Enlisting a nanny to help care for your children can be a fulfilling experience for all parties involved. However, even parents who choose to use other forms of childcare can learn from those who employ a full- or part-time sitter. Any parent-childcare provider relationship will benefit from starting off with open communication and mutual consideration.
“The best way to facilitate communication and avoid problems down the road is to create a written work agreement so both parties know the expectations with regard to tasks, schedules and compensation, as well as family rules and discipline,” says Melissa McIntyre, co-owner of The American Domestic Agency.
One thing people fail to thoroughly discuss is what responsibilities they want their childcare provider to do. While some nannies focus solely on the children’s needs, others help with domestic chores too; similarly, while some after-school programs focus on play, some can provide valuable support with homework and other academics.
Charlotte Fagraeus was clear about her nanny’s role. “When I first hired Tiffany [Banfield], I said I wanted her to take care of my daughter exclusively and not to worry about housework or cooking,” she says. “I also explained that because I am a veterinarian and have a lot of evening hours I needed someone who could accommodate my schedule.”
Scheduling changes are another area where troubled waters rise — a snow day or a sudden work emergency can throw an entire childcare routine off course. But Isabelle Johnson found a way to keep this at bay.
“I was upfront with [my nanny] Amanda and said we needed someone who could be flexible with their time. But I think it’s a two-way street,” says the mother of two preschoolers. “My part is to be considerate in allowing her time to plan. If my schedule changes I give her a week’s notice but always say, ‘If it’s too soon, don’t worry about saying no.’” Be sure you understand your provider’s late and vacation policies and abide by them. If you’re going to be late — and don’t be late often — call. If there’s a fee, pay it. Ask about such policies up front so there is no confusion.
Compensation should also receive thorough consideration. Another point of discussion should be childrearing philosophies, in particular disciplinary measures.
“Before employment begins the nanny should have a good grasp on family rules and how parents want her to discipline the children,” say McIntyre. “When problems do occur, parents and nannies should take a unified stance so both authority figures maintain credibility in the kids’ eyes.”
Banfield agrees. “I always ask what measure of discipline the parents prefer I use and then I abide by their rules,” says the eleven-year veteran childcare specialist. “One thing I’ve found helpful is to fill out forms so parents know the kind of day their child had. A red day means there were significant problems, a yellow day means we had a small incident and a green day means things went well. If an older child misbehaves I’ll have him fill out a form stating what he did, why he did it and what he would do next time so parents have in the child’s own words what happened and how it was handled.”
A system for ecording meals, naptimes and demeanor is particularly helpful, especially with infants. And if you’re aware that your child is having a tough morning because of a bad night’s sleep or a fight over not being allowed to wear her tutu out of the house, make your provider aware of that so they’re not blindsided.
Finally, offer positive feedback.
“Let your nanny know she’s doing a good job,” says McIntyre. “It’s a little thing but increases the chance she’ll stick around.”
Denise Yearian is the former editor of two parenting magazines and the mother of three children.
Chesapeake Family serves parents and families in Annapolis, Anne Arundel County, Baltimore, Bowie, Calvert and Prince George’s County and the Eastern Shore of Maryland