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Sunday, October 2, 2022

Nanny 411

Whether it’s for work or just date night, parents want the best caregiver for their kids when they can’t be with them. And to compensate for their absence, many parents will offer their caregiver dinner, movies, or a small gift for their appreciation. But oftentimes parents miss the little things the caregiver really needs. And too often caregivers won’t speak up, leaving parents clueless. Here are some of the biggest blunders parents make, and what they can do to make caring for the kids a little easier.  Be Upfront

Be honest about what the job entails. Nannies want to hear what the job really is, not what you think she wants to hear, says Lorna Spencer, owner of A Choice Nanny agency in Columbia. If you need someone at 5:30 a.m., say so. Too often parents are unclear about their needs, and then add extra jobs or terms once they’ve hired a caregiver.
One way to avoid this is to create a job description, Spencer says. Define exactly what you want the caregiver to do. Don’t leave anything to the imagination. Penny Hale, a nanny for 20 years who currently works for a family in Annapolis, suggests a 30-day trial (although you can do up to two months) to see if the caregiver and your family are a good fit. Have the caregiver perform every task if she were your nanny, including alone time with the children.

Stick to the Job Description

Parents mistakenly think nanny also means housekeeper, said Spencer. Most caregivers will clean your child’s laundry or play area. But they really aren’t interested in taking care of the entire house unless they will be paid more, she says. So while a nanny is happy to wash your child’s blankie, don’t ask her to vacuum the living room – unless you are willing to pay for it.

Follow Your Own Rules

It is important that when you set rules for the nanny to follow, you, too, must also enforce your own rules and stick by them. A common dilemma is toilet training. The parents have the caregiver train the child during the week, but then they put the child in diapers on the weekend. And consider how the rules affect your kids. Lisa Webb, a nanny for the past 13 years, says it’s difficult when parents ask her to follow certain rules but then not allow her to correct the child for breaking the rules. “They want you to wait for them to come home and take care of it,” she explains. “And the kid keeps doing it over and over again all day.” Sometimes a parent is gone on two-week trips, she adds. It’s exhausting and frustrating for the caregiver and, depending on the child’s age, confusing for the youngster.

Pay for What You Get

If you hire a nanny for a defined number of hours, but have weeks where you may go over, be willing to pay for the extra time. Caregivers understand traffic or that staying late for work can’t always be prevented. But just as you are paid for your time, so too does
the nanny.
If You Work From Home, Then Work

Parents who work from home make a caregiver’s job harder when they won’t relinquish control. Usually the nanny is following the rules and tells the child “no,” but the child then runs to the parent who says “yes.” The caregiver feels undermined and wonders why she is even there watching your kids. “The nanny is trying to take care of the kids, and the nanny is not in charge because the mommy is,” Webb explains. “So do you want to be the mommy right now, or do you want to work?”


Communication ranks high for caregivers. Webb asks that parents tell the nanny what’s going on in the child’s life that might affect the caregiver’s job. For example, tell the nanny if the child was sick during the weekend or a family member will be staying at the house. “Give me a heads up to make the week a little easier. Monday mornings are rough anyway because the kids have been with the parents all weekend,” she says.

Hale says she can’t emphasize communication enough. “Parents, if something is going on that you don’t like, or you have a question, be very, very open and ask the nanny,” she says. “If she’s a good nanny, she’s going to respect the parent and love it, and know she’s in a secure atmosphere.”

And a little feedback on the caregiver’s performance is always appreciated. Too often, caregivers receive no feedback, negative or positive, Spencer notes. She suggests sitting down once a week or month and telling the caregiver what is going well and what needs work.

By Karen Gaspers 

Karen Gaspers is a freelance writer and mother to one son in Chestertown.

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