How to Manage A Nanny

How to Manage A Nanny

April 19, 2017

How to Manage A Nanny

How to Manage A Nanny
How to Manage A Nanny

Did you have a great feeling when you first hired your nanny, but now… not so much? Or maybe you’ve just hired a nanny, but aren’t sure what happens next.

Your relationship with your nanny — and its boundaries — can get fuzzy quickly since their duties and job are so closely intertwined with the most personal aspect of your life: your child. But at the end of the day you can’t forget that this is an employer/employee relationship.

“A co-worker told me she thought she would find a Mary Poppins type who would be perfect right out of the gate, but she learned that you have to manage and communicate your expectations to them like any other employee,” says Kathleen Kim, a mom of one and nanny employer in Queens, New York.

“You won’t instantly bond or be able to read each other’s minds.”

The first thing to keep in mind is that it takes time to get to know each other. You won’t instantly bond or be able to read each other’s minds in the beginning. To get to Mrs. Doubtfire levels of bonding (sans the whole father dressed in drag thing), it’ll take time and effort. Here’s how.

Clearly Spell Out Your Expectations

There’s no way you’ll ever be on the same page if you don’t show your nanny the entire book. Take time in the beginning to discuss your overall expectations for the role and ask your nanny to share any expectations they may have. “Never assume that a nanny will just know these things,” says Katie Provinziano, founder of Westside Nannies. And make sure this talk is just that, a talk, not a lecture or a takedown. You want to encourage feedback and collaboration throughout this conversation. Some things you’ll want to cover are:

  • House rules or pet peeves: No TV before bedtime, perhaps, or no shoes in the house. This can also be a discussion that draws certain boundaries clearly, like how you’d prefer no personal phone calls unless they’re urgent, or how far in advance you want to receive notice for a sick or personal day.

  • Your child care and discipline philosophies: Maybe you don’t mind Ferber, for example. Discuss how you want your nanny to handle disciplinary matters and how you want him or her to communicate with you about them.

  • How often you want to communicate or check-in and how: Do you want daily texts at noon and 5pm, or maybe a running Snapchat story of what your baby has been doing the whole day? What is your nanny most comfortable with and what’s effective without being too overbearing?

  • Shared resources: Will your nanny be driving your car, eating your food (instead of bringing their own) or accessing your iTunes account for the kids? Clearly communicate the boundaries around each of these and your general expectations for upkeep.

  • What to do if either of you want to end the employment: The best way to have a solid beginning is to discuss what might happen at the end. Discuss which actions could lead to your nanny’s termination, and how you will communicate warnings or second chances. Also discuss how much notice you would like if your nanny wants to leave the position and what a transition plan could look like if that happens. It’s much easier to have this discussion in the beginning when you’re both open and positive about the relationship, then at the end when either of you might be feeling less than enthusiastic about the whole situation.

Get to Know Each Other

“The goal is to have a symbiotic relationship.”

Within a month, it may feel like your nanny has always been in your life, but in the beginning it might feel awkward inviting a stranger into your home. An easy way to get to know someone is simply by listening. Your nanny may volunteer aspects of her life (by talking about her own children, or talking about her hobbies or interests) and all you need to do is listen and ask inquiring questions.

Be genuinely curious, suspend judgement and share your own stories when it makes sense. Your nanny’s personality is probably one of the main reasons they appealed to you in the interview, so hopefully this should feel natural and fun. “The goal is to have a symbiotic relationship,” says Florence Ann Romano, author of Nanny and Me. “The more open you are in the beginning, and the more you feel like you know one another, the smoother the process will be.”

Remember That You Can’t Control Everything

Don’t forget that the reason you hired your nanny was for her expertise and additional insight. So make sure she has enough breathing room, and trust from you, to do the job in her own way. Don’t micromanage. “A good manager trains and delegates,” says Karen Dillon in the Harvard Business Review.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t express what your priorities are, or share your child’s schedule (naps, activities, etc.) to keep the transition smooth. But try to avoid telling her what to do for every minute of the day, or how to do it. If you trust your nanny, you can trust in her judgement to get the job done right.

Speak Up When Something Is Really Bothering You

“It takes years to build bridges with people and only minutes to blow them up.”

Has your nanny been consistently late, seemed overly judgemental or critical of you or your spouse, or not followed through on important requests you’ve made? Avoid personal attacks and stick to the facts when talking about the issue and how to prevent it from happening again. Most importantly, don’t make assumptions. A personal problem in your nanny’s life could be causing the lateness, or the judgement of you may be a sign of insecurity.

Before you start the difficult conversation, make sure you have a clear objective in mind, knowing what you’re willing to be flexible on and what’s non-negotiable. And keep your emotions in check. “It takes years to build bridges with people and only minutes to blow them up,” says Bruna Martinuzzi, president and founder, Clarion Enterprises Ltd. It can be easy to spin out of control if you feel slighted or your nanny reacts defensively, so give yourself and your nanny time to react. It’s okay to sit in silence and gather your thoughts before you continue.

Don’t Forget to Show Your Appreciation and Respect

We all know that taking care of kids can be extremely hard work, with long days, and often monotonous tasks (and if we didn’t before, we do now!). If your nanny handles all of this flawlessly and keeps your kids happy and safe, show them appreciation early and often. Four in five employees shared that they’re motivated to work harder when their boss shows appreciation for their work, according to an Employer Appreciation Survey conducted by Glassdoor (no surprise there!). You can do this in small ways by keeping things like her favorite snacks in the fridge, or big ways by giving her a bonus or a gift card to a spa day. Regardless, profess your appreciation out loud, on a regular basis: “I could never do this without you. Thank you for all your hard work!”

Hand in hand with appreciation comes respect. Going beyond general humanity and politeness, make sure you’re also respecting your nanny’s time, privacy, personal life and role. Don’t let the job’s duties creep beyond what you both initially discussed, and respect the lines your nanny draws around her own life. And when it comes to managing disagreements or conflict between your nanny and the kids, don’t forget: you’re a team. Support your nanny if you agree with her and don’t undermine her authority in front of the kids. If you do have disagreement on a call she made, take her aside away from the kids to talk about it privately.

Overall, don’t forget that a nanny/parent relationship is a complex and emotional one. “Relationships are hard! And don’t expect this one to be perfect either. There are going to be ups and downs,” adds Provinziano. At times there may be feelings of insecurity on both sides (Does my baby like my nanny more than me? Am I doing a good enough job for this family?), guilt, or relief and happiness. Like any great relationship, it will take a lot of communication, understanding, sympathy and balance. But when it works, you’ll go beyond just employer/employee. You’ll feel like family.



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Karell Roxas is a writer, editor and mom who lives in Brooklyn.

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