Nanny Guide: Part 2
Finding and maintaining—to say nothing of affording!—childcare can be one of the most stressful aspects of working parenthood. When you hire a nanny, sustaining a mutually respectful and communicative relationship is a top priority, as there’s no one else to help buffer the relationship (like there would presumably be in a daycare setting). Last week’s article discussed the importance of understanding your priorities and managing the job search. This week we’ll discuss setting expectations, maintaining a positive relationship, and navigating conflict.
Start off on the right foot
I’ve already discussed how important clear expectations are when crafting a job listing. But I also recommend providing your nanny with both Terms of Hire (essentially a contract, outlining things like pay, time-off, responsibilities, grounds for termination, etc.) and a welcome packet, explaining your family philosophy and logistics.
Terms of Hire
I will start with the disclaimer that I am not an attorney. If you’d like formal advice on the drafting or enforcement of employment contracts, please consult a lawyer. However, many families create their own hiring document outlining the terms of employment without formal legal review. This document assures that expectations are clearly communicated and mutually understood. Some of the items you might consider including are:
Terms: This includes start date, day/hours of employment, and address of where care will be provided. Although employees are allowed to quit whenever they want, you may want to request 15 or 30 days notice if she chooses to terminate the relationship.
Job Responsibilities: This is the place to outline all expected responsibilities, including care of the child/children, but also a detailed explanation of other expectations (housekeeping, transportation, pet care, etc.), if applicable.
Compensation: This includes both base pay and how you will handle any overtime. You should also explain your policy on holidays, sick days, and paid time off.
Confidentiality: Some families want to stipulate that personal information, including any medical, financial or career information that a nanny may learn about you or your family is to be kept confidential.
Social Media Policy: It’s prudent to include a clause prohibiting your nanny from sharing information about her location and plans for the day on social media when she is caring for your children. You should also consider whether you want to restrict or limit her sharing photographs of your kids on social media.
Driving Policy: Most families want to stipulate that a nanny is responsible for maintaining consistent car insurance if she will be driving the children. You should also outline your expectations on phone use while driving, expectations for carseat use, and other safety considerations.
Termination: Outline the grounds for immediate termination (things like compromising the safety of the kids, stealing, drug use, etc.)
This is the perfect place to explicitly state your family values that we discussed last week. You may find it helpful to define these values or even provide some examples of them in action.
Other things you may want to include in this document include:
An overview of each child (temperament, preferences, interest, etc.)
Any special health needs
Screen time rules
Philosophy on punishment
Ideas for activities/types of play
Communications expectations (including emergency contacts, doctor/dentist info, etc.)
Create a positive work environment
Yes, you’ve hired your nanny so that she could meet your and your children’s needs, but in order for you to retain her and ensure that she stays engaged, you also need to meet her needs. Decades of research has established that there are three main drivers of employee satisfaction: purpose, autonomy, and relationships. These three characteristics are true whether the employee is an executive or a nanny.
If you didn’t cover these topics in the interview, I recommend discussing the following questions during the onboarding process:
What drives your sense of purpose at work?
What do you need to feel motivated in your work?
Do you feel like you have the opportunity to do what you do best?
Then, have a dialogue about your mutual needs. Unlike most other careers, a nanny job doesn’t offer advancement in the traditional sense. How will you ensure that she stays connected to a larger purpose and has enough autonomy to thrive, especially knowing that she may be more likely than the average worker to feel stagnant with time?
A big part of sustaining her engagement—and ensuring your needs are being met—is encouraging regular communication. In addition to daily communication about child-centric issues and needs, make sure you have a structure for monthly or bimonthly check-ins about bigger issues—Do either of you have any concerns? Can you proactively get on the same page regarding any upcoming developmental milestones? Is there something you’d like her to do differently? Does she have the supplies she needs to be successful? What does she need from you to continue doing her job well?
Just like any boss/employee relationship, there are bound to be hiccups along the way. Here are some suggestions for dealing with them as they arise.
Approach concerns with curiosity instead of blame
Let’s say you walk in from work early and you see your nanny on her cell phone and your baby playing alone on the floor. This seems to be a pattern of behavior and you’re worried that the nanny is spending too much time on her phone. Approach your concerns from a place of curiosity instead of accusation. Consider the difference in these two approaches:
“What’s going on? Lila is all alone! You’re constantly on your phone when you’re supposed to be playing with her.”
“I’ve noticed that you seem to be spending more time on your phone. I’m wondering if you’re feeling disengaged.”
When the care of your child is on the line, stakes are high and emotions can escalate quickly. To the extent possible, try to take a deep breath and center yourself before jumping in and saying something you will later regret.
When you sense resistance, leverage your shared interests
You are both united in how deeply you care for your kids (caveat: if you don’t trust that your nanny has your kids’ best interests at heart, this is red flag and you should reconsider the employment relationship). However, you may disagree about what’s in your child’s best interest—for example, let’s say you want your child in his crib to nap promptly at 1pm and she put him to bed at 1:45 because they were having so much fun at the library.
Ultimately, you’re the parents, so your philosophy goes. But, remember, the way you address this matters. I recommend leveraging your shared interest in the wellbeing of your kids to ensure her buy-in. Consider the difference in framing:
“Luke needs to nap at 1. No exceptions.”
“Luke is a highly sensitive kid, and we’ve found that a consistent nap time schedule is key to his successful emotional regulation for the rest of the day. It’s a priority for us, and for his wellbeing, that he nap at 1 every day. If, for some reason that schedule is disrupted, please send me a text as a heads up.”
The key message is the same, but in the second example, you’re enlisting her as a partner and providing her with the relevant context that she may need to fully buy-in.
Let your values guide you—know when to stay firm and when to let go
For a nanny relationship to be successful, you’ll need to accept that no nanny will ever be you. She will never do things exactly how you would do them, and that requires some acceptance and letting go.
You should consider up front—and then continually re-evaluate—what you can tolerate (and what you should let slide) and draw boundaries accordingly. You and your partner will need to determine where to draw those lines, based on your family values, a holistic assessment of her strengths and weaknesses, and your mutual ability to foster a trusting and collaborative relationship moving forward.
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