Heaping on the Housekeeping

Hi MPP, my circle of nanny friends get together once a month for our "nanny's night out." During this time we often discuss issues that are affecting us at work, both the positive and the negative. This last nanny's night we were talking about frustrations that have arrived for almost all of us regarding housekeeping. Some of us do only LIGHT housekeeping, and some people, like myself, do house management in addition to the nanny work (think Alice of the Brady Bunch.)

The question that I am interested in asking the nannies and parents that read your blog, is where does light housekeeping become HEAVY? When does Housekeeping become personal maid service? What are the lines between these things for your readers, and what if anything, makes them blurry? I'm sure that your nannies have felt that those lines have been crossed at times, as have I, and the others in my "nanny night out" group. What happened, and did they address the issues or just get so fed up that they gave notice and left? Did they talk about it with their employers? If so, how did it go? Sorry for the rambling letter and the tons of questions - It was a heated discussion for all of us and left us all asking more questions than when we started. - Thank You, CleaverJune


Bethany said...

What is too much will vary from nanny to nanny.
I am proactive during interviews and ask families what they define as light housekeeping, and to give specific examples. Many times it's things I'd do anyway such as clean dishes and other messes I make during the day. I also outline what "household chores " I am willing to do. I don't mind doing laundry for the kids I care for, but parents that have requested that service are willing to pay extra for it and understand I do not do family laundry. I let them I am willing to cook for the kids and adults. I like cooking it's not a huge burden to me. Families that want that service pay extra for it. Basically at an interview or when we're negotiating a contract I give them a list my rate for just childcare and rate for any additional chores. All the while making clear everything else is secondary to the care of the child. That's not to say if mom called one day and asked me to start dinner because she's running late that I would refuse if it wasn't in my contract. There does need to be room for flexibility.
All that said nannies have to be their own voice and honest about their comfort nanny. I know too many nannies that agree to a mountain of chores because they are desperate for a job or they think doing heaps of chores makes them a better nanny. At the same time I know nannies that refuse to do anything outside of childcare yet apply to jobs that expect some level of non childcare tasks. Be honest with yourself you are more likely to find a family that is a good match for you that way.
If you feel you are being taken advantage of and being regularly asked to do more than initially agreed upon sit down with your boss and go over that contract if you don't mind the additional work but would like additional pay ask for it. Be your own voice. Being a nanny is a job and just like any other career you won't get anywhere by never speaking to your boss and building up mounds of resentment.

nycmom said...

Like Bethany, I have learned to literally list every chore in the hiring Work Agreement. To me, every childcare provider including high school sitters and parents should be default be cleaning up any messes made by themselves or the kids during the time they are caring for them. I think that is common courtesy and below light housekeeping, though I still write it out to avoid any confusing.

To me, light housekeeping includes:
-keeping childrens' rooms and play areas clean and organized WITH age-appropriate help from the kids.
-empty, fill, load dishwasher as needed.
-empty garbage if it becomes full.
-children's laundry
-preparing healthy, but not complicated, meals for the kids for every snack or mealtime the nanny is present.
-bathing, dressing, changing diapers, brushing teeth as age appropriate.
-taking a child to the pediatrician for unexpected sick visits (though in reality I always try to go and think I have only had to have a nanny go alone and me call in once in 10 years)

Other duties I consider standard are:
-transporting kids to and from school and activities.
-supervising playdates at our house or a friend's.
-granting access to the home for service people if it can only be scheduled while both parents are at work.
-writing on a family list when we are running low on any needed groceries or supplies.

Our current nanny has approximately 10hrs/week with zero kids to care for during which time she is paid her regular salary. At hiring, I specified I also wanted someone who was willing to do other errands/house management tasks during this time. I do pay above market for our area because I require a lot of flexibility in weekly hours, but I would not have hired someone who refused to do any extra tasks during those 10 hours.

These tasks include:
-errands: grocery shopping, mailing things, returning things, dry cleaning drop off or pick up.
-assisting with basic family meal prep such as prepping a chicken and some vegetables and putting it in the over.
-additional child-related tasks such as changing out seasonal clothes, helping to sort and donate clothes the kids outgrow.
-buying and wrapping birthday gifts for other kids' parties that my children will attend.
-buying necessary items for my children such as a new pair of sneakers.

I have paid extra in the past for a nanny who wanted to earn more to do family laundry.

To me a housekeeper should do additional housekeeping UNLESS at hiring I advertised for someone willing to do both hking/nanny and gave her dedicated time without the kids to do hking. However, ime the skillsets for the two jobs are quite different and I prefer to keep them separate. All of the below refer to messes not made directly by the nanny/kids during the workday.

Heavy houskeeping:
-full cleaning of bathrooms
-vacuuming floors
-mopping/swiffer floors
-scrubbing kitchen (oven, stovetop, cabinets, etc)
-moving and cleaning under/on/around furniture
-family laundry unless as above
-changing bed linens
-picking up after any messes left by anyone other than the kids

I have never blurred these lines with a nanny. I stick to the Work Agreement like glue. I have had caregivers require reminders to do some of the basic tasks, but it has never become a problem with any of my long-term nannies. If I happen to trial a lazy/messy sitter, I just don't hire her again. I did make some errors/assumptions in flex hours/vacation/travel pay with my first nanny. We were able to discuss and solve these issues with my default being that the benefit goes to my nanny if I did not make the terms clear. I wrote everything out in detail at the annual reviews and subsequent hiring to avoid any future confusion.

Bethany said...

I think things like changing diapers, bathing, and clothings as needed should go without saying. I don't think your boss should tell you to do that.
Food prep varies in each situation, but I don't think it's extra to make sure the kids are fed while working.

But this is what I mean both parents and nannies need to be clear about housekeeping expectations. It truly does avoid conflict in the future.

ericsmom said...

I never would think baths would be considered the norm. Really isn't that something a parent would want to do at night?? Bonding with their child

Bethany said...

Depends on how late they work ericsmom.

Some parents want their kid to bathe every night.

I would want to bathe my kids, but it doesn't work that way for everyone. They might want to but aren't able to so do other things to bond.

It's something I ask about, but it's not unusual for me to be told they want me to give the kids a bath.

But, I think a nanny should be willing to give a kid that gets filthy during her working hours a bath and not have to be asked to do so. I care for little kids that are at the stage where they vomit, and poo themselves frequently, so from time to time they need to be washed during the day.

Tessa said...

nyc mom, your list was great! It sounds like you are very clear about what you expect, so I imagine your nanny is very happy working for you. There was only one thing I had a problem with:

"granting access to the home for service people if it can only be scheduled while both parents are at work."

I take issue with that one. In my own house, I never ever have a service person into my home without another trusted adult present. This may sound overly cautious, but I think it is better not to take chances. Once, many years ago I had a cable repair man make overtly sexual comments toward me, and although he didn't get physical, it was still scary because I knew there was no way to get help if he got more aggressive.

To be expected to be alone in someone else's house with a complete stranger while concerned about not only my own safety, but the safety of the kids is unacceptable. I would feel very uncomfortable/worried in that situation. Just something to think about!

ericsmom said...

Of course Bethany I would give a child a bath too if they got really messy. I guess if a parent doesn't get home til 7pm the nanny would be expected to bathe the child.

CleaverJune said...

I appreciate your comments, but I am not confused about contracts, etc. I am aware that frustrations (if any,) will vary from nanny to nanny. What I was trying to ask is what frustrates YOU when you have an agreement that covers housekeeping? When do YOU feel that light housekeeping becomes heavy... FOR YOU? When does housekeeping become being a maid? I know that it is going to be very specific to each nanny.
Each one of us in mygroup group have different contracts and diffrent limits about what they will and will not do. I am just trying to get a better idea about if there is a general consensus among nannies in general, about what is "too much," and what constitutes light/heavy housekeeping, and what would make you the maid.

That's a great clear list. I do have to ask though,where is the line between heavy housekeeping and maid? Cleaning up other people's messes... Where is the line? Do you mean picking up laundry for family all over the floor? Or does that mean just doing the stuff in the hamper?

I think I'm pretty lucky with the family I chose. There is a good work agreement, and there is a clear definition of what is expected for both employee and employer... like spelled out to the nth degree (I learned in the past.)

But after talking to a few nanny friends, I think that I may be the exception. I am noticing that no one can say what the difference between the duties of Maid and housekeeper are when the primary job is to take care of the children. I'm noticing that many nannies find the line between light and heavy housekeeping to be all over the place. (For some it's child related cleaning only, others its that plus other specific duties.)

Modern Momma said...

Why do some people even bother having kids if they're going to hire a nanny to replace them?

Id run if a mother specified I needed to change diapers, lol!

As a mother, if I felt I needed to remind a nanny that she needs to change diapers, that's not the nanny for us. Lol!!!!

Modern Momma said...

Tessa, you're not being paranoid. You're smart. A neighbor was a sex offender, he likes to molest his step kids.

He worked in peoples homes doing HVAC.

Sweet Pea said...

Reading some of the expectations some parents have for their nanny made me feel sad. They're missing out on everything!

Kathy said...

To me light housekeeping is basically doing baby/child's laundry, washing any dishes used during your shift, picking up/cleaning play areas prior to leaving as well as emptying diaper pails and sweeping up crumbs left by the child. Any mess that was made prior to me working should not be my job aside from child's laundry.

Heavy housekeeping to me includes vacuuming carpets, dusting, mopping floors, washing dishes not used during my shift, taking out trash from yesterday, feeding/walking pets, scrubbing bathrooms and doing parents laundry and linens.

nycmom said...

Sorry for the late reply as I have been very busy with work.

For the questions about parent vs nanny duties and bonding -- I agree that the goal for all parents (myself included) should be to have quality time with their kids. The goal is not to have our nanny do MOST of these things MOST of the time, but to understand that SOME of them will be part of her job SOME of the time. There is no way to spin it -- part of having two working parents, absent close family support, means you have to hire someone (whether it is nanny or day care or other) to assist with these childcare tasks when you are working.

I enjoy many of the activities I listed in my description and we give/gave my kids baths 90% of the time, for example. However, with my job being ER shifts, I do often work nights and 12 hour shifts which means I am not home til past 9pm 1-2 days a week and sometimes not there in the mornings. My husband normally takes care of this stuff then (and helps when we are both home, of course), but occasionally he travels. So during those times, I do need our nanny to help with things we normally do and enjoy related to the bedtime routine.

I also agree that many of the things listed, such as feeding and changing diapers, should be obvious. But it's one of those situations I would just rather err on the side of being overinclusive. I have never had a single interviewee or nanny raise an eyebrow at the basics, but I prefer to be comprehensive in the Work Agreement.


You have a reasonable point about service people. It has never been an issue and I can't even think of the last time I needed my nanny to help with this as I always try to schedule these things when I am there to handle it. But if my nanny expressed any discomfort, I would certainly respect that and remove the expectation.


I am not sure I understand the question of Housekeeper vs Maid. Perhaps I miswrote something. To me a housekeeper usually comes once a week or once every two weeks. A maid is more of a parttime/fulltime position. I have never had my definition of a maid, just a once a week hker. I am fairly organized; my husband is not. I try to keep the house in basic neatness most of the time and our housekeeper does the heavy cleaning once a week. But if she arrived after I had left and some clothes were on the floor, she would pick them up. Regardless, I don't expect our nanny to pick up after adults in any of those situations!

Denvernanny said...

Yikes! I'm so surprised that so many parents expect so much housework to be done by nannies. I'm also surprised that so many of you nannies comply. My job is to care for the children - period. I DO NOT do laundry or housekeeping. My employers have explicitly told me NOT to do housework - even straightening up the living room before I go home and rinsing bottles out after feedings are discouraged. They want me to spend my time with their children focusing on those children. They want me to use my free time (nap time) eating lunch and taking care of my personal needs. They value me enough that they go out of their way to keep me happy, and I value my position in their household enough to do my job, and only my job, as well as I possibly can.