Don’t ask your nanny to do the following tasks
If you’d like to keep your nanny long term, here are a few things you don’t want to ask them to do
• Cook family meals every night. (cooking for children is a typical job responsibility.) Some nannies love to cook and you may pay a nanny extra for cooking dinner for your family. But tread very carefully here, as taking care of children during the “bewitching hour” (about 3:30-6:00 P.M.) while trying to prepare a family dinner is extremely challenging. If you don’t mind if your child watches TV while the nanny cooks, then you may be able to work out an arrangement, provided your nanny loves to cook and she is compensated fairly. It is our policy that our nannies never use the TV while caring for children. We also don’t want a child in the kitchen (which is where accidents are most likely to happen), so we discourage situations where the nanny cooks dinner for the entire family. We encounter a fair number of nannies who come to our agency seeking a new position because their responsibilities have gradually expanded to cooking family dinners in addition to childcare and they are overworked. If a nanny enjoys cooking and wants to cook family dinners, that’s a different situation and usually the mom is home and can keep the children safe while the nanny focuses her attention on dinner. In other situations the nanny may do something very simple such as put a roast or some potatoes in the oven.
• Take your dog for walks with your baby. We have seen problems with this in the past, as dogs can act unpredictably, especially when they meet other dogs. If a dog altercation ensues, the nanny may have to choose whether to neglect the dog and/or neglect the child and chase after the dog.
• Perform heavy cleaning such as scrubbing bathrooms, washing windows, vacuuming the whole house, etc. The nanny should not clean non-child related areas of the home such as parents’ bedroom, cleaning out closets unrelated to the children, cleaning the parents’ home office, the garage, weeding the garden, etc. If you have a housekeeper, these are her responsibilities. Nannies are sometimes open to other responsibilities for extra pay. But be careful, as this arrangement can cause difficulties and jeopardize an otherwise healthy nanny relationship. If your child is having a hard day and needs extra attention, your nanny may feel pressure to do housework rather than give your child the attention he or she needs. This can then strain her performance as a nanny and cause resentment if she feels she isn’t able to please you or adequately care for your child. You and the nanny need to be in agreement as to her priorities, even if she is being paid to do extra tasks around the house.
• Pick up your lunch from the deli with very explicit directions as to exactly how you want the crust cut off your sandwich, lightly toasted on one side only, with the meat medium rare and no skin on the tomato slice with baby arugula. You get the picture. This is a great way to lose a nanny.
• Ask her to wait for a few days before cashing HER paycheck. The nanny may love you and understand that you’re strapped this month, but she will be on the lookout for another job. The nanny has her own financial obligations, and she is counting on your job to make her financial life secure.
• Listen to your complaints about your personal life, your husband, your job, your friends, etc. Making the nanny your confidante will probably come back to haunt you. The nanny is probably in a much different financial situation than you. It is likely that she will have a limited understanding of your personal challenges and will may resent you for complaining to her about what she considers to be minor issues when she is challenged with something as basic as trying to make ends meet. There are other, more obvious reasons for not confiding personal details to your nanny. She may work for another family in your community sometime in the future, and you probably don’t want details about your family shared. It’s also very hard on a nanny to feel embroiled in your domestic issues. She may be uncomfortable being around your husband if she knows personal information about him.
• Skip work today because your in-laws are in town and she can “make up the hours” by working on the weekend. The nanny needs a consistent schedule and consistent pay if she is going to commit to your position long term. If a nanny was told she would be working Monday through Friday and she is suddenly expected to work on weekends, you will have an unhappy nanny. I know very few nannies who would be happy with this arrangement. They need their “down time” and have their own families and personal life to attend to.
• Take care of your child’s visiting cousins or a neighbor child this week in addition to your child without extra pay. This is unfair and disrespectful. Your nanny will feel taken advantage of even if she doesn’t tell you. This is a great way to strain a good nanny relationship and risk losing her.
• Stay for a few minutes longer because you tell her you’re stuck in traffic and then arrive an hour later with Nordstrom bags. Good nannies give their very best and they need to be treated with respect to remain motivated to do a great job for your family.
To get more tips on hiring and retaining a nanny go to: www.safeandsoundnannies.com
Dr. Ann Wycoff is founder of Safe and Sound Nannies, a full service agency, and The Nanny Answer, an online, do-it-yourself nanny screening service.