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Navigating the Parent-Nanny Relationship

When I first arrived in the United States I came straight from the airport to meet my new family. After a long flight from London I was locked in the basement with two children playing a game I had never heard of which felt like hours and hours, there was no discussion. I felt as if I was simply thrown in at the deep end. I never played Candy Land ever again. I did not think I would last, but after a few weeks, I got into my own routine with the children and got out of the house as much as possible. That is when we began to have fun.

The nanny-parent relationship is probably one of the hardest I have encountered or had to navigate. Due to the role you will be playing within the family, is important to discuss expectations. Each day brings variables such as schedules, household rules, responsibilities, and general discipline. I encourage nannies to have a notebook and write everything down, particularly in regards to infants. Parents feel assured and confident when they know when the baby napped, ate, pooped, and have understanding of their general demeanor throughout the day.

Writing everything down gives the parent more details as to how your day went without spending an extra hour having a discussion. I had one child tell his parents that I pushed him down the stairs because he did not want to go to bed. Another called the emergency services because I told her to tidy her room after a rather messy playdate. I had to have the policeman come into the house to explain that calling 911 for a non-emergency was not the right thing to do as she kept calling them. Of course, they had to come out and I am glad they did.

The most important thing I learned from those early days was that there needs to be good communication on both parts and expectations must be realistic. You should not be expected to entertain the children for ten hours while you are there because it is not realistic to have that much energy. Parents struggle to play for hours on end so why should you? Be aware of the line between being hired as a nanny and being the hired help that can stay without regards to the set schedule. Let the expectation be that the family can ask and you may offer a positive response as long as it is not a regular occurrence. After ten hours with children, you as the nanny need a break.

Personally, I like giving the kids a bath, preparing a salad with the kids helping, and having them in their PJ’s if parents are home on the later side. Playdates are great for the nanny and the children so network with kids in the neighborhood. If it is a long-term arrangement set some goals you can work towards such as potty training. It doesn’t end when the nanny goes home so be sure you are on the same page as the parents who will continue the work.

My last position was working with a mum who was a stay-at-home parent, I did not know what to expect as I had run the show on most of my nanny positions. After fifteen years with them, I learned a lot. We co-parented the little boy, luckily we were on the same page in almost everything. It was a rewarding experience for all involved but I had to kiss a few frogs! I wanted to set them up for success, without making them feel as if they were not making the decisions.

I would make suggestions about different stages of his development and wait for her to repeat them two days later. I did not need to own them and it makes the parent feel confident. If you spend a lot of time with the children there could be some jealousy when mum or dad come home and the children still want to be with you. That is completely natural and healthy but make the parent feel like they have been kicked to the curb and feel guilty they had to hire you in the first place. Communication, sense of humor, and clear and consistent routines will curb that.

About Yvonne Finnerty: I have worked in childcare in some capacity for over thirty years! I started as a live-in nanny, live-out nanny, ran my own daycare, and became an Admissions Director for a private school. I then became a star of a nanny reality show called Nanny 911, It was real to me and I am still in touch with some of the families. After spending fifteen years with a family here in Boston, I am now doing some research for the Early Childhood Support Organization out in the field. This is really important and exciting research into early education from birth upwards. I have always kept up to date with changes in the childcare industry and have so many certifications to prove it! Love what you do and the rest will follow! Please feel free to reach out to me or check out my website

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