perspective in hopes of avoiding thorny situations down the road that can lead to turnover. Thinking through logistical details will help you communicate your needs, offer support and enable your nanny to rise to the challenge. Of course, parents face their own set of obstacles in this situation and those should absolutely be part of the conversation. The purpose of this article is to help parents see the other side in hopes of finding some common ground to build a strong partnership!
Advice has been gathered from over 100 nannies in the field most of whom have worked in both situations: parents working inside and outside of the home. This by no means encompasses all viewpoints but is meant to be a starting point for thoughtful reflection. I've complied advice into 5 categories.
5 Points to Consider
Interruptions to the routine
Who is the “boss” when you are present?
Aligning parenting/nannying styles for consistency
Building healthy parent/nanny relationships
1. Interruptions to the routine
Nannies develop a routine in your home. Ideally, they have strategies and rules, time-tables and goals. Nannies plan transitions from one activity to the next to avoid meltdowns, to increase learning and to provide positive social interactions. This routine takes time to establish and sticking to it is critical to a successful day. When you work from home and pop in and out, the routine is interrupted. Children can easily get off track from homework, naps, snacks etc. Many nannies will tell you the day will be going well (happy child) until a parent surfaces for some coffee or a quick hello. This can lead to a major meltdown because your children ultimately prefer you! Your nanny is left to pick up the pieces when you exit.
My advice: Clearly communicate your desired schedule/routine. Give your nanny a heads-up so she can plan for interruptions to the routine. Be mindful of her plans and schedule. Be mindful of your child’s behavior when you enter/exit. If there are issues, minimize these interruptions and work with her to develop a plan for the transition. If you plan to participate in daily interactions, create a schedule and stick to it. That way, your child knows he/she gets to spend 15 minutes with you just before nap time etc. Lastly, ask your nanny how she is feeling. This can go a long way in boosting morale and keeping your caregiver onboard long-term.
2. Who is the “boss” when you are present?
Your nanny has the challenge of gaining the status of an authority figure in your home. In a perfect world, you are promoting the same rules and utilizing the same strategies. Often times, children will look to their parents instead of their nanny. This can unintentionally undermine the nanny’s authority. Consider this: the nanny has told your child “no, you must clean up your toys before you can have a treat.” You enter the room and enjoy a quick embrace and hello. Your child then asks “can I have a treat?” to which you reply “yes!”. This is a huge step backwards for your nanny. Children know how to play this game and they will! To avoid this type of parent-nanny undermining, you can say something like “Did you ask [Nanny]?”.
More advice: Select a home office that is not part of the common space and establish clear boundaries for your children. Some parents lock their office door or have door knob signs (Hugs Available, Quiet Please or Red/Green). This can be really useful in teaching your child that you are not available at certain times of the day. Plan your outings so they do not disrupt the flow. Your nanny will be happier and your children will adjust faster/better to her presence in your home.
If you are more comfortable with a communal style of parenting/nannying, be sure to have weekly discussions about what's going well & what can be improved!
3. Aligning parenting/nannying styles for consistency
Aligning styles/strategies is critical to promoting a healthy caregiver/child/parent dynamic. This should be discussed before your nanny’s first day on the job and then fine-tuned as time goes by. Consider the issues that can arise from varying styles of parenting. If you are a “clean your plate” type of parent and your nanny is a “you don’t have to eat what you don’t like” caregiver, you are going to have some problems at mealtime. Making sure your nanny knows how you want her to react to common scenarios is really important for your child’s learning and your nanny’s success/happiness.
Advice: Create clear house rules and establish a discipline/reward plan that both you and your nanny will use. Debrief daily or weekly. Support your nanny when she disciplines your child. Hopefully, you are already in agreement about appropriate rules & disciplinary techniques. If you are dealing with behavior issues or trying to teach a new skill, let your nanny in on your struggle. She can support your efforts when you are working. Consistency is key! Be open to some text communication if your nanny needs clarification about how you would like her to handle a new situation.
4. Building Healthy Parent/Nanny Relationships
Inviting a nanny into your home can be very awkward. It’s intimate. This is an unusual setting for an employer/employee relationship. As such, special attention needs to be directed at its uniqueness in order to keep everyone healthy and happy. Clear and thoughtful communication is so important! When co-parenting with a nanny, the line between healthy employer/employee relationships and disastrous relationships can be easily crossed. Nannies may be present for fights between you and your spouse. They may see you at your worst; sick with the flu or suffering the loss of a loved one. You might be extremely stressed out about a project at work or going through a divorce. Nannies can end up in difficult positions. They want to help you; they've grown to love you. But, they are also professionals working in your home. Establishing clear boundaries is important.
My Advice: maintain a professional relationship wherein you abide by your contract. This doesn't mean you can't develop a close relationship with your nanny. You are your nanny’s supervisor and she will look to you for praise, guidance and respect. Communicate openly and don't just brush things under the rug.
Knowing your management style and where you fall on the micro versus macro management spectrum is really important when selecting your nanny. If you know you are a micromanager, it’s important to make sure you select a nanny who appreciates close supervision. Allowing your nanny to have some autonomy regardless of your style will help her to feel empowered and also teach your children there is more than one right way to approach a task.
Advice: Provide feedback to your nanny in private, not in front of the children. Pick your battles! What is important and what can you release? Or, if you are a removed manager, make sure your nanny has enough information to do her job well and in a way you would like it to be done.
A Sampling of Quotes from Nannies in the Field
Empower the nanny by letting her know she is in charge and clearly communicating this to the child(ren). When nanny’s role is not undermined then there’s a healthy dynamic and the work environment is pleasant. Those boundaries need to be respected. And, it starts with parents.
Do not come out to the rescue if the child is crying or upset. This is a huge part of a child bonding with the nanny and learning that the nanny is there to care for them and comfort them when they are upset and odds are the child will act out much worse if the parent comes out.
I find that micromanaging can be a huge problem when a parent works from home. Of course as a nanny I'm always open and responsive to any requests or changes that need to be made but some parents need to understand the concept of not "correcting" or asking for a modification of *everything* their nanny does just because it's not the way the parent usually does it. As long as it's not something that's endangering the kids or a detriment to the household and the outcome is to the parents satisfaction, there really shouldn't really be any micromanaging as to how the nanny feels it's best to perform her work (again as long as it's not detrimental to anything)
Carving out a specific time to take a break and see the kids vs popping in and out at different times during the day is a great way to build a routine for everyone. ie: always joining us for lunch and then heading back to the home office during clean up. Getting the kids out the door after post nap snack time can be a struggle, so if dad has a break in his day, coming down to help with getting everyone’s shoes on and out the door can make nanny’s life easier. Kids have a 6th sense for mom, so her voice chatting on a conference call and getting baby down for nap time don’t mix well! Consider taking calls during the nap hour out of range from the babe if you can, so he will be a well rested guy when you are done with work for the day. And keep the communication loop between parent and nanny open since we are effectively sharing a workspace! You're on the same team, and there is upside in this working scenario for everyone when communication is good.
Communication! It can work really well as long as parents communicate with the nanny and listen to their problems and struggles and work together to solve them.
Invest in a good white noise machine so your child is unable to hear you when you’re on the phone.
Allo Nanny has an intensive compatibility matching process to set you up for success! We will get to know your parenting, communication and management styles in order to match you with appropriate candidates. We will also prep your nanny for working with your unique family, provide training and offer consulting services as you navigate your new employer/employee relationship. If you are interested in a consultation, please click here.