I have two loves of my life: My husband, and my childcarer. In our house, this is specifically a nanny – (without upsetting all the great babysitters, au pairs and other child caregivers out there!)
My nanny has 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 night, when I went to an event thrown by a group of local mums. It was “spa night out” and we were treated to manicures, pedicures and massages. We also made our own bath salts, poured into a little glass jar and tied with a ribbon. I knew straight away what I’d 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 could use a relaxing bath (or twenty) myself. But I’m always trying to make sure our nanny feels cared for. This is the person I trust to take care of my kids. She’s my partner, my co-pilot in parenting. I want to her to be happy–and to have energy and enthusiasm to care for my children. And just as having a good relationship with my husband is important, this also takes time and attention. Plenty of other mums I know feel the same. Here are some ways to build strong relationships with your nannies – as well as any child caregivers and babysitters you use!
- Make expectations clear from day one
If you want your nanny to help with supper, laundry or housework–and she’ll have the time free during the day– let her know from the start. You don’t want to surprise a nanny with new demands, because she’ll feel taken advantage of. Some mums refuse to ask their nannies to do housework, as tempting as it may be, feeling that their child should be the top priority.
- Care–really care–about your nanny
I care about my nanny’s mental and physical health as much as I care about my family’s, because she’s part of my family, and I want her to feel that way. And the healthier she is, the better she’ll be able to take care of my children.
- Pamper her
I like giving my nanny job perks! I’ll record some of her favourite shows on the TV so she can watch them when the children are sleeping, and I make sure I have her favourite snacks around. On her birthday, I give her a personal gift–a scarf, for instance–and some cash, and I’ll have my son draw her a card. Really, she’s like my child’s second mother.
- Don’t get in her way
My nanny has brought up her own children, so I usually give her a lot of autonomy. Even if she does some things differently than I do, I realize that it probably worked for her, so no harm done. And we always make sure that her word is final when we’re not at home. This is especially important now that my son is playing more with other children in the neighbourhood and asking them to come over to play, or to go to their house. Whatever our nanny says is the last word! It conveys respect and also makes things run more smoothly.
- Be generous
Most moms give their nannies an end-of-year bonus (sometimes, as much as an extra week’s salary), as well as an annual pay raise. You’ve got to err on the side of generosity. If my nanny works an extra half-hour, for instance, I’ll round up to an hour. If she bought my child a $6 lunch, I’ll reimburse her with $10. Some of my friends think it’s daft, but I see the payoff. She can always work when I ask her, and more importantly, she’s happy and cheerful and works hard to make our lives better in every way.
- Choose your battles…
I avoid speaking up about minor things that bother me. My nanny has a habit of opening the microwave without first pressing ‘Stop.’ I think it could break it, and if my husband did it, I’d ask him to stop doing it! But I haven’t mentioned it. My philosophy is that the less I criticize and make requests, the more impact it will have when I have an important change I want her to make.
- ..but do 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. It’s not really fair to leave notes about big things –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.
- Help her stay organized
I have a large calendar hanging on the kitchen pinboard where I write down activities and when friends are coming round to play. Some of my more organized friends have given their nannies smartphones that they can share calendars on. That way, we can remember what’s happening when. It keeps us both sane!