Attn: Work at Home Parents, You and Your Nanny are Sharing an Office!

                                                                                          photo via unsplash x brooke lark

                                                                                          photo via unsplash x brooke lark

A parent who works from home can be one of the biggest deal breakers for a nanny. If you ask nannies why, they will tell you that having a parent in the home generally makes a nanny’s job harder. For a nanny, the home they work in is their “office” and oftentimes parents forget this. Typically, nannies have a way of doing things and a specific routine in place for every part of the day; which is something they have perfected over the years in their nanny career. When a parent is home, they often disrupt that flow and as a result, the nanny’s job is almost never easier than when they are on their own with the kids. This is not to say that parents should never be around or involved.. these are their kids, after all.. but whether a parent works in or out of the home, it is so important to allow the nanny be the authority figure you have hired them to be. Or, if you haven’t hired them to be an authority figure and they are a Mother’s Helper, it is crucial that you advertise the job as such. I want to be clear that I’m not saying nannies shouldn’t be expected to follow the parents’ child rearing approach — nannies are hired to be an extension of the parents and absolutely need to raise the children the way the parents want them raised. However, as long as a nanny is consistent with the parents’ child rearing philosophy, then it’s imperative parents give their nanny the freedom and autonomy to establish a system and authority with the children they have been hired to care for.

It's funny — I often see job ads where the parent emphasizes that because they will be home during the day to help, the job is easier and therefore they are offering a lower rate. Parents, let me be brutally honest and tell you that most nannies feel they should be compensated MORE when working a position where the parents are at home. Of course, there are amazing work at home/stay at home parents out there who "get it" and let their nanny do their thing, but unfortunately, too many nannies have been burned by the work at home parent. As a result, many nannies have an almost involuntary, instinctual "RED FLAG!! THAT'S A DEAL BREAKER!" reaction to working for a parent who is in the home, or for a parent who pops in and out repeatedly throughout the day. 

So why exactly can a nanny’s job be harder when the parents are home? Well first of all, it is pretty unanimously accepted that children like to push the limits and behave worse for their parents than with other people. So for this reason alone, it can almost be expected that kids will act up more for the nanny when their parent is also around. Imagine you have been doing your job for quite some time, and have figured out the most effective way to deal with all aspects of your job, and have perfected just how to prevent, or put out, any figurative fires. Now imagine that your boss hangs around all day and interferes with your system, which leads to more fires popping up, and a longer process to put those fires out. Your already hard job, has just gotten more difficult. Would you want to stay in this type of work environment? It is frustrating and exhausting; you are likely to eventually get burnt out (pun intended), and quit. This is how the majority of nannies feel about a work environment with a parent who is in the home throughout the day. 

Here are 3 of the biggest issues with a parent in the home and what you can do about it:

1. MICROMANAGING. It is understandable that it would be difficult for a parent to be in the home, around their kids and nanny, and not be “in control”. I get it, I am very particular about how I like things done. With that being said, unless the nanny is truly doing something wrong that negatively impacts your household/kids, it is best to just let your nanny be. Your nanny may not do things exactly the same way you would, but is that really so bad? As long as your nanny is completing all of their responsibilities, following your parenting approaches, and ensuring your children are safe, happy, and healthy, does the exact process really matter so much in the big picture? It can even be beneficial for kids to see that there is more than one way to do things. We want children to learn to think for themselves and creatively problem solve. By allowing children to observe the adults in their life accomplishing the same tasks in different ways, they learn that there is not just one right way to be successful in life. Just like with children, it is important to “choose your battles” with your nanny. Focus on managing the things that actually matter, and not micromanaging the tiny details that have little impact on the overall well being of your kids and household. We all have certain ways in which we do things to be efficient and successful. An employee that is allowed to complete tasks the way that works best for them, is a happy employee.

If you know yourself, and know that you are unable to let go of the minute details and how they are dealt with, it is important that you be very upfront in your nanny search. It will make your candidate pool smaller, but the nannies you will be left with will be the ones who know that they can thrive in a very controlled environment. These nannies are able to follow very specific instructions and they understand that their role is to always do things in the precise manner that they have been told. They are comfortable without autonomy over their role and job, and will not become resentful or upset as the job goes on. If this is the type of nanny you will need, make sure to market the job accurately and be prepared to pay more than the going rate — these nannies are harder to find and tend to require very competitive compensation.

2. INTERFERING. When parents are home, kids want to be with their parents instead of the nanny. This alone means a nanny now has to work that much harder to get the kids to want to play with them, let alone listen to them. When parents are around, the kids will ask for the parent and then the nanny has to redirect their attention away. This will happen over and over again. Just when the kids have settled in with the nanny and are happily occupied, then comes the issue of the parent needing to emerge from their office for lunch or a bathroom break. When the child sees them, they once again only want to be with mom or dad. Then mom or dad comes over to say hello and play for a minute, but when they inevitably must get back to work, a meltdown ensues. The parent may feel guilty and will try to console the child, but this is a cycle that never ends well. The parent ultimately leaves, and the nanny is left to deal with an upset child all over again. This is probably the biggest complaint that I hear from nannies when parents are in the home — that the parent comes in and creates this “mess” but leaves the “clean up” for the nanny, while the parent is once again tucked away inside their office. Parents need to try to minimize these interruptions. Once and a while is inevitable, but if it is a daily occurrence for a nanny, it quickly becomes exhausting.

If you are a parent who works at home, it is important to talk with your nanny to set up very clear boundaries and expectations. Some of these things may be simple, such as you will keep your office door shut and locked while you are in there, so the child learns that they cannot go in there to get mom or dad’s attention. You’d be surprised how many nannies complain that a parent either works in a major common area, such as the kitchen, or has an office but the door is never shut. The kids will constantly try to go in and see mom or dad, and the nanny is left not only trying to keep the kids away from the office physically, but also trying to keep the kids quiet so they do not disrupt the working parent. When the time comes that you have to emerge from your office to get a drink or even if you work out of the house and are just popping in for a little bit, you need to communicate with your nanny and give them a heads up. Send your nanny a text so they can take the kids to another part of the house to ensure the kids don’t see you and have a meltdown.

As kids get older, this generally gets easier and you can be less strict about it — older kids can better  understand that mom is just coming out of her office to grab a snack and must go back to work. However for young kids, all they understand is "mommy is home and it’s time for mommy to hold me". This creates a very upsetting and stressful situation for the child and as a result, creates a very upsetting and stressful situation for the nanny. Another common issue according to nannies of work at home parents, is the parent coming out of their office to “help” anytime a child is crying or upset. Unless a child is truly inconsolable, a nanny should be given the opportunity to handle the situation on their own; otherwise, with the parent always coming to the rescue, the child will never learn to trust and respond to the nanny. Vice versa, the nanny will not learn the child’s cues and will feel like the parent finds their care of the child inadequate or incorrect.

3. UNDERMINING. This is probably the biggest complaint of nannies everywhere, not just nannies of work at home parents. One of the most frustrating things to a nanny is when the parents don’t back them up or undermine them… especially in front of the kids! Unless you are hiring a Mother’s Helper, it is important that your kids understand and respect that their nanny has the authority to make decisions and enforce boundaries. When a nanny is not given the freedom to establish this authority, it is impossible for that nanny to do their job effectively because the kids won’t listen to them! And why should they? They know that mom and dad won’t back the nanny up, so they can basically do what they want without any consequence. 

In order to avoid undermining your nanny, you need to have clear communication and expectations about what your parenting style is. Parents need to sit down with their nanny to discuss childrearing philosophies that they follow, any house rules, and what types of discipline they are comfortable with — in fact, these topics should be covered in a nanny contract (click HERE for Nanny Counsel's customizable, free contract). Nannies should discuss what techniques they feel comfortable with and what they have used in the past. Hiring a nanny is like hiring a third member of the parenting team — it takes a village to raise kids, and every member of this parenting team should join together and have a cohesive way of working together to support and back up one another when it comes to the kids. The parents should be backing up the nanny’s decisions and the nanny should be backing up the parents’ decisions. 

If the nanny is on the clock and a parent pops in for a quick lunch and their child asks them if they can go outside and play, a respectful response could be, “You’ll need to ask Sarah (Nanny), as I don’t know what she has planned for right now.” I often hear nannies complain about parents inadvertently thwarting and throwing off their plans for the day. If the parent hadn’t consulted with the nanny and had just answered, “Yes,” in the example above, the nanny would then need to back up the parent and go play outside with the child, even if they had made other plans or the nanny had already told the child, “no” for a specific reason. Parents, it is important to respect that you have hired a nanny to care for your kids while you work, and part of that is giving your nanny the freedom to use their judgment and expertise to plan activities for the day. This doesn’t mean parents should have no say in their child’s schedule or activities, but it is important to communicate with your nanny and respect their input on day-to-day activities and decisions. 

So what’s the takeaway? It is possible to be the type of work at home parent nannies love to work for. At the end of the day, all nannies want the parents to trust them, give them autonomy to plan and execute their day, and to respect them as an authority figure in the children’s lives. This can absolutely be accomplished when working for an at home parent, but it is important that there is open communication so that the nanny can do their job without negative interference, micromanaging, or undermining.