The key to a successful nanny and employer relationship is open and honest communication. While nannies and parents should be able to communicate effectively about all aspects of the job, there are some phrases that employers should use with caution when speaking with or about their nanny.
1. Light housekeeping. Light housekeeping means different things to different people. To nannies, light housekeeping typically means cleaning up after the children and keeping the children’s areas, including their bedrooms, play areas and bathroom, clean, neat, and organized. It also generally includes doing all of the children’s laundry and putting it away. This vague phrase is the source of both confusion and contention in the nanny-employer relationship. Clarifying the specific tasks and duties that relate to light housekeeping responsibilities will ensure that both the nanny and the employer are on the same page and that the nanny completely understands her employer’s expectations. While many nannies are willing to take on additional housekeeping tasks for additional compensation, it’s important to make that agreement in advance to allow extra time for those duties to be done and to reaffirm that the children are the nanny’s first priority.
2. You need to stay late. While most nannies are willing to be accommodating and flexible, when they are presented with this directive, rather than a request, it conveys the message that their time isn’t seen as valuable. As an employer, parents are within their grounds to give directives, however when asking for something outside of the agreed upon duties and expectations, asking instead of telling will go a long way in making your nanny feel valued and respected. The reality is that sometimes things do come up that cause parents to run late and most nannies understand this. Nannies also know that they can’t leave work until the parents return home. Being apologetic and taking responsibility for not being home at the agreed upon time, letting your nanny know that you appreciate her for staying late, and compensating her for the additional time she’ll be working is good practice to follow to maintain a healthy relationship.
3. Your salary. One of the most trouble causing phrases in the nanny employer relationship is “your salary.” Typically problems arise when this phrase is used because the clarification of if the salary is gross salary (before taxes) or net salary (after taxes) has not been made. When speaking in terms of salary, it is always important that both the nanny and parents are clear on if they are speaking in gross or net terms. The difference in gross and net nanny salary is significant enough that it could result in a demise of the working relationship. If a nanny thinks she is earning $800 per week and her first paycheck is for much less, she’s not going to be happy. Likewise, if a parent believes she secured the perfect nanny for $600 per week, only to learn later that $600 was the salary which the nanny expected to take home, the parents may no longer be able to afford the nanny they want.
4. My babysitter. When it comes to childcare terms, nannies are generally sensitive about being misclassified. Calling your nanny a babysitter, especially in front of others, will likely be perceived as an insult. If your nanny views herself as a dedicated part of your parenting team, reducing her role to one that provides only custodial care (simply keeping the children safe when you aren’t home generally on an informal or occasional basis) will convey that her work and contributions aren’t valued. While all child care providers play an important role in the lives of the children they care for, most nannies want their employers and others to understand and validate the unique role they play in the lives of families.
5. My nanny won’t mind. While chances are your nanny really won’t mind doing what you have planned for her, assuming that she won’t mind, rather than asking her if she does or not, can lead to trouble. Many times nanny employers will volunteer their nanny to care for a family member or friend’s children while they are visiting. Even if your nanny won’t mind, she’s going to care about the logistics. If transportation is going to be needed for the children, for example, your nanny will want to ensure she has the proper seating. If she feels uncomfortable caring for a large number of children she doesn’t know well, you’ll want to know that. If you do ask your nanny to go above and beyond her typical duties, you’ll also want to compensate her for it.
Developing a mutually respectful relationship with your nanny will promote feelings of trust and security. Being aware of and avoiding phrases that can spark contention will help facilitate a good working relationship.