The home is a private, personal place and each family has their own rhtythm. Our hope as a nanny is that we agree with that rhythm or be able to mold to it. There will be times that are uncomfortable and awkward. Flexibility, compromise, and understanding are essential tools of a nanny working in another’s home. While there are many possible awkward moments that could happen on the job, here are a few that many nannies deal with. Let’s start today’s lesson…
Lesson 1: Parents Rule, Nannies Assist
It is important that nannies know their place in the home. This should be discussed with the parents before starting the job and continually throughout it. It can be awkward to not know where the line is. When does the parent step in?…maybe it is as soon as they walk in the door. Responsibilities and expectations may vary, but it is likely that the parents set the rules and the nannies enforce. When you are creating rules or rhythms, make sure the parents are in agreement. Know when it is your turn to discipline and when it is not. If you disagree about method, make sure to discuss it in private.
Example: In the Robinson family, when mom walks in the door, everything changes. Nanny Fiona hopes to help the kids finish with homework before mom comes home, because each day the kids jump up from the table and rarely return until later that evening. The kids know that they can talk mom into letting them play and rest, though Fiona has already given them a break and snack. Each day Nanny Fiona feels uncomfortable with how Mrs. Robinson responds to the kids. She wishes she could tell her how the kids focus until the moment she comes home. If she chooses to not communicate about this, it will continue to be an awkward moment in the day, and unlikely to change.
Lesson 2: Be Switzerland in Family Disagreements
I once heard this illustration given from a seasoned nanny I respect. She simply said, “When there is a disagreement (with parents)…I am Switzerland.” That stayed with me. A simple bit of advice was actually deep profound wisdom. Have you every had parents try to use you as the deciding decision? That can be so awkward! Her advice was to be neutral and show no favor. Your words can easily be misunderstood, and even if you agree with one, you are disagreeing with another. There really is no good that comes.
Example: Nanny Kristin found herself in a conversation she was not prepared for. Dr. and Mrs. Boon have spent months discussing where Adam would attend primary school. One day Dr. Boon assumed Kristin would agree to send him to the Catholic school, since she was Catholic, herself. While Kristin had some strong feelings about both schools, she knew that it was not her place. She simply responded, “thank you for caring about my perspective, however, I trust that the two of you know best for your children.” She was able to leave the conversation, while gently reminding them, that this was not her place.
Lesson 3: Parents Working From Home
While, I have never done this myself, beyond the occasional day off, I have many nanny friends that live this every day.With this kind of dynamic, huge boundaries along with huge communication are needed before the job begins and everyday. Parents may not understand how distracting it can be, when they just walk through while a nanny is trying to accomplish something with a child. Nannies may struggle with feeling like they are being watched or scrutinized even if it is not the case. When parents stay at home or work from home, the family will benefit by setting clear guidelines for both to follow. For example, Dad may join the children for breakfast each day, but stay in his office until the kids are napping. The same can happen when grandparents or extended family are in town to visit. A nanny may discuss with parents ahead of time who is responsible at what times.
Example: Nanny Tina loves playing with baby Dane, but has begun to wonder if Mrs. Hampton thinks she plays too much? Mrs. Hampton always come down from her office at lunchtime to eat. She stays only long enough to make a sandwich. Mrs. Hampton makes comments to Nanny Tina about too many toys being out and the dishes needing to be done. Nanny Tina thinks to herself, “how do you play without have toys out?” Plus, she also does all the dishes during Dane’s nap. Each day, Mrs. Hampton has a comment for Nanny Tina, that makes her feel she is doing the wrong thing. Tina feels uncomfortable talking about it, but the frustration grows. Mrs. Hampton has no idea how Tina feels
1.How does your day change when mom or dad comes home?
2. Have you ever been pulled into a conversation that made you uncomfortable? How could you have handled it differently?
3. What family member spends the most time with you while you are on duty? How can you communicate about an awkward moment before it would happen?