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8 Ways to Have a Great Relationship with Your Nanny

Ellen Seidman
April 24, 2018

Advice for talking to and interacting with nannies.

I have two loves of my life: My husband and my nanny. She's been with us since my son was born seven years ago, and I do everything I can to let her know how much I adore her. Take the other evening, when I went to an event thrown by a local mom's group. It was "spa night," and we were treated to manis, pedis and massages. We could also make our own bath salts, poured into a little glass jar and tied with a ribbon. I knew right away what I was going to do with mine: I came home and handed it to our nanny. "It's for you, so you can take a relaxing bath -- you deserve it," I said.

Granted, I sure could use a relaxing bath (or twenty) myself. But I'm always trying to make sure our nanny feels cared for. This is the woman who I trust to take care of my kids. She's my partner, my copilot, my wing-woman in parenting. I want to keep her happy -- and I want her to do good by my kids and me, too. And just like having a good relationship with my husband, that takes time and attention. Plenty of other moms I know feel the same -- and have their own smart strategies. Read for yourself about the ways they've built great relationships with their nannies.

  1. Make Expectations Clear From Day One
    "If you want your nanny to help with dinner or do laundry or light cleaning -- and she'll have the time free during the day to do them -- let her know from the start," says Betsy, a mom of one. "You don't just want to spring major new demands on a nanny, because then she'll feel taken advantage of." Some moms refuse to ask their nannies do housework, as tempting as it may be. As Judy, a mom of one, says, "Sure, I'd like some help, but I don't want to send the message that my baby isn't the top priority. She is."

  2. Care -- Really Care -- About Your Nanny
    "I care about my babysitter's mental and physical health as much as I care about my family's," says Denise, a mother of two. "I do it because she's part of my family, and I want her to feel that way. Also, the healthier she is, the better she'll be able to take care of my kids."

  3. Pamper Her
    "My babysitter has been with us since Brodie was 11 months old -- now he's five! -- and I try to help her enjoy herself. You know, like giving her job perks!" says Dani. "I'll tape some of her favorite shows on TiVo so she can watch them when Brodie's asleep, and make sure I have her favorite snacks around." Adds Betsy, "On my nanny's birthday, I give her a personal gift -- like a scarf -- and some cash in an envelope, and I'll have Melinda draw her a card. Really, she's like my child's other mother!" Hedy, a mother of two, goes even further: "I buy my nanny's two kids presents for the holidays. It makes her really happy, too."

  4. Don't Get in Her Way
    "My sitter has raised her own kids, so I generally give her a lot of autonomy," says Kara, a mother of two. "Even if she does some things differently than I do, I figure it worked for her, no harm done. And we always make sure that our kids, who are two and five, know that her word is final when we're not home. This has gotten important now that my oldest is playing more with kids in the neighborhood and asking them to go over, or to go to their house. Whatever Cynthia says goes! It conveys respect and also makes things run more smoothly."

  5. Be Generous
    Most moms give their nannies an end-of-year bonus (sometimes, as much as an extra week's salary), plus an annual pay raise. "I believe really strongly in not nickel-and-diming my sitter," notes Jessica, a mother of two. "If she works an extra half-hour, I'll round up to an hour. If she bought my kids a $6 lunch, I'll reimburse her $10. My friends think I'm crazy, but I see the payoff. She always comes when I need her, and more importantly, she's happy and cheerful and works hard to make our lives better in every way." Learn more about holiday tipping and bonuses for nannies.

  6. Pick Your Battles
    "I avoid speaking up about minor stuff that bugs me," says Kara. "Like, my babysitter has a habit of opening the microwave without first pressing 'Stop.' I think it could screw it up and if my husband did it, you'd better believe I'd ask him to stop! But I've held back. My philosophy is that the less I critique and make requests, the more impact it will have when I have an important change I want her to make."

  7. Speak Up About Big Issues
    "If I have to talk with our nanny about something I'm not happy about, I try to get home from work early so we can talk before she leaves, or I'll ask her to come in a few minutes early in the morning," says Joanna, a mom of two. "Leaving notes about biggie things is not okay -- your nanny, and your children, deserve a discussion. If you leave a note, your nanny might feel attacked. It's so easy to read the wrong tone in a note."

  8. Help Her Stay Organized
    "I have a large calendar hanging on the kitchen corkboard where I write down the kids' activities and playdates," says Hedy, a mother of twins. "That way we can remember what's happening when. It keeps us both sane!" 

User in Lombard, IL
Jan. 15, 2016

I wish Care.com would send this article to every person that signs up to hire a nanny!! In my current situation I have been here for 2 years and not offered a raise. I was asked to accept $2 less than I asked when I was hired to leave room for raises. I accepted and have not been given one. But have been told time and again that I am wonderful and asked not to leave them. I now am put in the uncomfortable position of having to ask for a raise.

Max in Amherst, OH
Oct. 13, 2015

I really like this article. As a nanny myself I'm a bit underpaid, but I take it in stride because I love the kids. I work full time, between 50-55 hours a week. What really should be said is that nannies should be paid a livable wage, especially if certified and experienced. Overtime pay isn't something you can ignore either, like my employers do. At times I feel like I'm being taken advantage of. My employer's wife works from home one day a week and he asked me to clean up after her when she does. It's irritating since she's an able bodied adult, totally capable of washing her own dishes. They treat me like some Housekeeper. I wish they could read this article. Maybe then they would know why I'll have to quit on them sometime. Treat your nannies kindly and they will do the same in return.

May 20, 2015

Parents should also demand that the children respect the nanny even when they are around. A lot of children start acting out as soon as parents arrive. If I say no when they the parents are gone it doesnt mean you can do it as soon as they walk in.

Nov. 9, 2014

One more thing NEEDS to be addressed!! Parents and their childcare attendants MUST maintain respect for each other in front of the children!!! Anyone caring for a child is an older person and as such should be treated with respect. If you disagree on ANY point, discuss it out of the hearing of the ones who need to be obedient to and respectful of the adults in charge of them. This goes for teenagers too!! Both as responsible caregivers and responsive children. I worked for one family whose father was more of a problem than the kids, and eventually they were all as rude and disrespectful as he is. It was a revolving door for nannies at that house.

July 14, 2014

Wonderful advice! I especially loved 7. The wrong tone or understanding can be conveyed in a text or email. If something 'big' happens it's important that the parent speaks directly to the caregiver to avoid confusion. I have had this situation happen to me. The little one and I went out for a lunch date in her stroller. There are restaurants close by but they are in the more expensive range. We decided to walk to a local fast food place (2 miles away). I had already packed the little ones lunch and their wasn't any food to eat for me in the cupboards (besides soup, which is what they normally only have for me to eat). I pick up lunch and we walk back home. The mom texts me later that night (on Halloween) and asks me if I ate out. I told her yes and she began to text me that I had went to a bad area of town and she didn't want me crossing any streets with three lanes. I would like to mention that I am unfamiliar with the place she lives and she has never before indicated to me that she was so close to bad neighborhoods. Her little one and I go for walks all the time but she had never before mentioned that she lived close to bad areas or mapped out where we could or couldn't go. I apologized and told her that making her uncomfortable was the last thing I wanted to do and promised not to go there again. If we would have been able to talk in person, my Halloween would have been more enjoyable and I would have known how she felt better than from what I had to guess from her texts messages.

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