Are You Friends with Your Nanny?
Finding a great nanny can often be compared to finding a great spouse. You want the perfect fit. You want this person to basically read your mind and be your support.
In many ways, my nanny is better than my husband. Our morning routine can be done with no words said between my nanny and me – we smoothly glide around the kitchen toasting bread, filling cereal bowls, pouring juices and finding the "right" pink spoon from the dish rack. With my husband, I'm still explaining tasks. With my nanny, she knows exactly how to make my life easier.
But the one thing my husband is, that my nanny is not – is my friend. Sure, I love her. I would do anything for her. But I'm still her employer. And there's always going to be that line I don't cross with her – as much as I might want to.
What I do have with my nanny is incredible respect, trust and appreciation for her work. And I feel (I hope) that I show her this regularly. Here are some things we at Care.com recommend families do to create this balance. After all, once you find a fantastic nanny who fits with your personality – and your family vibe – someone you can consider a partner in parenting and who your kids love – you don't want to lose her in your life!
1. Make expectations clear. Start your relationship on the right page by explaining all your rules and procedures upfront. This is especially important around pay cycles, paid time off, holiday schedule, overtime, and how vacation will be planned. The last thing you want is to get to Veteran's Day and have your nanny think she has a 3-day weekend when you don't get that holiday off.
2. Care about her. If she's sick or has a family emergency, let her know you care about her first – and care about missing work, second. Also ask her what more you can do to help her – or provide more of what she needs. Understand that being a nanny can be a very tough and draining job (even if she does have the best kids in the world to care for!). So be open when she suggests planning playdates, going to a music class, or doing something unique. Make sure she's creating ways to keep herself engaged (and loving the job) as well as planning for the kids.
3. Trust her. This can also be called "getting out of her way." Once you have a good rapport with your nanny and the kids feel comfortable, you can stop managing (or micromanaging) each activity they do and event they attend. You can feel comfortable saying, "Have a great time at the haunted house!" without saying, "If they get scared, find the nearest exit out – and take them for ice cream instead!" A trusted nanny knows this.
4. Help her stay organized. A nice way to have a great relationship with your nanny is to keep her involved in your calendar planning. So if Ryan's mom wants to plan a playdate for every Wednesday (and your nanny has the kids on Wednesdays), don't say yes without talking to your nanny. Messing up her activity planning will only create frustration. In most cases, I have parents coordinate all weekly activities directly with our nanny and give her full control of saying yes or no.
5. Pick your battles. Does she let the dryer buzzer go off for the full time? Does she eat off the kids' plates? You might find that with someone this close to your "stuff," you'll have tiny grievances. This is normal. Don't try to fix someone's habits unless they're affecting the kids.
6. Be generous. Whether she needs an extra day off or you're deciding her holiday bonus, pay as much as you can. Remember, she makes your life work – reward her as much as possible with an extra paid day off, gift certificates, birthday presents and a nice holiday bonus.
7. Pay taxes and time off. The best way to really take care of your nanny is to pay taxes. She is not considered an independent contractor in the eyes of the IRS. Paying her taxes is the only way to set her up with unemployment insurance, disability and a work history so she can one day apply for a mortgage.
Katie Bugbee is the senior managing editor and resident parenting expert of Care.com. A busy working mother of two, she's an expert on many parenting dilemmas, from appeasing picky eaters to finding the perfect babysitter.