COMMUNICATION: What Nannies Wish Families Knew to Ask
Hiring a nanny is a huge life event. You’re choosing a person to help you raise your family’s next generation… and you’re becoming a boss in your own home. It’s too bad no one hands you an HR manual for this process!
Enter Hand in Hand – Domestic Employers Network. As a mama and a champion for care, I partner with this nonprofit to help families communicate more clearly with care providers, so they can create the best working relationships possible. We bring parents together for events to help them figure out how to follow the new Illinois Domestic Worker Bill of Rights – as well as to share the wisdom we’ve gathered from years of talking to parents and nannies. We know that a thoughtful, thorough interview saves a lot of stress in the long run, so we talk a lot about them in our workshops. But we also talk about ways to repair an existing relationship when it gets off track.
Here are some of the major things that come up. We hope you’ll join us to add your story to the conversation – and to talk about how we all can be champions for fair care.
What’s the job description?
A typical nanny performs childcare-related tasks, and limits housework to cleaning up after his/herself and the child. Are you looking for someone to do your laundry and dishes, too – or for a nanny manager who will consult with your housecleaner, be there to let in renovators, or take a very active role in your child’s education or therapies? If so, be upfront about the extras you need – and factor in extra pay.
What’s the long-term forecast?
Are you aiming to send your child to preschool soon, and only looking for a short-term
arrangement? Or are you planning to have a second child, and are in need of a nanny who will one day juggle infant care with preschool pick-up? Do you need a year-round nanny… or a nanny who will take summers off? Life, of course, is full of surprises, but do your best to communicate your long-term needs up front. Keep in mind that some people work as a nanny short-term while they’re in school, or juggling other commitments; others are career nannies who plan to do this for the rest of their working life. Both can be a wonderful fit – but make sure that you needs are compatible.
How do I want my child to be raised?
How does the person feel about letting a child “cry it out”? What’s their opinion on time-outs? How have they handled challenging behaviors in the past? Ask them to describe how they’ve dealt with differences of opinions. You will learn a lot about whether you are compatible (PS if you do a nanny share, this is a crucial conversation to have with your partner family, too).
How will we keep in touch throughout the day?
Some parents and care providers call or text all day. Others create a document where the caregiver can write down details on feeding, bowel movements, and all the cute things your child does. This kind of written communication can save you from the temptation to text them all evening long, asking all that you forgot to ask!
How can we avoid conflict?
So much conflict comes from unexamined assumptions that we let fester too long. Front-load your relationship with healthy communication by building check-ins into your schedule. We recommend carving out a regular meeting time – for example, the last 20-30 minutes of a shift, every Friday afternoon (Note: you can always reduce it later, to once or twice a month). In any case, build that communication in DURING the nanny’s paid hours. (Does your boss expect you to
stay and chat with them for twenty minutes after every shift? No way! But this often happens between families and childcare providers. Sometimes, it’s natural and mutually desired… but keep in mind that this person has a life, too. Does she really want to stay this late – or is she just being polite?)
Do we need a contract?
Only your lawyer can answer that. Most families do fine without one. However, we highly recommend a written working agreement. You should co-create it – don’t just hand it over to your nanny to read and sign. One veteran nanny gave me this pro tip: test-drive it for a week, and see how it holds up to reality, before you sign it. In our workshops, we share a sample working agreement, and send you links afterwards so you can create your own personalized version. (Note: Via The Village also has free sample contracts )
Will they feel like family?
So many families describe nannies as “like family.” How can they not be, when they’re in your home, with your child, all day? This is one of the most intimate working relationships possible. But keep the emphasis on the working. This is a person who needs a living wage, benefits,
and paid time off, just like you. It is possible to feel these warm and fuzzy feelings – and to keep in mind the reality that you are not a big sister or brother to this person, but a boss.
Where can I find a community of parents who are also asking (and answering) these questions?
There is a ton of practical information to share in this realm, but this is also a deep, complex topic that touches upon how we were raised, what values we want to instill in our own children, and how we are shaping our economy – via how we support domestic workers. After all, people who work in our homes are the people who do “the work that makes all other work possible.”
For online connection, start up or join a conversation on the Via The Village forum! Are you craving face-to-face connection? This spring, I’m partnering with Hand in Hand to host a handful of FREE events where we’ll talk in depth about all this and more – and send you home with resource packets on interviewing, sample work agreements, and legal info, as well as how you can ally with domestic workers and other families to advocate for a more caring economy.
Join us for one of our free events… or get a few people together, and we will facilitate a conversation in your home or workplace for FREE!
*Special edition for families of children with developmental differences!
LEEP Forward Parent Support Group
Wednesday, May 30, 6:15 – 7:15 pm
Thursday, May 31, 11:30 – 12:30 pm
1280 W. Washington, Chicago IL
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Do you believe that nannies, caregivers, and housecleaners deserve fair pay, clear expectations, and paid time off? Join a growing community of over 300,000 people, including former president Barack Obama, who have signed the Fair Care Pledge! We all know that we need better solutions for sustainable care in America. The first step is to show that we, a consumers, care about the people who we depend on. Our employee’s working conditions and our loved one’s living conditions are one and the same. Their dignity is our dignity.