How can I speak to my nanny family about unrealistic expectations?

by | Nanny Job, Work

Our community asks and our wise Village Connections answer! Knowledge is power.


My nanny family’s house is always a disaster when I arrive, and they expect me to clean up after them in addition to caring for their children. Dirty dishes are everywhere, which makes it impossible to prepare meals until after I clean. And toys and laundry are scattered about, and I get the sense the family expects everything to be in order by the time they arrive home at the end of their work day. I. want to do a great job with the children, and always expect to clean any messes I make when cooking for or playing with the kids, but I did not sign up to clean their house. Nor do I want to do it daily. Do you have any tips for me on how to approach a conversation with the family?


This is a wonderful question and I completely sympathize. It is not uncommon for caregivers to arrive at work feeling great, only to be shocked from unworkable conditions upon walking into the home. Coming into a mess is not how anyone—across any industry or workplace—wants to start their day. I have experienced similar situations and know it’s difficult to provide the best care when you are being treated as the house cleaner.

First, I want you to know that this family likely does not meet to disrespect you. They are probably very well-intentioned, but with all that is on their plate, this may merely be a blind spot. And it will be important to make them aware and approach the situation with empathy. A previous employer of mine drafted a complete and thorough contract upon my hiring, however, completely forget the details each day. I offered simple reminders, which she both valued and encouraged—and this empowered me to speak up as needed. The key to solving this predicament is to initiate communication, and while this can be difficult, here are some tips for you.

Frame the Conversation

Consider how to have a conversation with your nanny family. Prior to approaching them to connect, prepare by considering some solutions that might work for everyone. Then, ask for time to connect with the family. When asking for time to speak, using the term “connect” is neutral and non-confrontational, and gets your point across.

When you connect with the family, express how much you enjoy working with the family, and then share your dilemma—that you want to do a great job, but it can be demotivating and difficult to work when there’s a lot to clean up as you arrive to work. It’ll be important to share why and how this affects your work—that you want to provide the children with the best care, but it’s difficult when cleaning things up takes so much of your time.

Be Transparent, Specific, and Empathetic

As you speak with the nanny family, be understanding that the solution—having the dishes done and the laundry put away—can be a big ask for them considering they are also so busy, but this will help you succeed in your job.

You may also share that this is a health and safety benefit for the children and yourself. Toys and belongings scattered throughout the house can lead to sudden trips or falls. Further, unclean and unsanitary conditions and surfaces increase the chances of becoming sick.

Further, if cleaning up is part of your duties in your contract, yet you don’t have enough time, share this with the nanny family. If something isn’t working, it’s always important to find ways to improve it—so you can succeed in your job and so that everyone is healthy and safe.  

In your conversations, be transparent and clearly communicate what you need to thrive, and be specific about what you are asking of the family.

Revisit Solutions

Be understanding with your nanny family’s needs and abilities to clean up before you arrive. Showing empathy for them will help them be empathetic towards your needs. But just as you work towards a solution in your initial conversation, revisit the solution after a few weeks to reevaluate its success or challenges. Is the solution working, and is it sustainable? What can you or the nanny family do more of or less of to make the solution work? Additionally, be sure to show your appreciation for the effort the family is putting in to make the solution effective. By showing your appreciation, your nanny family will feel that the work they are doing is valued and respected.

We hope these tips support you in addressing these important issues and that together you can brainstorm solutions that work. Remember, you are all working on the same team, so finding a way to set and manage expectations and communicate effectively is important to achieving success. Best of luck to you!

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Coaching by Emily Louange

Hey there, I'm Emily

I’m a nurse, holistic work-life wellness coach, wife & mama of two young children.

I would love to support you using my education, certifications, experience & the best resources I’ve found to help you reach your goals & live your best life.