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9 things nannies wish parents would do

Erica Jackson Curran
Dec. 27, 2018

Passing the kids off to your nanny for her shift can seem like a quick transition to you, but it’s a crucial moment that can impact the rest of your nanny’s day. If your nanny walks into a home that isn’t prepared for her arrival, she may have to scramble to adjust her schedule to account for a new set of responsibilities — and that directly affects how well she can do her actual job: caring for your children.

Sure, mornings can be hectic as you’re trying to get out the door to work. But as an employer, it’s your job to help make your nanny’s job as smooth as possible.  

“Most nannies completely understand if a family has had a busy morning or rough night and are more than happy to lend an extra hand, but many become frustrated if they are working in a chaotic setting day after day,” says Amy Haldeman, founder of East Wind Nannies in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. “They’ll quickly look elsewhere for a job.” 

A nanny’s shift may not start until she walks in the door, but families should prep for her arrival before that happens. A moderately clean house and kids who are ready to make the switch will go a long way toward ensuring that the caregiver has a smooth, productive day. Here are nine things nannies say parents can do to make their job that much better.

1. Set clear expectations of daily duties.

Without a clear, complete conversation about the nanny’s job description, there are likely to be misunderstandings surrounding her responsibilities — on both sides.

Michelle LaRowe, of Morningside Nannies in Houston, Texas, suggests families assemble a home binder before the nanny even starts her first day.

“This binder should include emergency contact information, including the poison control phone number and doctor's contact; important information about the home, including how to shut the water and electricity off; a sample schedule; a list of things that help soothe the children, and any other information the nanny would need to know to help her provide care or deal with a work emergency,” she says. “They should also determine how they will handle petty cash and be sure they have a written work agreement executed and in place.”

2. Prepare a clean working environment.

Everyone’s house can get messy at times — especially when we have kids. But basic tasks like straightening the kitchen and play areas should ideally be done before her arrival.

“When a home is clean, it is ensuring the nanny to have the best environment to complete her tasks,” Haldeman says, adding that dirty dishes are the number one complaint she hears from nannies. “While most nannies are not bothered by the occasional casserole dish left to soak, they never want to turn into the dishwasher. This takes away valuable time from the care of the kids.”

3. Fill the car with gas.

If the nanny will be using your car to run errands or take the kids to activities, make sure she doesn’t have to stop at the gas station to fill up on the way — especially if you haven’t provided her with petty cash. If she’s driving her own car, make sure she has a way to pay for gas she uses when she’s on the clock.

4. Help keep her (and the kids) safe in bad weather.

In the snow, Haldeman suggests shoveling the sidewalk and placing salt down so she can safely make it in and out of the house.

“Clearing the nanny’s car before she leaves is another way to show appreciation for all her hard work,” she says.

Also, be conscious of other extreme weather alerts to ensure that she will be able to get home safely when her shift is done.

5. Change the baby’s diaper.

“Sure, she knows how and is fully capable of changing the baby’s diaper, but it’s a small way to help the nanny’s day be off to a smooth start,” Haldeman says.

6. Show support for your nanny in front of the children.

LaRowe notes that parents who undermine the nanny’s authority can be a big issue, and it’s often one that occurs in that moment when she’s starting her shift and responsibilities are switching between caregivers.

“Support the nanny in front of the children,” LaRowe says. “If there is an issue with how she handled the situation or if you prefer something handled differently, talk to her without the children listening in. Doing so allows you to maintain a united front.”

7. Take the stress out of meal times.

As more children are diagnosed with food allergies and parents have stricter rules about what their kids should eat, meal times are becoming more complicated for caregivers. Ayana Clayton, a nanny in Richmond, Virginia, says it’s important to have at least a loose plan for meals before nannies arrive.

“Families should either prep their child’s meals beforehand and all the nanny will have to do is warm up and serve, or make a master list of things their child eats and make sure they stay stocked with those items,” she says. “As a nanny, I do feel like a burden sometimes trying to contact parents and guardians midday to make sure the kids’ lunch is right.”

8. Make sure the nanny is cleared to do school pickups.

Many schools won’t allow someone to pick up a child from school without the parents’ express written permission, or occasionally a specific car ride sign displayed. Make sure the school knows she’s coming to avoid any delays at the end of the school day.

9. Take time to check in.

The quick transitions in the mornings and evenings can make it difficult to have a serious conversation, so be sure to take time to periodically check in and ensure everything is going smoothly for the nanny, especially if there may be some disagreements about job responsibilities.

“Job creep is a major problem for nannies,” LaRowe says. “One gesture of kindness can turn into unending expectations. If nannies feel that the family's expectations are outgrowing above what was agreed upon, they should bring it up to the parents.”

Read next: 5 qualities to look for when hiring a nanny

Alex in San Diego, CA
Jan. 12, 2019

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