Thursday, April 7, 2011
Last week I started a list of 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. Below, please find the remainder of my list that will hopefully get you on your way to creating a great relationship with your child care provider. Please feel free to leave comments or any other suggestions you have, I would love to hear from you!
Try not to add duties. This is often referred to as the “job creep,” where families add on duties that were not agreed upon in the beginning. Some examples of these extra duties may include housekeeping, family errands, cooking, taking care of family pets, family laundry, etc. Keep in mind that while it is okay to ask your nanny or au pair if she would mind taking on an extra duty, she should also have the right to say no if she feels it will be too much. However, if she does agree to your request, this added workload should be matched with an appropriate amount of extra compensation.
Avoid a growing schedule. It is important to remember that your nanny or au pair most likely has a life outside of caring for your family and children. This is one of the reasons why it is best to avoid tacking on hours to the schedule you originally agreed upon. Your au pair or live-in nanny’s free time while she is not scheduled to be working should be just that, her time. We all need time to recharge, and it is extremely important to respect this, especially if your caregiver lives with you in your home. If you happen to have a child care provider who is okay with additional hours, be aware that you will have to compensate her fairly. Constantly coming home from work late could also be an issue that may eventually cost you the loss of your nanny or au pair. If you are going to be even 10 or 15 minutes late, a phone call or quick text message is always appreciated. You should also expect this kind of consideration from your nanny if she is ever late for any reason.
Don’t leave a messy house. It has always been my philosophy and my goal to leave my employer’s house cleaner and more organized when I leave for the day than it was when I came to work in the morning. I do this because I know firsthand, as a working mother myself, how difficult it can be to keep up your home when all you want to do is spend time with your children when you are not working. With this in mind, I also know how frustrating it can be as a nanny to walk into work one day and see that the house is a complete disaster. It is even more upsetting when I made an honest effort the previous day to leave it clean and tidy. My solution to this problem is to put aside 15 to 30 minutes on Sunday evenings to pick up the house while encouraging your children to help you if they are of the appropriate age. Children as young as two years old can begin to help with this task. Your nanny or aupair will more than appreciate your efforts to help her keep the house in order and will most likely be more inclined to do more to help in the future.
Be prepared. Nothing is more frustrating than walking into work and realizing that you are missing the essentials to get through your day. Some examples of this can be as small as not having enough baby formula for the day, not having enough diapers and wipes, or not having enough food in the fridge to feed the children. The very last thing your child care provider wants to have to do is load up all the children in the car and drag them to the local supermarket to get these things. You may ask her to keep a list of the things you are running out of, but in most circumstances it is your responsibility to make sure that they are purchased and in the home when she comes to work in the morning. It is also helpful to make sure they have other things, like a good stroller, diaper bag, bus fare, and sandbox toys available, to aid in caring for your children to the best of her ability. If you do not have the time to go out and purchase these items, sit down with your caregiver and ask her if she would mind going out and purchasing them for your family. If she agrees, be sure to research how much money she will need ahead of time, and provide a list for her to take with her to the store so nothing is forgotten.
A healthy nanny is a happy nanny. It is essential for your caregiver to be healthy in order for her to be able to perform the job she has been hired to do. Your part in helping with this should be to provide an agreed-upon number of paid sick days per year, which will enable her to be able to stay home and get well should an illness or injury arise. I have seen many different proposals for sick days in my career, and what it really boils down to is not only what is fair, but also what you are comfortable with. Just as important as providing these paid sick days is allowing your nanny or au pair to take them when needed without making her feel guilty for doing so. I can’t tell you how awful it is to wake up the morning before work with a stomach bug and have to call into work when I know my boss is going to be upset with me because I have inconvenienced them. You have to think of it from this prospective: If the caregiver comes into work when they are ill, not only will they not be able to care for your children the same way they would if they were well, but you run the risk of everyone in your household catching the bug as well. Make it clear to your nanny or au pair in the beginning of her employment with your family that you understand people get sick from time to time and that you will line up backup child care should she ever need to take a sick day or two.
It is my sincere hope that this blog will help you to create a wonderful working relationship with your caregiver and that it will become a tool you can look to should a problem ever arise. My advice is to make sure that you create a nanny/family agreement to ensure that all of these bases are covered. This will prevent most of these issues from ever happening and will help to establish both boundaries and your expectations up front. It might also be helpful to your family to have either a monthly or bimonthly review, where you evaluate your nanny’s or au pair’s job performance and she does a self-evaluation as well. Not only will this help to alleviate any issues that are arising, but it will also help to foster one of the single most important aspects of the nanny/family relationship: Communication.