The Role of Live-in Nanny in Your Marriage
Living in close quarters with others can be tough. We all have differences that, when sharing a household, can make life difficult. For example, one spouse may be early-to-bed-early-to-rise while the other spouse is a night owl. In healthy marriages, differences such as these are resolved by good communication and balanced compromise, to the satisfaction of both spouses, and some differences end up being strengths in the marriage as each partner balances the other. In this blog, we will address the role of live-in nanny, how differing parental expectations regarding that role may create difficulties within the marriage, and how those differences can be successfully resolved. For purposes of brevity, we will use, as the basis of our blog, an example of how parents’ differing expectations regarding the role of a live-in nanny can create difficulties in a marriage.
One parent (which we will call Parent A) may see the nanny as a substitute parent to be utilized while both parents are absent from the home; the other parent (which we will call Parent B) may see the nanny as a parental supplement either in the parents’ absence or presence. In a situation such as this, Parent A may think that Parent B is relying too heavily on the nanny or perhaps even outright abdicating his/her parental responsibility by passing it to the nanny in its entirety. Parent B will feel unreasonably criticized and misunderstood by Parent A.
Both parents need to openly communicate their expectations regarding the nanny’s role in their household and why they hold those expectations. Both parents should strive to understand the other’s perspective. Compromise should be sought. What follows is sample dialogue.
Parent A: When you come home from work at night, the nanny has already prepared supper for our family. After dinner, it is the nanny who makes sure the kids get their homework done. Later, it is the nanny who gets the kids showered before bedtime. I don’t understand why you aren’t taking a more active parenting role. When we hired the nanny, I thought she’d be there for our kids while we were gone during the day, and when we got home each night, I thought she’d be off shift and we’d be taking care of the kids.
Parent B: I work a 55-hour workweek, just like you do. When I come home from work, I’m tired, just like you are. I love our kids, just like you do . . . and I value my career, just like you do. Taking care of the kids is a full-time-and-then-some kind of responsibility, and I’m grateful for the help that the nanny provides. We simply couldn’t do it without her. This is a team effort for all three of us: you, the nanny, and me. It is not anyone’s sole responsibility to care for our kids in the evening. It’s not the nanny’s sole responsibility. It’s not mine solely. It’s not yours solely. It’s ours jointly. You and I both could do more with the kids each evening. What would you like to do to take care of the kids when you come home from work? Maybe if we each take on a few additional childcare responsibilities in the evenings, your expectations can be met.
By communicating as indicated above, both parents are sharing their expectations and the reasons that they hold those expectations, as they seek to understand their partner and be understood by their partner. Once both parents have had the opportunity to communicate, Parent B then offers a compromise (i.e., that both parents, rather than just Parent B, become more interactive with the kids each evening). This parental difference, when well handled, can cause both parents to become more involved with their kids and better co-parents with their nanny. The parental difference can thus become a strength.