Managing the nanny-parent relationship is a cinch when you follow one simple rule: Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. According to Glenda Propst, co-founder of the National Association of Nannies, proper communication begins in the first interview and ends, well…never.
A nanny for 19 years, Propst recommends that nannies ask just as many questions as their prospective employers during the all-important interview process. "Both parties get a lot from the questions as well as the answers," she points out. A true professional should be wondering—and asking—about the future. Questions such as the possibility of more children and how the family's schedule will change once kids go to school indicate that she's in it for the long haul. "Parents should hire a nanny who shows a high level of commitment. Changing nannies takes a huge toll on children,” says Propst. “This is not the kind of job to try out for a few days, then quit if you don't like it."
The interview is also a good time for both parties to address sensitive subjects. Questions about driving records, smoking, or the possibility of overnight guests (for live-ins) are less intimidating during an interview because they're hypothetical at that point. Often, as many interview insights can be gleaned from how the prospective nanny reacts to questions as how she answers them. Lisa Gordon, mother of three, found that out when she interviewed her current nanny. "I liked the fact that she didn't flinch when questions came up about background checks and driving records. That, in itself, showed us that she was a real professional," says Gordon. Getting tricky issues out on the table during the interview makes them easier to address in the future.
For both parties, job one in the nanny interview is to establish trust. Setting expectations is essential, as in most working relationships. But unlike most working relationships, the nanny-parents connection involves a third, and most important party—a child—making it all the more critical to find a good match between employer and employee.
The interview is over and an offer has been made, negotiated, and accepted. What next? "Communication is an ongoing process," explains Propst. "It's a lot of work, but good communication is also extremely rewarding." It's important early in the relationship to agree on what, exactly, will be expected from the nanny as an employee. Some prefer to work under the technical job definition, only doing work that relates directly to the child. Other nannies are happy to handle housekeeping duties, pick up dry-cleaning, or buy the family's groceries when they're shopping for the children in their care.
Another important thing parents should communicate is a schedule structure they'd like the nanny to follow, complete with time allotments and activities, from playgroups to classes and free time. Regardless of specific duties, parents should expect their nanny to devote the majority of her day to activities with or for the child.