11 September, 2012

Is Light Housekeeping a Nanny's Responsibility?

GUEST COLUMNSubmitted by Abby Nelson
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There’s hardly a phrase more confusing in nanny lingo than that of “light housekeeping,” yet it’s a phrase that is widely and consistently used in job descriptions and work agreements all of the time. In the nanny world, light housekeeping typically means leaving the home in the same condition it was in when the nanny arrived. If there were no dishes in the sink in the morning when the parents left for work, there should be no dishes in the sink when they return home. If a nanny arrived in the morning and the floors were sparkling clean, and then she and her charge tracked in mud after playing outside, it would be reasonable and expected for her to clean up the mess and restore the floor to its original morning condition prior to the end of her workday.

In addition to childcare, nannies are also generally responsible for undertaking all tasks related to providing care for the children. While each job will vary slightly, depending on the family’s needs and if a housekeeper is also employed, most nanny jobs require that the nanny do the same household tasks as they relate to providing childcare. Nannies typically: do the children’s laundry, launder the children’s linens, keep the children’s areas neat and tidy, sanitize and disinfect toys, sterilize and clean bottles, prepare nutritious meals and snacks for the children, pick up after activities and arts and crafts, pick up after themselves and the children, keep the family provided vehicle clean, organize the children’s toys, and organize the children’s closets.

Some nannies may also take on additional household related tasks. They may do the children’s grocery and clothes shopping, as well as purchase the supplies needed to properly stock the nursery. In some cases, nannies may also be responsible for ordering age-appropriate supplies, toys, and arts and crafts, depending on the arrangement that was made. Nannies typically do not: do the parent’s laundry, clean the bathrooms, mop the floors, dust the furniture, or prepare family meals regularly. In each family and nanny work arrangement, light housekeeping should be clearly defined. It’s what is in the contract that will dictate what the family’s housekeeping expectations are and what the nanny’s housekeeping responsibilities are. Instead of, or in addition to, using the term “light housekeeping” an employer’s definition of what light housekeeping means should be defined.

Many nannies do agree to take on additional non-childcare related housekeeping tasks. They may do this because the children spend mornings in school or they simply enjoy cleaning and would gladly take on the housekeeping tasks in exchange for increased compensation. If your nanny agrees to take on additional housekeeping tasks, she should be provided additional compensation for them and allowed adequate time to complete them when childcare is not her responsibility. For these nannies/housekeepers, it should be stressed that when the children are in her care, childcare should be her main responsibility.

Often times a nanny will go above and beyond the call of duty simply out of practicality. If a nanny is doing the dishes from lunch and her employer left a knife and dish in the sink after breakfast, for example, she’s likely going to wash them too, rather than simply leave them sitting there in the sink. If a nanny is preparing one of her favorite homemade pasta recipes for the children’s dinner, she may make enough for the entire family, since it’s easier than tweaking the recipe for smaller portions. When these random acts of kindness become expected by employers through, resentment and relationship problems in the nanny relationship can occur. Light housekeeping is going to mean different things to different people. Clearly articulating the duties and responsibilities that meet an employer’s definition of light housekeeping will help to prevent job creep and miscommunication over housekeeping related expectations.

40 comments:

RaleighWorld said...

At least if the term is used then at least you know that you will be expected to do some.

Not like my bosses who both looked at each other when I asked about light housekeeping and said "no, just as long as the baby is taken care of"

7 months later I'm emptying the dishwasher, putting their nasty dishes inside, doing their laundry wash-dry-fold (everyones), vacuuming, taking out the trash, washing toys, and cleaning the kitchen.

At least you kinda know what to expect with light housekeeping... Just expect it to be ally more than "light"

MissMannah said...

Raleigh, if you don't want to do chores, simply stop. Tell them you are going to follow the work agreement and then start looking for a new job because you will likely be fired.

I've said it a million times but the only person who can stop job creep is the nanny.

I dislike this article because it listed way too many chores, much more than a nanny "typically" does. The nanny might launder the children's clothes but she does not typically do the bed linens. Also, she does organize the children's toys but she does not typically sanitize them.

katydid said...

Goood topic!

I am a nanny that does not do any housework. Even light housekeeping.

I leave the house exactly as i found it.

An emplyer said...

Our nanny helps us out with loading dishwasher and with animals during the day. She does kids laundry, helps run errands if they are kid related, and sterilizes and cleans kids toys. We have never asked for her to clean up our house or mop the floor. Some parents expect their nannies to do all the housework, and we knows ours goes above and beyond some normal nanny duties. Before we hired her we had told her all the expectations and if she was okay with the duties. We pay our nanny a lot higher since she does a lot for us, and we always reimburse for gas. We outlined all the duties before she ever said yes to the job, so everything was clear on both ends. We always say the kids come first and other household tasks come second. Raleigh, that is not fair that the family expects you to also be their housekeeper. We have someone who cleans the house, or I do it when I am off work. If you never agreed to those duties, then stop. Dont be taken advantage of. Or renegotiate pay based on those duties. There are better employers out there if it doesn't change, trust me. I have nannied but am now a parent

RaleighWorld said...

Yeah this I'd my last week....

RaleighWorld said...

Is*

Future nurse :) said...

I'm torn on this bc if I have extra time I will put dishes in the dishwasher or put stuff away. With the family I work for its not a big deal to me. However in the past where I was asked to do light housekeeping I would dread doing it. At least with my experience I end up doing more when it's not asked. I Also do more for a family I've bonded with vs a family that I feel uses me. It's kind of one of those things where you scratch my back I scratch yours.

MissWisconsin said...

I look at it like this: come to work, feed kids and there is messes not only from the kids but from the parents. What am I supposed to do...just clean the spots on the table and counter where the kids were and leave the rest a mess all day? That's silly
And the dishwasher... Should I just unload what I need for the kids and leave the five or so utensils and dishes that I don't need in there? No, again silly.
I don't think its too much to ask me to do kids laundry...takes me all of two hours once a week.
I also vaccuum because once again...should I just vaccuum the small area where baby made a mess and leave the rest of the room dirty? No

I don't get how a nanny could do no housekeeping whatsoever due to the examples I just gave.... It just happens

Now cleaning toliets and windows...that's not acceptable. Nor is doing mom and dads laundry.

Ramona said...

As a nanny the only chores that are negotiable to me are cooking & grocery shopping, and kid's laundry. I enjoy cooking & grocery shopping, and kid laundry in my view is an extension of the nanny role, but all these things come at a higher price. I make that clear during interviews.

I will leave your house they way it was when I arrived in the mroning. This means if the kids and I get messy during the day I'll clean it up .

This does not mean I will load or unload your dish washer or wash dishes . I expect to have the materials I need to do my job ready to go when I arrive.

Now every now and then I might throw in an extra out of the goodness of my heart, but I only do so after mounths of employment and I have a good read on the type of person my employer is.

Bottom line: In my view a nanny is there to care for your child. She should not have to wash dishes, laundry the floor etc to carry that job out, and parents should not expect houskeeping no matter how light.

When in doubt said...

Ask and you will receive.

MyOwnFault said...

I generally do extra because I really love my job and my employers...I guess it does occasionally feel like the extras go unnoticed though (like unloading the dishwasher, or throwing a mixed batch of clothes, both the kids and theirs, from the washer where they left it in the morning to run, into the dryer then folding everyones clothes for example.) It seems like since I always do it, its not really noticed or appreciated anymore. But now I feel obligated...I suppose in a sense this is totally job creep brought on by ME not my employers lol. Oh well...

CanadaNanny said...

I always tidy the toys, and wash my charge's dishes...but that's pretty much it. I do laundry very rarely as I only work 25-32 hours a week and sometimes refill the diaper bag. I have unloaded the dishwasher/done parents dishes, and folded/put away laudry before though. I do it when I'm bored when my charge naps (which he does 3-4 hours a day). My MB and DB always notice when I do something extra and thank me the next day.

Kareena said...

@CanadaNanny
So jealous! I wish my charge would take a 1 hour nap much less 3 or 4.
I take care of a 1 month old and I thought he would sleep much longer. I can barely get 30 min. sometimes. Hope he starts to sleep better soon. I love infants but not loving the no sleep thing.

chicagonanny597 said...

Dishes or loading a dishwasher takes all of two seconds. As long as the parents do not leave last night's dinner dishes in the sink and expect you to clean up all that mess, putting away dishes that are clean is common sense. I would be mad if the parents I worked for ate breakfast and expected me to load that into dishawasher, but really do other nannies just leave kids' bowls in the sink? That is part of taking care of and cleaning up after the kids. And laundrey is something I have done... for the kids not the parents.

And in agreement, you ask me to vacuum your entire house and scrub a toilet, I quit.

did.u.forget.to.read.the.article? said...

Ummmmm

dot.dot.dot said...

Never ever should a nanny be expected to wash the parents laundry.

That's all I have to say about that.

EastBayNanny said...

@future nurse - so true about how the relationship you have with your bosses tends to determine how much extra we do for them!

Future nanny :) said...

East bay I never realized how much until I found the perfect fit family! It's crazy, especially because I have more charges but it's all about those relationships! I'm absolutely blessed, this mom will send me texts wishing me luck on a test day and will explain things to me that I don't get in class (she's a stay at home mom but previously a dr). And in turn I will just do things to make her life easier. To all bosses, please find a nanny whom YOU love too, she will be a much better nanny in every aspect!

EastBayNanny said...

@ Future nanny/ nurse- could not agree more! Do not work for people that do not respect you, folks! Speak up when something doesn't sit right, and watch carefully for your bosses' response. Believe what you hear from them. If you hear an open willingness to talk, a give and take in conversation, a level of trust an honesty- they're probably keepers. But it's RARE. When you have it- you are going to move mountains together and raise some awesome kids to boot!

Future nurse :) said...

Sorry for the name change ;) clearly I wasn't paying attention! But good advice, forget Beverly hills nannies, we need our own advice show!

Alex said...

I agree with respecting the people you work for and therefore doing extra tasks when not required or asked of you. My only duties are looking after my charge and doing her washing once a week. I do unpack the dishwasher and occasionally fold MB and DBs clean clothes and if I have time I'll empty the bin and recycle, but just because they are thankful for the things I do and I love my job.

Alex said...

I agree with respecting the people you work for and therefore doing extra tasks when not required or asked of you. My only duties are looking after my charge and doing her washing once a week. I do unpack the dishwasher and occasionally fold MB and DBs clean clothes and if I have time I'll empty the bin and recycle, but just because they are thankful for the things I do and I love my job.

randy jackson rocks said...

How does respect = I do their dishes and laundry?

Aside from being young, I think many nannies have people pleasing doormat personalities.
A constant need for approval which leads them to take on more and more tasks.

Care for the kids. Take a break.

EastBayNanny said...

See for me and the personal background I bring as a struggling single mom for a long time, I choose to step in as needed in random, depending on needs of the day. I know damn well how helpful turning over laundry and dishes can be. I choose to be helpful as parents choose to be respectful and say thank you consistently. I don't see that I'm respecting them, I owe them nothing and that's kind of the point.

EastBayNanny said...

Want to also say that I relate to my families as my "clients", no my bosses. I use tha MB term because that seems to be the lingo on this board but whenever I say bosses I kinda cringe. I am the boss :)

MissMannah said...

Randy Jackson, it is not about being a pushover, it is about liking your boss-family and wanting to make their lives a little easier. The last woman I worked for had just broken up with her baby-daddy and he was really putting her through the wringer with custody fights. I really liked her so I helped her out around the house (dishes, laundry, picking up here and there). She worked almost 10 hour days and I'm sure would rather spend time with the baby than clean constantly all weekend. My current situation is working with a WAHM and I still do occasional odd jobs around the house. Not as much because she has that free time WOHMs don't.

Ugh said...

Does anyone else hate the term baby-daddy?

EastBayNanny said...

Ugh-you seem to hate a whole lot of things. Baby daddy is a common reference for some families. Just is. Go take a nap! Night night!

wow said...

Someone has anger issues...

MissMannah said...

It was a joke. I don't use the term in common conversation. But it was true, he was her baby's daddy. I guess I could have said she broke up with a jackass, because that would have also been true.

Lyn said...

I prefer "baby daddy" over "sperm donor", haha.

MotherFromAnothersMothersFathersSistersBabysNeighborStepCousinUnclesGrandmasNeicesUnclesBabyMomma said...

Well what is she supposed to call him? If he is the baby's daddy, what is the issue with calling him so?

EastBayNanny said...

Awesome :)

Soup said...

I say if you want your life to be easier don't have a kid.


Secondly, none of you should ever scold a nanny for doing extras for the family again or rant about job creep, After all it is all in the name of making life easier for MB or DB.

Give me a break said...

So now liking your bosses = doing extras?

What a message to send to the newere nannies that read or the parent readers!

Our nanny doesn't like us or respect us! She didn't unload the dishwasher!

As someone said it takes less than 5 minutes to unload the dishwaher. They can do it on their own, or they can prob baby nearby and unload, and talk about the dishes. Or the can take 5 minutes after baby has gone to bed and unload the dishes, the washer/dryer, wash their dirty plates.

not everyone gets married said...

If the mother of a child is not in a relationship with her child's father he is a baby daddy.

EastBayNanny said...

@ Gvie me a break- human relationships. That is the point. I don't work for bosses I don't like- my bigger point. All you new nannies out there- you shouldn't work for bosses you don't like either. This is a domestic job, not a corporate hell hole. Your boss is your world. Best like them- third point.. All you parents out there- say thank you- regularly and mean it- my fourth point. No doubt some "extras" will be abundant under these circumstances- fifth point. Last point- bosses be grown ups and communicate your needs directly if your dishwasher is needing attention. The way you ask for something new is crucial to your relationship. If you care about your boss/ nanny relationship - you will most likely find that your nanny will go above and beyond your request- every time.

One F.U.n nanny said...

Nope, first time I've used the Moniker Ugh. I use about 10, depending on the post. So find someone else to pick on. Oh yea and get a life.

Nanny graduate said...

Common sense you make a mess with a child, clean it up. You feed the kid, clean up the dishes. Kid gets dirty, wash the clothes and the kid. All the extra housework get paid for and make sure you aren't taken advantage of. Leave the house as you found it. Kids get crumbs on the floor, sweep it up. Common sense nannies! But fyi if you graduate from a nanny school then they teach anything childcare related such as meal preparation, laundry for kid, dishes for kid, wiping down toys, and maintaining a kids schedule like going to school on time is part of a nanny job. You could also take on more tasks for the family if the pay is agreed upon like whole family meal preparation, grocery shopping, and other stuff. Do i agree with a nanny doing all the family tasks? No just quoting what I learned. But I do the extra stuff, I like my family and they respect me, and my pay is great. So realize some nannies school preach all the extra stuff but common sense on taking care of the kids and get paid for all the extra stuff

Tina said...

This is such an excellent topic and is something I see quite frequently. It can be a really difficult topic to bring up with your nanny family and I myself have even struggled with it during my own nanny years. As many have mentioned, it's imperative to bring this up during the interview so both parties have a clear understanding and agreement to the nanny's daily responsibilities, although even if it is discussed beforehand (and even written into a work agreement), problems can still arise. I always advise to bring it up as soon as you notice it has become a problem, because the longer you wait, the more serious the problem can become and as a result, more hostility builds up. It is not always easy to bring it to your employer's attention, but if you still want to continue working for the family, sometimes you have to dig deep to find some courage and strength and approach the parents. Alternatively, if you were placed with the family through a nanny or staffing agency, you can always contact the owner or agent that you worked with from the agency. Even if it has been months or even a year after the initial placement, the agent's job is to make sure both the client and nanny are happy, even long after the placement. Sometimes it will result in you having to leave the position regardless of how you approach the subject, but it is important each nanny sticks to what he/she is comfortable with in order to remain happy with being in the nanny/ childcare field.