Submitted by Molly Cunningham
Ideally, the relationship between a nanny and her employers is one that is close enough that she becomes a valued member of the extended family in addition to being an employee. More often than not, however, a working relationship that gets too close becomes bereft of boundaries, in which nannies feel comfortable assuming far more control than is warranted and parents feel comfortable heaping more responsibility on her than she originally bargained for. If you find yourself in the position of feeling that your nanny is performing more of the tasks that keep your household running and is effectively taking over control of your home, it’s not too late to set those essential boundaries:
1) Institute Family Time – Most nannies understand that family time is just that, so make a production out of instituting a regular game or movie night, or a family outing. Let your nanny know that she’ll have that time off to do as she pleases, which sends a subtle but pointed message that you’re spending time with your children as a family, and that her services aren’t required during bonding time.
2) Relieve Her of Duties That Aren’t Related to Childcare – When your nanny does your laundry, makes your bed, and shops for all of your food, it’s easy for her to begin to feel as if she’s got a stake in the running of your household and justified in making decisions that affect it. Rather than blaming your nanny for the amount of control that you perceive her to have or even outright bossiness on her part, make an effort to narrow the scope of her responsibilities back to where it should be: caring for your children while you’re away.
3) Communicate Your Concerns Respectfully and Calmly – Your nanny has no way of knowing how you feel if you don’t communicate your feelings to her, but these situations can be so fraught with emotion that the conversation spirals out of control and degenerates into a shouting match that ends in tears and possibly the loss of a nanny. Approach the conversation as calmly and reasonably as possible, resisting the urge to level accusations or display resentment. Keep in mind that your nanny is almost certainly not trying to seize control of your home and children; she’s probably trying to do her job to the very best of her abilities and doesn’t realize that you feel she’s crossed a line.
4) Consider the Possibility That You’re Suffering from Nanny Jealousy – Being forced to spend the bulk of your day out of your home and away from your children while your nanny witnesses every milestone and major triumph can make even the most pragmatic parent a bit jealous. Unfortunately, this jealousy can cause you to feel subconsciously angry at a nanny whose only goal is to provide exemplary care. Before approaching your nanny with concerns or accusations, take a moment to carefully examine your true motivation; do you truly feel that your nanny is overstepping her bounds, or are you simply envious of the time that she gets to spend with your little ones?
5) Set Firm Rules About Discipline – One of the most common causes for contention between nannies and their employers is a fundamental disagreement about proper discipline. Your nanny should understand that, in the end, your style of parenting and methods of discipline should be respected above all else, as you and your partner are the ones who ultimately make decisions regarding the rearing of your children.
6) Play an Active Role – Sometimes nannies take on more than their fair share of child rearing responsibilities when they feel as if there’s a void left by busy parents. Rather than blaming your nanny for attempting to ensure that your kids get all the love and devotion that they need, try to take a more active role in their daily lives.
7) Avoid Being Passive-Aggressive – It’s easy to resort to passive-aggressive tactics in order to regain control that you feel you’ve lost to your nanny, but such methods are almost sure to backfire in the end. Instead, make the effort to confront the situation decisively and with as much respect and consideration for your nanny’s feelings as possible in order to effectively resolve the situation with a minimum amount of hurt feelings or resentment.
Nannies that actively try to take over a household in order to establish dominance or control are few and far between, because those that approach the profession from that angle tend to have short-lived careers. Keep in mind that the vast majority of nannies genuinely want to perform their jobs to the best of their abilities, and to keep their employers happy.