The best tips for working mums that employ a nanny from experienced nanny Lisa Parkes.
She shares the stories that nannies exchange and gives you sound recommendations on how to establish positive outcomes for all parties.
A Nanny has many hats. To the parents she may be:
- An extra pair of hands
- A trusted reliable role model
- A warm and friendly face
- A cook or house keeper
- A first aid and childcare expert
- A source of affection, consistency and fun
- A taxi for the school / nursery run
To the children, she may be:
- A play friend
- A fun, cuddly grown up who looks after me when Mum isn’t there
- A homework helper
- An understanding confidant
- A safe, kind, loving grown up who makes sure I’m OK
The dynamics of a Family-Nanny relationship are complex
Always remember a nanny-position is not just a job. Your Nanny may be part of your family. After all, she is close enough to your children to wipe their bottoms and noses, and knows you well enough to duplicate your parenting skills when you are not there. She comes to your home most days and sees you all at your worst and best. Think of it in her terms, she is coming into your home to do a job – that in itself poses some very woolly boundaries and requires some strong interpersonal skills, resilience, sensitivity and discretion.
If you have a good Nanny and your kids are happy, I’m sure you want to hold onto her
Here are some quotes from an anonymous Nanny that highlight the internal conflict a Nanny can experience on a daily basis. These insightful and honest quotes are followed up with sound recommendations on how to establish positive outcomes for all parties.
‘I’m being asked to discipline the children and I do when I can, although it’s particularly tricky as the Mum is not consistent with her discipline and regularly undermines me.’
This is a tricky one. It’s essential from the offset to agree ‘House Rules’. Agree what is and isn’t allowed. What is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour? If needs be have a printed list that is stuck in a prominent place in the house as a point of reference if things get a bit muddled. Other common areas for House Rules, not just discipline but also:
- Sweets and treats
- TV allowance
- Nap times
It’s definitely a good idea to agree this even if the parents tell you they are relaxed about discipline for babies or small children as there will come a point where this will not apply. It may also be a good idea to have this incorporated into your job description so everybody is very clear about who does what and when.
‘’I’ve been asked to do extra duties as the Mum is pregnant and I’m happy to do so, however, I feel unappreciated. It’s not about the money, it’s more about the fact, that I’m valued as a person.’
As the old aged saying goes ‘Familiarity breeds contempt’ and after a while of working together, little things can get taken for granted. Like any relationship, it’s important to nourish it with respect, value and kindness. Your Nanny works hard to ensure your house is run smoothly, your kids are happy and if she’s doing extra stuff too, a little appreciation wouldn’t go amiss.
It doesn’t take much effort, but would mean the world to your Nanny if you found little ways to show her that you appreciate and value her contribution:
- Let her go home a little earlier if you don’t need her
- Buy her favourite food for lunch
- Talk to her and ask her how she is
- Thank her in person for a job well done
- Write her a card (in a virtual world, the hand written note is even more powerful)
- Ask her if she minds if you ask her to do something she doesn’t normally do – don’t just assume she will do it
- Pay her a bonus or buy her a gift card for her favourite store
‘Mum keeps arriving home from work late which is affecting my personal life. Even when I tell her, I’ve got plans, she is still late.’
If your Nanny kept on turning up for work late every day or kept on wanting to leave early, I’m sure you’d be frustrated and annoyed. Every once in a while, there is traffic or circumstances that cause you to be late. However, don’t make a habit of leaving your Nanny hanging on. If possible, have a back up number of a person you can ask to step in if you are going to be late home so that your Nanny can leave when her shift is finished.
‘My sick pay is discretionary; however I keep catching germs from the children and am unable to go to work. Sometimes I don’t get paid and end up having to do huge amounts of overtime to compensate.’
Some families cap their sick pay, so the Nanny gets an allocated number of paid sick days per year. You can read more about it at the Nanny tax website
‘My first aid course is due and my family expect me to pay for it.’
Be prepared to invest in your Nanny. She is committed to you and your family so show her you feel the same. If you cannot afford to pay for the entire course, make a contribution or find another way to show her that you are investing in her future. You are going to benefit from it too.
‘I’m flexible with my days and hours to accommodate the family I work for, however sometimes I’m asked to work late or come in earlier at short notice.’
Your Nanny has a life outside of her working hours. It is a good idea to have regular contracted days and hours that are not flexible. However, if things change and sometimes with children, that’s inevitable, give her as much notice as possible - say at least 48 hours for a change to her regular shift.
Another good idea is to have a calendar, visible to all, that schedules in play dates, important meetings, hospital appointments and anything else that may cause her regular working hours to change.
The 5 Cs are the secret to harmony in Family–Nanny relationships
In order to maintain a healthy professional working relationship between both family and Nanny where there is mutual respect, I’ve discovered 5Cs that work very well.
Everybody knows who is responsible for what, when and how often. It maybe an idea to have regular reviews to give both parties the opportunity to speak up if something is not working. Harboured resentment does not bode well for a flourishing Family-Nanny relationship.
Yes the kids definitely need it, however, it isn’t just for their sake. If everybody is sticking to what is agreed and following through, there is less room for misunderstanding.
Keep talking. Communication really is King. If you are unable to talk face-2-face on a regular basis, keep a diary of communication. This is also useful if the children are taking medication or have hurt themselves.
Your Nanny is a human being and it’s important her feelings are considered. If she is considering you, your children and your home, it’s not a lot to ask to put yourself in her shoes and see how it might be for her sometimes.
Yes you are your Nanny’s employer, however in order for the ‘in my home / extension of my family / I’m the Boss’ combination to work successfully, a team spirited - collaboration approach would help. Work together as a team. Address challenges together, talk together and find ways together to make it work.
Author: Lisa is a Professional Life Coach who believes in squeezing every drop of happiness out of life! Life Coaching closes the gap between how your life is now and how you want it to be. Being happy is contagious – it will touch other people around you too. Discovering new things about yourself and creating a different way of living is fun and inspiring. Discover Life Coaching with Lisa Parkes to help make happy changes to your life.