I often get questions from parents about things that come up when working with their nanny. Some of these things seem like they should be little things, but they are NOT. Don’t let these nine little things sneak up on you and put a hitch in the relationship you have with your nanny.
Nanny Eating Family’s Food
It never occurs to some parents and nannies that this could turn into an issue. I often see the topic of food come up from both parties.
Some parents have an open fridge/pantry policy. They may even go so far as to ask the nanny what kinds of foods she would like to have around to eat during the week. If there is anything that’s earmarked for something specific, like leftovers intended for dinner, make sure to label it or communicate that to your nanny.
I have heard some parents are surprised by their nanny eating the food at their house. If this is you, make sure to discuss with your nanny. It can get weird and become a big “thing” if the relationship progresses and food becomes a sticking point for any reason.
Some families have kids with food allergies or special diets. I have seen one instance where the family’s food requirements meant the nanny was only able to bring foods that were specialty items. This made the food more expensive than what the nanny normally purchased. If you have any specialty requirements like this, consider always allowing the nanny to eat what’s in the house or giving her a specialty food stipend.
Whether you have an open or closed fridge policy, please make sure to discuss this with your nanny.
Sick Kid Stuff
Scenario One: Nanny share Families A and B consider themselves to have a unicorn nanny share family relationship existence. Meaning it’s soooo perfect. Until there is a disagreement over where the nanny goes when the child of Family A is sick and the parents can’t miss work, and the child of Family B need a care provider, too. (“My planned day is more important than your planned day”, or “Who needs the nanny “more?” 🙁 )
Scenario Two: You’re pretty sure your child is coming down with the flu. But you have to go in for work today and you just tell your nanny your child is feeling under the weather. Have you considered she might not be comfortable with caring for your child in this situation?
Most nannies are okay with coughs or colds, and some even with the flu and beyond. But there are some very real reasons a nanny might decline providing care if the child has anything like the flu or a more serious/contagious/highly transmissible illnesses. They could have an immunocompromised loved one, and an illness could mean not being able to help/care for/visit /live with that person. Getting sick could mean missed work and losing out on pay, though Washington State’s Sick Leave Laws are hopefully helping with this. Talk about this with your nanny ahead of time so it doesn’t become a “thing”.
Should I prohibit cell phone use during work hours?
While driving? Yes. No. Wait… is it okay so long as it’s hands-free? For texting? What about for navigation purposes?
During the day when out and about with kids? Yes. No. Wait…what if she takes video and pictures to keep parents updated with their day? Or making e-notes about daily diaper changes, naps, food, and activities?
Many nannies have high standards for cell phone etiquette when they are with their nanny kids. And some abuse cell phone use while working. You could consider a cell phone usage policy with some general recommendations. This could prevent cell phone usage you’re not comfortable with from become a big “thing”.
Please keep in mind that if your nanny is working during typical business hours, chances are that she may occasionally need to conduct phone or internet business that can only happen during that time. And keep in mind, nannies don’t always get true breaks during work hours. Which is a good segway into the next topic…
Nanny taking breaks
Nannying is one of those professions where it can be really difficult to fit breaks in. I see ads for nannies frequently say they would like “help with light housework while baby sleeps”. If you have a child who naps for three hours each day this might be a little easier to swing (and please, please teach me your ways). If your child takes several short naps, or perhaps falls asleep in the car and won’t nap in their crib, that means the nanny won’t be getting much of a break.
Once in a while, a family is able to give their nanny regular breaks. What a great thing to do! This situation is rare but really nice when it works out. Consider discussing with your nanny that you recognize the importance of breaks when possible, and where these might happen during the day. It can be nice for the nanny to unwind for a bit and recharge, as well as catch up on some personal business that might need tending to. (Note: they will appreciate having access to your WIFI, if possible. 😉 ) Having a conversation about this will set expectations for when the kids are sleeping and will help prevent nanny breaks from becoming a big “thing”.
Nanny getting coffee on parents’ dime when out with child
“Should I pay for all the coffees my nanny buys herself while out with my kids? “
I received this question from a parent when they felt like their nanny was submitting a lot of Starbucks coffee receipts for reimbursement each week. Is it reasonable to have the nanny do this if dining out for a meal with your kids? Are you okay with her hitting the Starbucks Drive Thru daily? Do you mind covering several coffees per week? Prevent this from becoming a “thing” by providing clear guidelines about what petty cash or the nanny/kids expense funds cover.
Do I need to state no drugs or alcohol during work hours in the contract?
Sometimes parents feel weird about the mention of this in the nanny contract. This could become a big deal because “she uses marijuana” while working can now also apply to the muscle soreness relieving cream she uses once or twice per day.
Whatever the hesitation with adding this…just do it! The safety of your children is at stake. Many nannies have shared that they would be completely fine with having this in the contract. Some even say they expect it. (Note to residents of WA, OR, CA, CO, etc: depending on where you fall on the 420 friendly scale (or not), you may choose to specifically say what types of cannabis products, if any, might be acceptable for use during work hours).
Kissing Nanny Kids
Sooo, with my background in the dental field this one is really important to me. I’m all about nannies developing loving bonds with kids. There are different comfort levels with how affection is shown. I’m a huge fan of no kissing on the lips – my personal belief is that should be limited to parents, grandparents, and siblings.
Studies have shown that the bacterial profile in a child’s mouth is similar to that of their primary caregiver. This could mean that if the nanny is the primary care provider and is prone to inflammation or tooth decay, more of that kind of bacteria could potentially populate your child’s mouth. Herpes Simplex Virus is another thing that is highly transmissible.
I haven’t seen this become a big “thing” often, but it can happen. I do think hugs and kisses on the cheek are acceptable. Wherever you land on this topic, think about if you have any strong feelings about your nanny kissing the kids. If so, discuss this with your nanny.
Is it appropriate for a nanny to wear a bikini while caring for my kids?
This is a question I have seen both nannies and families ask. Why wouldn’t it be? Can the nanny still perform all of her regular job duties? Great! Does it somehow interfere with her job performance? Likely not (however, I can personally attest to the fact that grabby little hands and a top that’s not super secure can be a dangerous cocktail!).
Generally, nannies and parents think a nanny choosing to wear a bikini on the job is acceptable. If you think this topic could get weird for you for any reason and become a big “thing”, I would encourage you to address this with your nanny early on in the relationship. Just be forewarned – it could still get weird.
Should I pay to have my nanny’s car detailed?
This could become a big “thing” if your little angels are proficient in the art of mess-making. In under a minute. (Ok, what I really mean is Every. Kid. Ever!)
Let’s face it – kids can be gross. Cute and lovable, but also gross. I’ve seen booger walls, poo “painting”, poo baths, plenty of downright unidentifiable stuff, kids who can carry their weight in sand on their person, and some of the longest, greenest Amazon Rivers of snot one can imagine.
I recently dropped my four kids off with the grandparental units and removed the car seats from my car…for the first time in about six months. What lied underneath will herein only be described as a “mess”: sand, Legos, little cracker bits, O’s cereal, pistachios, raisins, sticks, rocks, stickers, dried milk splatters, some brown matter that was firmly adhered to whichever surface it had landed upon, etc. YIKES!!
You may not have as many kids as I do, and your nanny may be better about keeping her car clean than me, but offering a periodic car detail when your nanny uses her car to transport your kids is a super good-human thing to provide. It’s certainly not a requirement, but I have heard nannies “wish” for this because of how messy their nanny kids can be in the car. (Also, if your child pukes in their car, the answer is always YES YOU SHOULD PAY TO DETAIL THEIR CAR!) If you need an idea for Nanny Appreciation Week, it’s a gesture that will make your nanny feel very appreciated!
You may not have any of these things on your radar as a parent working with a nanny, and some may have never had these things come up or become issues. But they are little things that have become BIG things for some families with their nannies. It might just be worthwhile talking about these things with a nanny at the beginning of your time together, and you could consider adding some guidelines that cover these “little” things in your working agreement.