Sunday, March 18, 2007
Perspective & Opinion
In my time as a nanny, I have noticed some interesting ideas on the part of families on what a nanny is supposed to be and what she is supposed to do. These expectations often end up being out of sync with the tasks that were agreed upon when the job began. Both nannies and au pairs have similar experiences.
A nanny or an au pair is supposed to care for your children and tasks relating directly to your children. These tasks can vary from the typical day-to-day playdates, cleaning up after the children and personal care to responsibilities like doctor's appointments and special trips taken with your children. Most (good) nannies and au pairs don't mind doing these things. However, I've noticed a trend of gradually increasing responsibilities without additional compensation and expecting these child caregivers to take care of activities that are decidely not related to children. These reasons are often cited as why a nanny left a former position.
Your nanny is not your personal assistant or your housekeeper. Unless you agreed upon special tasks not relating to your children when you hired her, it is not reasonable to expect her to pack your family for a move across town, weed the garden or do a variety of household chores because your maid service is not coming on a given week. It is equally unreasonable to invite other children over for an entire day without having mentioned this to the nanny beforehand so that she can prepare. Your nanny is not a free neighborhood babysitter. Please do not invite several other children over under the guise of a playdate when you fully intend on leaving your home for hours unbeknowst to the parent's of the other children. There is very little more awkward than explaining to Timmy's mom that Mrs X went to get her hair done around noon and you haven't seen her since. It is not fair to leave your nanny with the additional work of several extra children at a moment's notice and not to compensate her for that additional work. On a similar note, if your nanny is supposed to be done at a certain time, do not wait until 5 minutes before she's set to leave to ask her to do something time consuming for your children. Her job may seem simple or even trivial to you, but she's a person with a life of her own and her time is just as valuable as yours. It's not okay expect her to bend to your every whim.
If you'd like to add a specific duty to your nanny's day, discuss it with her face to face. There is very little more disconcerting than discovering a list of tasks that are to be completed by the end of the day, especially if these tasks had not previously been agreed upon as part of the job. It traps the nanny and creates a great deal of awkwardness, especially for a girl who lives in and might be afraid of being fired/homeless if she does not comply. If you want *your* bedroom closet organized, do not assume your child's caregiver won't mind being asked to do it. Every half hour your nanny spends doing a task you've assigned is a half hour she's not spending with your children. If your children are gone for a portion of the day, discuss with your nanny how you'd like her to spend her time and come to an agreement. Do not assume.
It is reasonable for your nanny to sit down and eat lunch. She is not being lazy. All people need to eat, drink, use the bathroom, etc. If you come home during the day and your nanny is eating, please don't look at her like she's guilty of a capital crime. Additionally, demanding she get up and do whatever task you've just thought of is not reasonable either. Nannies cannot leave work to go get lunch the way you do. Whether the food comes from your fridge or she brings her own lunch, she has a right to eat lunch in a reasonable amount of time. Finally, if you would like your nanny to do something differently, tell her. Nannies, communicate with your family. Getting written agreements about job description, additional responsibilities and compensation that comes with those responsibilities can help keep everyone on the same page. If you do communicate well with your child's caregiver, you may find you have difficulty keeping one employed.