Thursday, March 31, 2011
I have had the pleasure of working for some of the most amazing and appreciative families over the years, as well as some who could be described as the exact opposite. Both of these completely different types of experiences have opened my eyes to the many ways parents can show their nanny how much they value all of her dedication and hard work and why it is extremely important to do so. Studies have shown that when your child care provider is happy, your children are often much happier as well. This could be due to many factors, one being that a nanny who feels appreciated is often more likely to go above and beyond her job duties, therefore creating a more pleasant environment for everyone in your home. Below are the first five (of ten—next five to follow in my next blog!) ideas that will get you well on your way to hopefully creating the best possible relationship with the person who cares for and nurtures your very special little ones while you’re away.
- Compensate fairly. It is very important to do your research prior to hiring a nanny or au pair as to what the current hourly or weekly rate is in the area you live. If this is not done, you may find yourself scrambling in the near future to find another child care option when your nanny or au pair figures out that what you are paying her is not the norm. When researching this, be sure to also consider and factor in how many years of experience the nanny or au pair has, whether or not she will be a live-in or live-out (live-out nannies are generally compensated more because you are not offering room, board, food, and a car as a benefit), what benefits you will be factoring into the salary (paid vacation, paid sick days, medical insurance, use of family vehicle, cell phone provided, etc.), as well as how many children she will be expected to care for (a nanny or au pair who takes care of one child is often compensated less than one who cares for more).
- Leave money for expenses. It is quite common for a nanny or au pair to incur miscellaneous expenses while she is caring for your children, especially if she has been asked to take them on outings during the day. Always keep in mind that almost everything costs money nowadays. A typical trip to the zoo or a local children’s museum can often run you upward of 25 dollars once you factor in admission, food (encourage your nanny or au pair to pack lunches whenever possible), and parking. My suggestion on the best way to handle these extra expenses is to have a petty cash fund available and accessible to your child care provider that contains at least 50 to 100 dollars at any given time. Ask her to bring home receipts if you want to keep track of where the money is going and when it is time for you to replenish the fund. Please also keep in mind that it is appropriate to reimburse your nanny at the current federal rate of 50 cents per mile if she is using her own vehicle to transport your children places during her workday.
- Try not to micromanage. When one or both parents are working from home, it is important to set boundaries early on while your nanny or au pair is working so that no problems develop later. It is very easy to become the type of employer who micromanages without even being fully aware of it. An example of this can be as a simple as you saying, “I wash (insert your child’s name) bottles like this; it’s much more efficient,” or, “I don’t hold (insert your child’s name here) that way when I am feeding her. Here, let me show you a better way.” You must realize that every person has a different way of doing things and that just because she doesn’t do it your way doesn’t make her way wrong. Does it really matter how your nanny or au pair washes the bottles as long as they are getting clean? Or does it really matter how she is holding your child as long as both she and the baby are comfortable? Your nanny or au pair will feel much more confident in her work once she knows that you trust her to make the very best decisions for your children while you are away. My suggestion for allowing this to naturally happen is that if you are a stay-at-home mom or a work-at-home mom, try and create a designated schedule where you are either taking care of things around the home or working in your home office without interfering with the work you have hired your caregiver to do. Not only will this make her feel that you trust her, but it will also give her the necessary time needed to bond with your child.
- Encourage and support open communication. Let your nanny know that you will make yourself available to her if she ever needs to talk to you about something that is concerning her. A good way to begin opening the lines of communication is to create a nanny log for your nanny or au pair to fill out during the day while she is caring for your children. Have a place for her to write down what and when your child ate, when his diaper was changed, when he napped, what medications were given (if any), what activities he did during the day, and what notes she has for you. You can also have a spot for you to write any notes you might have for your caregiver. For example, how your child slept the previous night, which would help the nanny or au pair in deciding how much sleep the child would need during the day. This is beneficial to the both of you and also helps to foster a great parent-nanny relationship.
- Recognize and reward her work. Your kind words and recognition really do mean something. A simple thank-you when you notice that your nanny or au pair has done something over and beyond what you expect from her really does go a long way. Parents who are often very busy with their careers sometimes forget to let their caregiver know how much they value her and are, therefore, frequently left without child care, usually very unexpectedly. A small token of your appreciation or a monetary bonus during the holidays or perhaps after her first year of employment with your family would also be an appropriate way to reward her for all of the time and effort she invests in your children and family.
Want more information? Read Part Two.