First day on the job as a nanny? Follow these 7 tips to ensure a smooth start
Starting a job with a new family can be nerve wracking. Will the children like me? Will the dog get loose? What if the parents dislike something I do?
If you’re having Day One jitters, you’re not alone. Madison Aucoin, a nanny based in Lafayette, LA, says it’s perfectly natural to be nervous. “As uncomfortable as it is for you at first, it is uncomfortable for them as well,” she observes. “But there really is no need to be uptight or anxious. Go into it with an open heart and work on building a foundation of mutual respect in a natural way.”
That and a little preparation can get you gliding through your first day. Here are seven ways to make sure you have a great Day One — and start to a successful working relationship.
1. Make sure your job expectations are aligned before Day One.
Before that first day, nannies should have a strong initial sense of the family’s expectations - and have already communicated their own needs and requirements, all outlined in a formal contract.
“It’s so important to value the expectations the family has for you,” says Aucoin. “But you should provide the expectations that you have for payment, communication, time management and overtime, and the overall relationship as well.”
Rachel Mulkerin Riley, Managing Director of Recruitment and Client Service from Everything Home & Family, advises nannies to ask specific questions about housework. “Some families want 100 percent of your time dedicated to watching the children, others want housework done only when the children are sleeping,” she says. “Others want you to include the children in the housework. You will never know unless you ask.”
2. Understand the house rules and guidelines for the kids.
Ask parents in advance about the child’s daily routine, any allergies or medications that might be relevant, physical or mental impairments to understand, and anything else that might help a nanny and the children have a great day.
“In any industry, you want to exceed expectations,” says Mulkerin Riley. “You can’t do that if goals are undefined.”
She recommends asking the parents for specifics on how they’d like the day to go, including when the children need to eat, snack, play, sleep, and bathe. Parents should set the priorities - and the nanny should structure the day accordingly. “But sprinkle in some of the fun and adventure you planned to make sure it’s a great day,” Mulkerin Riley advises.
3. Arrive with a structured plan for the day.
“Top-notch nannies plan their days, just like a teacher would,” observes Mulkerin Riley. “Whether it’s exploring a kind of animal, a country or a culture, parents and children are drawn to you when you’re thoughtful, educational and prepared.”
She cites the example of one nanny who developed a “Brontosaurus Day” for the four-year-old dinosaur lover she watched. They dressed up in their favorite dinosaur-themed tees, took a long nature walk, looked at trees and leaves stretching their necks like the long-necked dinosaur, and collected leaves for an afternoon art project.
“They even ate spinach, romaine, rainbow swiss chard, and kale chips because brontosauruses were plant-eaters,” said Mulkerin Riley. “It was a great way to expand his food palate while learning more about his favorite dinosaur.”
4. Anticipate the worst-case scenario.
Expect the best, plan for the worst. Nannies should do a quick scan to know where the obvious danger zones are - stairs, exits, pools, medicine cabinets, etc. Put away anything that could be a hazard.
Spend just a few minutes entering must-have numbers into your phone - parents’ personal cells and work numbers, backup contact person, etc. If you know where the closest emergency room or urgent care center is, you’ll also feel better - and save time if needed.
5. Bond with the child by doing hands-on activities.
Nanny Aucoin says that she uses active engagement to draw kids out and get to know each other. “It takes awhile for a young child to form a relationship with a stranger,” she notes. “But different activities, games, and other icebreakers that involve interacting with one another are so fun and so effective when developing that bond.”
Age-appropriate activities, suitable for individual temperaments and ability levels, are always welcome. Even something as simple as coloring or walking to the local park are low-pressure but fun ways to connect.
“Sometimes we need to be kids just like them,” says Isabel P., another experienced nanny, whose young charge loves superheroes. “If he wants me to be Iron Man or Wonder Woman, I can be a superhero if it makes him happy.”
6. Debrief the parents at the end of the day.
It’s alway nice for parents to get a text here and there during the day with a picture or two of the children - but nannies should plan for a big debrief at the day’s end.
Nannies can show the parents that they’re proactive by giving a solid download on the day’s happenings. “Give a high-level overview that includes the best and worst parts of the day,” advises Mulkerin Riley. “Ask questions for tomorrow and update them on the status of the house.” For example, let them know if the dishwasher is loaded or you prepped bottles for the evening.
“Always leave the house better than you arrived,” she encourages, assuming light housework is part of the contract. “You can clean up, load the dishwasher, and put away toys throughout the day so you make their lives a little easier - and they see how organized you are if they happen to come home early.”
7. Treat yourself.
A nanny/family relationship isn’t all about the family. “Nannies need professional satisfaction and work/life balance just like anyone else,” says Mulkerin Riley. “End your day doing something for yourself so you don’t burn out.”
Going to the gym, reading a book, enjoying a glass of wine, or doing something else that’s pleasurable are all good ideas for relaxing and reinvigorating yourself after a long day with energetic little ones, she says.
What are your tried-and-true tips for starting your nanny job off with a bang?