Welcome back, class, to Nanny 101; we will share basic instruction for professional nannies. Take this time to review this course or study it for the first time. The bell just rang, so let’s get started.
Nanny 101 – Protecting a Family’s Privacy
By: Greta Schraer
The professional nanny spends a majority of her hours inside the home of a family. A home is to be a safe place. To retreat, to relax, to refresh for the next day. Think about that for a minute. As nannies we are welcomed into a private home and life, entrusted with children. With that great responsibility also comes a care-taking of the family unit and the family’s home.
Lesson 1 – Keep a family’s personal business personal
Nannies spend many hours with a family. We see and hear things that are personal to the family. Some nannies work for high-profile families where is communicated just how important a tight lip is. However, that same respect is due whether a family has a privacy clause in your work agreement or not. As a professional we should decide on some boundaries to carryout yourself.
Nanny Monica arrives at the house a few minutes early on Monday morning. She comes in to hear the children’s mom on the phone, trying to change some sort of doctor’s appointment. “….uh huh, that’s fine. Weds. at 5:30 p.m. with Dr. Rogers”. Later that day after picking up the twins from preschool, Monica runs into the twin’s aunt at the grocery store. Aunt Tina suggests stopping over to pick up some clothes on Weds. evening. “I am sure that would be OK, right?” asks Aunt Tina. While Monica clearly remembers some plans on Weds. she quickly diverts, without sharing personal information. “You know, I am not sure – you will have to call Mrs. Lipton and set that up. Should I tell her to expect a call from you?” When Monica returns from the grocery store, she jots a quick note on the nanny log.
While a nanny will be right in the middle of the family’s day, she has a choice to take herself out of the equation. In this situation, Monica was clear to protect the family and communicate this conversation before it may become a situation. Suppose that Aunt Tina stops over unannounced references running into Monica? This small incident, could allow a mistrust from a family. The opposite is also true. If Aunt Tina tells her sister-in-law that she ran into her nanny, and the nanny did not share the schedule, an ounce of trust may be gained. Trust is valuable and will be gained over time with small acts just like this.
Lesson 2 – Respect a family’s house and things
Our workplace as a nannies should be respected. It is a place where a family keeps the things that are dear to them. A nanny should ask a family if there are rooms to stay out of, or items the kids should keep hands off of. As you get to know a family, pay attention to the item’s that family may deem valuable, as well as, cues and non-verbals about the way they run their household. I once spoke with a few moms waiting in line at school to pick up children. One mother was very hesitant about hiring a nanny, though she needed the help. “I just don’t want someone in all my stuff!” I thought about her viewpoint, and realized this must be a concern in many parent’s minds… “nannies will be looking through medicine cabinets or snooping through documents”. While we may find ourselves in need of random items, we can handle it as a professional.
Nanny Dee was excited about starting her new position with the Cross family. The family is a very organized and technological home. While orientating Dee, Mrs. Cross explained she should familiarize herself with the computer in the kitchen, as the children use it for school work and play. She also mentioned that she should feel free to use it as well “whenever you want”. Dee thought this a great way to keep the children’s calendar, download recipes and craft ideas, and communicate with the family. During Dee’s 2nd week of work, Mrs. Cross was missing a document she had saved to the desktop and asked Dee, “Do you know where it is? Documents don’t just disappear?”. The mystery was never solved, but now Dee was nervous about using the families’ computer and Mrs. Cross was disappointed in the situation.
In this example, the grey area of personal and business comes into play. While a nanny may be accomplishing her “business” she is carrying it out in the family’s personal environment. From here, Nanny Dee could ask for her own login and un-private password to the kitchen computer. This allows her to log in separately to the parents, and therefore taking away any thought or blame for nanny to snoop or delete a families documents.
Just as in this example, the nanny should keep a certain train of thought. She should portion out which part of a family’s life is relative to her position. If it is not, she should stay far away. If it is questionable, set up some boundaries… Set laundry just inside the master bedroom rather than going all the way in. Think of waiting to ask where you might find an item, rather than searching through closets you don’t usually go into. Simple attitudes of respect will go a long way.
Lesson 3 – Keep a family unlisted
Do you remember back when phone books were a valuable commodity? It was often that people wanted to remain “unlisted”. It was not that they did not want calls, just that these people wanted calls by only people they gave their number to. As nannies, it is not our job to decide who will receive the “families number” – metaphorically. I was asked in a recent interview what I thought was my number one priority while working for a family. My answer, “safety”. Yes, as nannies we are able to give so much more to children, but in my opinion, above all else are to provide an environment where children are safe. The things that we say and do on the job, she be constant actions of safety. We should be OVER-protective.
Nanny Christine walked the Kennedy children to their favorite park a few times a week. It was a safe neighborhood, and the walk and play offered the children fresh air, exercise all while having fun. One day at the park, Nanny Christine had to elevate her voice to Josh to get his attention. “Josh!” she said while running toward him, “Joshua Kennedy!!” she said in her firm nanny voice… Christine handled the situation and Josh continued to play. On the way home she noticed a man following her. While she tried to shake off the uncomfortable nervous feeling, she wondered if this man knew the high-profile family she worked for. “Had she overheard his name at the park?” she thought. She approached the library and decide to make an unplanned stop inside, just in case. As she walked in she saw the man walk quickly past and realized she HAD seen him earlier at the park.
This story is a chilling one for me to even think about, however, as nannies we must remember that there are crazy people in our world. While we cannot live our life in fear, we have to live like there may be an unsafe person around. Avoid saying last names at the park. Always have a safe route home. Be aware of those around you. Have a cell phone with emergency numbers programmed. Be careful about announcing where you are taking children on social networking sites. Allow the families name, address, pictures, phone numbers, and other personal information to remain unlisted.
I recently made a decision to take all of our CincyNanny (cincinnati nanny community) events that include children off of our website and list them only in our private forum. While we haven’t had any problems, I became nervous about putting times and places where we would be meeting with our kids. We always meet in a public place in safe neighborhoods. Go the extra mile to ensure the safety of children. Communicate your plans with parents in case of an emergency.
Lesson 4 – Stay Positive!
This lesson on positivity will influence all parts of the family team and beyond- you, the children, the parents and even other nannies and on-lookers. Though each job will have it’s difficulties, be careful about complaining. The world is smaller than we think! Find a person that you can trust to discuss issues in your job. Rather than vent, seek solutions.
Nanny Cara is very outspoken. She has learned to bite her tongue and think before she responds to her strong-temepered boss. This day Mrs. Simpson tells Cara that she would like her to “talk with her about what she is doing around the house”, and that they can talk more about this tomorrow afternoon at their already scheduled quarterly meeting. Cara is so upset. She truly feels that Mrs. Simpson has added duties each time they meet, without adjustment to schedule or pay. At nap time, during her break, Cara gets online while eating her lunch. She goes to a popular nanny forum and posts a question “Nannies Doing Too Much?”…where she proceeds to vent about her job. She feels better and does get some advice. What she did not realize is that Mrs. Simpson has been feeling like Cara has been doing things that she should not be and wants to reduce her workload. To prepare for the meeting, Mrs. Simpson does a google search to find out if Cara is taking on too much. She types in “Nannies Doing Too Much?” and finds a post written by her own nanny.
While this story may be unlikely the point is…. Be responsible with your words – whether in public or private way. What you say can come back to get you. Think about the best way to get positive advice in a private way. I tell nannies very often to google yourself. What comes up? This is what your current employer or potential employer could see. Be smart. Have character. It is just not worth it!
Social networking is such a powerful tool that is changing our society, drastically. Be careful about what you post and how you talk about your life. As a nanny, we often find positions through word of mouth. Positive words in will only bring positive outcomes. (Tomorrow I be discussing how to set your privacy on Facebook, so please stop back!)
Let’s make this course a little more personal and practical:
1. Think of a question that you are often asked about the family you work for. Come up with a vague answer to have ready to respond. For example: “So, what do the parents do for a living?” … ” They are both successful professionals here in the city.”
2. Set up some boundaries for yourself in relations to the family’s home. For example: I don’t go in the dining room or office.
3. Think about 1 way to keep the family “unlisted”.
4. Designate 1 friend or nanny that you will call when you need someone to talk to. Make sure they are wise, positive and trustworthy.