I want you to meet Laureen. A former nanny, 15 years ago Laureen started working for a backup care service that works with nanny agencies and is now part of the Care.com family. Her flexibility and enthusiasm for helping families is perfect for handling the early morning phone calls she receives when parents need last-minute care.
I’ve heard it said that finding a nanny is almost like finding a third spouse. You want someone you’d be comfortable seeing in your home on a daily basis – no matter what you look like – or what your mood is. You often want them to read your mind, and feel good about leaving them with your children. Clearly, compatibility is key. But so are boundaries.
I spent over ten years being a nanny, employed by several families, but only a few parents made me feel "part of the family" while still enforcing rules and guidelines. Sounds tricky, right? It wasn’t! But I can tell you that the families in which we had the best working relationship (and I felt part of the family) were the families where I had a deeper, better bond with their children.
In an office setting, boundaries are clear (or they should be), and rules are in place. However, it makes a big difference when your employee works in your home and cares for your children. I get that. I actually think rules and boundaries should be similar to what they would be in an office. And this can help make your relationship even better.
Here are some ways you can enhance your nanny-family relationship:
- Don’t hire until you are comfortable with me. I’m talking comfort and trust. This involves extensive reference checking, a phone interview, and a background check, as well as two face-to-face interviews: one with just the parents, and one to see me interacting with your kids.
- Provide a written contract. Include all your expectations spelled out for me. Therefore, we never have to disagree over what my job entails, which benefits you’ve promised, paid time off, or what hours I was committed to. (Learn how to write a nanny contract >>)
- Make daily or weekly suggestions for activities. I’d love your ideas for activities to do with the kids – but please don’t micromanage. If we miss a music class because I feel the baby is too tired, trust my judgment. Sometimes it’s nice to acknowledge that my years as a nanny give me lots of hands-on experience with children (often more than new parents have!).
- Give me positive feedback as often as you can. As you know, it’s a wonderful – but demanding – job. And I’d love to hear that you think I’m the best person (besides yourselves) to take care of your child.
- Tell me what needs improvement. I am not perfect and I want to learn. So please, whatever I can be doing better – please let me know. If the children are old enough to understand our discussion, let’s figure out a good way to do this productively. (Get tips for setting new goals with your nanny >>)
- Have a sense of humor. The home environment can create some interesting scenarios and both parties need to be flexible and laugh them off. Here’s a funny story for you: One day when I was with a family I love, the baby’s diaper exploded over my clothes. So during his nap, I did a load of laundry and wore a towel around the house. Well, the dad came home early – and I can’t imagine what he thought when he first saw me! However, he kept his composure, listened to my explanation, and then made some benign joke that allowed us to chuckle together, albeit a bit awkwardly. I’m still grateful that we could diffuse our mutual discomfort with that bit of good-natured laughter.
Over the years, I have known dozens of nannies, and every one of them has truly loved her charges. Any job dissatisfaction stemmed from the way parents treated them. The best and most reliable nannies are the ones who "fall in love" with the whole family, like I did. But what goes the furthest is sincere appreciation, expressed frequently. If you want your nanny to love you and to therefore be the best nanny she can be, tell her she’s already the best nanny you could hope for, and mean it.
But if for some reason you have mistakenly hired someone you don’t like and fully trust, find another childcare solution, and let her go. The right nanny for your family is out there somewhere. Believe me, I help families find nannies every day here at Care.com.