Most parents never give a second thought to nannies until they need to hire one. Wading into the world of nannying can be daunting and you may be wondering what nannies expect from their employers. One of the challenges many nanny employers face is balancing a genuine love and appreciation for their nanny with the cold reality that you’re her source of income. Moreover, finding a good nanny can be quite a challenge, so once you’ve found her, you’ll likely want to do everything you can to keep her and ensure that she stays the good match for your family you thought she was when you first hired her. Many problems families have with nannies can be avoided with good interviews and reference-checking, so if you’re just starting, read my articles on how to interview your nanny and check her references. If you’ve finished that process and found the person you hope is the nanny of your dreams, read on and remember: A happy nanny means happy kids, which means happy you!
Pay her a fair salary
Let’s face it: nanny care is expensive. You’re paying for highly specialized child care in your own home, and the benefits of this as opposed to daycare or paying for a neighborhood babysitter are legion. It can be hard to swallow spending thousands of dollars a year on child care, but it’s important to keep in mind that you are providing someone else’s livelihood and paying for an excellent opportunity for your child to be learning important skills every day.
With that in mind, pay as much as you can afford to. This may be difficult, but most good nannies know what they’re worth, and if you only pay a professional 8 or 10 dollars an hour, she’s going to be looking for another job quickly. If money is an issue, it may be worthwhile to hire a less experienced nanny- say, an eighteen year old college student- who is great with kids, and train her yourself. She’ll be getting valuable experience and you can pay slightly less. If you want a top of the line nanny, however, some factors to consider are her experience, education, and general skillset. A nanny with several years of experience who is highly educated and plays three musical instruments will be in higher demand and command a higher salary than a young woman who’s never nannied full time before. It’s also important to keep in mind that live-in nannies must still be paid and must still be paid at least minimum wage.
Cover her expenses
This is where a lot of nanny families get into trouble. They forget to leave money for outings and for gas. These expenses add up and a nanny who has to pay for them out of her own money is less likely to be willing to take your child on fun outings. Discuss the budget for expenses with her and negotiate a way to cover the daily cost of entertaining the kids without breaking the bank. You can give her a family credit card, a weekly allowance for outings, etc.
Show your appreciation
Yes, there’s the pay check. But nanny care is inherently personal work. Your kids might tell her they love her and cry when she leaves, and you might feel like you’d be lost without her. Consequently, nannies need more personal feedback and appreciation than your secretary or mail delivery person does. Remember her birthday; write her thank you notes, and tell her how much you appreciate her. And don’t forget her on holidays! The vast majority of nanny employers pay a holiday bonus, usually equivalent to one week’s pay (or whatever you can afford).
Keep her Informed
For your nanny to provide truly quality care to your child, she needs to know what’s going on in his life. Tell her as soon as you find out about doctor visits, trouble at school, etc. Your nanny can start preparing your child for that scary shot or the big test and dramatically reduce your work load.
Practice Good Communication
No one likes confrontation, and some of us studiously avoid it as if it’s our full time job. This strategy will backfire with a nanny. Often she’ll be able to tell if you’re upset about something anyway. She is, after all, always at your house!
Don’t let problems get out of control. No one is perfect and a good nanny wants to be a good employee and will listen when you tell her you want something changed. Treat criticism as a professional issue and not as a character attack. Don’t proclaim, “You’re always late and we can’t trust you!” Just tell her you noticed she’s been late lately and it’s very important for her to show up on time.
Conversely, provide her with positive feedback as well. If there’s something she does with your kids that you love, make sure to praise her for it so she can keep doing it.
Draw Clear Boundaries
Your nanny might hold your child when she cries, be there when the family gets bad news, or help you zip up the dress you got stuck in. But she’s still an employee. If you begin to treat her as the person you pay to be your best friend, she will not only be overwhelmed, but lose track of the business side of her job. It’s fine to develop a friendship with her, show interest in her life, and treat her as a friend after she leaves the job. But refusing to set any boundaries will make it much more difficult to deal with problems if they come up.
Give Her Notice and a Good Reference
One of the hardest parts of being a nanny employer is letting your nanny go.Perhaps your children have outgrown her, you need parttime care, or you can no longer afford her. Whatever the case, give her enough notice to begin looking for a new job, and provide her with a good reference and a letter of recommendation as well. Of course, if you have to fire your nanny for cause, you are not obligated to do any of this, and depending on the circumstances, you may want her gone as soon as possible!