Saturday, January 10, 2009

A Professional Nanny's Guide to Finding and KEEPING a Terrific Nanny

Dear Parents:

Because we love your kids, we stay with your family, through good times and bad. But sometimes, we just need to get a few things off our chests. Please note that the following comments do not apply to all of you, nor do ALL comments apply to ALL employers. This outline of mutual expectations is based partially on a recent post. You know which one, right?

--Before deciding to hire a nanny, please do your homework with regards to the average salaries in your area. Offering a wage far below what is generally seen as normal for your city will result in you interviewing glorified babysitters, who may or may not do a decent job watching your children. If you cannot afford a nanny, there are wonderful family day care providers and terrific corporate daycare services. Use them instead.

--Take into account the costs associated with paying nanny legally when you are looking at what your childcare budget needs to be. Paying off the books is illegal – set a good example for your kids and follow the rules. You don’t really want a lawbreaker taking care of your kids anyway, so refuse to hire “nannies” who are eager to work off the books.

--Offer appropriate paid time off and personal/sick days. Recognize that nanny is human, and needs to have regular vacations and days off, just as you do. Also, consider that if nanny gets sick enough to miss work, she likely caught those germs from your kids. Have a back-up care plan in place.

--Ask nanny to do reasonable household tasks that revolve around the children. The kids laundry, keeping the kitchen, play areas, and kids rooms tidy, preparing and serving nutritious meals, cleaning up messes made during the day, even grocery shopping and errand running for the children…these are all reasonable expectations that can be accomplished WHILE nanny nurtures, plays with, and educates your child. Expecting nanny to provide high-end childcare while mopping, vacuuming, or cleaning toilets is not reasonable. Hire a housekeeping service.

--Set and discuss “house rules” during the interview process. If nanny may not have friends over for playgroups, make that clear. If you must meet anyone nanny would like to invite to your home, make that clear. If you will be requiring drug testing, make that clear as well. A professional nanny wants to know the rules of your home so that she can respect them. If a nanny has any issues with your house rules, please be willing to listen to what she has to say, but then make your decision and explain your reasoning.

--Write and sign a work agreement that outlines job duties, salary, benefits, and what expectation nanny can have of raises and bonuses for a job well done.

--Set up a household account for nanny to use when shopping for or entertaining your children. Set a budget, get a check card for her use, provide a place for her to keep receipts, and review the bank statements when they come in. Do not ask nanny to pay for things out of her own pocket. Ever. Period.

--Only hire someone you trust. Check references diligently. Ask friends, neighbors, and relatives to “drop by” unexpectedly if you want to get an idea of how things go when nanny is in charge. If you absolutely must nanny cam, make that clear at the start of the interview process, so that any nanny who chooses to not work on camera can remove herself from your interview list.

--Allow nanny reasonable access to your refrigerator and pantry. If nanny chooses to eat a specialized diet, it would be nice to provide what she needs, but if that means making an extra grocery trip each week, you might offer to provide her with a small food allowance that she can use to purchase things on her own time. Be aware that most professional nannies do abide by the “Never eat the last serving!” rule, but do be sure to let nanny know if something is off limits. We won’t be insulted if you tell us the premium pasta sauce is for the dinner party you’re throwing that weekend.

--Little benefits and perks mean a lot. If you can afford to provide nanny with a cell phone, do so. Same goes for adding nanny to your family gym membership, making sure your family zoo/museum/aquarium passes include nanny, and being sure to provide safe and reliable car seats for nanny to place in whatever vehicle she uses to transport your children. IF you can provide a nanny car, that’s terrific. If not, pay nanny the IRS dictated mileage rate, and do so with a smile, knowing that nanny is using her car to take your children on exciting and educational adventures.

--Consider helping nanny pay for continuing education classes or conferences that help her learn new skills to bring to the job. Offer to pay for, and attend along with her, CPR and First Aid classes.

To keep the relationship positive and make sure your terrific nanny stays with your family, here are some tips for keeping yourselves and nanny happy.

--Do not comment on or offer advice to nanny regarding her wardrobe. If she is a true professional, she will be properly attired to work with and play with your children every day. If your “nanny” wears heels, cocktail attire, or skanky clothes that are too tight/revealing/short, that’s a tip that she is not focused on being a childcare professional.

--Do your best to avoid adding duties to nanny’s contract without her agreement and additional financial compensation. If you note nanny is stepping up to take on extra work, be sure to thank her both verbally and with the occasional thoughtful gesture, like a small gift or a day off.

--Make and keep your children your nanny’s top priority. You are paying a good salary because you want them to have that specialized individual attention.

--Provide nanny with the necessities she needs to keep a journal for you that will detail the activities, cute moments, and adorable sayings that happen each day. Ask that she take the time to update this journal daily.

--Do the best you can to maintain a livably clean work environment for nanny. The best way to make a nanny grumpy is for her to find her “office” trashed when she arrives at work on Monday morning. Yes, we know housework is something that can suck the life-force from you when you are tired or stressed. Finding a new nanny, because your nanny wrote her resignation letter in the grease on your granite countertops, can do the same thing.

--Maintain some personal boundaries with nanny, and expect she do the same with you. If you must discuss your marital issues with someone, find a therapist. If you like to watch or perform odd or unusual maneuvers with your spouse or by yourself, keep the DVDs wrapped up in the ubiquitous “brown paper”, store your grown-up toys, and delete computer histories on shared computers. It is mortifying to find details of an employer’s personal intimate preferences lying around at work.

--Keep the lines of communication open. Have weekly meetings to be sure everyone is on the same page with regard to outings, developmental issues, and phases your child is going through, and make time to discuss any issues your children are experiencing. Nanny can often offer sage advice – take advantage of her experience. Do not scream at nanny, freeze nanny out, or snipe at nanny. Treat nanny as you want your boss to treat you.

--Come to nanny when it is time for raises. Don’t make her chase you down and beg for a meeting. Be prompt, fair, and honest when giving annual reviews. If you are not able to continue raising her salary, discuss other benefits you can provide, like Health Insurance, a 401(k), or fewer hours. If nanny has not earned a raise, let her know how to improve and schedule another meeting in 3 months time.

--Expect nanny to want to discuss child related issues with you, and expect that once she has made her opinion clear she will graciously follow your lead, unless what you want will cause physical or emotional harm to your child. If she has an issue with the direction you want to take, she should either ask if you can both research the issue and then discuss it further, or suggest you discuss the problem together with an appropriate expert.

--Expect nanny to treat you and your home with respect. If you come home each and every day to a trashed home, kids watching TV, and nanny yakking on the phone, you may need to ask yourself if this person is the right one for the job.

--Expect a level of professionalism from a nanny who calls herself a professional. A true professional does not threaten, sulk, intimidate, or otherwise try to force her employers to cater to her. If you ever wonder whether nanny will take out her anger at you on your kids, FIRE HER, and start your search over.

--Respect is a two way street. Treat your nanny with respect, expect she will treat you with respect, and do not ever take a terrific relationship with your nanny for granted. In many ways, a nanny/employer relationship is like a spousal relationship. If you berate, ignore, neglect, or disrespect your spouse, they will not want to stay with you, but if you treat your spouse with kindness, express appreciation to them, and pay them positive attention, they will be with you for the long haul.


Andrea aka~ Happy Nanny ;-D said...

Thankfully all my employers have followed most of your list.
I just finished up a wonderful 5 years with my last employer.

Andrea~ Professional Career Nanny in Northern, NJ since 1999.

Anonymous said...

There are many opinions on what a young live-in domestic worker (maid girl/nanny girl or whatever) shall wear and not wear, and they differ between employers.

I know a person who when she was a young girl in her late teens/early 20's worked as a combined live-in maid girl/nanny girl for a very strict rich employer some years ago. The girl had to wear:
*White blouse
*Black skirt with a belt
*Black skirts
*Black shoes
*White waist apron (and for the most dirty work a white full-length apron should be town)
*Name tag

She lived in a small room in her employer's home, and worked hard for a low wage. She had hard to find other works. The rules were very strict. The girl had to, among other things:

*Curtsy in front of employer
*Adress her employers with title
*Shorten her hair or at least put it back into a ponytail (reluctant, she "choosed" the ponytail).

The girl had very strict employer, but were not mean to her. But the girl hated it all. She wanted to wear more comfort clothes like jeans, t-shirt and sweater (even if the uniform wasn't too uncomfort, sure it was at least a little bit tight-fitting and hot at summertime, but it worked). The first days, she started to complain sometimes but when her employer turned angry and begun to shout at the young girl until she almost begun to cry (which I don't consider really fair), the girl understood she had to accept it as long as she worked there.

Michelle said...

Can I "borrow" this and repost it (with props to you) on my website and in my journal?