10 Things That Will Make You a Great Nanny Employer

GUEST COLUMNSubmitted by Nancy Parker
All nanny employers aren’t created equally. Like with any career there are both good employers and bad ones. As you enter into a nanny relationship, commit to being the best employer you can be. Remember, it is no secret that the best bosses tend to have the best employees. Begin setting yourself apart as a great employer today. You can be a great nanny employer by:

1. Giving your nanny respect. Treating your nanny as a valued employee will go a long way in establishing yourself as a great nanny employer. More than anything, your nanny wants to know that you respect the work she does, the relationship she has with your children and the special insight she brings to the parenting table.

2. Paying your nanny well. Your nanny deserves to be paid more than minimum wage. She deserves to be paid well. When it comes to nanny care, you get what you pay for. Nannies who are paid well tend to be more committed to staying for a long-term position and to going above and beyond to ensure that their job is done well.

3. Showing your appreciation. From small things like saying “Thank you. I appreciate the quality of care you give to my children,” to bigger things like giving a year-end bonus, let your nanny know in tangible ways that you appreciate the work she does.

4. Encouraging your nanny’s relationship with your children. Give your children and your nanny permission to have a loving relationship. Allow and encourage them to bond. If your child says he misses his nanny on the weekend, don’t simply dismiss it. Instead, reaffirm that their relationship is important and missing his nanny is okay.

5. Encouraging regular communication. Set the stage for solid communication. Establish a time to have weekly meetings to review different things that are going on, what’s working, and what isn’t. Ensure that you are home a few minutes before your nanny is due to leave so you can talk about how the day went. Provide ongoing opportunities for regular communication to happen.

6. Covering your nanny’s expenses. It shouldn’t cost your nanny to do her job well. If your nanny keeps a nanny journal, offer to reimburse her for it. If she brings her lunch every day and you can afford to supply it, offer to do so. If your nanny is accompanying you on a family vacation, be sure it doesn’t cost her any money out of her own pocket to do so.

7. Giving your nanny petty cash. Provide your nanny with cash to purchase incidentals like craft supplies, snacks or other items she may need from time to time. Having money on hand for tolls, gas, lunch or other things that come up can help to ensure that the costs incurred when taking care of your child don’t eat into her pay.

8. Offering incentives for continuing education. Offer a membership to the International Nanny Association (INA) or better yet, consider paying for her to attend the INA Annual Conference. Encourage your nanny to take early childhood education classes at the local community college and offer to reimburse her. Providing an opportunity for your nanny to increase her skills and connect with other caregivers will boost her self-confidence, self-esteem and care giving abilities, all of which will benefit you and your child.

9. Scheduling periodic reviews. Whether it’s every six months or once per year, schedule a specific time without the children to sit down with your nanny and have a formal performance review. During this time share all the good things your nanny is doing, as well as any things that could use improvement. You’ll also want to give her an opportunity to provide feedback on how things are going from her perspective. End the meeting by giving her a written evaluation that includes any action steps designed to improve the quality of her work. Consider giving a merit raise (5-7%) or bonus (1-2 weeks’ pay) if your nanny has been performing well.

10. Keeping things professional. While it can be tempting to talk to your nanny about marital problems or to share the latest piece of gossip about the in-laws, don’t. If you ask your nanny to babysit Friday night and she declines because she has plans, resist the urge to ask her exactly what those plans are. To maintain a healthy nanny and employer relationship, there has to be healthy boundaries.

In any type of management situation the general rule of thumb is that things flow from the top down. If you as the nanny employer set the standard for excellence your nanny will follow suit. Great employers breed great employees. And it’s not by mistake.


MissMannah said...

Great post and I agree with almost all, except #8. I think that should be a judgment call on the part of both nanny and boss. In my situation, I would be very embarrassed if they offered to pay for my schooling. I'm actually wondering if parents ever do offer this.

Susannah said...

Fantastic post!

I agree with Miss Mannah on #8. something to discuss at interview maybe.

Z said...

I'm with you guys about #8. I think it would be rather insulting if parents suddenly wanted to send me to nanny school. I would feel like that is a comment on how I am doing my job. If a nanny decides to go to school herself, offering to help pay would be fantastic. But people should decide what level of education they want their nanny to have before hiring her. I think an interview is the only appropriate time to ask a nanny to continue her education for your sake.

Tessa said...

Great post! I have enjoyed all of your columns, Nancy. One thing I think is missing from this list is one of my biggest pet peeves. Parents NEED to come home on time. It makes me crazy when they show up late and don't call, or call 5 min before they are supposed to get home and ask if I can stay late. I believe that if you need your nanny to stay late once in a while, ask her at least a week ahead of time.

Some people I have worked for in the past seem to think they don't need to come home on time unless I have specific plans after work. It is none of an employers business what your nanny does on her time off, you still need to respect that it is her time off, so get home on time! You expect your nanny to always be on time, right?

Penny said...

Great post! I agree with the others as well, if I would be perplexed and annoyed if I where to be required to take nanny classes & as Tessa said parents MUST be on time too! My time is precious just as theirs is! I also think it should be a requirement parents NEED to add to their check list is proper back up or as I call it The Caring Tree. It is simply a small list of sitters near by (outside family just in case they cannot be called on,) to call in the event of illness, vacations, doctors appointments, car trouble accident, emergency, etc. Let's face it relying on ONLY your nanny 5 days a week, 10-12 hours, 5 days a week to never go get a check up, get sick, take vacation, or have an emergency is ludicrous. She is human just as you are and even a nanny cannot prevent the forces of nature to happen to her. It should also NEVER be a nanny's responsibility to provide adequate back up, it is the parents responsibility to find and create their back up sitters for The Caring Tree.

Penny said...

I just realized their are a lot of grammar errors in my post, that's what I get for writing a post on my phone! Lesson learned! Sorry folks for the grammar errors.

Thanks! said...

Yay! I really like your posts Nancy. It is great that we finally have a guest columnist who has something intelligent to say! Thanks!

Just My Two Cents Just Now said...

It's funny because when I was reading all of this, number eight stood out to me too.

During the interview is when a parent should suggest higher education in childcare. It is up to the Nanny to decide if she would be willing take some classes. If the parent wanted her to and she didn't, then that would not be a good match.

Personally, I would be peeved if after working for a family for a period of time, they suddenly stated they wanted me to take some childcare classes. Even if they paid for them, I still would be obligated to attend.

I agree that parents should pay their Nannies well. When working for families who underpay me, I usually do not stick around. It sucks for them, but that's life.

Also, every parent should have a back-up plan for childcare just in case. Nannies, like everyone else, can get sick or have some type of emergency. If they cannot come to work, then they should not have to feel guilty as well because their boss is up in arms because they didn't plan ahead.

Like I teach my own children....ALWAYS HAVE A PLAN B. Always.

Nc nanny said...

I agree with PPs, having a back up child care is essential. And that doesn't mean just grandma bc she might have plans or be out of town. I HATE when I am legitimately sick (ie with dr or hospital notes) and the parents can't get grandma to come so they get angry with you. Nannies aren't fail proof and while we may only miss a few days a year (probably much less than our non-nanny peers!!!!) if you don't have a plan for back-up those days will inevitably fall on a day grandma can't come. It's always smart to have a few back up care providers! As nannies we ARE usually more dependable than most however emergencies always happened. With my previous family I always worried about what would happen if I was hospitalized for a length of time. They wouldn't have had a plan so they would have been majorly screwed! So employers PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE have back up care providers! Honestly it probably worries your nanny more than it does you

Bethany said...

Agree with other posters on the issue of higher ed and back up care.

Concerning # 10 I've heard some interesting things working for various employers. I could probablly rival a bartender or psychologist.


Lyn said...

I would be pleased if my work-family offered to pay for my INA membership, half of my conference fees, or for my CPR and first aid certifications each year. I would consider those things big perks. I understand how it would be weird when brought up seemingly out of no where but working for drs, business men/women, lawyers, etc, who all enjoy their time at specialized conferences each year and are all members of certain professional organizations and have most of those expenses covered by their employers, I think it's nice to want to hand that down to those working for you.

I think that unless you offer to pay for continuing childcare education classes in the initial interview most Nannies would be slightly put off by it being offered 5 months into the job. However, if brought up in interview I would also think of this as a nice perk. I already have a bachelors in Elementary Education but if extra classes are offered, expenses paid, in the interview then I would probably take them up on that. It's one more thing that I think would look good on my information sheets down the road. Besides, I find there is always something new to learn about the philosophy of raising a child.

♥ Amy Darling ♥ said...

I think it is a given that employers pay for their Nanny to get CPR/First Aid certified.

123 said...

As well as coming home on time, I would say leave your house on time too. I hate hate hate when I get to work and there is MB in her bathrobe, and she takes 3 hours just to get out of the house. I would seriously rather she tell me to come in late, even if she docked my pay.

Manhattan Nanny said...

There is some very good advice here, but, provide lunch IF YOU CAN AFFORD IT?! I'm sorry, if you truly can't afford a couple of pieces of bread and some filling, you can't afford a nanny.

I agree with the above about #8. I do think it would be appropriate to say in the interview, we would like you to keep your CPR certification current, so let us know when it comes up for renewal and we will pay the fee.

As for coming home late, that is the biggest gripe I hear from other nannies, and a major reason some employers have nanny turnover. It isn't only about the nanny having plans or commitments. It shows a total lack of respect on the part of the employer.

Rhiannon said...

Yeah, coming home late is really annoying. If a family tells me that the hours are from, for example, 8-5, I will let them know that I charge until 5:15.

Here is why, even if a parent gets right home at 5, they will want to talk about their child, exchange info with the nanny, etc.

A 15 minute window gives everyone time to breathe and leaves no hard feelings.

OceanBlue said...

This is one thing that always confused me about the nanny profession. I have never expected my employers to provide meals for me.

As we constantly say being a nanny is a job and a profession. If I were working elsewhere I'd take a lunch and not expect my employer to provide for me.

Expecting meals is a little babysitteresque for me.

MissMannah said...

Manhattan Nanny, that's jumping to a few too many conclusions. My last job was for separated parents, I mostly worked for the mom and she honest-to-god couldn't afford to feed me everyday. But they could still afford a nanny because the dad paid me every week. They were working through child visitation and support and all that fun stuff so he wasn't giving any money to the mom to help out with the baby. Of course I didn't hold it against them and had no problem bringing food everyday.

Manhattan Nanny said...

Sorry, I'm not taking the bait. You'll have to find something else for your daily argument. :^D

Lyn said...


Bethany said...

I always bring my own food, but I havery specific dietary requirements and I don't feel it's right to put that on employers.

But all my employers past and present have offered to keep food around that's too my tastes.

ericsmom said...

LOL Manhattan Nanny
Your right!! She wants to stir up drama with you.

MissMannah said...

WTF? I wasn't trying anything, I was pointing out that no one knows every situation and that Manhattan's reasoning was specious. It is opinions such as hers that make nannies look judgmental of our bosses.

Susannah said...

I've been a nanny for a number of years now and stillc an't isolate why nannies are entitled to lunch on the family's dime.

Feeding another adult can add up quickly. Especially if that adult is greedy or is picky, better not to offer at all than be in a situation where you have to tell your nanny she's a glutton or tastes in food are too expensive.

Just My Two Cents Just Now said...

I always state upfront to my employers that I will bring my own lunch/drink and I really do.

Some families offer to feed me however and I would be stupid to say NO!!

I guess it's a personal choice.

nycmom said...

Just My Two Cents,
You said:
"I agree that parents should pay their Nannies well. When working for families who underpay me, I usually do not stick around. It sucks for them, but that's life."

Since this just came up in a new topic too, would you (or others with a similar philosophy) mind explaining to me why you take a job that you know doesn't pay you enough since you also know you have a pattern/likelihood of leaving the family prematurely? I know it sounds like a personal attack and I do not intend it to be. But it does seem to be a common issue and I just don't get it.

I completely understand the need to take a temporary job to earn money and pay the bills. We all do what we have to. But if the family is already underpaying and you know the personal investment on both sides in the nanny search/interview/trial and then bond process, wouldn't it, well both kinder and more ethical, to take a temp job with less personal relationships and/or only apply for temp nanny jobs? The final comment of how it sucks for the families and that is life sounds so ... well, the opposite of how I would want my kids to be treated or treat others.

I know you have mentioned quitting (forgetting exact #) many past jobs with no notice also. You have also mentioned you "worked for some of the worst families on the planet." Thus, it doesn't seem like the method you use or how you evaluate jobs has a high success rate. Perhaps it is geographical? Do you feel good jobs are extremely scarce in your area and cannot be evaluated based on a working trial and contract? Thus, the best way to find the best job is to try 'em all? I'm grasping at straws here ...

Truth Seeker said...

Uh oh...nycmom...I sense a huge debate brewing in the background.

While I cannot speak for someone else, I will say what I think.

If I am being underpaid, I would walk out after a while. Sometimes when you accept a job, you do not realize what the family's expectations of you really are. It isn't until you actually work for them that you can see what is expected of you.

So say you work for a family for two months and slowly you are asked to do certain jobs that were not in the contract, perhaps the parents are late a few times coming home, etc. Then you realize the pay you agreed to is quite low since much more is expected of you than you originally thought.

Like the old adage states, "If you underpay your nanny, do not expect her to stick around very long..."

nycmom said...

Truth Seeker,

Thanks for the honest answer. I think job creep and family lateness are legitimate reasons to quit a job. However, if that happened to me more than once as a nanny, I would do what I and many nannies on here do: Insist on a detailed, written contract listing all duties AND listing things that are NOT your job and you do not do. I would spell out my fees for lateness over 5 minutes, etc.

I also do a 1-2 week trial with any new nanny, during which time I make it clear we should both continue our interview process, to assess compatibility. During this time, I don't try to be on my best family behavior. In fact, I want her to see the worst, the hard parts, each child's and my challenges. I don't want a nanny to come work for me by tricking her! I want a long-term relationship and that means showing her the challenges up front. Either these are negatives she can handle, or not, but I certainly don't want to mislead her. I also want to see her strengths and weaknesses and make sure we are a good fit.

Despite my au pair and occasional sitter horror stories, I have never hired a ft nanny after the trial that did not work out and we are on our 3rd long-term nanny (4-5 years, 4 years and only separated due to our move, 6 months in for #3).

princessnanny said...

Oh my, being late has rubbed me the wrong way these first few weeks starting with my new family. I was told in the first week that the only way the mother could be home on time on a day I had an appt and absolutely had to leave on time was if I came to work 2 hours early. She was still 15 mins late. I start watching the clock hoping and praying they'll be on time when it gets close to 5.