The Parent-Nanny Relationship
Part employee, part family member, your nanny is a hybrid in your world. And she’s oh so important to your kids. This is one of the relationships that you really want to do right. What can you do to ensure that your relationship with your nanny is on solid footing?
- Communication is Key. From the moment that you have first contact with her, usually in setting up an interview, make sure to communicate clearly your expectations of her and of the relationship. Oral and written communications should consistently be clear. There should be opportunity for dialogue, as she may have questions or feedback that you need to hear and respond to. As her employment begins, train her thoroughly on what you expect. As her employment proceeds, provide her clear, specific feedback on what she’s doing well and what she’s doing that needs to be altered to conform to expectations. Provide consequences as appropriate (pay raises when she’s doing well, and progressive discipline when she is not).
- Trust. Your nanny will act on your behalf a great number of times during her employment. Don’t micromanage her. Once you have set expectations and have seen that she complies, then trust her judgment . . . and don’t sweat the small stuff.
- Do fact finding before being critical. Did she let Janie wear a seasonally inappropriate dress to her classmate’s birthday party? Was there a reason? (For example, maybe Janie insisted on wearing that dress, and your nanny thought Janie might best absorb the lesson at hand by experiencing a chill and learning the importance of dressing for the season. Meanwhile, make sure that your nanny had Janie’s coat nearby just in case . . . )
- Prioritize. Your nanny’s central role is attending to your kids. If you occasionally ask her to perform additional tasks (i.e., running an errand for you that is not related to your kids), recognize that as a favor rather than as a job requirement. If that task is ultimately not done because she was too busy with your kids, then that’s ok. She was doing what was important.
- Establish healthy boundaries. You may feel like she is a family member, but you must know that, legally and professionally, she is an employee. Therefore, while it is important to communicate how much she means to you and your family, it is important to communicate your affection without creating challenges in the employment context.
- Empathize. What does it feel like to be in her shoes? Do you pay her well? Does she feel valued in your home? Is she free to make her own decisions (within reason) when attending to your kids? Your nanny is probably far from her own family, so have you provided her opportunities to have periodic visits back to her home town?
- Be understanding and accommodating (within reason). Does she need to make an emergency trip back to her home town because her sister is critically ill? What will happen with your kids while your nanny is away? Is there a way to creatively solve this challenge such that your kids can be attended to while the nanny makes a quick trip home for her sister?
By following these seven steps, you will foster a happy, healthy relationship with your nanny. And when mama and nanny are happy, then everybody’s happy!