Nanny/family relationships are complicated. There are no across the board rules that apply to every relationship, and what works for one family may not work for another. Yet the nanny/family relationship is a key element in keeping a nanny long term, so it’s important that both sides work to create and maintain a healthy employment relationship. The best way to do that is to avoid problems to begin with. Here are five common problems that often come up between nannies and the families they work for.
The parents and nanny aren’t on the same page when it comes to discipline issues. Everyone knows that the most effective way to handle discipline issues is for the nanny and parents to work together as a team. This is often, however, easier said than done. When the parents don’t back up a nanny’s discipline decisions, when they don’t follow through on the agreed upon consequences, or when they instruct a nanny to take a tactic that doesn’t align with her caregiving philosophy, problems can come up. Of course, it’s just as problematic when a nanny doesn’t support a parent’s discipline decision or beliefs. In all these cases, it’s essential that the lines of communication between the nanny and parents stay open and these issues are discussed honestly. Working as a team requires ongoing effort, respectful dialogue and a willingness to work together with the best interest of the child in mind.
The nanny doesn’t feel the work she does is respected or valued by the family. Nannies invest a lot of themselves emotionally into their jobs. They can become resentful and discouraged when they feel their employers don’t appreciate that or when they feel they are taken for granted. This is a tough topic to talk about, so it often gets pushed to the back burner and the nanny simply hopes it will get better. Instead, it usually gets worse. Parents need to make sure to take the time to let the nanny know that they do recognize and appreciate how much she helps and supports their family. A simple “thank you” or “great job” can go a very long way.
The employer keeps adding on additional duties. Because there are no set rules for what a nanny does and doesn’t do on the job, every job description is different. Sometimes parents ask or require tasks the nanny isn’t able to do or doesn’t want to do. If the nanny says yes rather than voicing her concerns and feelings about those added duties, it can lead to feelings of resentment and being overwhelmed. Whenever a job description is being modified, both sides should review the new description and agree to the additional duties. Making assumptions is harmful to the employment relationship.
The nanny doesn’t follow the directions given by the employers. One of the biggest benefits of having a nanny is that the parents get to have control over the daily environment. They can hire someone with a specific discipline philosophy. They can set guidelines around food, learning, activities, and other things they feel are important. However, it’s impossible to hire a caregiver that mirrors all the parents’ wishes. Sometimes the nanny has a different way of doing things, which can cause friction between the parents and the nanny. In these cases it’s key that the parents give the nanny honest feedback and outline their expectations for future behavior. It’s equally important that the nanny accept the feedback and make any necessary changes in her actions.
Issues aren’t addressed until they’ve become big problems. It’s easy for both parents and nannies to sweep small issues within the employment relationship under the rug. Because the nanny/family relationship is part professional and part personal, it can be difficult to talk about sensitive topics and both sides have a tendency to not directly address issues until they’ve become ticking time bombs. Of course, the problem is that it’s much harder to fix problems once they become emotionally charged. Parents and nannies should have regular meetings about what’s happening with the children and on the job. They should also have regular performance reviews that allow each side to evaluate the other. By tackling issues before they become bigger problems, parents and nannies can avoid a lot of stress, frustration and hurt feelings.
Working together is the best way for both parents and nannies to create and maintain a healthy nanny/parent relationship. Although it can be difficult, addressing issues early on through honest and respectful dialogue will help them create the kind of relationship that will ensure both sides are getting their needs met.