Top Ten Reasons that Nannies Leave a Position: Reason #7
7) Poor Relationship Boundaries Between Family and Nanny.
Boundaries are a uniquely sticky topic when it comes to nannies. Most families tell me they want their nanny to be a “part of the family”. After all, the nanny will be caring for the most important person in their lives. Nannies also love the idea of being part of the family, and they fall in love with the children readily and wholeheartedly. Both parties share the unspoken fantasy of participating in a kind of “love-fest”: people who were once strangers coming together through the shared love for an innocent and adorable baby or child. It can and does happen in many situations. But sometimes, blurred lines between nanny and family backfire and eventually cause hurt feelings, misunderstandings, resentment, and in some cases a premature parting of ways, with much emotional pain on both sides.
One major problem is that thinking of your nanny as “part of the family” can unintentionally foster expectations that result in the nanny feeling taken advantage of. We don’t pay family members when we ask them to do extra tasks, or to give up their time on the spur of the moment, or stay late without notice, or take care of the visiting infant cousins without extra pay, or stop by the grocery store on their way to work, etc. The nanny will probably be willing to do these extras, at least initially. But if they continue without compensation she may begin to feel taken advantage of. Being that she is “part of the family”, she now feels awkward bringing up her feelings. She wouldn’t want to appear ungrateful for being included in the family. She doesn’t want to risk spoiling such a close relationship; so she says nothing, and resentment builds. The resentment turns into “attitude”, and the relationship slowly breaks down. Communication is strained. Trust is compromised. The discomfort can result in a nanny quietly looking for a new position rather than communicating her feelings to the family.
To prevent this type of outcome, it’s important for families to remember that the nanny is NOT part of the family, even though you love and appreciate her as though she were. Although you may feel warm, familial feelings toward her, she is working for a wage, and she needs to be compensated for extra work or extra hours to make sure the relationship stays “clean”, and boundaries don’t become blurred. We used to have a joke when I worked in the investment business many years ago: “fast pay makes fast friends.” It’s a good thing to remember. If you ask a nanny for extra time and work outside her normal parameters, immediately tell her you’ll compensate her for that extra time and then don’t forget to add it to her pay! Even if your intentions are good, if you forget to pay her for the extra work she’ll feel taken advantage of. She needs to see you follow through. This tells her you respect her and her time. It cements trust and loyalty in the relationship. It’s definitely worth it in the long run, because when your children are older and don’t need a nanny anymore, you can feel at peace that you provided them with a solid emotional attachment to a long term caregiver while they were young, and this will contribute to their future emotional stability as adults.
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.