Trustworthy, efficient and loving live-in nannies are to be cherished and encouraged to remain as such. The following suggestions are based on what nannies have shared with us over the years. I share them with you in an effort to make your experience a caring and rewarding one for you and your children.
We strongly emphasize a commitment of one year and the first week or two may be crucial to your nanny’s decision to stay with you. Take the time to show your nanny around the town, introduce her or him to other nannies in the neighborhood. Help your nanny get her/his bearings. Provide a map of your locale and brochures of things to do in the area. Expect to show the routes around town more than once. If possible, do not put her/him to work the first day. Instead, make it a celebration!
We hope you have a regular housekeeper. But if you do not, at least hire a cleaner to have the house as neat and organized as possible for your nanny’s arrival. Your nanny’s room should not be full of your things. Clean out the closet, have plenty of dresser space, a mirror, a bulletin board for photos and put a TV and stereo in the room so your nanny truly feels this is a personal space. A private phone line for your nanny is a plus.
Schedule as much time as possible alone for your nanny with the children so a rapport can be established with them. This bonding may take time to develop. Parental backup must be available to ensure that the children treat your nanny with respect. Successful placements most often occur where the children are aware that their new nanny has the full support of the parents.
Most families that employ live-in nannies are now providing a car exclusively for the nanny’s use. Parents with small children do not stay at home without access to a vehicle. Don’t expect that of your nanny. You can put mileage restrictions on the car but your nanny should have the right to drive during free time. Be sure to have proper insurance coverage.
Make room in the pantry and refrigerator for special foods your nanny may want to buy with her/his own money. A small fridge in your nanny’s living space is a real plus.
Ideally, you will install a private phone for your nanny to use. She/he would pay for personal long distance charges. A nice perk is to pay $10 to $20 per month toward these charges so your nanny can stay in touch with family and friends.
Nannies may occasionally enjoy having a friend stay over on a day off. If this is agreeable with you, request that your nanny make prior arrangements with you. If any family comes to visit, you will be greatly treasured if you allow them to stay in your home.
Thoroughly instruct your nanny about all security precautions taken in your home. Nannies should never let in repairmen without your prior approval. Tell your nanny who is coming and when. If anyone shows up unexpectedly, the nanny should call you at your place of work before letting him or her enter your home.
Most nannies are young women. They may be sensitive to kidding and certainly to mockery. You may be moody in the privacy of your home but if you make your nanny the brunt of this moodiness on a continual basis, you may be left without the childcare you need. Take your nanny out for ice cream after dinner once in a while, if not for a full-course dinner.
The very best relationships develop when people take time to communicate. Encourage the discussion of working conditions with you if something seems amiss. Criticize gently. We recommend regular meetings where all aspects of your nanny’s and your expectations can be discussed openly and fairly. A wise employer will schedule a time and place where there will be no interruptions.
Nannies thrive if they feel salary raises are possible. An end-of-year bonus is an effective way to insure that your nanny will complete her contract. A 401k is also appropriate.
Since nannies are salaried, it can be tempting to heap on the hours without giving additional pay. The salary you pay should reflect up to a 50 hour week (with dollar value of housing/vehicle use and total salary reflecting overtime to comply w/ 40 hour week Labor Law rules). Anything over 50 hours should be compensated with extra pay or extra time off. Be careful that you do not increase your nanny’s workload without also increasing her salary. Be sure the workload does not distract from your nanny’s primary responsibility: the proper care of your children. Children will thrive from the creative energy of a nanny not drained by too many domestic chores.
As an employer, you need to be clear as to your special pet peeves, like clutter in the kitchen, etc. In areas not as crucial to your peace of mind, allow your nanny to show individuality as much as possible. Be realistic about the busy hands of small children. Expecting your house to look like no children live there when you arrive home is unreasonable.
Have respect for your nanny’s plans. Avoid asking for last minute babysitting. Your nanny may not tell you it is inconvenient, but frequent babysitting may cause resentment. Ideally, you will go over your schedule with your nanny on a monthly and weekly basis so everyone knows what to expect.
The best employer/nanny relationships are a careful blend of mutual politeness, friendliness and respect for privacy. We encourage nannies to be flexible with their employers regarding hours of work as the careers of their employers are often demanding. However, employers need to understand a nanny’s need to interact with peers during off-hours and need to trust that plans for free time will be respected.
Bad days happen to all of us. Count to ten, walk away, call the agency if you must. But cut your nanny some slack if she/he is a bit “off”. Some nannies are not assertive enough to tell you when their plate is full. Instead, they do a job slowdown. Observe, and be aware of the pressures your nanny may be feeling.
Nannies tell us that when work is piled up for them when they return from their two days off, it can be stressful and discouraging. Perhaps a “Monday morning bonus” can be waiting for your nanny to compensate when extra work has accumulated. This work should always be child-related unless you are paying extra for other domestic work your nanny has consented to do.
Any other “perks” you can provide may insure a long-lasting relationship. Creating your nanny’s own space with all the creature comforts is a given. A membership to the local Y or fitness club is always good for mental health and physical well-being. An extra trip home during the year, even a weekend at a local ski area or tickets to a concert or play will show gratitude on the part of the employer. Nannies should be provided health insurance. There are companies that specialize in health insurance for nannies and the rates are very low. Nannies should get at least some of the state/federal holidays off with pay, or other days off as compensation. Allowing time for a college class or two and even paying some or all of the tuition is a wonderful perk.
Unless you are specifically hiring a live-in maid or housekeeper, be very aware of the domestic chores you expect. Nannies who are wonderful with children may bristle at parents who will not make their own bed, carry their own plate to the sink after meals or who entertain and leave the clean-up to the nanny. Try to keep the domestic chores as child-related as possible. Employers who truly want maid service may get some of it from the nanny, but should expect to pay more . Some nannies love to be used as personal assistants, for shopping, errands, scheduling travel, supervising other domestic help, perhaps assisting in your business endeavors. It adds variety to the day, and if children are in school, it makes sense to utilize your nanny for other duties. At this point, your nanny becomes more of a household manager/personal assistant and pay should reflect that. Paying under the table is a thing of the past. This is a REAL career and the employer needs to treat it as such.
Frequent marital arguments within hearing range of a live-in nanny are unsettling. We have had nannies quit because of this alone.
Curfews for nannies are not a good idea. Obviously, you need to step in if your nanny is coming in at all hours and is not getting up in the morning. Please do not abuse the excuse that you need to set your alarm system. If you trust your nanny with your children, you can trust your nanny with the code to the alarm system.
Remember, the first couple of weeks can be somewhat rough as the nanny adjusts to a new culture (yours) and your children adjust to your nanny. Keep the lines of communication open. Encourage your nanny to call us, or you call us. We can provide you a great service by helping your nanny communicate concerns to you.
If a nanny is working long hours for you during the week to cover your work time and commute, look into finding other coverage for nights and weekends. Check with a school counselor or child development teacher. A warm and competent high school senior or college student may be a real boon to keeping your permanent nanny from burn out.
Many nannies and families form bonds that last a lifetime. This is how it should be. Life is often less than perfect, but never think you are the winner if you manage to keep a nanny on the job through intimidation. Children deserve a nanny who loves the work. You can make the workplace delightful or miserable, depending on your skills as a humane employer.