two women

How to Create and Maintain a Harmonious Nanny/Employer Relationship

The nanny/employer relationship is incredibly unique. You’re working together to raise kind, healthy, well-rounded tiny humans. But there is also the cold hard fact that one of you is “the boss” and the other is “the employee”. When the line between friendship and professionalism is thin, it can be difficult to maintain a harmonious working relationship. We often read articles and hear stories about when these relationships go WRONG (miscommunication, jealousy, gossip, and worse), but we don’t hear enough about when they go RIGHT!

I recently interviewed Kelsey Barr and her employer of 4 years, Audra Billmeyer, to find out how they have been able to create and maintain their successful working relationship. Read on to find out more!

Audra and Kelsey- thank you so much for your participation and for your candid answers.

Did your working relationship start off harmoniously? If yes, what did you do to ensure a great start? If no, how did you remedy the relationship?

Kelsey:

 “I’m a big believer in going with your gut feeling and when I met my nanny family, I honestly feel like we “clicked” from the start. They were new parents to a baby boy and I was new to nannying in Chicago (I had lived and worked in Florida prior to moving here). Meeting my nanny family felt like reconnecting with old friends and I’d like to think that we were a great fit from the start.  I think we both went into the working relationship with clean slates and clear expectations from the start, which created a pathway for a harmonious working and non working relationship. Communication was and is a huge thing for me in any relationship, and from the get go, I was very adamant that communication was one of the key things needed to make this work on all of our ends.” 

Audra:

“I knew right away it was a good fit when Kelsey arrived to our interview with a binder including a business card, printed resume, letters of recommendation, references, and interview questions she had for us.  It was clear her focus was on the relationship with the nanny family and it was obvious she had built strong and long-lasting relationships with them in the past (our children still go on playdates with her former nanny children), which was really important to us.  On top of all that, she immediately asked to hold our then 2 week old baby boy and the chemistry was instant between the two. She was and still is the baby whisperer! We also bonded over sharing a mutual desire to not just have a nanny, but for someone to be an extension of our family in every sense.”

Did you have a work agreement or contract from the start? If yes, who initiated the contract? If no, how do you maintain boundaries without a contract?

Kelsey:

“We have had a contract from the start. That was something that was important to me (as a result of being screwed over in the past) and I did my homework and due diligence to figure out which contract would be beneficial to both parties. That said, in the 4 years that we’ve been working together, we have yet to actually need to refer to the contract. There’s been mutual feelings of respect on both ends and it’s not in either parties’ intention to screw each other over.”

Audra:

“A contract was put in place and was more of a formality for us, but we respected the desire to have one in place.  Most importantly, we wanted to build a foundation of trust and communication, which started from our interview being a two-way street.  Over the past four years we have not formally updated the contract but have had open communications at different stages (e.g. as our second and third children were born, as we moved to the suburbs, etc.) that have caused us to reflect on and talk about appropriate adjustments.”

How did/do you handle differing philosophies (discipline, nutrition, sleep, etc)?

Kelsey:

“This is a tough question, as I feel like we’ve been on the same page in regards to mostly everything from the start. There really hasn’t been a time where we’ve had a major differing philosophy. We are both very much “go with the flow and see what works for our kids” and go from there. Again, communication is definitely at play here in that if something isn’t working, we let the other person know so that we can look into different factors at play and  come up with something that will work. In 4 years and 3 kids, we’ve had a lot of practice with trial and error! It also helps that Audra is very laid back and I feel like she is receptive and open to any suggestions I might have.”

Audra:

“We established a lot of these philosophies upfront so there haven’t been many, if any, surprises.  As a new mom I found myself relying a lot on her input for how to do the most basic things like sleep train, stick to a schedule, or even which bottles to use.  I accepted her help! She was the expert and helped me ease into motherhood knowing my child was safe and happy, and that we would learn together as we went. I think we empower each other through open communication, keeping the focus on the well-being of the child, not taking the little things so seriously, and trying to have fun raising children together.  It’s most important to me that my kids are raised with manners/healthy behaviors, are kind to others, and get the opportunity to grow through fun and tough experiences. Kelsey respects and embraces these more big picture philosophies, then I give her the creative freedom and trust to implement them in day-to-day strategies.”

What is your procedure for dealing with employee/employer relationship issues that arise?

Kelsey:

“It’s been rare that we’ve had issues working together (which is super rare for 4 + years). It’s a true testament to my nanny family with how open and honest we’ve been able to be with each other and if there ever is an issue, we talk about it. Whether it’s through text or sitting down over dinner, we just talk.”

Audra:

“Open door policy is the best policy.  The lines are certainly more blurred emotionally than any other profession/passion I can think of.  Ultimately it takes communication and constant reminders that you are a team. Sometimes it’s challenging as a mother to relinquish control.  However, as I watch the bond built, the emotional support and love provided to my children, the friendship we’ve built as a team, and the overall value brought to our family…these things are priceless!”

What do you do to show your employer/employee that s/he is appreciated?

Kelsey:

“There is a ton that Audra and Pete have done to show me that I’m appreciated. Whether it’s been through gorgeous gifts, simply listening to what I’m saying, or saying “we appreciate you,” I’ve never doubted their appreciation. The biggest way that I know that I’m appreciated however, is the way that they introduce and speak about me to their friends. The way that they have included me into their family and friend circle has definitely made me feel beyond appreciated in all the ways. Another huge way that they’ve shown their appreciation for me is through simply listening to my concerns and suggestions and doing what they can to help me feel like I’m a valued member in our parenting team.  I try to show my appreciation for them in different ways- from picking up coffee if I’m out, making dinner for everyone, or simply taking the kids so that they can have a date night for the two of them. I think everyone being able to feel appreciated is so important in a nanny/family relationship, and one of the reasons that our relationship has worked so well.”

Audra:

“I admit I’m always working to communicating more how much we appreciate Kelsey and all she does for our family.  It doesn’t hurt that my husband is very thoughtful and a great gift giver. We try to be creative in the gifts/experiences we give which are just small tokens of our appreciation.  More than anything, Kelsey is a valued member of our family and treated as such by us as well as our friends and family.”

What advice would you give nannies and families who are struggling with their working relationship?

Kelsey:

“Communicate!!! I hear so often from nannies and families that they’re frustrated or having issues and so many of these things could be solved by being open and honest. The more clear cut the expectations are, the less chance there is of a struggle. I truly think that it’s beneficial for everyone to sit down and ask how the other party is feeling in regards to the working relationship every once in awhile. Everyone needs to be receptive to hearing what they can improve upon (if any) and all parties should be receptive to what the other party is trying to communicate.”

Audra:

“Establish what is important up front and create a two-way street of communication.  People cannot read minds. If it doesn’t happen naturally, then set up time. Both parties need to know what is truly important to the other person and commit to ensuring that is respected.  Ultimately, it’s easy to get caught up in the day to day, but what’s most important is raising good kids. Keeping the focus on being a team in that will ease some frustration. Relationships take work!”

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Kelsey:

“I think at the end of the day, the kids’ best interest is the main focus in the nanny/family relationship. My rule of thumb has always been “if I’m truly not happy, than I need to either figure out the root of why I’m not happy in my position and make it work, or I need to leave” because the kids deserve to be in a warm and loving environment. It’s not fair to the kids or family to have a nanny who doesn’t want to be there, just as it’s not fair to be in a position where you don’t feel like a valued member of the parenting team. Harmonious relationships take a lot of work and everyone involved needs to be willing to give 100% to make them work! When they do work however, as a nanny, there’s something really meaningful about knowing how valued you are and how impactful your presence is on the kids.”

Audra:

“A lot of people are intrigued by the nanny/family relationship we’ve built.  Some people have asked me “who does your child go to when their upset?”. My response is that we’re lucky to have multiple people in our household that my children feel safe going to for comfort.  Let me be clear, my children fully understand who their mom is, who their dad is, and who their “Kay” is. We tell them often that they are lucky to have a mom, a dad, and a “Kay” who love them all very much.  It’s not a competition and we share a love for our children that we invest in. Kelsey makes me a better mom, wife, and professional. I chose to work. She helps me be a better version of myself in all those areas and I know I’m stronger in all those areas as a result.  We didn’t have immediate family that lived around us when we had our first child and as they say, it takes a village to raise kids. She’s our village. Of course there is a lot of effort in communicating and aligning on important philosophies of how to raise successful, healthy, good kids.  Both parties need to be committed to setting each other up for success and let go of fear-based perfectionism. Just let go of it, life is too short. Create a happy and healthy environment for all and enjoy the journey!”

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