5 things families do that drive their nannies crazy

April 1, 2021

Whether employed for a few hours a week or full time, nannies can quickly start to feel like an integral part of a family. After all, nannies see families at some of their most honest moments, and parents trust them with their children’s lives. Still, no matter how much love exists between a caregiver and her family, the relationship is a professional one at its core — something that parents occasionally forget.

In the frantic rush of everyday life, it’s easy for parents to make choices that may create extra challenges for their nanny — and they may not even be aware they’re doing it. While there’s no official rulebook for interacting with a professional caregiver, families can avoid a few common faux pas if they want to maintain a happy, healthy relationship with their nanny.

We asked a few nannies what their families do that drive them crazy. Here are a few of their biggest beefs. (Note: Names have been changed to protect the nannies’ identities.)

1. Not sticking to a schedule.

Nearly every nanny we interviewed mentioned this issue: Parents who show up late.

“We have lives outside of work,” says Bre, a full-time nanny. “We have appointments and sometimes second jobs.”

Many nannies have their own families, too. And when a parent doesn’t come home at the agreed-upon time, it can cause serious problems for their nanny.

Casey, another caregiver, notes that some parents she has worked with have even come home hours later than expected without offering so much as a text message about their planned return. Others may extend a text or phone call when they need extra time, but they pose it as more of a command than a request.

The solution: Families must keep in mind that their nanny’s life does not revolve around them. If extra time is needed, parents should offer as much advance notice as possible, and be prepared that their nanny may have to say no. And of course, they should always be paid properly for any overtime or extra hours of work they do offer.

2. Not reimbursing for gas money.

School, soccer practice, playdates — nannies often play the role of family taxi driver, shuttling kids from one destination to another. And apparently some parents forget that driving can incur a significant extra expense that’s often overlooked. 

“It’s pretty much just being paid less because you have to use the money you get paid watching and raising the children to fill up your gas tank," Amy says. 

The solution: Some nannies may feel uncomfortable asking for extra money to pay for gas, especially if those terms weren’t agreed upon when they were hired. Here’s a good rule of thumb: If nannies are on the clock, families are on the hook for expenses like gas. A prepaid gas card is an easy fix, or nannies could be asked to track their miles for timely gas and mileage reimbursement.

3. Not stocking the pantry.

When nannies are in charge of mealtimes, parents may overlook the logistics — like whether there’s actually any food in the house.

“If I’m nannying in your home, please make sure your kid has food,” says Sam. “It’s very frustrating to spend our own money to take your kid to get food because the fridge is empty.”

The solution: Parents should always make sure they have enough food for their kids to eat all their meals while the nanny is on duty, as well as some healthy snacks. If nannies are expected to go grocery shopping, parents should be clear about those terms early on, and they should offer a way to pay for the food so nannies don’t have to pay out-of-pocket (even if they’ll be reimbursed). Grocery delivery services are also convenient for parents who don’t have time to grocery shop.

4. Being a slob.

Kids are messy. That’s a given, and nannies know that cleaning up after them is just part of the job. But messy parents? They should know better.

“[I hate] when families trash the house after I leave for the day,” Katie says. “Dishes piled up in both sinks and on the counter after a weekend. That’s never OK! I’ll wash my kid’s dishes that we use but your entire family’s dishes from three days of meals? Hard NO!“

The solution: While no one expects parents to do a deep clean of the house before the nanny arrives, it’s proper to give them a clean slate in the areas where they’ll be spending time with the kids. They shouldn’t have to clean up an existing mess in order to prepare food, give a bath or play with your children. Some nannies may be happy to include light housekeeping in their list of responsibilities, but they should be paid for that extra work, and those duties should be agreed upon before they begin working for you.

5. Being inconsistent with training.

From sleep training and potty training to discipline, nannies often help out with key milestones in children's lives. But although parents may give explicit instructions as to how they expect nannies to manage these moments, they don’t always follow those guidelines themselves, full-time nanny Shelby notes. And that can quickly derail any efforts nannies make.

The solution: Parents should always make an effort to practice what they preach, knowing that consistency is key when it comes to training and discipline. A good nanny will work hard to follow her family’s guidelines, and a good family will make the effort to do the same.

Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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