As a mom, you may often feel like you’re flying solo…and blindfolded…through a hurricane. But parenting works best as a team sport, and a skilled, responsible nanny can be both a huge asset to you and a loving companion for your child.
That said, like any relationship, this one takes some work to maintain good communication, avoid simmering resentments and keep priorities in order. Our family has worked with four nannies since our oldest was born in late 2012, for stints ranging from several months to 3 ½ years. The road has been treacherously bumpy at times (see: the nanny who lasted a few months) and blissfully smooth at others, but I’m constantly learning from both the good and the bad.
Here are my top do’s and don’ts for a successful mom/nanny partnership:
DO Set Boundaries
No need to turn into the Ice Queen (only Elsa can effectively pull off that look anyway), but you are not your nanny’s therapist/financial adviser/spiritual guru or anything other than her employer—albeit, hopefully, a friendly one. Opening the door to too much personal-life chitchat is a very slippery slope in any professional environment, but especially one that exists in your home.
Be courteous if your nanny starts to delve into the saga of her latest feud with her sister-in-law, but keep your comments neutral and brief, and redirect the subject as quickly as possible back to the main focus: your child. The vast majority of people will get the hint, but in some cases you may need to be more direct. Maybe try, “That sounds challenging. I wish I had more helpful advice to offer, but my sister-in-law is a saint.” (Then feel free to go rant to your BFF about your sister-in-law’s latest holiday-hosting power play.)
Remember when you hired your nanny to help make your life easier and take care of your child? Well, let her make your life easier and take care of your child!! Of course we all secretly believe no one can meet our children’s needs better than Mom (and we believe it because it’s the gospel truth!), but your nanny is there so you don’t always have to be, and she’s well qualified to make the many small daily decisions within the larger childcare framework you two discussed early on.
Hovering not only prevents your nanny from doing her job to the best of her ability, but it also stands in the way of the nanny-child bonding process. So feel free to drop in on park time every so often, or pull up the Dropcam on your phone for a minute during your lunch break, but trust your own judgment when you hired your nanny, and let her and your child do their thing.
DO Talk Early and Often
Whether it’s a lover’s quarrel, a misunderstanding with a friend, or a disagreement with a coworker, when has silently stewing ever gotten you anywhere? Well, your relationship with your nanny is no different. As the New York City subway signs urge, “If you see something, say something.” Addressing issues and concerns right away will ensure they don’t balloon into insurmountable obstacles.
Try to approach any conversation in a calm, constructive manner. (As you’ve known since the day you delivered that baby, the emotional stakes are never higher than when they involve your child, but do your best to keep yourself in check.) Your nanny will probably be relieved to know that you are someone who is quick to address problems. That way, she can stop worrying that you’re the type of employer who stays silent right up until the bomb drops.
Extra points to you if you also remind your nanny that this is a two-way street: she should feel free to come to you if she has any concerns as well. (Have you been oversharing about your sister-in-law? Spare your nanny, and scroll back up to the first rule on this list!)
DON’T Forget Who’s #1 (Hint: It’s not you or your nanny.)
The nanny-mom relationship is a complicated one. You need her, but you kind of wish you didn’t (why haven’t we made more progress on the cloning front?!). You want your child to love her, but not too much. You want her to love your child like a family member would, but at the end of every week, you pay her for her services. And so on.
Acknowledging all of the gray areas, let’s take a step back. Is your child happy to see your nanny when she arrives at the house? Do they have fun and do things you two might not do together? Does their relationship make the sometimes-necessary separation from mom a little easier for your son or daughter? If yes, then that’s what really matters here. You and your nanny can behave like grownups and work through the other stuff.