Maternity Leave for Nannies
Your children’s nanny is pregnant and requesting maternity leave. Your treasured nanny has been with you for years: what will you and your children do without her?! Still, you can’t (and really don’t want to be the kind of person who would) deny her maternity leave. So, what do you do?
- 1. Acknowledge your mixed feelings about this situation. It’s normal for you to feel happy for your nanny but concerned for how you and your children will be affected.
- 2. Seek to balance the interests of all involved. For example, if your nanny requests 12 weeks of leave, and you can’t imagine being without her for a full 12 weeks, perhaps you can counter-offer with six weeks of leave followed by your allowing your nanny to bring her infant to work with her such that she can watch your children and her infant at the same time.
- 3. Make sure your nanny knows that she is a treasured employee that you don’t want to lose. Also ensure that she knows that you and your children will miss her while she’s on maternity leave, but you are happy for her because you know what an exciting time this is for her. Be respectful of her right to have a life outside of her employment with you.
- 4. Once you and your nanny have agreed upon the length of the maternity leave, you need to find alternate childcare for that period of time. Would your family members be willing to take on this responsibility? Do you have friends or mature children of friends who would like to babysit to earn additional income? Have you considered hiring a temporary nanny? How about temporarily nanny-sharing with someone you know? (Note: if you hire a nanny who is not a family member or friend, do not skip over the proper screening and selection steps to make sure that you hire a nanny that is well suited for your situation. It may be tempting to forego the time-consuming tasks of interviewing, referencing checking, background checking, etc. for a temporary hire, but the investment of time is well worth it because it affords you the peace of mind that comes from knowing you hired well.)
- 5. Once you have a plan, communicate your plan to all involved (i.e., your children, other members of your family, your nanny, your immediate social circle, and your employer if your job will be at all affected by the change). It is normal for your children to experience some degree of anxiety about the change that they will be experiencing. Ask your children what their specific concerns are and address those concerns with specific answers to the best of your ability. Reassure them that all will be fine. Have your nanny provide them with reassurance as well.
- 6. Your substitute childcare provider should generally spend at least a day or two with your nanny before her leave begins: your substitute provider will learn what will be expected of him/her. Your nanny should be happy to train her temporary replacement. However, if your nanny does experience some hesitancy, provide her with reassurance that she is treasured and her job is secure.
- 7. When your nanny actually goes on maternity leave, don’t forget to visit her in the hospital. Also, remember to bring a baby gift and a card signed by each member of your household.
- 8. Make sure that your substitute childcare provider is not floundering without proper direction in his/her new role. Supervise him/her closely in the first two weeks. Ask him/her frequently if s/he has any questions or concerns that s/he would like to discuss with you. Keep the lines of communication open. This may seem like a lot of extra work (work you did not need to do with your nanny who has served you well for years), but starting a new job always involves a learning curve. Be patient with your substitute childcare provider.
- 9. Similarly, keep the lines of communication open with your children. How do they like their substitute provider? Is everything going well? Do they have any questions or concerns that they would like to discuss with you?
- 10. When your nanny is ready to return from maternity leave, you should again communicate this thoroughly with all involved. Your substitute childcare provider should receive this news well as his/her job was acknowledged as temporary from the outset, but sometimes the separation can still be emotional. It is important to thank your outgoing substitute provider and make sure that s/he knows how grateful you are for his/her service to your family. You may even offer a going-away gift to assuage any tender emotions or to communicate your gratitude. Also, your children may experience anxiety due to another change in their childcare routine . . . this is true even though the change is a return to the routine that was in place before the maternity leave. Keep the lines of communication open with you children as detailed in #5 above.
- 11. On your nanny’s return to work date, celebrate her return with a cake, a surprise party, or a welcome-back meal for her.
By following these steps, you can handle well your nanny’s maternity leave.